The Miami Dolphins held their annual Web Weekend last week, giving fans who own websites that cover the team the opportunity to have the ultimate fan experience, getting tours of the stadium and the training facility, getting to feast inside the players' dining area, and of course receiving the opportunity to cheer on the Dolphins against the 49ers.
But there's one aspect of Web Weekend that - while not the most glamorous or even the most fun - is probably more meaningful than anything else that was done throughout the weekend. The websites owners and contributors met on a sunny Saturday morning at the training facility, and packed hurricane relief packs which will go to those most impacted by the recent storms in other countries, as well as to local homeless shelters around South Florida.
"If there's a need in our community that we can assist in or we can help alleviate then we wanna make sure we're doing that." said Dolphins Director of Community Affairs Leslie Nixon. "Also we have partners in the islands of the Bahamas, we have a great relationship for Haiti, so we wanted to make sure we were doing our part and helping with the relief efforts there."
Over 500 bags were filled with all the necessities for hygiene, including antiseptic gel and wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs and shampoos and soaps, and a washcloth to give them something to wash with.
This is just one of the few things that the Miami Dolphins do to make the world a better place, and the sheer amount of things they do would leave those unaware of their impact in awe of what the franchise means to South Florida and beyond.
It wasn't that long ago that former Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite spoke about the organization and its charitable tendencies, and he stated quite emphatically that out of all the franchises he played for in his career, none were more involved in their communities than the Miami Dolphins, which is a big part of why he decided to plant his roots in Miami.
“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." he said. "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."
And how long has this been going on?
"For as long as the Miami Dolphins have been in existence," Nixon said. "We pride ourselves on being good advocates for our community."
Which the organization has been for many, many years. Whether it's something as large and widely-known as the Dolphins Cancer Challenge which has raised over $16.5 million for cancer research since its inauguration, to the smallest hospital visit just to put a smile on a patient's face or make their dreams comes true.
Being able to take part in something like that is something that should - and did - bring the website owners and contributors great joy.
"You know what it does? It really shows how the Dolphins organization gives back to its community," said PhinManiacs contributor Ian Berger. "And the fact that they bring their community members together to assist them giving back is so important and it's so fulfilling. It made me feel extremely excited to be able to give back."
For all the scorn and criticism that the franchise endures for their lack of success on the football field, even rival teams will acknowledge that the work the Dolphins do to try and make their community - and the world - a better place, is something that everyone should admire and strive to emulate.
And that is what sets the Miami Dolphins apart from everyone else.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: LuisDSung
There are so many football players in the NFL who have stories of overcoming adversity. Players come back from injury, they have slow starts and turn into stars later on.
But then there's Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, who on Tuesday afternoon at Norland Senior High School, shared his story with students and gave them some encouragement and advice on how to overcome challenges in their lives and inspire them to become better.
"It's just basically about not letting the things that happen to you affect you chasing your dreams, believe in yourself, overcome obstacles, perseverance, a lot of things that I've had to deal with throughout my career," Wake said. "And I know a lot of young people are facing things, the world's changing obviously, but being able to chase your dreams and continuing to make sure that you're the best you that you can be, that's just the message."
Wake partnered with Old Spice to share his story as the popular antiperspirant and deodorant company is celebrating the hardest working players in the NFL. Old Spice previously partnered with Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry who shared his own story not too long ago.
When Wake entered, the students gathered in the auditorium gave him a warm welcome as cheers echoed throughout the room, and then the star pass rusher proceeded to share his testimony with the students, which according to Wake, has already inspired others to push themselves in the past.
"Especially now with the way social media is, you get to interact with fans even more and they can share their stories." Wake said when asked if he'd met fans who said he'd inspired them. "Again, for me it's just being determined, not letting things stop you, and even if you don't necessarily get everything you've always wanted sometimes, you don't achieve all your goals, that fight and that grit and being able to say, 'I did everything I could, I laid it all on the line, I overturned every rock, and I can live with the result regardless of what it is.'"
For those who don't already know, Wake originally was signed by the New York Giants, only to later be released in June. He then got into real estate for a short time, but he still had the fire to play football, so he joined the CFL and became a star for the BC Lions.
Fast forward about a year and a half later, Wake was signed by the Miami Dolphins, and the rest - as they say - is history.
No one can question Wake's work ethic, and the amount of adversity and the obstacles he's faced in his career is precisely why Old Spice decided to choose the Miami pass rusher to be a part of their campaign. His NFL journey has been filled with obstacles, including last season where he suffered an achilles tear that had people questioning if he would ever be the same.
Already, Wake has proven he is.
The playoffs are within reach, which is yet another goal that even today Wake is still striving to accomplish. His story and his example is something that all young (and older) people should strive to follow, and those who do will no doubt find themselves feeling like they succeeded, whether their goals or reached or not.
But there is one last thing that Cameron Wake made sure to say, and this is possibly the most important aspect of all. No matter how much you accomplish in life, never grow complacent. Always continue to progress and grow, and that's when you'll truly feel like a success.
"Whether it's good or bad, you have to have a short viewfinder and make sure to focus on the next thing that's happening."
Wake is doing that with the Miami Dolphins, now it's your turn to do the same in your lives.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
PRESS RELEASE: Dolphins Cancer Challenge Finish Line Celebration to Include Concert with Multiplatinum Musicians Counting Crows
Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) today announced multiplatinum musicians Counting Crows will headline the DCC VII Finish Line Celebration on February 11, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium. General admission tickets are on sale now at DolphinsCancerChallenge.com for $32.
Proceeds from the Concert Celebration on the Hard Rock Stage will be part of the gift given to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami. Since its inception, the DCC has raised more than $16.5 million, donating 100 percent of participant-raised funds to Sylvester.
“Cancer touches everyone and we’re excited to join the Dolphins in their fight to tackle cancer,” Counting Crows lead vocalist Adam Duritz said. “We will be there rocking Hard Rock Stadium for all those who ride, run, walk, volunteer and fundraise for cancer research.”
“We are excited to add the Counting Crows concert to the event festivities at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge on February 11,” Miami Dolphins President & CEO Tom Garfinkel said. “One hundred percent of the fundraising goes to fight cancer. You don't have to have cancer to fight cancer.”
DCC VII weekend will commence with the Kickoff Party on Friday, Feb. 10, followed by the DCC signature event on Saturday Feb. 11 that will include five bike routes through South Florida, a run/walk 5K, a Concert Celebration on the Hard Rock Stage as well as the addition of a Dolphins Youth Ride and a Youth 5K for kids ages 14-17 – extending the opportunity for cancer fighters to be of all ages and all capabilities. All routes for DCC VII lead to Hard Rock Stadium.
In between each and every offensive play for the Miami Dolphins, quarterback Ryan Tannehill hears a voice in his head. No, no, not that kind of voice; as far as we know Tannehill is mentally sound. The voice he hears is that of his head coach, Adam Gase.
Gase serves as his own offensive coordinator during games, and as such, calls in the play to the headset inside Tannehill’s helmet. And he also adds in reminders with each play, maybe letting Tannehill know what protections to look for, a formation tweak, or reiterating advice from practice.
“The thing I remind him most is if he’s getting stagnant in the back, feet not moving and he’s standing around,” says Gase. “Little reminders. I don’t want to overdo it. We try to get him up quick, keep his feet moving. We’ve encouraged him to get outside the pocket, don’t wait. We would rather him not get hit.”
Those little tidbits of advice lend to the great relationship that both Gase and Tannehill claim to have. And with Gase’s reputation as a quarterback guru, it’s not surprising to know that the head coach constantly has his quarterback’s ear – literally in a sense. And Tannehill will tell you that it’s helping him to improve in his fifth year with the Dolphins.
"I'm better, I think, at a lot of things,” says Tannehill. “Just playing fast with my feet, I think has been the biggest emphasis since we started this year, and obviously there are times where I want to be faster. But that's been a big emphasis for us, and I feel like I'm getting better."
In addition to improving Tannehill’s footwork, Gase has faith in letting his quarterback change plays at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s bought into the fact we’re OK with him ad-libbing plays,” says Gase. “I have no problem with it. He makes good decisions. There’s a lot of trust with the receivers, tight ends, running backs being in the right spot. He’s impressed me with his faith in where guys are going to be.”
Any particular plays where Gase wouldn’t be okay with a decision?
“When he rolls to the left and throws 40 yard downfield, I’m sure I’m saying no.”
And speaking of footwork, fans may have noticed that when Tannehill takes off on the run, whether it be a designed play or when scrambling, he doesn’t shy away from contact, taking on tacklers, and oftentimes diving forward for a few extra yards.
Commendable? Maybe. Risky? Definitely. But does he ever think that maybe he should slide once in a while instead?
"Yes, probably so,” Tannehill laughs. “There are definitely a couple situations where I probably should have slid. But I'm a competitor and I want to find a way to do everything I can to help the team win. Obviously, I can't put myself at risk and not ever slide. I just have to find those spots where it's a good situation to slide."
And somewhere in South Florida, a young and improving head coach is shaking his head. There could be more voices in
his quarterback’s head soon.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
After escaping with a 31-24 win at home on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins have now won their last six games. And if the playoffs started today, their 7-4 record puts them in the sixth spot in the AFC, qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2008.
(And ironically, the Dolphins will play the Baltimore Ravens this week, the team they lost to in the playoffs that year.)
But around the Dolphins practice facility and locker room, you won’t hear that ‘P-word’ being spoken. Although Gase was quoted Monday as saying the “the stakes go up” in December games, he’s been adamant all season long that the team enjoy the win, but then immediately look toward the next game, and the next game only.
And the players are not only buying into that mindset, but believing it too.
“If you start looking at the big picture, you're going to miss the things that are ahead of you,” said defensive end Cameron Wake. “Our whole mindset this past week was just one game, win one game.”
While Sunday’s win wasn’t a pretty one, there are no illusions that no matter who you are or who you play, in the NFL six wins in a row is a big deal. The players understand the magnitude of such an accomplishment, but the focus is already on the next opponent, the next game, their next assignment.
“I'm sure (my teammates) don't care about what happened two weeks ago, and neither do I,” says Wake. “I'm sure they don't care what's to come three weeks from now. It was just about the task at hand and what we have to do. Honestly, it wasn't so much about (the 49ers), it was about us and making sure we take care of our job and the guys up front being in place, where you're supposed to be. And that's the way you've got to be. You can't start wondering and looking at things down the road, because then you're going to miss the things right in front of you."
“It's great to see our guys have fun at the end of the day,” added Gase. “That locker room was excited because they understand that a win in this league is hard to come by. It's about being 1-0 at the end of that week."
One key to those six wins in a row has been more balance overall for the Dolphins. Early in the season, the offense would sometimes sputter, and then the defense couldn’t get off the field. And as a result, the Dolphins limped to a 1-4 start.
But in the last six games, when either the offense or defense struggled, the other side of the ball has picked up the slack. And as Gase further indoctrinates his philosophy and injects his one-week-at-a-time mantra, fans can see the confidence begin to ooze on the field of play.
“Back in the beginning, it seemed like there were spurts where offense was kicking on all cylinders and they're doing their job, and the defense couldn't get off the field,” admitted Wake. “And there were times when we were doing our job getting off the field, and then the offense couldn't stay on the field. You're not going to win that way. The entire goal is very basic; defense get off the field, get the ball to the offense, and they put points on the board, and then we go back out there and repeat the process. For the most part that's kind of been what we're doing. Obviously special teams is playing their part as well."
“I think it was a good sign for us as far as if one side struggled on a series, then the opposite side would try to get something going,” Gase concurred. “The same with special teams, where we'd allow a score and then all of a sudden we'd have a good return. Everybody is trying to pick each other up. That's part of the team-building part of this, and that's what our process is. That's what we've been talking about since the beginning. Things haven't always gone right, (but) guys haven't wavered.”
And when it all clicks at the same time, watch out.
“Just play complimentary football,” said Wake. Whether it's offense, defense, left, right ... on a side of the defense, front to back, corners and safeties playing off each other. That's the only way to play.
“When we're doing that, it's going to be hard to beat us."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
After yet another nail-biter, the Dolphins come out on top again against an out-manned San Francisco 49ers team. Here are ten thoughts on the game and on the state of the NFL as a whole as we exit week 12 of the season.
1. After some good weeks of effort from the defensive line where it seemed like Cameron Wake was leading a revival, they really let the team down Sunday. Despite the fact that everyone in the stadium knew that the 49ers were going to throw the ball, the defense managed only two sacks. The 49ers averaged a staggering 7.7 yards per carry and though Colin Kaepernick accounted for a great deal of that, Carlos Hyde and DuJuan Harris also averaged over five yards per carry.
Once again, the play of the defensive tackle opposite Ndamukong Suh, who saw double team after double team, was particularly disturbing. The defensive line is at their best when they are penetrating against the run. I didn't see enough of that Sunday against what I consider to be a very mediocre 49ers offensive line.
You can blame the injuries on the Dolphins offensive line for their failure to run the ball well (see below) and, though it’s not an excuse, I think that's fair. But that Dolphins defensive front is relatively healthy and they need to do better on their end.
2. There was much talk throughout the week about how the depleted offensive line with Sam Young at left tackle, Kraig Urbik at left guard and Anthony Steen at center would do.
There's little doubt that the Dolphins struggled in the running game this week. But I thought Ryan Tannehill got pretty decent protection as he was only sacked twice. Admittedly it was against an inferior opponent. But overall I thought the Dolphins got by better than they did last year when, in a similar situation, the interior of the offensive line collapsed in disgrace.
3. Having said that, the poor effort running the football was mildly disturbing. Jay Ajayi averaged only 2.5 yards per carry and the play of the offensive line was a big part of that. If it weren't for Ryan Tannehill's six rushes for 34 yards, the Dolphins would have had almost no running game at all.
To his credit, despite the struggles, Adam Gase kept calling running plays. Unlike last week when they gave up on the running game in the second half, the Dolphins finished with 26 running attempts compared to 30 passes for a pretty decent balance. Chalk it up to a lesson well-learned by Gase. Let's hope he keeps it up.
4. The Dolphins built their current winning streak on running the football and stopping the run. It is somewhat problematic that they failed on both ends of that formula Sunday. They are fortunate that they were playing the 49ers.
It seems evident that they need a completely healthy offensive line to pull that off. Let's hope that everyone gets well soon. The Dolphins won't be going far in the playoffs without them.
5. The one single thing that impressed me most about the game Sunday was the play of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was a rock, never panicking even under pressure. He used his mobility to get out of the pocket and out of bad situations and basically accounted for what little running game that the Dolphins had himself. He was accurate both short and deep and his ball placement was impeccable.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that, more than anyone else on the field, this win belongs to him.
6. Also give Colin Kaepernick credit. No matter what you think of him off the field, he surprised me by having a very good game Sunday.
Kaepernick's story could be a lesson in perseverance. His first three seasons in the NFL were magic as he made plays with both his feet and his arm to lead the 49ers to the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. But his fall the last couple of years has been dramatic and there were times last year when he literally looked like he forgot how to play quarterback.
Chip Kelly had a rehabilitation job on his hands with Kaepernick and he hasn't made it easy with his issues off the field nor with his doubts about whether he even wanted to be with the team in 2016.
To my eye, Kaepernick looked every bit as good as he ever did in 2013 Sunday as, with his arm and his legs, he made play after play to lead a miserable football team into a reasonably competitive stance. If that kind of play continues, Kaepernick would stand as an example of what can happen with a little self-belief fortifies with a little decent coaching and a lot of elbow grease.
7. Speaking of Kaepernick, I noted with interest the attention that he got over his political stance in Miami. Armando Salguero, a Cuban refugee himself, was particularly pointed in both his questions for and his comments about Kaepernick, particularly addressing his choice to wear a t-shirt with the photograph of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on it.
Not too surprising, and probably more to the point, Kaepernick had a number of his facts wrong.
What continues to fascinate me is why anyone, anywhere, should care what an athlete or entertainment personality thinks about politics. These people are typically no more informed than anyone else and usually fail to understand or acknowledge that there are two sides to every story.
It's an old saying but it's basically true. Opinions are like butts. Everybody has one.
Most of the time I ignore people like Kaepernick giving no reaction at all to what they say or do simply because nothing is what those opinions are worth.
8. Has there ever been a bigger tease than Percy Harvin?
Harvin is an electric player with a lot of talent. When he plays. But to no one's surprise, at least no one who has followed his career, Harvin was unavailable to play on Sunday for the Bills against the Jaguars due to the recurrence of a migraine headache.
It’s always something with Harvin. From his health to his attitude to his desire to play, something is always lacking and it has led to him being one of the most overrated players of the past decade with the Vikings, the Seahawks, the Jets and the Bills. Harvin has appeared in two games for the Bills this year with one start, catching only two passes for six yards. He also has one rushing attempt for 11 yards.
In what has become a typical scenario, the desperate Bills gave Harvin yet another chance to prove his worth four weeks ago. They called Harvin on the off chance that he might want to play again and Harvin surprisingly accepted. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Harvin unretirement ends in the near future. To be repeated over and over again until teams finally get a clue that this guy simply is a waste of talent.
9. OK, so maybe there is one bigger tease than Harvin, and Dolphins fans are becoming intimately familiar with the situation.
Dion Jordan, the third pick overall in 2013, has contributed only 46 tackles and three sacks in the 26 games he's played since.
I will admit up front that this probably isn't entirely fair but you'd think that after almost two years without playing football, Jordan would be anxious to get back out on the field. But, honestly, I'm not entirely sure that's the case.
After what seemed like an interminably long period of suspension, Jordan waited until just before he was re-activated to get surgery done on his knee. Why in the world didn't he get it taken care of earlier so that he'd be ready to go when he was re-instated?
Add to that what I don't see as a particularly enthusiastic response to whether he'll be able to play at any point this year after beginning to practice this week.
"It's my health. It's my body. If my body tells me I'm not ready to perform against the best athletes I'm not going to put myself out there," Jordan said. "But the way things have been going, they've been going well and I've got high hopes for myself to get out there and compete before the season ends."
Look I get it. In isolation without the last minute surgery aspect, maybe this statement slips by without comment. No one wants to risk further injury by getting out there too early and suffering a setback.
But I'm used to players saying confidently and passionately that they'll be out there and letting the medical personnel hold them back if necessary. But a neutral response that basically come down to "Eh. I hope so."? That worries me.
I don't hold out much hope that Jordan is going to be any better now than he was before the injury. But at this point I have to wonder how much of his past failures on the field have to do with his desire to be there at all.
Like Harvin, this looks like it could be a case of a criminal waste of talent.
10. Speaking of the Bills, they may not be having the kind of success on the field that they thought they would entering the season, but thank heavens that they are keeping the world safe from dildos in the stands. Bills Vice President of operations and guest experience Andy Major said that dildo “throwers” have been caught and banned from the stadium in Buffalo for life.
“Luckily nobody was hurt, none of our players stepped on it and blew their knee out,” Major said.
Chalk up one victory for the NFL against this major cause of injury throughout the league. Players can now feel safe from knee injury on all those artificial surfaces now.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has preached accountability and responsibility ever since he was hired to take over in Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell's job this offseason, and in order to make sure that message rang true, Gase has had to make some difficult decisions.
Such as benching four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams for lack of production.
In doing so, the door has been opened for other players to step up, and in this case it turned out to be former Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch who got the call.
Originally signed to act as a rotational player with Williams and Cameron Wake, Branch has stepped up in his extended playing time and has shown to be someone who can make plays when needed. In his ten games - most of which he played as a backup - Branch has made 27 tackles and 3.5 sacks, as well as forcing a fumble.
What does Branch credit for his increased production?
"I was named the starter." Branch said. "I was named the starter and got more reps. All I ask for is an opportunity, and I took it and ran with it."
That he did, as Branch has all but solidified his position as the starter opposite Cameron Wake, not allowing veteran Mario Williams to take back the spot he started the year in, relegating him to a support role, similar to the way Wake was initially used at the beginning of the season.
As the team continues to come together, more players will likely show that they are better than initially thought. Branch is merely the tip of that iceberg.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
It was an interesting post game chat centered around the initial version of my 10 thought article following the dramatic come from behind victory to beat the Los Angeles Rams. Luis Sung, our intrepid editor and all around nice guy tried to keep me from putting my foot in my mouth during what amounted to a post game rant in what was originally point #3:
"[I] can't blind myself to the fact that this was a miserable offensive effort for most of the game."
"The thing that stuck out was the 5.2 yards per rushing attempt. The offense evidently came to work when it came to this aspect of the game against an outstanding Rams defensive front. The only question I have is why, when they were so successful in the running game and so poor when passing, did they have only 19 rushing attempts compared to 34 passes."
Fortunately, Luis is keeping an eye on me and, once I got him my column, he pointed out that Ajayi generally got stuffed and much of his yardage came on one 36 yard run in the first quarter. As those who read the column will know, I took his advice and removed the comment. And, despite what I'm about to say, I'm glad I did and I will explain why.
Having said that, I took some time Wednesday to actually breakdown running back Jay Ajayi's runs to evaluate the situation. (Because what the hell else am I supposed to do over Thanksgiving? Talk to family? Right…)
Anyway, here are the runs:
There are 16 total rushes (11 in the first half) and, as Luis pointed out, most were stuffs for 4 or less yards. However, it wasn’t just one long run that resulted in Ajayi's 4.8 yards per carry. Five of those runs went for 8 or more yards.
If you ask me, that’s a decent day for a running back and not at all atypical. One good long run and roughly 1/3 of the rest for very good but not great yardage is what I typically expect for an average running team. In this case a very good running team against a very good rush defense.
I welcome disagreement on this but, after looking at the data, I don’t think I was that far off with my original comment. I really don’t think that there's any excuse for giving the ball to Ajayi for only 16 runs. He was doing fine.
Adam Gase does this sometimes. He gets frustrated and his blood gets up when the offense isn’t functioning. His competitive juices get flowing and his solution is to go to the pass because, well, let’s face it. That’s what offensive coordinators who believe in their team do. Unfortunately more often than not it makes things worse not better. The Dolphins were very fortunate to win the game.
When Gase was the offensive coordinator of the Bears last year and with the Broncos before that, John Fox kept that under control because he’s conservative, defensive guy. The combination of those two personalities was very potent. But with no one there to check Gase now that he's a head coach, we may see more of this against good defenses when things aren’t going well. To his credit, previous comments indicate that Gase recognizes the problem. But I wonder if he’ll ever be able to control it. It will be something to keep an eye on.
Of course, Adam Gase isn't the only one who has faults when his juices get flowing.
I’m actually not displeased that we took that comment out of the article. I do have a distinct tendency to be contrarian that isn't always a good thing. I knew that the articles elsewhere this week were going to be overly positive about Sunday's win (and the have been).
I guess that gets me going and leads me automatically to point out the negatives just because I know no one else will. Sometimes goo too far, spitting out vitriol when everyone else wants to just relax and enjoy it while they can. In that respect, I'm glad that there are people who feel free to advise me to put a check on that when it gets out of hand.
That's simply the only way my own nature can be stopped from leading me astray. And finding someone to do that might, in the end, be the only way that Gase will be able to defeat his own demons, as well.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
Dear Stephen Ross,
It’s been about a year since the last time I wrote you. In my last letter to you, written in October of 2015, the Miami Dolphins had just suffered a miserable loss to the New York Jets in London, England. In that letter, I talked about the culture of winning that had been a staple of our organization for many years during the Don Shula era, as well as the need for swift changes within the Dolphins leadership that was in place at the time (Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin).
Not only did you make the necessary changes in staff, but you have also reinvigorated an entire town. With Thanksgiving being right around the corner, I wanted to take THIS opportunity to thank you for everything you have done for South Florida and the Miami Dolphins fan base.
First, thank you for the new and improved home for the Miami Dolphins. Hard Rock Stadium is a true masterpiece. Fans who attend the games and fans who watch on TV continue to brag about their “new” stadium. With the crystal clear television screens, shaded seating (especially for the home side), new parking process, and new seats for everyone, Miami Dolphins home games are truly a joy to attend.
The fact that this renovation was completed before the start of the regular season was a very impressive accomplishment, with many thanks going to Tom Garfinkel. But, the fact that you funded the $500 million renovation project yourself proves that you understand what’s important to the South Florida community, unlike other local sports franchise owners.
Next, thank you for your commitment to the Miami Dolphins. When you purchased the Miami Dolphins in January of 2009, I, like many other long time Dolphins fans, did not know what to expect. What we found was an owner that was willing to spend money to find the right people to help rebuild the organization and an owner who cared about how the team performed on and off the field each week.
You made a few missteps along the way trying to find the right coaches, but even the best owners make those errors. You held on to Tony Sparano for a little too long when you first purchased the team, and then tried to secretly find his replacement while he was still employed. Then, you tried the leadership combination of Dennis Hickey and Joe Philbin, but then realized they were not the solutions to our culture challenges.
And now, with the talent of Chris Grier, Mike Tannenbaum, and Adam Gase, you have found a strong leadership combination that may be the long-term answer. The fact that you recognized the need to make the changes, and the fact that you tirelessly looked for the best leaders for our organization, proves your commitment to the franchise. In addition, the fact that you remain close to the team, by attending each game, and making yourself visible to the team during the off weeks, shows that you are engaged in the success of this team.
And finally, thank you for buying the team in the first place. Wayne Huizenga was a great businessman and a good owner. By inheriting a great coach and a world class quarterback when he purchased the team in 1993, Mr. Huizenga had a very easy first few years as owner.
However, once Coach Shula was asked to retire and once Dan Marino had played his last down, the Dolphins organization had a very hard time finding the right mix of leadership and talent, and Mr. Huizenga had a tough time as the franchise owner. You have never wavered in your desire to invest in the Miami Dolphins to make them a great football team and a world class franchise.
In some ways, you remind me of Joe Robbie. Many people remember Mr. Robbie for bringing the Miami Dolphins to South Florida and for bringing two championships to this franchise. What many people don’t remember before the Dolphins won the rings was that he, too, had made mistakes along the way. It took time to find the right leadership in the early days of the franchise.
With the first coach of the Miami Dolphins being George Wilson, after three losing seasons, Mr. Robbie searched for the right leader. That’s when Don Shula came to town and made history with the organization. In addition, he spent his own money to build Joe Robbie Stadium in 1987, like what you have done to improve our home over the past few years.
Mr. Ross, with so many people being critical of every decision that you have made, and every decision that you make, I just want to say thank you for being the owner of the Miami Dolphins, thank you for your commitment, and thank you for your never-ending desire to make this team great. Our community is fortunate to have you at the helm of the ship as you build a championship NFL franchise in South Florida again. Fins Up!
With High Regards,
Follow him on Twitter: @ian693
Generally, families spend time together on Thanksgiving Day and sit around the dinner table to give thanks for what they have and eat a feast to celebrate. But the sad reality of life is that not everyone can have that feast, and not everyone feels that they have things to give thanks for.
So Wednesday evening, the Miami Dolphins decided to do their part to give families in need something to be thankful for, as they handed out Thanksgiving meals to over 10,000 people from Homestead through Miami Gardens and in Davie.
“This is a great event that we’ve been doing for a number of years here in South Florida." Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum said. "It starts with the leadership of our owner Stephen Ross, who gives us every resource to be successful on the field and encourages us to give back to the community.”
Over 500 meals went to these families throughout the day, and they were all purchased by the players, coaching staff and their other partner for this event: Hyundai.
“We wanted to do our part to make Thanksgiving a little better for families in need in South Florida,” Hyundai Motor America Experiential Marketing Senior Group Manager Trea Reedy said. “The Dolphins are very active in supporting their community and we were delighted to join them in distributing Thanksgiving meals.”
While it's true that the Dolphins are always extremely active in the community they play for, there are some players who viewed this specific event as something much more personal.
"I was actually a part of certain events growing up in Atlanta," said running back Kenyan Drake. "I didn't always have the most, but my parents, they tried to give back to myself and even in the community when we didn't have the most. So just being a part of this, having all that I could ask for, it's definitely a blessing."
The franchise does so much for the community and it often goes overlooked because of the football side of things. On this special holiday, give thanks for the Miami Dolphins, not because of what they do as a football team, but because of what each individual in the organization does to try and make South Florida better place for those who are in need of assistance, no matter what the struggle may be.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung.
Yep, you read that correctly.
The Miami Dolphins announced that defensive end Dion Jordan will practice on Wednesday, the first time the 2013 first round draft pick has seen the practice field since the last game of the 2014 season.
Jordan appeared in all 16 games in his rookie year of 2013 making 26 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 passes defended. On July 3, 2014, Jordan was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy. On September 19 of that same year, Jordan again violated the drug policy and two additional two games were added to his suspension. He injured his knee in a December 28 game that year, and has not played since.
On April 28, 2015, Jordan was suspended for the entire 2015 season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy for a third time. According to sources, Jordan didn't fail a drug test; however, it was determined that one of his test samples was diluted, which is considered a strike. He was reinstated July 29 of this year, but was recovering from two additional knee surgeries performed last summer.
The Dolphins had to make a decision this week whether to bring Jordan off of the Non Football Injury (NFI) list, or keep him there for the remainder of the season. As it happened, the NFL suspended defensive end Jason Jones for two games this week, leaving an opening on the roster. Now the Dolphins have three weeks to decide if Jordan is healed up enough to contribute this season.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
When the Miami Dolphins walked off the field at the Los Angeles Coliseum with a 14-10 win last Sunday, most fans were feeling a mix of emotions that they hadn’t experienced before. With the win still settling in, fans were still in disbelief that the team had gone from 53 minutes of sloppy, terrible play to scoring two TDs in the last 4:06 to win their fifth straight game.
The most polarizing player in that game was quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who in those first 53 minutes had been sacked four times, hit numerous more times, and was a paltry 12-21 for 57 passing yards.
But head coach Adam Gase stuck with his plan, and his faith paid off as Tannehill then put together a 77 yard drive and followed that up with another 75 yard drive, completing 12-13 for 115 yards and two touchdown passes, and delivered the improbable win.
“I think Ryan makes a big difference because he never wavered,” said Gase. “He kept his … attitude in the huddle. I could see he kind of felt like, ‘we're right there, we've just got to kind of clean a few things up.’”
One of the biggest struggles of the day was converting third downs. Until the final two drives, the Dolphins had not converted one single third down play in the game, a source of continuing frustration for Gase.
“That was our biggest struggle,” he said. “We just couldn't get that first, first down. We put ourselves in some third down situations where we had opportunities for some really good things to happen and one thing here and there. We had a protection issue a couple of times where we don't block the right guys. Ryan had a misread. And then we had a route ... it's just one thing after another on third down. It's really hurting us.”
But Gase has consistently backed his quarterback. When he was hired last winter, Gase was well aware of how coaches and quarterbacks are tied together at all stages of the game, and fairly or not, successes and failures of the quarterback on the field reflect on the coach. But Gase came to Miami with a reputation as a ‘quarterback guru,’ and he has yet to shy away from that mantel as his current quarterback has shown modest but definite improvement over the course of the season.
Well aware that he would be implementing the third new offense that Tannehill has had to learn in his five years in the league, Gase knew last January that he had a quick learner on his hands when the first thing Tannehill did as he arrived at the Dolphins facility was ask him what he needed to do. Gase admits it isn’t easy for a quarterback to absorb new offenses and terminology, let alone re-work subtle nuances in his game.
“It's not easy to go about changing some things if you've been doing it a certain way and you get a third new coordinator in five years,” says Gase. “I'm sure 'Sherm' (Mike Sherman) had some things he liked that he wanted (Tannehill) to do. Bill (Lazor) probably had some things he wanted him to do. And then here I come saying, 'Hey, do it this way.'
“At some point when you're a fifth-year quarterback, you're like, 'How many times am I going to change this?' He did a good job as far as just buying in and doing it the way that I asked him to do it."
And now the Dolphins are seeing the dividends and rewards of all Gase’s work. While you couldn’t say Tannehill was good throughout the majority of Sunday’s game, when it came down to crunch time, he was very good when it mattered.
“It was kind of like, once we had that first play and then we get that late hit tacked on top of it, you felt kind of a different attitude by the guys,” said Gase. “It was like flipped right away. And the next thing you know, we're in the end zone. You kind of look up and you're like, 'Wow, we got a couple of time outs here and we've got some time left.' The defense did a great job of playing off the offense, and then we get the ball back, and after that you felt like something good was going to happen."
And good things did happen.
As vindicated as Gase had to have felt after that game, when he faced the Miami media, one of the early questions insinuated that this game was a building block that could finally give Gase some confidence in his signal caller, a signal caller that had no room for error. And Gase immediately fired a shot across the bow of the media ship with a warning they won’t soon forget.
“He hasn't done anything to show me that he can't do things in the fourth quarter,” Gase bristled. “What your experiences are and what my experiences have been have been completely two different things. We get in the fourth quarter and it's a close game, I feel confident. Between him being able to play in the fourth quarter and the deep balls, I'm kind of questioning you guys' evaluation skills right now.
“I'm just glad you're not in personnel.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
When you think of clutch QBs, the names Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson come to mind. Names that don't come to mind? There are several, but one of them for the longest time has been Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill.
But this season, he's done a lot to put himself on the opposite end of the spectrum.
With Miami's offense struggling for a vast majority of the game, Tannehill took it upon himself to make sure his teammates kept their spirits up when the chips were down and time was running out.
"I told the guys right before that going on that first touchdown drive, hey, everyone take a deep breath, we’re going to win this game," he said. "and that’s what we did.”
On the first drive, a big assist by the offensive line helped push Jarvis Landry into the end zone after making a catch well short of the goal line, and that cut the deficit to only three points. Then Tannehill really got going thanks to some help from second-year player DeVante Parker, who has come alive in the offense over the past couple of weeks.
Tannehill hit Parker in the end zone with a bullet pass, and after a nice catch to give them the lead, there was no going back from there. The game was over.
“Hell of a job. Hell of a job." Landry said after the game. "He did exactly what big time players do. You know, they make the plays when it counts. He did that for us.”
This isn't the first time Tannehill has led drives to win the game in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, a lot of them are forgotten because his defense finds itself unable to maintain that lead. But the fifth-year QB followed through with his given assignment regardless: win the game.
And after it was over, his leadership once again took a different form, as no credit was given solely to himself. Like a true leader, he credited those around him first.
“I’m just really proud of our guys.” Tannehill said. “The way we battled, the way we hung in there. It was ugly on offense for most of the game. But defense kept us in the football game, made some really big plays for us, and we found a way to make plays when it counted."
Tannehill has evolved in just about every facet of his game thanks to Adam Gase figuring out how to properly utilize him. Now with his newfound confidence and improved play, the team is rallying behind him, and is pushing towards their first playoff berth in eight years.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Dolphins pulled off a dramatic comeback victory over the Los Angeles Rams this week. Here are ten thoughts on the game and on the NFL as Week 11 of the season wraps up.
1. First, kudos to the Dolphins for having the fortitude to come back to win this game with two touchdowns in the last five minutes. It was a wonderful effort and it was exactly the kind of game that playoff teams have to win. It’s now evident that the Dolphins are building a very special season where things are falling their way. Every fan should enjoy this while it lasts.
2. Having said that, I can't blind myself to the fact that this was a miserable offensive effort for most of the game.
It’s human nature for a team to let down when they are in the middle of a win streak. As a result, the Dolphins were unlikely to be playing with the desire and concentration that comes when teams are desperate for wins.
Nevertheless, I don’t think that's actually what happened as the Dolphins offense basically played dead for 3 and 2/3 quarters on Sunday. There were a lot of factors that went into the necessity for the late game comeback but perhaps there was none that was more important than the play calling.
The first thing that stands out is the startlingly low yards per pass. The Dolphins were at 2.3 at halftime and that sank to 1.1 in the fourth quarter before they came back to win it and finished with 3.7. The Rams, with a rookie quarterback making his first start, actually did better in this category than the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have to be able to throw downfield. They have the talent to do it. Why they didn't try more often is beyond me.
3. It has to be acknowledged that Ryan Tannehill (24 of 34 for 172 yards) did not have a good game. His ball placement was poor, he was inaccurate and he did a poor job of picking up the back-side blitz. When the Dolphins finally got a break and recovered a fumble in Rams territory, Tannehill finally threw deep only to give the ball back on an INT in the end zone.
4. Jared Goff didn't have a great game either but he's a rookie in his first start and yet he arguably out played Tannehill for most of the game until the dramatic ending.
Notably, Goff has a (perhaps natural at this stage) tendency to panic under pressure. Whenever he even sensed that a blitz was coming he rushed the pass and it was usually inaccurate. He's going to have to settle down and learn to keep calm in those situations.
I might add that Goff's accuracy and ball placement were generally a disappointment this game. In fairness he saw a fair bit of pressure from the Dolphins defensive front and he was throwing on the move quite a bit. Though he's certainly mobile, based upon what I saw, that is not his strength and he's going to have to be given some time in the pocket if the Rams expect him to succeed.
Many were surprised when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided to promote first overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the starting lineup. Reports were that Goff wouldn’t play until the Rams were mathematically eliminated. They’re still alive at 4-5, and if Goff gives the offense a spark they could end up in the mix for a playoff berth. But head coach Jeff Fisher has claimed that Goff is ready.
“It’s was just Jared’s progress, and the progression week, after week, after week,” Fisher said. “Preparing to be a two, preparing to be a play away from going in. When he got the reps over the last three or four weeks, they were right, they were good, they were good decisions. So it was time.”
That's all nonsense, of course. Goff struggled notably in the preseason and there's hardly much reason to believe he's gotten significantly better with no playing time since.
The truth is that the Rams have little to lose at this point. The offense had, in fact, done very little under former starter Case Keenum. Keenum was not the reason the Rams have been so bad but he hasn’t helped. This season he’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 23 times and the Rams are 24th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.
Keenum’s interception percentage is 31st in the NFL and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns per game. In fact, the Rams have not scored more than one TD in each of the past three games.
Given that is the case, Fisher wisely figured that he might as well let the offense be just as bad while developing their quarterback of the future. As they have in all of their previous games, they will still rely on their defense to win.
The real question is whether the Rams even can develop Goff. Jeff Fisher is a defensive head coach and his Assistant Head Coach/Offense, Rob Boras is a former offensive line/tight ends coach. That means the person who has been primarily responsible for overseeing Goff's development is quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke. Weinke has all of two years of NFL coaching experience - 2015 and half of 2016 with the Rams.
Goff is a wonderful talent. But at least as important is who is bringing him along. The Rams have been a wasteland for quarterback play since Kurt Warner left St. Louis in 2003. With Sam Bradford being its most recent and notable failure at the position. You have to wonder if Goff is about to get lost in those bad lands as well.
5. Speaking of the defense, that was a nice effort. Even though they were dealing with a rookie quarterback it’s no small feat to hold Todd Gurley down and I thought they did a nice job at the line of scrimmage.
More and more I'm coming to appreciate the play of Kiko Alonso. He's all over the field and he's largely responsible for what has been an improved (though still flawed) run defense.
6. Eight penalties for 82 yards is too many. A holding call on Ja'Wuan James in the first quarter nearly took the Dolphins out of field goal range and a couple more plays for loss did the rest. Those were valuable points in a game like this.
7. I was a bit disappointed when Dolphins center Anthony Steen, who played well in place of starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) Sunday, decided to criticize Alabama head coach Nick Saban last week.
Steen told the Palm Beach Post that he now regrets waiting until the end of his senior season to have the shoulder surgery he needed, and he thinks Saban’s approach leaves Alabama players hurt.
“If you can work through pain, you can go. But at ‘Bama, that was the problem,” Steen said. “A lot of things you went through and you shouldn’t have. You should have stayed off of it. That’s why a lot of guys from ‘Bama are hurt.”
If Steen was actually hurt or had done permanent damage to his shoulder by playing, I agree would with him. But as far as I can tell he hasn't. So I question whether Saban actually pushed him too far.
Indeed, it may well be Steen's toughness and willingness to play hurt was one of the reasons he has made it to the NFL. One scout from the Bleacher Report before the 2014 NFL draft called Steen "Possibly the very definition of 'toughness' as it relates to OL scouting purposes." CBS Sports said, "Steen's technical consistency, toughness and instincts are exactly what NFL teams look for in the ideal guard prospect."
The statements are ironic given that the Dolphins chose highlight their 2016 draft class by trying to make them into something that they weren't, characterizing them as "alpha personalities" despite zero independent evidence that scouts ever viewed them that way. Steen appears to the kind of guy they should have been touting all along if that's what they wanted.
In any case, if you ask me Saban did Steen a favor. He pushed him to play and, while doing so, highlighted what was perhaps his greatest strength.
8. Greg Hardy is gone but hardly forgotten.
Hardy infamously was arrest for domestic violence after assaulting an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her. Only the Dallas Cowboys and their win at all costs owner Jerry Jones dared to sign Hardy after he hit the street (One wonders what he told his granddaughter.)
"Don't go dating an NFL player, now darlin'. Unless he can rush the passer. Heh, heh, heh." [slaps her on the behind]). However, after a miserable season with the Cowboys in which he under-performed and was a locker room distraction, even Jones let him go. Hardy has been waiting for another team to sign him ever since.
Good luck with that. If he ever had a chance - and I doubt very much that he did - it’s got to be gone now after he was indicted on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance after a September 25 arrest. He allegedly had 0.7 grams of cocaine in his wallet, which police detected after pulling him over for turning without signaling.
Hardy was and is a blight on the National Football League, a product of a win at all costs mentality that results in animals like this getting rich off of fans who are forced to root for them against their better judgement. You honestly wonder under the circumstances how the league has the nerve to wear pink in October while keeping men like Hardy employed.
Fortunately, we'll almost certainly never have to deal with watching this particular hard case anymore. Let's hope that its extended more and more to others whose behavior calls for sanction rather than adulation.
9. I find the Green Bay Packers to be like a train wreck. I can't look and yet I can't look away. Some pundits were predicting that the Packers would be among the all-time best this year with the return of a healthy Jordy Nelson, who was supposed to be the major missing cog in the Packers wheel that caused the apparently decline of Aaron Rodgers stats last season.
That hasn't turned out to be the case. Among their notable deficiencies this year has been their problems at running back. The carousel of running backs in Green Bay this season has included Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis (acquired from Kansas City and released after two games), James Starks and Don Jackson (who was placed on injured reserve).
Through it all, the most effective runners have been quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who’s averaging 6.3 yards per run and has three rushing touchdowns) and converted receiver Ty Montgomery (who was the team's leading rusher in two different games this season).
The latest hope at running back for the team is Christine Michael, who they picked up from waivers after the Seahawks surprised the league by releasing him.
Michael had two different stints with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second round in 2013 (one spot after the Packers picked Lacy at No. 61 overall). As recently as this summer, he had earned praise from his teammates who said he was a different player than he was the first time around. Indeed, NFL pundits have marveled at Michael's talent and production and it was thought that he was on his way to a fine season.
At least publicly the Seahawks have only praise for Michael.
"He's been busting his tail the whole time he's been here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. "Everything we've said about him has been true and real, and he made a great comeback with us. He was the only guy there for a while, and we're really grateful to the play that he gave us. He's a good kid."
But privately things may be a little different. Reports have indicated that Michael was too inconsistent for the Seahawks and that they couldn't trust him to run within the offense. He struggled to hit the right hole or trust the design of the play. Those are vital elements of any run game but particularly for the Seahawks. The running back is the conductor of the offensive line. His patience, the number of steps he takes, all those details help a run succeed or fail.
Whether Michael will be better within the Green Bay offense is an open question. But they are so desperate to find answers at the position, they may rather have a reasonably productive back who freelances than the answers that they currently have on the roster. Such is the state of what was supposed to be a record-breaking offense this year.
10. Of course, the other major problem is the play of Aaron Rodgers, himself. Rodgers at his best drops back, hits the last step in that drop and fires the ball immediately to the open receiver. But he hasn't looked like that on a consistent basis for over a year now, preferring to hold the ball and play backyard football while trying to make a play. Pundits have blamed the fact that his receivers can't get open for the problem and the return of Nelson this year was supposed to solve it.
For the first time in his career, perhaps ever, Rodgers is taking significant criticism from former teammates and the press. And he apparently hasn't liked it much. Even nice guy Tony Dungy has gotten into the act as both he and not so nice guy Rodney Harrison took off on Rodgers on Thursday’s edition of Football Night in Carolina on NBC and NFL Network. Dungy and Harrison particularly addressed Rodgers' recent habit of publicly criticizing teammates and/or coaches during post-game press conferences following losses.
Dungy: “When you’re losing, you can’t make those kinds of comments. I remember my first year in Indianapolis when we lost a playoff game to the Jets 41-0. Mike Vanderjagt, our kicker, comes out after the game and says, ‘Tony Dungy doesn’t fire people up. He’s just an easy-going guy. We don’t need that.’ Well, that might have been true, but when you lose, it’s not the time to say that.”
Harrison: “I’m going to say this as nice as possible — shut up and play football. Every time that you mention something in the media, it creates a sense of divide in that locker room. Everything that they think about – say it in-house, and don’t bring the media and everyone outside of that locker room into it.”
Former Packer Jermichael Finley has also been among the latest to speak out with some particularly damaging comments.
“Aaron Rodgers is so scared of what guys are going to say that he doesn’t say nothing at all,” Finley said. “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s real self-centered.”
Finley isn't the first teammate (former or otherwise) to take his shots at Rodgers. Even when Rodgers has apparently been playing well, other players have or are suspected to have done so and they haven't lasted with the team. Former Packer and Dolphin guard Daryn Colledge was one such player who called out Rodgers in a team meeting for not admitting that he was holding the ball too long when the offensive line was taking heat some years ago in 2009.
Current Bears guard Josh Sitton wasn't known specifically for doing it but he was outspoken and he was known to have called out the coaching staff on at least one occasion last year. It would certainly not be surprising if criticism of Rodgers miserable play last year came with that.
Rodgers isn't just self-centered. He appears to be sensitive to criticism. If he continues to play like he is, he'd better get used to it because it won't stop until he starts reading the defense, getting rid of the ball, playing within the offense and throwing more accurately.
10a. I know that it seems like it’s a long way away but the later we get in both the NFL and the college football season, the more it feels like NFL draft time. Indeed, sites are already starting to speculate about what teams will need what and none will be more prominent than those who will be desperate for quarterback help.
In that respect, I found this article on NFL.com to be quite interesting. In the column, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah looks at six teams who he thinks will be targeting the quarterback position. Most made sense - the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Cardinals. However, a couple were, in my opinion, questionable.
First off, the suggestion that the Jets will be looking to draft a quarterback and/or sign a veteran is popular right now and, I think, pretty suspect. The Jets drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015 and, though fourth rounders aren't always slam dunk starters, I'm not sure they given up on him.
But Petty isn't the reason I find this opinion questionable. You might argue about the Jets commitment to his future but there's no denying that they are committed to 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg. Like Jeremiah, I don't think Hackenberg is the answer for them. But the Jets have to believe otherwise. To draft Hackenberg in the second round and then not commit to him as your future starter would be ludicrous. They would be, and should be, a laughing stock.
No, I can't imagine the Jets not giving Hackenberg the starting job next year.
The other suspect team on the list was the Jaguars, who appeared to have an answer at the position with Blake Bortles. Bortles started well as a rookie but has regressed this season. His mechanics are a mess and during the bye week he even resorted to visiting QB guru Tom House, indicating that perhaps he wasn't getting the help he needed from head coach Gus Bradley and his staff.
Bradley may be gone after this season but Bortles isn't going anywhere. I have to believe that the Jaguars would rather spend the offseason trying to fix Bortles, who at least has showed potential for a couple years before regressing, than starting over by drafting a new quarterback.
10b. Before we jump too far ahead it should be mentioned that one or two of those teams listed above are going to go for a veteran replacement. Especially if you are a team who thinks that they can win now, as in Arizona or Denver (not listed), the possibility of adding Tony Romo is going to be tempting.
In addition, another quarterback that Dolphins fans are pretty familiar with might be enticing for one of these teams. Tyrod Taylor entered the weekend needing to show that he could be the future in Buffalo badly. Time could be running out for Taylor in his quest to convince management to activate the next phase of his five-year, $90 million contract, which would cost them $27 million for next season alone if they decide to kick in the second year.
Buffalo beat the Bengals on Sunday but they did it with only an average effort from Taylor who went 19 for 27, 166 yards and a passer rating of 70.9. Hardly the stuff that characterizes a $90 million quarterback.
The bet here is that Taylor's talent and mobility leads someone to sign him in the hope that he will be the future. We shall see if it comes true.
10c. I noted with interest the Dolphins decision to cut cornerback Chris Culliver. Culliver had become something of a beacon of hope for Dolphins fans who had hoped that he could step in as something of a savior to strengthen what is by far the Dolphins greatest weakness - their defensive back field.
The release of Culliver was a shame but not terribly surprising. Signing him was a desperation move for this team. The front office, which has garnered much (IMO undeserved) praise lately for finding quality players, left the organization short on depth and once Xavien Howard went down (and possibly didn’t develop - we won’t know until he actually hits the field) there was no plan B.
10d. Speaking of Taylor, he is one of a row of mediocre quarterbacks that the Dolphins will be facing as they drive to finish the season in the playoff hunt. Besides Jared Goff this week, they will have San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Baltimore's Joe Flacco, Arizona's Carson Palmer, New York Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick (33rd) and Taylor. All are significantly worse than Ryan Tannehill and all but Taylor have even been worse than even last year's version of Tannehill - and that's debatable.
This series of teams with bad play at the helm is representative of the poor play in the AFC overall and, in particular, of the ease with which the Dolphins could make the post-season. If they can manage to play even average football the rest of the way, there should be - and the odds are that there will be - an exciting finish to this season.
I can't wait.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
For the fourth time this season, the Miami Dolphins will face a rookie quarterback making his first start. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, the number one overall pick in this year’s draft, will make his debut on Sunday afternoon against a Dolphins defensive front that has come into its own in recent weeks.
Goff was the top-rated quarterback coming out of college this past year, but after a terrible pre-season in which he often looked completely overwhelmed, head coach Jeff Fisher decided to sit Goff for his rookie year, opting to go with Case Keenum. While Goff sat on the bench, other rookie quarterbacks around the league flourished, including the second overall pick, Carson Wentz. To be fair, Wentz was tabbed to ride the bench this year as well, before the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the QB-needy Minnesota Vikings just before the regular season began.
Tuesday morning, Goff took first team snaps for the first time this year, in a practice that in typical Hollywood style, included singer Britney Spears in attendance.
“It’s been a long time … since I’ve gotten out there and played,” said Goff. “I’m excited to get back out there. Anxiety is over, I’m good now. I’m confident and ready to go. Ready to play, ready to get back to playing football, back to doing what I love … and hopefully start what will be a long career.”
While Dolphins fans are anticipating a rough outing for the young signal caller, they would be wise to remember that Goff wasn’t the number one overall pick for nothing. He has a very strong arm and his college tape shows he is very good at getting the ball downfield.
“Jared throws a good ball,” says Rams tight end Lance Kendricks. “He’s very poised in the huddle, and he’s confident in the play-calling now. He’s had time to sit back and learn.”
Rams players are hoping Goff will provide a spark to the offense of a team that has struggled all season on that side of the ball. Keenum managed nine touchdowns and eleven interceptions, and was ranked 30th with a 75.6 quarterback rating.
“He’s a young boy, a hot tamale right now,” said Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin. “We’ll see what he can do.”
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase admits he doesn’t have a lot of familiarity with Goff, having only studied him briefly last year, knowing that the Dolphins didn’t have a chance to draft him.
“A lot of times when you're not in position to take a guy … I had a lot of other things that I was looking at,” said Gase. “Being somebody that admires that position and always wants to make sure that you're up to date on all the guys coming into the league, I tried to look at it a little bit. But I didn't look at enough to really have a great opinion one way or another as far as an evaluation standpoint.”
And how will the Dolphins approach this game?
“The way that we go into these games is, we're always trying to affect the quarterback no matter who it is back there. (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) does a great job as far as giving different looks and different types of pressures. We don't know how (Goff’s) going to handle certain things, and just because he's a young player doesn't mean that he hasn't grown since he has left college.
“I know the defense that he gets to practice against every day is not a defense that just lines up and plays one or two coverages. (When) you're talking about being able to develop quickly, he's probably going against the best defense to go against because Coach (Gregg) Williams has so many different looks and does such a great job as far as with his pressures. If you can handle what he's doing, and if you can show that you're practicing well against his defense, then you're probably ready for the NFL-caliber type game."
And if you’re looking for any Dolphins players to wish Goff well in his NFL debut, well, you can just keep on looking. When Ndamukong Suh was asked if he followed Goff’s college career at California, he quite succinctly said, “No, I didn't. I'm a Big Ten guy. I follow Nebraska, and that's about it.”
And quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t any more cordial when asked if he had any advice for the rookie.
“I have no real advice for him,” said Tannehill. “Good luck. I'm just focused on doing everything I can to help this team win.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell hadn’t seen the field since Week 1, but on Sunday he looked like he’d never left. Mitchell was activated from the Injured Reserve list just before the game in San Diego, and contributed to a defensive front that had Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers muttering to himself. The Dolphins sacked Rivers three times and pressured him often, eventually flustering the veteran quarterback into throwing four interceptions.
The defense also held Chargers running back Melvin Gordon in check. Gordon, who was enjoying a dominant season coming into the game, was held to just 70 yards on 24 carries. Mitchell, who mostly played in spot duty, was a big part of that, and even blew up Gordon in the backfield on one play, resulting in a 6-yard loss.
Head coach Adam Gase credits the defensive line with playing a key part in the game, especially in dealing with Gordon, who entered the game leading NFL running backs in touchdowns on the year. Although he compiled 132 total yards, Gordon was kept out of the endzone all afternoon.
"I think the guys did a good job as far as the fits were really good,” said Gase when asked how he graded his defense’s performance. “I thought the fact that we were swarming as well as we were, and guys were doing a good job, even in the times that he shook free, guys got him down. That's the key. It could have been worse than what it was, and guys did a good job as far as when there was some one-on-one matchups, we got him to the ground."
As for Mitchell, Gase concedes that having a guy return to the field in the tenth week, when most players are breaking down from the season-long grind, was a bonus along the defensive line. Mitchell rotated with Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, and provided fresh legs when needed.
“This late in the season, he's at a different level than everybody else as far as that goes,” said Gase. “Guys are out there playing with banged up bodies, heavy legs and it's like getting a brand new player out there flying around, completely healthy.”
Gase was impressed with Mitchell’s conditioning, considering that a calf injury limited him in preseason and flared up after the first regular season game. Gase credits Mitchell’s veteran approach as being especially beneficial.
“I think for the most part he did a good job,” said Gase of Mitchell’s return. “I know the one thing we could count on was just the energy level. I think a lot of us were just surprised at the fact that his conditioning was really, really, really good.
“Sometimes when you get in those games, the anxiety shoots up and you can lock up because you're so excited to get out there and you fatigue yourself; but it didn't happen with him. When you have a veteran guy like that, he's going to know his assignment. He's kind of been in this situation before. He came out there and did exactly what we needed him to do.”
Next up on the Dolphins swing through the Left Coast is another tough runner in the Los Angeles Rams Todd Gurley. (Side note: this game may be the prime time broadcast for western viewers!) But the Dolphins defense seems to be turning a corner, and confidence is growing that this defense can get the job done week in and week out.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
What does it mean to be tough? For some, toughness is being able to take a licking and keep on kicking, similarly to how Ryan Tannehill constantly seems to take hits in the backfield and always manages to get back up.
But then there's the type of toughness where a player is obviously hurt and he still decides to go in because the team needs him. That's the type of toughness that left tackle Branden Albert exhibited Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, when he dislocated his wrist and came out back soon after and finished the game with a cast on.
“Fifty-four got me pretty good today." Albert said after the game. "He got me on the bull rush and I caught myself and when I looked at my wrist, I knew something wasn’t right. I went to the sideline and cut my tape off and it was out of place. They were messing with it and trying to pop it back into place. I got some x-rays and it was back in place. I had to go back out there.”
And so he did, and he remained a crucial element to the Dolphins overcoming the Chargers by a score of 31-24, securing their fourth straight victory, which the team has not done since 2008.
Ironically enough, that was the last time Miami made the playoffs.
“He came back in [and] he played. I’m sure with what we know right now, it wasn’t easy for him, but he battled through and I’ll know more here in the next 15 minutes." coach Adam Gase said after the game. "I didn’t go through that whole injury deal. I just know that he wasn’t 100 percent by any means.”
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, it's now been reported that Albert's playing status is in serious question. His hand is not doing well, and on Monday, Adam Gase addressed the media regarding the Pro Bowl lineman's situation.
"What can we do as far as moving forward? Are we able to get him back this week. Is it going to be the next week," Gase said. "Everything is out there right now for us. [Albert's hand] is very swollen."
What does this mean for the Miami offensive line moving forward? More than likely, it means that rookie Laremy Tunsil will be called upon to go back to his old college position and play on the outside at least a year earlier than what was initially expected.
With Tunsil outside, that leaves the likes of Anthony Steen or Kraig Urbik to play at left guard in his absence. Steen has already shown that he can be solid when called upon, and Urbik has become the utility lineman of choice since the release of Dallas Thomas.
If Albert can't go, it does not bode well for the Dolphins who next week face a very formidable Los Angeles Rams defensive front, which features young superstar Aaron Donald who previously defeated Ryan Tannehill in a charity Madden tournament.
Miami's four-game winning streak started at the precise moment all five starting offensive linemen got to play together. If Albert isn't healthy, the Rams game will be an indicator of just how much the Dolphins depend on having them all healthy to succeed, and whether or not they can overcome the handicap of having backups on the line.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
With a minute to go in Sunday’s game, and the San Diego Chargers moving briskly down the field to get into range for a game-winning field goal, the Miami Dolphins defense lined up on first and ten at their own 40 yard line just hoping to keep Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in check. But just as the ball was about to be snapped, linebacker Kiko Alonso saw something, darted away from the line, and started sprinting to the near side of the field.
At the snap, the Dolphins sent a heavy blitz, and Rivers knew he had to get rid of the ball quickly. He immediately looked to his left, and launched a quick pass to the receiver in the area from where the blitz was coming. But he didn’t see Alonso, who read the play perfectly, stepped in front, caught the ball cleanly, and sprinted 60 yards untouched to the endzone.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was watching the play unfold in front of him, and knew something was up.
“I saw (Alonso) buzz out on that last snap,” said Tannehill. "And as soon as Philip (Rivers) started looking that way, I was hoping he didn't see him. Kiko got a good read on the play. He saw the receiver coming in, made a great catch, fully extended and ran it for the touchdown.”
As for what was going through Alonso’s mind at the snap?
"We had to make a play,” said Alonso. “We have been in that situation, and you just have to make a play.”
The touchdown gave the Dolphins a 31-24 lead with less than a minute to go, and fans didn’t have to wait long for Rivers to toss his game-sealing fourth interception just seconds later, making head coach Adam Gase just the fourth Dolphins head coach to have a four-game winning streak.
“I looked up and just saw (Alonso) get his hands on the ball,” said Gase. “He's a very instinctive player. I know there have been a couple of times when he gambles and he loses. But there have been a lot of times when he gambles and he's right. And that was a situation where he was right."
As Alonso crossed the goal line he broke into a strut reminiscent of the Vince McMahon/Coner McGregor power walk famous on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) circuit.
“That was my first touchdown on defense ever," he said. “I felt good."
And it made a whole lot of Dolphins fans feel good, too.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Jason Taylor's dedication to the South Florida community has been well-documented over the years. Ever since his playing days, the Jason Taylor Foundation has worked to improve the lives of children and families all across the state, and this particular event is one of the biggest it has on an annual basis.
For the 13th straight year, the Jason Taylor Foundation held their annual Ping Pong Smash and raised over $55,000 dollars to facilitate the personal growth and empowerment of South Florida’s children in need by focusing on improved health care, education and quality of life.
"My director Seth Levit came up with this idea thirteen years ago now, wanted to try ping pong." said former Dolphins star pass rusher Jason Taylor. "I typically don't do things I'm not very good at, but for this event I decided that I'd let somebody else bring something and I'll take a backseat, because I might be the worst player in the building."
Whether that's true or not is up for debate, but Taylor did have himself a partner in this event, but not in the sense that they were on the same team, but rather they went up against each other in the first round to determine their ping pong supremacy. That partner was Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, who was also there as part of the Team Pouncey Foundation.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity from Jason," Pouncey said. "Jason and Seth came up with the idea a couple of years ago to kinda make it something competitive, keep the buzz with all the guys on the team to come out and I'm just grateful they gave me the opportunity to be a part of it."
Taylor and Pouncey weren't the only ones there however, as several Dolphins - both former and current - turned up at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida to offer their support and bring their own star power to the event and call attention to the cause at hand...and also to try and take down one of their team leaders in a "friendly" game of ping pong.
"We'll see how good these guys are," Pouncey said. "They've been talking trash all week so we'll see how good they are."
Those current players several of his fellow offensive linemen, such as Jermon Bushrod, Ja'Wuan James and Sam Young, along with long snapper John Denney and linebacker Kiko Alonso.
And of course, there was a strong turnout of former Dolphins players as they are often seen in the community participating in various charities. Sam Madison, Joe Rose, Shawn Wooden, Chris Chambers, Channing Crowder, Vernon Carey and Jeff Dellenbach just to name a few.
There was even a crossover in sports as former Miami Heat star center Alonzo Mourning attended to play, and Daniel Puder, a WWE Tough Enough champion did his part as well.
But there was more to this night than just watching players hit plastic balls around, after all, with nearly 100 youth in attendance, there had to be more to it than that. And there was. The Jason Taylor Foundation set up a kid's clinic that youth could enjoy before and during the competition, featuring caricature artists, inflatable games and a Best Buy Gaming Station where kids (and even some of the players) could indulge themselves in the latest Madden title.
There was even an opportunity to get a haircut by the barbers that were on hand that night. What other charities out there would have that as an option?
But again, the real pull of the evening was the tournament, and while Taylor and Pouncey faced off against each other in the first round, in the end it was Pouncey and his partner who managed to advance further into the competition. Unfortunately for them, their rise to the top ended at third place.
It came down to the matchup of Kiko Alonso versus former Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore in the final round, and in the end, it was Alonso and his partner Jared Rosetti of CHG Healthcare who captured the 2016 JT’s Ping-Pong Smash crown.
With all the events that the Jason Taylor Foundation throughout the year, they do a lot of good in the South Florida community, even dating back to Taylor's playing days when he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007. But of all the events they do, this one is perhaps the most interactive and gives kids a real chance to have a night of fun playing games and watching their favorite players play ping pong.
Let it never be said that these players - former or current - are out of touch with the issues that plague the world. They spend a lot of their free time volunteering to try and make the world a little brighter, and both Taylor and Pouncey are proof that it doesn't matter whether you're playing or retired, the influence that can be made in the community through the efforts of some well-meaning athletes and their supporters will never end.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Header Image Credit: Jason Taylor Foundation
The Dolphins are coming off of a big divisional win at home against the Jets that brought their season to the .500 mark. Here are ten thoughts on the win, the team, and the league as we exit Week 9 of the NFL season.
1. Before we left for the break, we had determined the formula for winning football games for the Dolphins. They came through on half of that formula Sunday. They ran the ball 32 times, over half of the total of 61 plays for the game. While doing so, they averaged a very respectable 4.3 yards per carry for 137 yards, most of that on the back of Jay Ajayi (24 times, 111 yards, 4.6 ypc).
Ajayi once again ran behind some excellent blocking from a healthy starting offensive line. The result was a very effective play action passing game as the Jets linebackers were sucked up in response to the run fake.
As long as the line stays intact, this should be a staple the rest of the season. But depending upon their health is a risky business. Even while playing some miserable, flawed teams through the rest of their schedule, they're going to need some luck.
2. Unfortunately, the Dolphins didn't hold up their end on the second part of that formula - stop the run. The Jets ran the ball 21 times for 140 yards, more than the Dolphins. The average yards per carry was 6.7 and Matt Forte had a banner day (12 rushes for 92 yards, 7.7 ypc).
One problem that the Dolphins had was that whenever a defensive end like Andre Branch moved inside, the Jets ran over them. This is the disadvantage of trying to play a specialized pass rush defense like that and you wonder if the Dolphins will cut down on its use in the future.
Though Jordan Phillips came up with a huge interception near the end of the third quarter, it was also hard not to notice that he struggled otherwise yet again after having a good game against the Bills before the break. He seemed to have a great deal of trouble getting off blocks.
3. One thing that really stood out to me today was the use of the tight end by the Dolphins. Dominique Jones had three catches for 42 yards with a couple big catches including one for a touchdown.
Really good offenses have this in common - they have a tight end that they can count on in the red zone. You wonder if the Dolphins have found one in Jones.
4. The other striking thing, of course, was how sloppy this game was. It wasn't just Ryan Fitzpatrick's two interceptions or Matt Darr's dropped snap on a critical pun late in the game. The penalties were egregiously bad on both sides. The Jets led the way with ten critical penalties for 77 yards but the Dolphins' eight for 86 yards were arguably more damaging, taking seven points off the board on a Jakeem Grant touchdown while constantly giving the Jets first down after first down.
The result was the appearance of efficient offense on both sides, as there were only four punts the entire game, two on each side. But the reality is that each defense took turns kicking itself in the foot.
The Dolphins will have to address this issue and clean it up.
5. Could Alex Smith be experiencing deja vu in Kansas City. He's only been out for a couple weeks with concussion issues but Nick Foles is looking pretty good behind him.
Many will recall that Smith was the starter in San Francisco when he suffered a concussion and opened the door for Colin Kaepernick to take over. He never got the starting position back again.
Foles has been looking good playing in Smith's place. He was 16 of 22 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns, a 135.2 passer rating, 10.1 yards per attempt. That last statistic stands out because Smith has been criticized for his dink and dunk style in Kansas City.
Foles's footwork was a mess when he first arrived in Kansas City three months ago coming off some miserable seasons with Chip Kelly, known for his offensive system but apparently not so much for his quarterback coaching. Foles has done a lot of post-practice work with head coach Andy Reid and co-offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, doing “slide” drills where they’d watch him repeatedly drop back into an imaginary pocket for ten minutes and harp on his feet.
“A lot of it was balance, you know?” Nagy said. “The ball was up here and your balance is off, your feet are wide … you just want to get the balance nice and controlled — smooth — and that will calm everything down.”
Foles's improvement demonstrates that getting a franchise quarterback for your team is only half the battle. You have to have the coaching to develop that quarterback into something as well.
In any case, though head coach Andy Reid has said that Smith is the starter when he's recovered, one never knows what will happen. It's a situation that's worth keeping an eye on.
6. Speaking of franchise quarterback coaches, a pretty good one was fired last week. Greg Olson was let go from the Jacksonville Jaguars during their bye week. He may not be much of an offensive coordinator but he's a heck of a position coach and I'd expect him to be in demand next year.
In the meantime, Blake Bortles brought in his personal passing coach, Adam Dedeaux, to help him fix his awful mechanics on Monday and Tuesday. Two days isn't likely to do a lot of good but it will be interesting to follow Bortles's trajectory to see if he can pull out of his funk over the course of the rest of the season.
The gut feeling here is that he won't and that he's going to need a full offseason of dedicated work with somebody to get things straight. In the meantime, Olson appears to be the fall guy.
7. Speaking of byes, the Patriots started theirs this week and I thought it was interesting that despite being generally considered to be the only really dominant team in the NFL this year, they don’t appear to be satisfied.
What the Pats have been doing is clearly working. They went 3-1 without Tom Brady once he returned from his four-game suspension, he went on to be named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. Brady has been unbelievable the past four weeks, completing 73.1 percent of his passes for 1,319 yards with 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Despite relying heavily on Brady's arm (as well they should), LeGarrette Blount is fifth in the NFL with 609 rushing yards and second with nine touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Josh McDaniels plans to spend the break working to make things better. McDaniels called football “an imperfect game” and there is plenty for the team to clean up, most notably fumbling 15 times, second-most in the league to San Diego’s 17.
“Whether it is penalties or taking care of the football — we put the ball on the ground too many times already in the first half of the season — those types of things are factors you want to improve on,” he said.
“The thing I enjoy the most about our team offensively is the way they come in to work each day. We couldn’t ask for more,” McDaniels said. “They have a great attitude, a great mindset, they’re excited to be there, they work well together, they really love each other in terms of the relationships that we have in our room, which means a lot because it’s a lot easier to work with guys you appreciate and like than the other thing.”
It’s hard not to compare McDaniels' attitude to what I could gather from the thoughts of the Dolphins coaches during their bye week. Though I wouldn't claim that they were satisfied with their first half season, there was definitely a feeling that they'd found their formula for winning in the weeks leading up to the break and there was a lot less emphasis on the glaring deficiencies that still exist on the team.
Perhaps that's natural in a 4-4 team with an easy remaining schedule that is trying to convince its players and its fans that the best is ahead. But I would have been a lot happier to have heard more about the need to improve than about how great things are going heading into the second half of the season.
8. And one area I'd definitely like to see improved is defensive end. In particular, the excuse making for and from Mario Williams makes me sick.
First he underperformed because Rex Ryan played him out of position at rush linebacker. So he comes to Miami to be the starting defensive end and he under-performs. So then it's because they aren't covering well on the back end and he's got no time to get to the quarterback.
So what is it now?
Well, apparently playing a full 60 minutes of football is too much for old man Williams.
“When Mario was a young guy, he was a freak,” said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. “So he was a young guy and he could go at 60 percent and still be better than most. He's no longer that 23-year-old first pick of the draft. He's a little older now so he's got to work a little more. And that's okay.
“So I think Mario understands now that playing 30 plays at 100 percent he helps us win versus 55 plays at 50 percent. So Mario playing less but playing harder helps us win. Sometimes you can't play that hard for 50 plays at a certain stage of your career.”
Right. Williams did not appear on the stat sheet for the game against the Jets. So now what happens when he isn't playing hard for those 30 plays. More excuses?
9. In the meantime, 34-year old Cameron Wake takes over for the now apparently decrepit (and younger) Williams. Though Wake is playing wonderfully (it would be hard to understate his role in stopping everything that came his way Sunday or how important the pressure he brought from the outside was), I'm sure that the Dolphins would prefer not to have to put him on the field as much.
The reasoning is simple. At Wake's age, despite the fact that he's not showing it, you have to figure that his body has only so many snaps left in it. The Dolphins would like for those to come in high impact, passing situations where he can make the most of them. But instead they're having to spend them to make up for Williams' failure to produce.
Through what even Dolphins coaches are admitting is sheer lack of effort, Williams is wasting the last couple years of Wake's career with snaps that he'll never be able to get back. Perhaps he should have to pay for Wake's first year or two of retirement when it comes.
10. So what about the guy that Williams was supposed to replace in the lineup? Well, Olivier Vernon is feeling pretty "ticked off" recently.
It seems Vernon has been frustrated as he has been limited by a wrist injury through the Giants’ first seven games. So he's been whining and using that as an excuse, right?
Hmmmm. Not so much.
“Well, you know,” Vernon told the New York Daily News on Thursday, “when you’re set on playing a certain way and you’re hindered a little bit, (you’re) gonna be ticked off, you know? But there ain’t no excuses, man. It’s about just getting back right and going out there with my teammates and trying to get wins.”
I know it was ridiculously expensive to keep the home grown and home-developed Vernon. But you have to wonder, was it really better to go the cheap route and sign a weak-minded mercenary who is only half a player who can only play half a game for about half the money?
10a. This, the second of two divisional wins at home, was a big one for the Dolphins. Now we get to see if they can continue their recent winning ways on the road against the San Diego Chargers. The team has been fun to watch and will continue to be as long as the health of that offensive line holds. We shall see how far they can take it. With a mediocre and very flawed AFC, anything can happen.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
The Dolphins escaped Hard Rock Stadium with a win on Sunday, and the overall performance they showed led me to send out a tweet that pretty much all of Dolphins Twitter called me crazy for even daring to imply.
Now, while I won't change my feelings on what I would have preferred to see, I am willing to admit that this tweet was a poor choice of words on my part. What I was attempting to convey was that I would have preferred to see the Dolphins put together a solid performance for the third week in a row rather than start to struggle again after two weeks of prosperity.
Obviously, a win is better than a loss any day, and the fact that the Dolphins managed to overcome adversity and win despite the hardships - as many others also pointed out - proves that these Dolphins are already a different team than the one that took the field every week last season.
To some extent, that is true.
But I am seeing a disturbing pattern with Miami, and this pattern is the reason I say what I say. Last season, the Dolphins fired Joe Philbin and promoted Dan Campbell to be the interim head coach, with help and counsel from Darren Rizzi. For two weeks, those Dolphins beat down on the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans and got people excited about the change that was taking place.
Then they traveled to New England, and it all unraveled.
Miami looked like they had the past four games, they were unable to execute on offense or defense and the Patriots reminded them of their troubles, and they never got that two week mojo back. Now, here we are again with Adam Gase as the head coach, with a lot of the same players, but a different scheme and a new identity that is being established even as we speak. Surely, they would be able to use that and put together a solid performance against the now 3-6 New York Jets?
No, they didn't, and that's what bothers me.
Those saying a win is a win no matter what are certainly justified. No one ever wants to lose, nor did I mean to make it sound like I was wishing a loss on Miami. But the reality of the situation is that when you look at the entirety of the game, the Dolphins were - once again - unable to put together a solid four quarters and found themselves in a situation where they had to be bailed out by the worse than mediocre quarterbacking play of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick missed his man twice in the end zone (maybe once, since Ndamukong Suh supposedly deflected the pass at the line of scrimmage the second time), and then a third time he threw a dead duck into the end zone which Bobby McCain easily intercepted because there were no Jets around to catch it.
Ryan Tannehill nearly threw an interception to Jordan Jenkins that if it had been caught, the game also would have ended in a Jets victory because he would have ran it all the way across the field for a touchdown. It took a ridiculous kick-return touchdown by Kenyan Drake to give them the lead back, and then the defense found a way to come up big thanks to Ndamukong Suh.
Props to Suh.
But here's the larger point here. I'm looking at this situation and I am seeing the same shades that I saw last season, only this time, Miami was fortunate enough to not be facing off against the New England Patriots this time to ruin things for them. But if that is the case, then what are the real good signs here?
Allow me to make a list of the good signs.
1. They overcame adversity and won despite hardships, which has been pointed out to me ad nauseam.
2. Adam Gase - if his past comments are anything to go by - will not be satisfied with the performance his team put on against the Jets and will be working to fix the issues, whereas last year's staff would have said they did well in all three phases.
3. The Dolphins have found an identity on offense through running the football, and their defensive identity is to be a pass-rushing team, thanks to the likes of Cameron Wake. Not only that, they are sticking to it and it is paying off.
Those are things to be built upon and is a solid foundation for the next season after more talent has been inserted onto this roster...what I don't like, is how the perspective has suddenly done a complete 180 and now everyone is talking like the Miami Dolphins are playoff contenders.
Numbers wise, sure, there's no debating that. But as almost everyone unanimously agreed on before the beginning of the season, 2016 is not the year to be looking for the Dolphins to become a playoff team. There's still too much to do, too many problems that need to be fixed and no amount of scheme changes can alter the reality that there is a lack of worthwhile talent on Miami's roster.
If anything, Adam Gase's coaching has proven that to be the case.
Now here's another thing to be encouraged about. Adam Gase has clearly shown that he knows how to get the most of his players, which is a good thing. But is it enough to beat out the likes of the Broncos or the Chiefs for a playoff spot? That remains to be seen.
And there's also the theory that playing in the playoffs where the games really count would be good for the young team, and I certainly can't argue against that either. However, if the goal is to actually compete, I can't see this team having lasting success with the current roster at Gase's disposal.
I'm all too aware that there are games where the wins are ugly, and that's what happened on Sunday. It was an ugly win and no one - myself included - should be upset that it happened. The only point that I wanted to make was that I would have preferred - win or lose - to see the team put together a solid performance for a third week in a row against an otherwise inferior opponent.
That would have said more to me about the team's long term future than a tough win against an opponent that truthfully had no business being as tough as they were, especially with all the foolish mistakes that were made. There's no denying that there are tough wins in the NFL, but teams that can compete in the playoffs are generally teams that always put together solid performances, whether they lead to wins or not.
The Oakland Raiders, the Atlanta Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys, those teams are currently teams on the rise and they're putting together great performances week in and week out. Then there are teams like the Vikings and the Eagles, who started strong and have begun to struggle for one reason or another and their performances have fallen off. Those teams are unlikely to make the playoffs, and if they do make it, they won't last long.
That is the concern I have. While it always feels good to win, there's something to be said about knowing what your expectations should be. What I want from the Dolphins is not what I expect, not yet. What I want, is for Miami to find a way to be consistently good, and not find themselves struggling every other week when they have no business to.
What I expect, is for the growing pains to continue, and that is why I get disappointed. They beat the Jets, and kudos to them for making up for the mistakes they made in that game, but the good NFL teams find ways to keep from making those mistakes to begin with. That is what I want for Miami to strive for, and I believe that Adam Gase is the right man to get them there.
If I am to be begrudged for wanting the team to reach a certain goal, then so be it. I am very glad that the Dolphins found a way to win, but what I want to see from the team is not necessarily hard fought victories, but rather consistent performances week in and week out that speak well of the team's long term future. Enjoy the short term, absolutely, but I am looking towards the future, not the present, at least...not yet.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
With Veteran's Day right around the corner, the Miami Dolphins teamed up with Bank of America on Thursday to do some renovations on the home of retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant and super Dolphins fan Joe Reddick.
Reddick, 65, was honorably discharged after serving 21 years in the Army and was a part of both the Vietnam War and certain parts of the Gulf War, delivering supplies and worked with Mechanized Infantry.
"I feel appreciated," Reddick said. "I can't ask for nothing better. I served my country, and I feel that y'all appreciate what I did. And I appreciate all the other people that's high up that look out for me, and I'll never forget it."
For quite some time, Bank of America has been involved in serving those who have served America as part of the military, and in this case - with help from Dolphins alumni Lorenzo Hampton and the special teams volunteer group - they went to Reddick's home in Opa Locka and did some much-needed renovations, which included replacing flooring, interior and exterior painting, replacement of his stove, washer, dryer and landscaping.
"We've had a longstanding committment to the military, not just men and women that are serving today, but the veterans, and to get them - try to acclimate and transition them to civilian life," said Maria Alonso, Senior Vice President and Miami Market Manager for Bank of America. "Volunteer service is quite frankly, but one way. Other ways are we're hiring veterans, we've hit milestones in that over the past couple of years."
Veterans looking for jobs after their military careers has been something that many companies have starting putting a greater emphasis on in recent years, but that's only one part of how veterans can be thanked for their service. For some, the treatment of veterans after their careers is a personal matter, such as former Dolphins running back Lorenzo Hampton, who has many family members connected to the military.
"I'm just fortunate enough that they (the Dolphins) called me to do this project because it's something that - I look forward to paying it forward." said Hampton. "My father was in the military, he was an Army veteran. My two older brothers, one was in the Navy, one was in the Air Force, and my next brother - he's a little older than I am - he was an Army veteran too. A majority of my family was related to the military. They've done so much for our country, and this is just a small token to say, 'hey thanks, we appreciate what you're doing.'"
Often called America's heroes, the military men and women - both current and former - are responsible for keeping America safe from those who would do it harm. Risking their lives for those back home, there are no words that can be used to express the gratitude that should be afforded these brave soldiers. With this gesture, it's but a small thank you towards a group of people who have often gone above and beyond the call of duty.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
It's never too early to start scouting out prospects who could potentially be a big help to a pro team next season, and that's what Neal Driscoll is here to help with.
Check out the prospect rankings according to Neal and get an overview of possibilities that the Miami Dolphins could look into for the 2017 NFL Draft.
This draft guide was made by Neal Driscoll. Follow him on Twitter: @NealDriscoll
PhinManiacs returns with another podcast, as Luis Sung, Chad Ronnebaum, and special Jets guest Matt Barbato of New York Jet Fuel discuss the upcoming AFC East division matchup, and then we go into a bit of a deeper discussion as we talk about why the NFL's ratings have dropped and why football as a whole seems to be losing its allure.
Luis D. Sung - @LuisDSung
Chad Ronnebaum - @Gofins4SB
Matt Barbato - @RealMattBarbato
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Heading into their Week 6 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami Dolphins were reeling from a terrible start to the season. Head coach Adam Gase had an inept running game and a mediocre passing game that only seemed to play well after spotting the other team a two-touchdown lead. At 1-4 and in last place in the AFC East, the Dolphins were being written off as going nowhere fast, and would likely be picking in the top 5 in the NFL draft next spring.
Their biggest problem on offense? Well, Gase doesn’t mince words when asked about that.
“I would say it was a lot of three-and-outs early in the year,” he said. “I mean ... we were so bad early. We went through some growing pains. We had some things happen that obviously we wanted to be better at what we were doing, and we weren't.”
Well, Jay Ajayi happened, of course. The second year running back rumbled for 415 yards over the next two games and won offensive player of the week honors, resulting in a whole bunch of new fans hopping aboard the ‘J-Train’ bandwagon.
But what really prompted the turnaround was the simple fact that for the first time all season, the Dolphins had their entire offensive line healthy and intact. And no one appreciates that more than quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“I think we've had a little bit more time from the snap to the throw,” said Tannehill. “Guys are getting open. (We are) still getting the ball out relatively quickly, I think. But it's having that time.”
But as important as it was to have the offensive line intact, there has been one other change, one far more subtle, that has resulted in less penalties, less miscommunication, and less missed chances on the offensive side of the ball. Tannehill alluded to that in his press conference this week.
“Since we're huddling more, everyone is more sure of exactly what to do and how to do it,” explained Tannehill. “There's no indecision going to the line of scrimmage of what they have. They know what they're doing, and we're able to be more effective in what we're doing.
“We still have the ability to go no-huddle, but we've been in the huddle a bit more the past two weeks, and we've had success, so we'll probably stick with it."
“The last two weeks have been different,” Gase concurs. “You have 25-plus first downs the last two games, it makes a big difference.”
That difference has resulted in two straight games with the Dolphins averaging 464 yards of net offense, By comparison, the team had a net average of just 273 yards on offense their four losses.
“We made improvements, we've made changes,” says Gase. “We've got a couple things going that has put us in a better position to be in third-and-manageable, and then convert on third down. You just want to keep that going as much as possible."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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