SunSentinel Dolphins Writer Mike Berardino answers YOUR questions about the team! You can read his latest comments below. To submit your question, e-mail here.
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Q: Can someone please tell me why the Dolphins refuse to snap the football when the defense jumps offsides? This happened about six times against the Lions and a good 20 times this year, sometimes in critical situations.There is no excuse for this not to be addressed in practice, except for poor coaching. It's the attention to detail where you win or lose a game. For this and many other reasons our coaching staff is a joke. Phins fan for 40 years, J. Avant, Elon, N.C. P.S. HENNE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!
A: Not sure about how many times this has happened this year 20 seems pretty high -- but any blame for non-snaps with opponents jumping offsides has to be shared between the center and quarterback. It all comes back to trust: Trust among the coaching staff that the young QB can handle such an intricacy of the game (a la Peyton Manning). Trust from the center that the young QB won't drop the snap if he goes ahead and snaps it early there. By and large, I still say the Dolphins have more than acceptable attention to detail. You won't find a more meticulous head coach in the NFL than Tony Sparano. But when you're losing, everything is magnified, even something as arcane as the failures you bring up here.
Q: Drive where they scored last field goal -- dumpoff pass and then handoff, then FG. Didn't even try for TD at that point. Am sure like Buffalo, Detroit D knew it too. Playing not to lose again, at 7-7, playing for FG to go up 10. That is where things turned. I knew we would find a way to lose right then. Have seen that movie 10 times this season. Every time Sparano says they are not playing for a FG, but they clearly are. I don't care how much they try to justify that at that point in the game. At 7-7, with a QB that needs to prove himself, you need to go for it. And the pass to Ronnie brown at the end, even if he gets out of bounds, what does 5 yards and wasting 7 more seconds accomplish there anyway? What a stupid checkdown. Force the ball downfield. At this point the INT doesn't even matter, and he checks down???? CLUELESS!!!! Just pointless. Doug Rudisch.
A: I agree, Doug, it is maddening to see thm continually go into shutdown mode once they get into field goal range. Maybe they should change the name of the mascot from T.D. to F.G. Why is it that Ryan Fitzpatrick can rifle a touchdown pass on third and goal from the freakin' 18 but Chad Henne can't do it from the 13, right? As for the final 2:11, that was another reminder why Tony Sparano, asked to rate his team's work in the two-minute offense last week, gave a two-word answer: "Just average." Better answer: Just awful.
Q: The final drive play-calling and clock management of this regime was epitomized by today's debacle. I can't wait to hear the excuses about the dink & dunk philosophy, especially with the last two plays: a swing pass to Brown? Why? What is the aversion to going to the end zone when you need a TD with less than 20 seconds to play? Horrible. Henne sure has his moments, but Bess fell down on his route and I think Shuler didn't complete his route. Man, this team has taken two giant steps backwards, and I don't think it is all Henne. Please tell me Henning will go! G Wood, Melbourne.
A: OK, here's what Henne had to say when asked about the final drive that only reached the Lions' 28 before time expired: "As you saw they dropped everybody out there. There wasn't a lot of holes there. So, we tried to catch the ball and tried to run with the ball there and get the most out of our yards and use the time properly."
Satisfied? Didn't think so.
I agree with you. The ball simply has to go into the end zone there. With no timeouts and 19 seconds left, you probably have time for two, maybe even three, cracks at the end zone from the plus 28. Even with eight men dropping in coverage, it's not unthinkable you could get lucky with an intermediate Hail Mary a "Glory Be"? to someone like, oh, I dunno, maybe the 6-foot-4, 38-inch vertical-leaping Brandon Marshall.
Q: I am as passionate, thoughtful, and level-headed of a Dolphins fan as you will find. Many of the readers you seem to gravitate toward are the fanatical fans that jump on & off bandwagons depending on how the Dolphins look on Sunday. That being said, I really liked your "wish list" column for the Sentinel. While I agree with everything you suggested, unfortunately, we both know that Sparano isn't likely to do even ONE of those things. His team has been coached, on the offensive side of the ball at least, to play scared. Why do you think he is going to begin to take risks now? I don't know if Sparano should/will be fired but I believe that alot of Ross' decision may depend on the last two weeks of the season. There is NO WAY that Sparano doesn't do everything he can to win them and I HIGHLY doubt the changes you have proposed will be viewed as risks Sparano is willing to take. Keep up the good work and I hope that yours/my wishes come true for the Dolphins in the present AND future! Matthew Stevens, a REAL Dolphins fan (although not a FANATIC) stuck here in CT amongst the savages (otherwise known as Jets/Pats fans).
A: Matthew, that's just the issue. I don't see how the Dolphins' performance once they've been eliminated from the playoff race can be used as any sort of accurate gauge of the job Sparano is doing. All the more reason to do some experimentation. This truly is garbage time, and it's important not to get fooled by those that play out of their minds once the pressure's off. Oh, and thanks for the kind words and your support of this blog. Keep the faith.
Q: For Sparano to do the things you listed in this article, would mean, he had a firm grasp of the situation. Sparano doesn't have a firm grasp of anything. Where did this McNabb thing get started ? We need Donovan like we need a fifth wheel. Keep an eye on Drew Stanton the third-string QB of the Lions. He's in the last year of his rookie contract. DM, Alva, Fla.
A: I disagree. Sparano is his own man and has a very firm grasp of where his team stands and how it got here. The larger point is that without public or even private assurances about his future from owner Steve Ross, the coaching staff will be very reluctant to treat these final two meaningless games as anything other than must-win assignments. That's a missed opportunity, if you ask me.
Q: I think everything you said in your Garbage Time Wish List piece is spot on. If they won't hire you they should at least listen to you. I love the "rest the key guys and let the youngsters loose to see what they can do" approach. Better here than in preseason. I'd like to see more of Reshad Jones, Moore, Mastrud, Shuler and Epps too.
I think Henne has had his confidence shaken and could use a little freestyle offense to help him past it. I'm not ready to pull the plug on him because they won't turn him loose. He plays conservatively because he's afraid of [ticking] the coaches off. I think his hesitancy and bad reads are influenced by the coaches not letting him play more to his strengths.
That being said, I want to know more about [Tom] Brandstater. Put Long on IR, release Pat McQuistan and bring Brandstater AND Pruitt up for quarter or two in the last two games.
Thanks again for being my go to guy for Dolphins news. It's lonely here in New England for Dolphins fans. Kudos to the rest of the Sun Sentinel staff as well. It's the first place I go for Dolphins news and opinions. Roll on. Steve Piper.
A: Thanks, Steve. I'm not looking to get hired. Very happy at the Sun Sentineln. And I'm well aware NFL coaches aren't looking for suggestions from sportswriters. Although, I do recall, once upon a time the Palm Beach Post's Chuck Otterson suggested the Dolphins move A.J. Duhe from defensive end to outside linebacker, and Don Shula agreed. The rest is Jets-beating history.
Q: Do you think that Jeff Ireland is considering firing Sparano and promoting Mike Nolan and bringing in a top OC like Josh McDaniels? This scenario would bring a lot of change and still keep Nolan, who will no doubt get another chance to be a head coach. What do think? Ron Perlstein, Boca Raton.
A: Many scenarios could play out in the coming weeks, and the first part of that may well be among them. However, I don't think you'll see McDaniels get hired here under any circumstances. Not as long as Brandon Marshall is under contract. Nolan, too. They couldn't stand each other while in Denver together for that 2009 season that started out 6-0 and collapsed into an 8-8 mess.
Q: I think you are right on. Playoffs are out. Let's see what others can do. I think Pennington would be a really good coach if he wanted to do that. Let's see how many wishes come true. Craig
A: That Pennington idea isn't that outrageous. Quarterbacks used to call all their own plays, didn't they? The Jets let Mark Sanchez call the plays for I believe a full half during their final preseason game. And I seem to recall a very brief transition period between Jason Garrett's playing days and the beginning of his playcalling opportunities. Once Pennington moves on to the next phase of his life -- private business, graduate school, hanging out with the kids, whatever it may be -- it may be too late to sell him on the grueling life of an NFL playcaller.
Q: I am all for Cowher but I am not against Tony. He has built a rock-solid D and put a lot of the right pieces in place on offense. He has three big flaws. First is Dan Henning. He may have saved us a few years back with the Wildcat but it is dead and so should his career be. Second, putting all our chips in one basket with Henne. I just don't see him at this point as anything more than a backup. Third, I have never seen a team find more rookie free agent talent than this group but for some reason they can't find the same talent within the draft. It makes no sense to me. I am surprised we didn't have some rookie FA QB come in and take Henne's spot. I am also hopeful that somehow Tebow does amazing and they are looking to dump Kyle Orton. I would love to put Orton and Marshall together. Really the biggest thing that needs to happen for this team to move forward is Henning needs to retire. Thoughts? Luke, Baltimore.
A: Good stuff, Luke. I agree with you for the most part.
Bill Cowher would be an excellent "get," one with longstanding ties to Carl Peterson, Steve Ross' business partner and trusted adviser. Not only was it Peterson who brought Cowher in as Marty Schottenheimer's defensive coordinator at Kansas City in 1989, but a decade earlier it was Peterson, as the Eagles' director of player personnel, who signed Cowher as an undrafted linebacker out of N.C. State.
I know Ross told our Sarah Talalay last month in New York that Peterson would have no official role with the Dolphins going forward, but that doesn't mean his advice isn't valued or solicited on football matters. Why wouldn't it be when those two spend so much time discussing their highly successful FanVision venture. (Notre Dame had a representative at the Bills game Sunday to check it out for potential implementation.)
At the same time, if the goal is simply to keep this franchise moving in the direction of consistent excellence rather than sending another jolt through a bored and jaded fan base sticking with Sparano and Jeff Ireland makes a lot of sense. Continuity is huge, especially when it's becoming increasingly rare around the NFL. Your point about all those undrafted rookies panning out is well made and certainly plays into the Quinella's favor.
Henne, however, could well thrive again if, say, the Dolphins go out and reunite him with Scot Loeffler, his old Michigan position coach and a proven commodity who is expected to be released from a contract that binds him to the Florida Gators for one more season. The timing of that release will be crucial, but it figures to happen soon after the New Year's Day bowl game against Penn State.
Orton? He'd be a fine addition as well, but at what cost? It's not like they're just going to hand Tim Tebow the keys to the offense (not yet, anyway) and kick aside a guy who has gone 29-19 as an NFL starter and thrown for 71 touchdowns (against just 48 interceptions) in his six seasons. Orton wouldn't come cheaply, not off a 4,000-yard season, and the Dolphins are already without a second rounder in this year's draft.
Q: I think this entire regime is done and should be done. Don't you think (Jon) Gruden would be the right move to bring passion and discipline back to our team? Gerry, Fort Myers.
A: Passion and discipline? Don't think those are the problems, Gerry. Offensive creativity would be a Gruden strength. Then again, his last three teams in Tampa Bay didn't exactly set the league on fire: combined 27 losses, including a home playoff loss to the 2007 Giants that allowed them to become the 2007 Giants. He does have that Super Bowl ring, however, and that could be enough to captivate some NFL owner out there in the coming weeks. Maybe even Steve Ross.
Q: Mike, Do you see Mike Nolan going away as well in the off season as a head coach (maybe back to Denver)? If there is one coach that should get a max deal from the Fins, it's him. I'd hate to see us lose him after such an impressive year on the D side and it seems as though he has developed great chemistry with his squad. Thanks. Mike P, U.S. Navy, Korea.
A: Nolan's future with the Dolphins is as unclear as everyone else's. In his case, however, it's not due to underperformance. Rather, at 51, Nolan has never been more marketable. With as many as a dozen NFL teams looking for new head coaches at the end of the year, including (possibly) the Dolphins, there seems to be a pretty good chance Nolan will be able to parlay this defensive turnaround (from No. 22 in the league to No. 4 this year) into a second crack at running his own program. The 49ers' dysfunctional situation shouldn't be held against him. His energy, passion, track record and communication skills make him an easy sell to virtually any NFL owner. Trouble is, without an extension beyond 2011 for Tony Sparano, Nolan could be tying his hands by staying put if a better option pops up elsewhere.
Q: Hiya Mike, more food for thought: Keep Ireland for continuity's sake. Promote Mike Nolan to Head Coach (so we'll keep a great improving young defense). Hire Mike Martz (or a clone) as OC. Fire Sparano, Henning and Lee. Bring in someone who will undo the damage they've done to Henne (he is not a dink and dunk Pennington, he's a gunslinger (ask B-Marsh) who CAN be a franchise QB. Draft/trade for a center, move Jerry to RT, Incognito to RG, Garner to LG and Berger and Carey to repectable reserves. Add TE, RB and a KO/Punt returner. Another ILB and Safety and we're there! Lastly, how about all AFC teams have a bye in Week 8 and NFC in Week 9? Fair for all, and hardly a scheduling problem. All done and thank you for your season-long insights, explanations and wisdom. Dolphin Ted, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Thanks for the kind words, Ted. Not sure how much wisdom I've thrown at you, but hey, we try. As for your prescription to fix the Fins, a tip of the cap for your thoroughness and imagination. Great call on Nate Garner getting a larger role; he was sorely missed this year after breaking his foot a second time early in training camp.
I believe there will be significant changes in the offensive staff, but that can happen even if the team retains Sparano, which I believe it should. His grinder's mentality and attention to detail is exactly what this franchise needs to dig out of a self-made hole that isn't nearly as deep as some might suggest.
As for the bye adjustment, you'd be asking the league to drop down to just eight games on two straight weekends. Even if they go to an 18-game schedule, that won't be happening. Too many dead markets in close proximity that way.
Q: These Miami fans are delusional. They hate Chad Henne for no reason. They claim he shows no emotion, no leader-like qualities. Number 1, the camera doesn't show us everything. Number 2, Chad Henne laced a beautiful, 30-yard pass to Fasano down the midde of the field, and than ran down the field pumping his fist and yelling, really feeling the game and showing the emotion fans have been begging for. Then, inexplicably, Dan Henning calls a Wildcat play, taking Henne out of the game, screwing up the obvious rhythm that was built. I'm all for the WC. That's not Henning's problem. It's that he doesn't feel his players and has no idea about situational play-calling. He doesn't read his players and go off of them. He has a system and follows the system to a T. He can't adapt throughout a game. Henne isn't a robot. Henning is, and it shows through Henne. The WC play gained 2 yards and then [two plays later] Henne fumbled the [fake] handoff. Chad's issue isn't lack of skills, it's lack of a good playcaller. Henning is terrible. Everyone ignores it because they don't know football, they don't see Henning on the field. They'll blame Henning, but call for Henne's head in the same breath. That sequence I laid out is the tape I give to Henning to show why we fired him. Brett Yarris, Purchase, N.Y.
A: Great point about yanking Henne after a big completion. That drives me nuts as well, and I made an issue of it as early as last November, Henne's second month as the starter. Sunday, it also happened two other times in the first quarter. After Henne hit Davone Bess for 6 yards to the Jets' 20, out went Henne, in came the Wildcat, and Ronnie Brown was stopped for a gain of 1. After Henne found Brandon Marshall for 10 yards on third and 3, back came the 'Cat: Ronnie kept over right guard for 3 yards on first and goal from the 9. The Dolphins still managed to get into the end zone on that possession, but it took a third-and-goal pass from Henne to Marshall yes, a Marshall TD! to make it happen. In all Sunday, six snaps for the Wildcat for 11 yards rushing, one incompletion (a Marshall drop) and a 10-yard holding penalty on Jake Long that negated all but 1 yard of the package.
Q: You don't get my positive questions about Henne, so I hope you get this one in. After Henne was benched, he came back in to lead the team well before injuring his knee. After a dreadful game with Thigpen as QB, Henne returned and had an excellent game against Oakland. In his last two "terrible" games, he played one without #1 Marshall and losing #2 Hartline to injury early, leaving him throwing to two rookie free agents and Bess. Next, against Rex Ryan's defense, Revis and Cromartie, he plays with a missing right tackle, and injured left tackle, a shuffled offensive line, a stagnant running game, and mind you also in a driving rainstorm. I'm not closing the door on Chad Henne just yet, but I'm curious as to whether it's time to address the position of Quarterback's Coach. I'm sure Pennington is a fantastic mentor, but I wouldn't consider him as a dedicated QB coach, which I think Henne could really use. There aren't too many QBs in the league that would fare well in these situations, so please give me your thoughts. Thomas Roach, Manvel, Texas.
A: Let's not forget that in his "dreadful" game against the Bears, Thigpen was without Brandon Marshall for the whole second half, working with a third-team emergency center in Richie Incognito and had Jake Long wearing a harness on his left shoulder just four days after seriously injuring it against the Titans. It's too hard to sift through all these hurdles and start grading on a curve. Henne was bad against the Jets, talented as they are on defense. He also was bad against the Browns. And, it should be pointed out, this was the first time in his young career you could say that he was truly bad in back-to-back games. Now what?
As for the QB coach issue, David Lee is highly respected and considered an excellent teacher. If new Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp lets holdover quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler seek employment elsewhere, I have no doubt Henne would be comfortable working with him again. They remain close from their time at Michigan, where Loeffler coached Henne's position throughout his four-year run as the starter. Perhaps Dan Henning retires after the season, Lee gets elevated to offensive coordinator and Loeffler joins the Dolphins staff as quarterbacks coach/Henne's personal tutor.
Q: Blind & dead Ray Charles would know to give Tyler Thigpen a chance for the rest of the season. Can this offense get anymore anemic? Do you fault Henne or Henning? Let Ricky Williams go open a yoga studio & for goodness sake put in Lex Hilliard. That guy (2 yrs ago) was like a bull shooting out of a rodeo gate. What's up? Hunter, Orlando.
A: You still could see Thigpen again this season. The stakes are too high not to be tempted should Henne struggle for a third straight week. However, Ricky is the most energetic of the Dolphins' running backs, which isn't saying much, I know. Lex Hilliard got 23 carries late last season for 89 yards (3.9-yard average) with a long of 18 yards. He also caught 20 passes for 158 yards with a long of 18 and two touchdowns. This year, for some reason, Lex has a single offensive touch, a reception against the Titans for 3 yards. He has played some backup fullback behind Lousaka Polite but that's it on offense. I say give Lex a series or two against the Bills and see what happens. The Dolphins have dropped to 28th in the league at 3.7 yards per carry and their five rushing touchdowns rank dead last. Hilliard's tackle-breaking style might be just the thing to offset a struggling offensive line.
Q: Wow, if only Henne could throw as many TD's as there were excuses for him doing so in your Dec. 7 article. Why is everyone trying to cover for this guy? Granted, the play-calling at the Browns game (yes, I was there) sucked aloud and I don't see the 'Fins going anywhere good w/ Henning as OC, but Henne seems to have made ZERO progress in his 3rd year in the league. You tried to make all these comparisons to other top-tier QB's who are also struggling with INT's, but do you really intend to compare Henne to Brees, Favre (ret.), or the Manning Bros.? Seriously??? Does anyone see how far behind 3rd yr. QB's M. Ryan or J. Flacco he is? Or 2nd yr. QB's M. Sanchez or J. Freeman? Are their team's offensive talent that much better than what Henne has to work with? You're a "professional" sports writer look at the guy. Look at his eyes. Does he really look like he knows what's going on or like he's got any vestige of a killer instinct? It's time to stop playing nice and admit that, once again, the 'Fins have botched another top draft pick and need to either bring in or draft a QB who might not only get us into the playoffs, but actually deep into them. Isn't that the whole idea? Isn't that what will keep the Dolphins from losing a s**tload of ticket sales in 2011? (Btw, please remind Mr. Ross that he can bring in every A-list celeb on his contact list, but they'll likely be standing around looking cattily at one another if the losses continue to mount.) Your article was all excuses and buck-passing, and mentioned nothing about any positive attributes that might exist. Probably because there aren't any. And the next time the S-S runs a poll about who the 'Fins should dump first, you should certainly include Mr. Dan Henning. It should come as no surprise when he wins the vote. Then let's start looking at Sparano. An ongoing .500 win percentage just ain't gonna cut it. Mike Rada.
A: There are plenty of positives when it comes to Chad Henne. Maybe I remind you, for instance, his 2010 passer rating is actually higher than that of Mark Sanchez. Slightly, but still higher. And the point of trotting out those esteemed names that have also thrown 15 or more picks this season was to show that, yes, quarterbacks do throw interceptions from time to time. Some of them even win Super Bowls along the way.
Q: Ronnie is going to have to sign a reasonable contract to stick around. I think RW comes back for another year. Does he really want to go elsewhere? If Brown moves on I think we already have a couple backs that could help fill the void but still need that RB that hits the hole with authority and one that has the ability to take it to the house on occasion or at least some 20-yard runs after busting through the initial line. Agree? Mike, New York City.
A: I think you're right on for the most part, although Ricky wants to get paid and I'm not sure this next contract can be done on a yellow sticky note. As for Ronnie Brown, he turns 29 this Sunday and hasn't had a carry longer than 9 yards since the opening drive of the Nov. 7 loss at Baltimore. In 58 carries over the past 19 quarters, Brown's longest run was a 9-yard gain against the Browns in which he ran over rookie cornerback Joe Haden. That led to some rare yards after contact for Ronnie, who has just 302 yards after contact this year (per ProFootballFocus.com). His 2.2 average per attempt in this category outranks just eight of the 56 halfbacks that have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps this year. By comparison, Bucs rookie LaGarrette Blount, who went undrafted out of Oregon, leads the league at 3.7 yards after contact per attempt. I was on record during the draft as saying the Dolphins should take a flier on Blount, who really stood out at the Senior Bowl and who impressed me when he explained his situation to reporters. Instead, the Dolphins took yet another linebacker, Chris McCoy, who didn't stick because he couldn't play special teams.
Q: Do you know when the last time Chad Henne has had an eye exam. When I watch him play there's something missing in his vision of the field. Jim, Mansfield, N.J.
A: Come on, Jim, didn't you get the memo? This is positive-questions-only week when it comes to Chad Henne. I mean as he likes to say he is coming off a road win that saw him average 10.2 yards per attempt while playing basically on one good knee. I thought his field vision was fine in that game, not to mention his accuracy and toughness and field generalship (love that term). Maybe it's just the fact his helmet remains uncomfortably tight that makes it LOOK like Henne can't see straight.
Q: Mike, assuming there's a season next year (please) I think there will be major improvement from the team we're seeing this year. Henne's development with Marshall (healthy offseason next year and games under their belt), a healthy more consistent O-line (assuming Sparano doesn't play Long again in the last preseason game), a much improved defense with Carroll, Clemons having seen playing time this year, continued improvement from Davis/Smith, return of Edds/Merling/Odrick, Starks in his natural position (assuming they get a NT and/or sign Solai), etc. Agree? Mike, New York City.
A: Wow, looks like somebody just downed a big glass of liquid sunshine. Good for you, man. Too much negativity among the fan base, especially considering how far the Dolphins have come from just a few years ago. Not sure I agree with your premise entirely still plenty of unanswered questions but who am I to knock over your Lincoln Logs?
Q: Any coaches feedback on Tim Dobbins? He appeared to be flying around nicely in Dansby's absence. GPB, North Haledon, N.J.
A:Both Tony Sparano and Mike Nolan were complimentary of Dobbins, who turned in a team-high and personal season-high six tackles while filling an emergency role at inside linebacker against the Raiders. With Channing Crowder missing a third straight practice Friday with a left knee issue, it's looking probable that Dobbins will get the start again next to a banged-up Karlos Dansby. Sparano said he feels "a lot more comfortable" with Dobbins going in there now thanks to the extended run he got during the first four weeks when Crowder was out with a groin problem. "Tim has gone in there and done some good things," Sparano said this week. "That was a good luxury to have." The plan is to keep Dobbins as a core special teams contributor even with the extended playing time in the base defense. He played 25 snaps against the Raiders after seeing just five snaps in the base defense the previous six games combined (per Pro Football Focus). The first four weeks, Dobbins had 104 snaps in the base defense and was moderately successful.
Q: Hello Mike. I don't know if it is just me, or the TV, but it seems Chad Henne never throws a hard fastball. All his passes -- and especially the ones he completes -- seem to be passes that are lobbed. Have you ever seen him throw a hard fastball with all his might? I know there are times you lob versus a hard fastball. It seems to me the [guys like] Rodgers, Brees, Rivers and Ryan throw balls at times with all their might. Does Henne ever throw hard in practice? I think a pass thrown harder and with more speed would have save him some interceptions and gotten the ball to the receivers quicker so they can run. I'm a Henne fan, but think he needs to put more muscle in his throws. Go Phins. Jeff Miller, Defiance, OH.
A: Jeff, I was just making this point recently during a discussion with Omar. It does seem like Henne has lost his fastball after spending so much time working on his touch passes. Make no mistake, the man still has a strong arm. So strong that during the preseason we were writing about how his bullet passes were ricocheting off the hands of Brandon Marshall. Like most things, Henne just needs to find a happy medium with this. If you'll remember, he fired a pair of goal-line passes in to Anthony Fasano against the Jets in Week 3. The first went for a touchdown, the second was deflected and went for a game-ending interception. It's not just about putting "more muscle" in your throws. It's about knowing when to do so and when to go the finesse route.
Q: Can you explain why the Dolphins basically waited until week 10 to start using Patrick Cobbs? He made a couple big plays in the wins against Tennessee and Oakland and it seems like it would be beneficial to give him a few more opportunities. Dolfan Randy, New York.
A: Randy, you have to remember Cobbs was coming off major knee surgery from an injury suffered in mid-October last season. Perhaps it has taken him this long to fully regain the burst he used to show regularly. He also has a full plate with his duties as a special teams captain. But I'm with you. If he's up to it physically, and that certainly seems to be the case now, Cobbs is the closest thing the Dolphins have to a Danny Woodhead-style stealth weapon.
Q: Mike, I commented recently about Cobbs not being on the field. Maybe someone heard me. He scored a timely touchdown. This guy has always been a playmaker. Why can't he at least share time with Polite? Understand he had surgery but time to use him now. This is where this coaching staff fails. They didn't work some different players and schemes until it's too late! Remember Keith Byers? Cobbs is that sort of player. As I once stated, I foresee him landing on the Pats or even the Bills (ouch!), who no doubt (the way they are progressing) are gonna be a third team to deal with in the division next season. Agree? Doug, Niagara Falls.
A: Cobbs is making $775,000 this season in the final year of his contract. Depending on the new CBA, he figures to be at least a restricted free agent next spring. Knowing how much Tony Sparano and Dan Henning appreciate him, I don't see Cobbs going anywhere. As for sharing time with Polite, Cobbs is a scatback, not a fullback. However, Lex Hilliard got a few more snaps the other day in Oakland as an alternative to Polite, who has a full plate as well with special teams duty on top of his lead-blocking and short-yardage responsibilities. Hilliard is too good of an athlete to be stuck on the bench for all 65-plus offensive snaps each Sunday.
Q: Hey Mike, great job as always! Do you think Henning and Sparano had such a game plan for the Bears game that made Henne look great by making Thigpen look bad? James, Sumter, S.C.
A: James, James, James. Thanks for the kind words, man, but to steal one of John McEnroe's best lines, you cannot be serious! The "Crayolas and Pizza Box" game plan per ESPN's Mark Schlereth was formulated in earnest, like all the rest of them. This one just didn't work very well at all for a variety of reasons.
Q: Since it's looking more & more like we will let Ronnie Brown and maybe even Ricky Williams go in the offseason, I am wondering what we may get in terms of compensatory picks for either of them as this weighs heavily in the choice of whether we keep them or not. Thanks. Eric, Palm Bay.
A: Compensatory picks aren't awarded until the following year, so the Dolphins would be looking at 2012 before they'd be able to offset the loss of part or all of the R&R Express, at least in terms of the draft. In 2010, the highest compensatory picks were awarded at the end of the third round, and that included the Titans' compensation for the loss of Albert Haynesworth, a $100 million free agent. So that should give you some idea.
Q: Thanks for the advice, Mike, love reading your column. With other Dolphins getting contract extensions, is there any talk of Ronnie or Ricky getting a contract extension? Clinton P, Gautier, Miss.
A: Not at this time. When I checked last week into whether Ronnie had been approached recently about an extension, I was told by a source close to the situation that he had not. This, despite the fact there's a window that expires sometime in December that makes it more cap-friendly down the road to wrap up an extension now. Ronnie remains open to the concept, however, and he clearly hasn't turned bitter in light of the recent extensions given to Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano, among fellow skill-position weapons. I've been told Ricky would like to stick around as well, but there is still much to determine before the Dolphins can make another commitment there. He's now a Drew Rosenhaus client, and both sides have progressed beyond the post-it note stage, it appears. Ronnie, by the way, turns 29 the day the Dolphins make their first visit to the New Meadowlands Stadium. Ricky will be 34 next season.
Q: Mike, we need to execute on offense. We are not having chemistry with the running attack or receivers.This offensive coordinator [Dan] Henning is a joke. QB Henne looks very uncomfortable with this offense and rightly so. There's no chemistry and the worst play-calling Ive ever seen in 40 years of watching football.They don't execute the screen as much as they should. Hell, come to think of it, I CAN COUNT IT ON ONE HAND FOR THIS SEASON up to this point.THERE'S A REASON THE SCREEN HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 100 YEARS. IT'S BECAUSE IT WORKS. Ed Jewell, Davie.
A: Ed, obviously we've reached the ALL CAPS portion of in-season frustration, and understandably so. It's true, the Dolphins don't run many screens to the running backs. They prefer bubble screens to Bess and Marshall. Problem is, you need interior linemen that can pull effectively in order to run good screens. The Dolphins really haven't had that all year.
Q: Mike, I think its very obvious the problem with the Dolphins offense this year has been the lack of an explosive second receiver and special-teams returner. Which leads me to believe that the trading of Ted Ginn in the off-season for a lousy 5th round pick was probably their biggest mistake. I know many fans wanted Ginn out of Miami but I think his speed would have helped open up the offense and given us better field position. The Big Three has improved the overall structure of the team. However, their lack of appreciation of speed and explosiveness (i.e.no Dez Bryant) is causing them to be mediocre. Victor, Miramar.
A: Victor, I'm more inclined to agree with your second, overarching point about a lack of team speed than I am your first, regarding Ginn. Nolan Carroll was the player the Dolphins selected with that fifth-rounder they got from the 49ers for Ginn. I'd say Carroll has shown excellent promise as a kick returner and in special teams coverage. He also is in line to become the primary nickel corner at some point in the next year or two, depending on Benny Sapp. Oh, and have you noticed Ginn's limited production in San Fran this year? In Sunday's 21-0 loss to the Bucs, he had one catch (on four targets) for seven yards, plus three kick returns with a long of 30 yards. For the season he has six catches for 75 yards. His longest punt return (on 13 tries) is 20 yards. He does have a 61-yard kickoff return among his 19 attempts, but still no scores. So please save the "Bring Back Teddy" campaign. There are problems here, but his absence isn't among them.
Q: I would rather Jake Long be healthy for training camp next year than risk an even worse injury now for mediocrity. Robb Wilder, Twitter World.
A: I'm with you, Robb, and as Omar Kelly reported Friday at SunSentinel.com, it appears the Dolphins and Long are sort of wrestling with this issue now. Long takes his streak of 43 consecutive starts and counting very seriously, as well as his responsibility to the team.
As far as potential long-term damage to his left shoulder, when I asked him directly after Thursday's game if he was "comfortable" with the knowledge he wasn't risking his future, Long shook his head and avoided the subject.
"You're going to have to talk to Tony [Sparano] about all that stuff," he said. "If that comes up and that's something the doctors talk to me about, then I'll take that into account. I'm just worrying about this team and winning games."
Keep in mind, there's also a financial component that is tied to his earning a third straight Pro Bowl selection. The escalators that would kick in are worth several million dollars to him over a period of multiple seasons, and Long is a shoo-in for Honolulu (selection, at least) if he doesn't hit injured reserve too soon.
Online balloting for the Pro Bowl continues through Dec. 20, and this year's selections are scheduled to be announced Dec. 28. I would think if Jake played through Game 12 against the Browns (Dec. 5), he'd probably have piled up enough Pro Bowl votes to earn that seven-figure bonus. If the Dolphins are 6-6 or worse by then, I think it's quite possible both the Dolphins and Long's camp would agree on a compromise plan to shut him down for the year.
Q: Who can I send my Dolphins gear to for a refund? What a shame that nobody sees that that team is not responding to that coach. Get Gruden and get a quarterback. Everyone is upset at Marshall. Well, Marshall has a right to be upset at the team for bringing him down there and making him a less-than-average receiver. Totally unacceptable!!!! Renso Hernandez, Columbus, Ga.
A: Good luck with that refund, Renso. You'll probably get it right after Steve Ross is able to recoup some of the $24 million guarantee he handed Marshall to make this Dolphins offense a top-five unit. Hasn't happened, but I don't blame Marshall alone for that. He's had plenty of help in grinding this thing to a screeching halt.
Q: Can we now stop blaming Henne and start blaming Henning!!! He was good in 2008. I believe he retired after that campaign. He hasn't EVER attacked a team in the last two years, just keeps on calling his menu and does an awful job in adjusting to what the defense is calling. How can you not figure it out that the Bears blitz every single snap and that the ball needs to get out of Thigpen's hand fast. And the other point I would like to bring up, how can you put so much blame on a second-year quaterback, with a budget interior O-line and an offense built for play-action and run game? We don't need to talk about Marshall, but besides that, NONE of Henne's offensive weapons is a mismatch for the defense, NONE. No speed to fear -- nothing. The offense is not built to throw 35 times a game. Thank you. Marco, Switzerland.
A: Aren't you supposed to be neutral? Seriously, you don't get shut out at home without a vast array of poor offensive performance, across the board. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning is going to take his share of the blame, but there's only so many fingers to plug in those leaky dikes. We sort of knew all along the Dolphins had limited margin for error. Now that they've exceeded their allotment, things could really get ugly. And yes, the Dolphins' Player of the Game was Henne. His stock soared in the eyes of the fan base.
Q: Mike, how about the problems with the O-line? Carey at RT can't stop the speed rusher and should be moved to guard. Dolphins can't run the ball with 8-9 in the box. Not a big Ginn fan but were the Dolphins any worse with him at WR? What has Marshall done? Defenses are still loading up the box. Any thoughts. Mike, Scranton.
A: It's true, Vernon Carey has struggled this year. His body seems to be breaking down. A move inside does seem possible. Maybe he'll swap next season with John Jerry, who played right tackle as a junior at Ole Miss and blocked for BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 1,000-yard season. Disagree on Marshall. Before Thursday, when the Bears were taking advantage of an inexperienced quarterback in Tyler Thigpen, teams were routinely playing two-deep zone and shading coverages toward Marshall. Those big games Brian Hartline and Anthony Fasano had on Sunday against the Titans were Marshall-related. Now that the Beast is injured, the fear is the way the Dolphins offense looked without him in the second half will become the norm. Hurry back, Beast.
Q: Mike, you might as well close this forum. Right now this team isn't worth discussing. This coaching staff made a bad situation worse. They put all their eggs in the first-string basket. Not prepared for landslide of injuries. NFL needs to start practices in June. And Miami needs to practice all their guys every week! Thigpen had to point to Wallace which side to line up on. He didn't know what he was doing! SAD!!! Doug, Niagara Falls.
A: Actually, just about any NFL team strongly slants the midweek reps toward the first unit. When injuries start to pile up, yeah, you're going to start looking ragged. That's just a fact of life in the NFL. Not that Tony Sparano would accept such a crutch. "Hey, listen," he said after last night's 16-0 loss to the Bears. "Those are excuses. I'm not going to use them. I don't want my team to use them. This is the National Football League. The next guy's got to step up. We didn't do that tonight." By the way, it was Marlon Moore who you may have observed lining up on the wrong side. Roberto Wallace was inactive again with a knee injury. Just another example of the Dolphins becoming the walking wounded at a time when the Bears, for instance, came in missing only one of their starting linebackers. Oh, well. Dem's da breaks.
Q: If tonight's game against the Chicago Bears doesn't show the executives of this team the undeniable ineptitude of Dan Henning's ability to call offensive plays, produce a competitive game plan and showcase just even a mediocre offense, then I have not only lost all hope for this team but also any respect for these so called "all-knowing" football experts. I could put a more competent and competitive offense on the field with some duct tape, a paper clip and a piece of gum than what this team displayed to a national televised audience.
In what professional offensive coordinator's right mind does running the ball 13 times, three each by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (actually seven if you take out the six Thigpen scrabbles), seem even close to being a good idea, when you are starting your 3rd-string QB who hasn't started a game in two years and has had four days to prepare for a Thursday night game? I don't care about injuries to the OL either. Every team gets injuries; that's just an excuse. But 13 times? That stat alone calls for the immedate firing of Dan Henning!
I don't care about bad calls, wrong calls or any call to be honest. The sole fact that Dan Henning called 13 running plays for an entire game, shows me and sure as [heck] better open the minds of those that actually have a say-so, that Dan Henning is so far gone from being even remotely capable of calling the offensive plays for this or any team ever again. Micah, Jacksonville.
A: Wow, Micah. That was some serious bile, dude. Hope you feel better now that you've gotten that off your chest. Keep in mind the Bears have the league's No. 2 defense against the run, but it definitely was a pathetic showing on the ground. There's no arguing that fact.
Q: There's like 12 minutes left in the game. However, I hope you and Omar will post something about how terrible the fan base is for this team and how they deserve this wretched performance as they have been asking for it all year. They've wanted Henne done all year. I'm not blaming Thigpen, but there is no doubt Henne would be doing better, given he has the reps and practice time. These fans always have to blame someone and call for someone's head and put someone down. They ran Ted Ginn out of town. You know him, right, the deep threat we don't have? Henne wasn't Marino in his first full season, so now they are doing the same to him. Brett Yaris, Purchase, N.Y.
A: Nobody's running Henne out of town. However, another loss or two and I could definitely see him and Jake Long, his old Michigan teammate, getting shut down for the season. Their futures are a far better bet than the Dolphins making the playoffs this season in the stacked AFC.
Q: Mike, with Chad Pennington's apparent career-ending injury and his high regard within the Dolphins' hierarchy, what is the likelihood of Dan Henning retiring after the season, David Lee becoming the OC, and Pennington becoming the quarterbacks coach? Seems like the perfect storm. Ed, Evanston, Ill.
A: Henning, the league's oldest offensive coordinator at 68, doesn't need the money and really doesn't need the aggravation either, so I'd say it's possible we're looking at his final lap as a full-time playcaller in the NFL. Remember, he only came out of retirement as a favor to Bill Parcells, who obviously has a different role in the organization now. Henning's competitiveness, however, could entice him to give it another go in 2011.
Lee would be an excellent choice whenever Henning steps aside. I'm told Lee has had a tremendous impact on Tyler Thigpen since his arrival from Kansas City at the end of September 2009. And Tim Tebow should be sending Lee a percentage of every one of his game checks after the long hours Lee put in prepping him for the draft in the spring. No way Tebow goes in the first round without Lee's mechanical makeover that began at the Senior Bowl nearly three months before draft day.
As for Pennington, he has a young family, three boys ages 6, 4 and 1 "They barely know they're in the world," he said recently. "They're just glad to be here" -- and he's said repeatedly he sees himself coaching on Friday nights someday, not Sunday afternoons. But could Pennington be enticed to stick around as an offensive consultant next season, perhaps with more flexible hours that would enable him to still maintain a strong family life?
Dolphins fans should certainly hope so.
Q: What do you think the chances are that if Chad Pennington playing days are over, we could see him on the Fins sideline as a coach? Kris, Fort Lauderdale.
A: See above. Again, it would surprise me if Pennington went the full 18-hour workday route to stick around the NFL. But the man has too much knowledge in that Rhodes Scholar head of his not to share it in some capacity.
Q: Hey Mike, what do you expect of Tyler Thigpen in this Thursday night's game? If he plays well down the road, does Thigpen become this team's quarterback of the future or is it still Henne? Shawn, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I believe Thigpen will play very well against the Bears, carrying over the momentum of his strong finish Sunday against the Titans. Dolphins players keep talking about his "gunslinging mentality," and I don't think anyone sees that as a negative. And every time Tony Sparano trots out that comparison to Pro Bowl QB Tony Romo, which he did again Monday, I have to believe Thigpen will get every opportunity to make the most of this audition. Henne isn't done here. Not in the least. As the great Don Shula told me before Sunday's game, when it looked like the job was Pennington's for now, taking a break would allow Henne "to sit back and continue to learn because I think he's demonstrated a lot of good things." But it's going to be fun watching what a self-made leader like Thigpen, an improbable success story from tiny Coastal Carolina, can do here down the stretch.
Q: Mike, agree on the Henne benching. Something is missing there. On Jason Allen, I don't agree, he has "value' on special teams and though he got beat on some long TD's, he is still better than Harris, who by the way has no "value" on special teams. This move makes the team worse not better! Enrrique, San Francisco.
A: I agree that dropping Allen seems drastic, but Tony Sparano just explained it was more a matter of "numbers" and finding a way to get Al Harris to the game. Don't see how this improves special teams play. Guess Reshad Jones and Nolan Carroll had better get healthy in a hurry. Also wondering if Benny Sapp may be out as the slot corner soon, with Harris taking over.
As for Henne, Chad Pennington is set to meet the media here in a bit, but here's what he said Monday when asked about Henne's 21st and (for now) final start with the Dolphins:
"I saw him keep an even keel," Pennington said. "I saw him keep his emotions intact. I saw him continually attack with his arm and try to make plays down the field. I didn't see any hesitancy in him or his decision-making or I didn't see, just because things weren't going his way, that he actually pulled back and played tentative.
"I think that's a positive. Sometimes things just don't go your way and it has nothing to do with you. I think that's kind of what happened to Chad a little bit [Sunday]."
Asked what growth he had seen in Henne since last year, Pennington said: "I think his decision making has done a 180. He makes really solid decisions. He's really avoided disasters for the most part. He's kept us in ballgames and always given us a chance to win in the fourth quarter. That's what you have to do.
"You got to make sure as a quarterback that you don't lose it in the first three, and he's been able to do a good job with that."
Apparently, Henne didn't do a good enough job in that area.
Q: The play Brandon Marshall got hurt on [at Green Bay] was a situation I brought up last year, and everyone thought I was crazy, including you. Ten seconds left in the 4th, ball on our 45ish, the DB just grabs Marshall -- 5 yard penalty for D-holding, now 3 seconds left, Henne takes a knee, regulation over.
The other time the same play happened was in the Atl-Phil game just before half with Atl 1st and goal from the 1 with less than 20 seconds left. The Phil DB grabs Gonzalez, obvious holding, but not called. The next play the db grabs Tony again, but he throws him to the ground like a rag doll and gets the TD.
The question is why isn't this play standard, meaning why would you give the offense a chance to score when committing defensive holding helps run out the clock? Steve, Carson City, Nev.
A: Steve, my apologies if I dismissed your suggestion last year (which I sort of remember doing). What you've outlined is basically the football version of having a "foul to give" in basketball, which is a huge advantage to the defense as it runs down the clock with a lead. The key difference is the potential for a play like the illegal contact committed on Marshall at Green Bay to be whistled as pass interference if the pass is released in time. In fact, if teams started to do this regularly, I'd think smart quarterbacks would notice and would send a pass in that direction as soon as possible in order to get the extra yardage. In fact, thinking about it now, I'm not sure that wasn't what Henne was doing on that play as the ball was launched in Marshall's direction and fell incomplete.
Q: Hey, Mike, big Dolphins fan. The question I have for you is do think the Dolphins will pursue Shawne Merriman? Mario, Mississauga, Ont.
A: Welcome to Waivers Wednesday! By late afternoon today, the Dolphins could have added Randy Moss to their receiving corps, Shawne Merriman to their pass rush and a combined $5.6 million or so to their payroll. More likely they will enter a claim for just one of the above, with a slight tilt toward Merriman since he is A) healthy after struggling with a minor calf injury in San Diego and B) due just $1.8 million at most the rest of the year and C) not nearly as disruptive as Moss tends to be of late.
In addition to this being good news for the Dolphins' catering service, adding Merriman still a long shot with the 49ers reportedly eyeing him 14 spots ahead of him in the waivers pecking order would provide a big boost to the Dolphins' nickel package. Koa Misi has plenty of potential, but he hasn't been getting to the quarterback as much as the Dolphins envisioned when taking him in the second round out of Utah.
A pairing of "Lights Out" Merriman with Cameron "Wakey-Wakey" Wake could have quarterbacks shuddering throughout the league.
Should Merriman pass entirely through waivers, then I could definitely see the Dolphins pursuing him. I'm hearing they are looking for outside linebacker help to give Wake additional help on the opposite side.
Question is, which Merriman would they be getting. They guy who amassed 39.5 sacks his first three seasons out of Maryland (where he was a year behind Randy Starks) from 2005-07? Or the guy who has been nagged by injury the past two-plus seasons?
Q: What is the deal with our lack of touchdowns? I mean, we have one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, the best possession receiver and one of the best pass-protect O-lines. Is it because of Chad Henne or play calling? Monica Jamin.
A: You left out "run blocking" on your list of reasons, and that might be the best explanation of all. Before that 18-yard burst by Ricky Williams off the right side in Cincinnati, the Dolphins had been averaging just 2.4 yards on their previous 25 rushing attempts from the 22-yard-line and closer this season. Take out the eight Wildcat rushes in that area (eight for 25 yards, none since the Jets game), and that average drops to 2.0 yards per carry. For a team that had become terribly dependent on the Wildcat for efficient runs in the red zone and just beyond, this has been quite a shock to the system. When the field shrinks, it's easier to defend Brandon Marshall and the pass in general. You must be able to run the ball effectively down there, ideally for the 4.0 yards per carry Tony Sparano sets as the baseline for an efficient run play.
Q: Just heard Vikings released Randy Moss. Fins should claim him ASAP. Omar, Oakland Park.
A: Well, it's not that simple. When is it ever simple with Moss? First off, there's still $3.38 million left on his contract. Not an outrageous sum, but still enough to throw some things out of whack in the Dolphins' universe. Where, for instance, both running backs are unsigned for next year.
Secondly, wherever Moss goes, even being claimed off the scrap heap, he's going to expect at least a good-faith promise that his new employer will take care of him financially after the season. Without that, you run the risk of watching Moss go into Operation Shutdown at his next workplace as well.
Thirdly, how would Moss co-exist with Brandon Marshall in the Dolphins' receivers room? They might sound like a dream pairing in theory, and I'll admit the possibility is pretty tantalizing, but how do you think the Beast would respond to having to slice up the pie into even more pieces? Marshall already has been limited to just five catches in each of the past two games. Now along comes Moss and everybody's just supposed to be one big happy family? As Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said last week, "If you ask Brandon, you should throw it every down as long as you throw it to him." I'm pretty sure Moss feels the same way.
Fourth, how much does Moss really have left? The Patriots deemed him expendable a quarter of the way through another playoff-caliber season, and how often have they been wrong about a big decision like that? Moss then went to Minnesota and didn't exactly set the world on fire (13 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns). In fact, he didn't even last a month. Oh, and he turns 34 a week after the next Super Bowl.
Another complication is the Dolphins' 4-3 record. That puts them behind at least 15 other teams in the waiver line, and the Bears (also 4-3 along with the Eagles) might get to pick ahead of them as well based on their identical 2009 records. What are the odds Moss passes through the hands of the Cowboys, Redskins, Rams, Broncos (Josh McDaniels had him in New England), 49ers and Raiders (Al Davis loves his tearful reunions).
Now, should Moss get all the way to the Dolphins in the middle of the waivers process over these next 72 hours, they may well want to claim Moss, if for no other reason than to keep him away from their AFC East rivals in New England (Didn't all that lovey-dovey stuff make you want to throw up Sunday?) or the Meadowlands. Should Moss clear waivers, he can be signed for the veteran's minimum while still collecting the rest of his pay from the imploding Vikings.
Would Moss behave as a Dolphin? Who knows? But the presence of Chad Pennington, his former quarterback at Marshall and longtime Friend of Randy, would certainly give the Dolphins something to think about. Then again, that wouldn't be Pennington out there on the field directly passes at Moss. It would be Chad Henne.
The Dolphins already let Moss get past them in the 1998 NFL draft, trading down and taking the regrettable John Avery instead. They let him get past them in 2007, when the Patriots stole him from the Raiders for a fourth-round draft pick. And they watched Moss fly right past them again less than a month ago, when wound up back in Minnesota for another mid-round draft pick.
If it comes to this, are you willing to let Moss slip through the Dolphins' fingers one more time? Or do you roll the dice, pay the money, pair him with Marshall and hope their egos don't cause the whole team to implode?
Me? I stand pat and let him go past again. Even if he winds up back with the Patriots or with the Jets, I let him go and wish him the best of luck.
That's how sacred the competitive spirit is to me. That's how offensive I find the very notion a Hall of Fame talent like Randy Moss only gives top effort when it suits him.
Q: Why doesn't [Sparano] see the obvious? Ricky Williams is a much better running back than Brown. Runs a lot harder and is a threat to break one anytime. START RICKY!!!!! CaliMoreno.
A: Ricky's per-carry numbers have been significantly better since Ronnie broke off that 51-yarder in Week 2 at Minnesota, but they complement each other so well and have such differing styles that I don't see either one getting pushed aside this year. Barring injury, believe you'll see them alternating series the rest of the year.
Q: I was wondering if there was a chance that the officials ruled that it was Steelers ball when Ricky crossed the goal line on that final run. I know the Steelers were playing the Saints, but you figure that won't stop anyone from making up calls. I don't know what a TD looks like anymore, so I can't tell if he crossed the goal line. Do you think the NFL front office will change that call this week? Jordi, New York City.
A: Hah! Well done, Jordi. Maybe Ricky's TD will be reviewed and credited to Rashard Mendenhall by week's end.
Q: Hey Mike, what is going on with our running game this year? Can we attribute this drastic drop in production to a change in interior linemen, or does this fall on the backs? Ronnie seems to be dancing around the line of scrimmage more than putting his head down powering himself vertically like he used to. Ricky is playing better, but still a shadow of himself last season. Mike, Miami.
A: Even Tony Sparano had to admit this week his running game is not producing at an acceptable clip. At 3.80 yards per carry, we're talking about the Dolphins' worst output since 2004, when they lost Ricky Williams to retirement/suspension and dropped to 3.49 yards per carry. Sparano said Ronnie does that dancing because he has "great vision" and is trying to set up his blocks, but he also wants him to hit the hole and "get vertical" as you mention. The Dolphins have just one rush longer than 16 yards this season on 169 attempts. Today might be the day for the run game to get healthy against a Bengals defense ranked 22nd in the league against the run and missing defensive end Antwan Odom.
Q: Mike, why doesn't this team ever surprise the other team with a hurry-up offense, or a fake punt, or use a spread offense once in awhile? Tom Hartman.
A: No need for desperation, but you raise an interesting point. Some believe today's surprise will be a return of the Wildcat, since the Jets had such good luck with their Seminole/Tiger package in those back-to-back games against the Bengals late last year. As for the hurry-up, the Bengals like to do that with Carson Palmer and the Dolphins should be concerned. It really impacts their third-down packages when they can't get different personnel groupings on the field in time.
Q: For two years now the Dolphins have run the most ineffective, nonchalant two minute drill I have ever seen at any level of football. There is no visible sense of urgency in any of the players and they call run plays and check downs. Have you or any other journalist ever gotten an explanation for any of this? There is no excuse for a running play when you are down by a point with no timeouts -- ever. Throw in the facts that our running game has struggled this year and the Steelers are top notch against the run. Very frustrating stuff and it's not a onetime incident. Dolfan 1030.
A: You're right. That was a disjointed effort at the end of the Steelers' game, and it wasn't the first time. (The Colts' loss last year also springs to mind as a poorly run two-minute drill.) Looking back over Henne's 19 starts, I'm having a hard time finding many scoring drives that began in the final two-plus minutes of either half. He took them 83 yards in the final 1:55 for a field goal just before halftime of the 22-21 home win against the Patriots last year. He came back from that bad interception against the Bucs to drive the offense 77 yards on five plays in 1:04 to beat Tampa Bay 25-23 on Carpenter's field goal with 10 seconds left. And there was a similar quick drive in the final 52 seconds on the first half. I'm not counting the Ronnie Brown TD that beat the Jets at home last year because that drive took 13 plays and more than five minutes. There are exceptions, but for the most part, when the Dolphins have to strike quickly at the end of a half or a game, they struggle.
Q: Mike during the Pitt game I was wondering why the Fins weren't going for a 2- point conversion. Even if they would've failed they still would have been down 2 but if they would have made it that would've been a game-tying field goal that pitt kick and not the winning field goal. Will, Miami.
A: Will, you and dozens of others wrote in last week with this very question. Not picking on you here, but please allow me to remind you IT WAS THE FIRST FREAKIN' HALF! Too much can happen from that point forward, plus 33 points were put up by the Dolphins and Steelers in the first half. There was no reason to do something crazy there. Plus, say the Dolphins went for two after the Davone Bess TD and failed to get it. Say the Steelers score a TD and go up 24-15. Now you've allowed it to become a two-score game when it could have stayed a one-score game even with a Steelers TD. Not sure when the earliest you would ever go for two in the NFL might be, but I'm thinking late third quarter, and even then only in a low-scoring game with weather conditions as a factor.
Q: Last season it was reported repeatedly about the "cost" of the Dolphins' O-line with Long, Smiley, Grove and Carey getting a lot of money. When they were healthy and in sync they seemed dominant, and the running game (Wildcat) thrived. Now we have low-cost alternatives in Incognito, Berger and Jerry (why isn't he playing?). So what's the deal? They put all that money into a line that they cast away in one season! And tell us, how are Smiley, Grove and Thomas faring this year? Ron Perlstein, Boca Raton.
A: You're right about this much: The tinkering on the Dolphins' interior offensive line has been conducted at a dizzying pace since Tony Sparano arrived. In his three seasons, the Dolphins have gone from (left to right) Justin Smiley/Andy Alleman, Samson Satele, Donald Thomas/Ike Ndukwe (2008) to Smiley, Jake Grove/Joe Berger, Donald Thomas/Nate Garner (2009) to this year's mix of Richie Incognito, Berger and John Jerry/Pat McQuistan. Add it all up, and 11 different players have combined to make at least two starts on Sparano's interior line with the Dolphins. Good thing Jake Long and Vernon Carey have been so reliable as the bookend tackles. Money doesn't have much to do with it. It's more about the vision Sparano, a former college center and lifelong line-play connoisseur, has for how his kind of line should look and the tools it should have at its disposal. What can I say? The man sets the bar high -- maybe impossibly high.
Q: Hey Mike I disagree on your assessment on Henne. Yes Henne is our best quarterback drafted since Marino but not the best quarterback we have right now. Pennington's experience and ability to read defenses are better than Henne's future potential. You state Henne's stats but that is garbage time after we try to come from behind. This guy plays like a robot out there and is so conservative that if the play isn't there we are screwed because he sure as heck isn't going to make a play on his own. He has been reeling since last year and he is NOT getting better. I do have to agree Dan Henning's horrible play calling doesn't help but he is not our best quarterback. Israel Nieto, Kokomo, Ind.
A: Israel, even Chad Pennington says Henne is getting better each week. Even with that bogus interception added to his totals from last week, no quarterback has posted a higher rating against the Steelers than Henne did last week. He is 8-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. There is no quarterback controversy. Not now, and probably not at any point this season. That's not to say Pennington couldn't step in and do the job at a level approximating his 2008 playoff run. It's just that Henne is in no danger of being removed, so why waste the energy hating on him?
Q: Hey Mike, I've seen a lot of people on here talking about the conservative offense the Dolphins have been showing. Is there a lack of confidence in this team on some of the coaches' parts, like in the running backs, offensive line, quarterback? If the coaches have no confidence, this team's in trouble. Also, what do you think about using Marshall as the second tight end in the two TE sets? He could really stretch the middle, no linebacker or safety could cover him, and he's a great blocker for run plays. I think he should be in the backfield too, imagine running a sweep with Marshall and Polite in front of the ball carrier from the backfield? Anyway, thanks for taking my questions! 38yrdolfan, Caldwell, Idaho.
A: Don't see a lack of confidence in the offense. Do see an aversion to the big mistake, but then that's always been part of the Dolphins' DNA under Tony Sparano. As for Marshall as as second tight end something my cohort Omar Kelly Tweeted about this week essentially the Dolphins already are using him that way a handful of times each game. Not so much as a lead blocker although he's a heck of a downfield blocker but flexed out in the slot, a la the old David Martin role. I'll have to go back and see how many of Marshall's receptions have come when he lines up in the slot. Really not sure why we haven't made a bigger deal of this so far, but if it happens again Sunday in Cincinnati, I'll make sure we bring it up.
Q: Hopefully this question will be my Ask Mike! debut. I've been a lifelong Dolfan, born and raised in Miami, but I'm also a realist. I read your blog post from Tuesday morning where you cited Henne's "huge potential" and sadly shook my head. Don't get me wrong, I like Henne a lot: He can make all the NFL throws and shows good pocket presence, but his decision making has been wildly inconsistent and hasn't really taken this team under his wing and won a game for us. Bill Parcells famously stated that if they don't bite as pups, they don't bite at all, so my thinking is Henne's ceiling is a good and not great quarterback. Perhaps the Fins' best course of action is to accept this and invest our efforts in putting more weapons (read: another stud wideout and a TE defenses respect/fear) around him? Your thoughts? Brad, Miami.
A: Brad, congrats on your Ask Mike debut. I disagree with your modest assessment of Henne. Clearly, he is the most talented all-around quarterback this franchise has had since Dan Marino. If it's taking Henne a little longer to become a full-fledged NFL star, well, that doesn't necessarily mean he can't get there. In terms of "biting as pups," I'd say Henne did plenty of that last season in reeling off three 300-yard games in his final four complete outings. This year his QB rating hasn't dipped below 81.6 since the season opener at Buffalo (a win, by the way). As for more weapons, I'm sure Henne wouldn't turn them down, but the ones he's got right now are just fine.
Q: I follow your column routinely, and always value your thoughtful opinions. On Sunday, my friend and I, a fellow 24 year old guy, attended our first home Dolphins game. Given the sheer number of Steelers fans, it would seem to make sense that Dolphins fans would need to be extra vocal in support of our team, especially given that we were in Section 115 and quite close to the field. My friend and I took it upon ourselves to cheer loudly for the Fins, but immediately following the opening kickoff we were jeered by our very own fellow Dolphins fans for wanting to stand during the game. We were repeatedly told that we were "ruining the experience," "selfish," and "obnoxious," all for wanting to stand up during the game. Even during key moments such as third-down defensive plays, people still told us to sit down in our seats so we did not obstruct their view. By the end of the first quarter Dolphins fans were threatening to call security on two of their own, before a cadre of Steelers supporters came to our defense and told them they were really behaving ridiculously for getting after their own fans for cheering. I will say as background information that we were not using any foul language or even drinking alcohol; the only thing we were doing that was 'offensive' was standing and cheering.
I found their behavior embarrassing, and I believe that it partially explains why Miami fans have a bad reputation. If we can't stand and shout to spur on our defense at a home game, how can we support the team at all? My question for you is were we out of line for wanting to shout, or should we have sat down and dispassionately watched the game along with the other South Florida regulars? Thanks in advance for your thoughts. Chris, Arlington, Va.
A: Chris, thanks for putting this out there. I'm surprised at the treatment you and your friend received, but then again maybe it's just a sign of the times. Tickets aren't cheap. People are used to sprawling out on their couches and watching sporting events on TV. Connect the dots.
As someone who grew up stomping his feet at the Orange Bowl in the '70s and '80s, who would scream himself hoarse as a teenager supporting the 70,000-strong chants of "DEE-fense, DEE-fense," I've always been disappointed at the lack of true home-field advantage at Sun Life Stadium (and its many previous incarnations). Those who wonder why this franchise has dropped five straight home games, dating to last season, might reread your letter for additional explanation. There's a mindset passionate NFL fans must bring to the game if they want to impact the outcome, and no amount of "Fins Up" videoboard cameos or T-Pain remixes or "howling wolf" samples can offset the absence of that mindset.
Q: It turns out that 3 officials were from Pittsburgh as opposed to the 1 or 2 we were originally told.Did one of these 3 guys call the roughing on Tony McDaniel prior to the touchdown fumble that [head linesman] Jerry Bergman from Pittsburgh was going to call no matter what, in spite of not having a view of the play. The 790AM Miami station said that it is common practice from officials from the same town to fly back with the team they are officiating if from the same airport and that the Pittsburgh guys flew home with the Steelers. Is that really true??? How awkward would have been for those 3 guys to have ruled against the Steelers and fly back with them? Poison Dart.
A: PD, not sure about whether the Pittsburgh-based part of Gene Steratore's eight-man officiating crew flew home on the Steelers' team plane; I would find that hard to believe, but will keep checking b>into it. Also from Pittsburgh were field judge Bob Waggoner and head linesman Jerry Bergman. Bergman (who erroneously ruled Ben Roethlisberger's run a touchdown) attended Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, while Waggoner attended Juniata College in western Pennsylvania. As for the McDaniel call, on which he continued to block Steelers tight end Heath Miller up to a very late whistle on a run that went out of bounds, it was side judge Mike Weatherford (from Edmond, Okla., it appears) who threw that flag for unnecessary roughness.
Now, here's another officiating tidbit that should send you off the deep edge. Sunday's line judge was Ron Marinucci, who is from New Jersey and, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, "immediately ran up to talk" to Steratore as he was in the replay booth. It was Tomlin who alerted Marinucci the lack of a clear fumble recovery "would potentially be an issue." He mentioned this to Marinucci, who reminded Steratore of the rule that wound up costing the Dolphins dearly. If Marinucci's name sounds familiar, it should. He was in the same line judge capacity on Oct. 25, 2009 (nearly a year to the day earlier) working on referee John Parry's crew, when Darren Sharper's goal-line fumble on an interception return was ruled a Saints touchdown instead of a Dolphins touchback. The famous Sports Illustrated photo below clearly showed the ball dropping from Sharper's grasp at least a full yard short of the goal line Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Fasano combined to knock it out but Marinucci (No. 107) was standing 3 yards beyond the goal line and well out of bounds as he made the improper call that went against the Dolphins.
That time, you'll remember, video review didn't even wipe out the Saints touchdown. The officials, lacking a conclusive angle that SI's photographer somehow was able to get, let the TD stand, and the Saints went on to a 46-34 win en route to their first Super Bowl title.
Q: Hi Mike. Against the Steelers the O-line seemed to have afforded Henne a long time to get the ball out but many times he ended up throwing it away. Was it a case of our receivers not being able to get open or Henne being ultra-cautious against the Steeler secondary? Hard to believe that with Bess and Marshall running around that long that we couldn't get the ball to them more often. Gus Talavera, Miami Beach.
A: Most times when Henne threw the ball away, I thought it was done properly and purposefully. Tony Sparano made the point on Monday that the Steelers were playing a "ton" of two-deep zone and weren't going to let Marshall beat them downfield. Here's what Sparano said about the need to take more shots downfield: "I think we're trying to get the ball down the field, we're trying to take shots at times. This team [the Steelers] played a ton of two-deep. They weren't going to let Brandon get the ball down the field. So you work the tight end, which has been an area that needed to be better. We worked the 15-yard-area and you've got to work the checkdowns. Ronnie had a couple of those. Fasano makes a nice one on that ball he brought down into the red area. But to throw the ball over the top of what they were running, you're not going to get many of them to go over the top." Of course, Marshall, speaking to Michael Irvin on his weekly WQAM radio show Tuesday, didn't seem to agree. Marshall called it an "excuse" to blame two-deep zone for his limited opportunities.
Q: Hey Mike, people blame the refs on this loss but I blame the horrible play calling and Sparano's gutless field goal decisions. Please tell me we have embarrassed the owners enough for this franchise to make a drastic change. Bonamego was a scapegoat to what the real problem is. Also one more fist pump from Sparano after a field goal and I will cut off my Dolphins tattoo. I'm too embarrassed to be associated with him!! Israel Nieto, Kokomo, Ind.
A: Certainly Dan Henning has had better days, especially in the red zone. That final possession, in which the Dolphins rushed to the line on second and fourth down, was poorly handled, although Tony Sparano insisted nobody was in a rush there. Now let's look at the so-called "gutless" decisions to kick those five Dan Carpenter field goals. First kick: Score was 0-0 early in the first quarter, facing third and 9 from the Pittsburgh 21. Verdict: No issue with that decision. Second kick: Leading 3-0, still early in the first, facing fourth and 2 from the Pittsburgh 5 after three Ricky Williams runs (two of them stuffed for no gain). Verdict: Debatable. Third kick: Trailing 10-6, midway through the second quarter, facing fourth and goal from the Pittsburgh 4. A third-down pass from Chad Henne appeared to be thrown just a little too hard for Brandon Marshall (who was open) to spin around in time to pull in the back-shoulder attempt. Could have gone back to Marshall there -- or Mickey Shuler, who was wide open in the back of the end zone on second down -- but I have no problem with the decision to kick. Virtually every coach in the league would have done so under those circumstances against such a stout defense. Verdict: No issue. Fourth kick: Trailing 20-16, late in the third quarter, facing fourth and 2 from the Pittsburgh 19. Steelers appeared to be wearing down a bit, and your last three running plays, all with Ricky Williams, have gained 8, 11 and 5 yards. Verdict: Not necessarily the wrong call but a disappointing one. Fifth kick: Trailing 20-19, little over five minutes to play, facing a fourth and 4 from the Pittsburgh 22. Steelers had to punt on their last two possessions. If Carpenter weren't so automatic, you might be tempted to call a fourth-down pass play. Henne was 3 for 4 on the drive for 49 yards. Then again, it's a chance to take the lead, and what coach turns his back on that? Verdict: No issue. OK, tally those up and we're left with three no-brainers, one debatable call and one borderline decision that probably went the wrong way. Is that "gutless" on Tony Sparano's part? I don't think so. Not even close. Still, when trying to knock off a superior opponent, you would like to see Sparano (or any coach) go for at least one fourth down before last-gasp time at the end of the game. That was always the Parcells way, wasn't it?
Q: Is Sparano scarred by Henne's drive-ending picks against NE & GB? Every time we throw our way into field goal range, now the offense goes conservative to make sure we get 3 points and no more. We got lucky playing that way last week and this week it cost us. Are we the only team in the league that can't score more than 23 points in a game? Seems like it. Scott Sweeney.
A: Don't know about scarring, but here was the run/pass breakdown of Dolphins plays from the Steelers 25 and closer: Six runs, seven passes. Expand that to the 30 and closer and it was nine runs, nine passes. That's exactly the sort of balance any offensive coordinator looks for in that area of the field, mainly to keep the other team guessing. As for the Dolphins' firepower, we're still looking for this offense to put up more than two touchdowns in a single game. In order, it has produced one, one, two, two, two, one. That's not going to get it done in this league.
Q: Crazy game. I know the ref is not why we lost, however, isn't a rule since Ed Hochuli a few years ago that when a play is questionable as a fumble or not, the refs are supposed to treat it like a fumble until possession is established and than react how they see fit? Since that rule was violated, will there be a fine or suspension coming for that ref as that is why the second part of the replay could not be confirmed? Also, how does the league allow for a ref from the same area as one of the teams playing to call the game? I'm not saying it influenced anything, but you would think the league would avoid any questions. Brett Yaris, Purchase, N.Y.
A: You would think any loose ball would be followed until it's logical conclusion, just in case a dispute arises (as it did Sunday). Not familiar with the Hochuli example you cite, but the NBC crew on Sunday night made the point this confusion may lead to an offseason rule change in which the two parts of the decision could be split the fumble would require video proof but the fumble recovery could revert to the on-field crew. Makes sense to me. If it happens, that would mark the second straight year the Dolphins lost a game due to a rule that was changed after the season. Remember last year's debacle at the end of the first half with New Orleans? The Saints couldn't score under similar circumstances this time because a 10-second clock runoff was insituted when the league saw how unfair that outcome was. So, if nothing else, the Dolphins are making rulebook history. As for the possibility of a fine, that would be handled in house and appears unlikely as the NBC crew also cited Carl Johnson, who oversees officiating for the league, as saying Gene Steratore's crew handled Sunday's mess properly. As to your final point, I agree that the appearance of favoritism is just as dangerous as actual favoritism (which I don't believe was at work Sunday). If I were the owner of Steratore Sanitary Supply in the Pittsburgh suburbs, I would ask the league to take me off all future Steelers games, especially after how things played out Sunday. And the same should go for Sunday's field judge Bob Waggoner, a Pittsburgh native whom Seahawks fans will recall as the official who threw a highly questionable flag that cost them dearly in Super Bowl XL, a loss to (wait for it) the Steelers.
Q: What is going on with the starting OLB spot opposite Cam Wake? Ike-Alama Francis was out with an illness, but he is back healthy seemingly. I know Koa Misi got a coverage sack on Sunday against the Packers, but there doesn't seem to be much going on at that spot. Is IAF even playing yet? Seems like we could still use help against the run and setting the edge and Misi hasn't flashed enough to say he has won the spot outright. Liam, Los Angeles.
A: Misi is making steady improvement at the strongside linebacker spot. IAF took a major step back physically with that illness that caused him to lose 20 pounds at the start of the season, or else he might have continued the momentum he had built up during the preseason. Either way, the Dolphins' need more from that spot and are hopeful Misi's technique will soon catch up with his motor. Maybe it will help to have former Utah teammate Stevenson Sylvester the Utes LB who actually had three sacks in that Sugar Bowl win over Alabama on the opposing sideline today against the Steelers.
Q: Mike, now that Jared Odrick is out for the year, what's the deal with that guy we got from Detroit? I think his name is Francis. Wasn't he a DE in Detroit and we moved him to LB. Can't he go back to his old position? I think he weighed liked 275 and was playing well in the preseason. Will, Miami.
A: Yep, that's Ikaika Alama-Francis (see above), but putting those 15 pounds back on to move back to defensive end isn't in the cards at this time. That's more of an offseason production if the Dolphins choose to go that way.
Q: Hey Mike, on obvious passing downs against blitz-happy teams like the Jets and Ravens is it possible to use two offensive linemen lined up in the backfield in place of the halfback and fullback? Talk about max protect! Do rules allow that type of formation? Mike, Fishkill, N.Y.
A: I suppose you could do that. The extra linemen would have to be announced as eligible receivers, similar to how teams stack an extra tackle out at tight end. (In the Dolphins' case, it's guard-center Cory Procter.) But the added space that has to be covered to pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive backs would pretty much rule out what you've suggested. Teams gladly give up a lot of bulk for a little more footspeed in the backfield when it comes to obvious passing downs.
Q: I've decided that I want to buy a Cameron Wake jersey. Is this a good move or do you think it's to early for that investment? Eric Mix, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A: Not too early at all. With six sacks through five games, Wake is on pace for 19, which would break the franchise record shared by Jason Taylor and Bill Stanfill. By the way, did you see what Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said last week when asked about Wake? "I think everybody in the NFL knows who he is," Big Ben said. "He's causing a huge stir. He's doing some great things. He's a very physical rusher. It doesn't even matter if he's being blocked, he seems to find a way to either throw guys off of him or run through them. He's making plays left and right like it's nothing." Look for more today, even with veteran tackles Flozell Adams and Max Starks blocking his path.
Q: How are you? With Odrick done for the year, do you see the Fins trading for someone else? Would Adalius Thomas be a possibility? Thanks, Ivan Rodriguez (Non Pudge), San Jose.
A: NP, the trade deadline passed on Tuesday with hardly a peep around the league. How disappointing. So no trade to replace Odrick, and Adalius who still hasn't signed anywhere despite a handful of tryouts is an outside linebacker. Don't see a fit there as long as the current group stays healthy.
Q: How is that with time for a last play of the game against Green Bay, the Dolphins took a knee instead of trying something? Or before the winning FG, why did they not try another running play to put the ball closer? Thanks, Abraham, Israel.
A: Kicking on third down from the Packers' 26 didn't bother me as much as taking that knee at the end of regulation. The clock was down to four seconds, but the Dolphins had the ball at their 48-yard-line and only needed another 17 yards or so to get into Dan Carpenter's improved field-goal range. True, with so little time remaining they would have needed a pass interference penalty to get the needed yardage, but a half can't end on a defensive penalty of any sort and the Packers had just committed an illegal-contact foul (Charles Woodson clocking Brandon Marshall) downfield. If the ball had been in the air, that would have been the PI penalty the Dolphins were looking for. Heck, they almost completed that pass to Brian Hartline along the sideline to the edge of field goal range. That said, Marshall lay face down for several seconds at the end of that play and came up limping after taking a direct shot to the knee. Perhaps his status was so unclear that the Dolphins, who were out of timeouts, decided not to chance it. For the record, here's Tony Sparano's postgame response when I asked him about the thinking on taking the knee: "To be honest with you, there were more bad things that could happen than good things in that situation. I just didn't feel like at that point a Hail Mary, a strip fumble, any of those kind of things -- you don't want to put yourself in that. I believed in this team. I felt we'd be able to win this football game in that circumstance, so that's what we did."
I don't agree with that logic, but it's a moot point now that the Dolphins won in overtime.
Q: Hey Mike, finally home from deployment! It's good to be home especially when all my inlaws are or were Cowboy fans. Why the media frenzy over the Tuna leaving? Did he not leave Romo in dallas, Vinny in NY, Bledsoe in NE? We have a great foundation for this very young team! Go Dolphins. James, Sumter, S.C.
A: Welcome home, soldier. Yes, the national reaction to Parcells clearing out was a little overboard. The minute he announced the move to a consultant's role, you knew he would be distancing himself as much as possible. Hey, he's still a phone call away. Just hope he doesn't hang up on the Dolphin people that call the way he does on Ed Marinaro in that Cold Mountain State acting cameo that airs tonight.
Q: Do you think Dan Henning will call out some different Wildcat plays? Tyler Thigpen was really good with the Wildcat when he was a starter for the Chiefs. He can catch as well as he can throw from what I've seen. I just have a feeling that they might use him in there along with possibly using Wallace and Moore. What do you think? Lauren, Hobe Sound.
A: Henning was asked recently about incorporating Thigpen into the mix and he responded by saying Chad Pennington is currently the No. 2 quarterback. As long as that remains the case, Thigpen is stuck in the emergency role and can't be used until the fourth quarter without burning the other two QB options. As for the Wildcat in general, check out my comparison of its output versus the Jets' Seminole attack. The Seminole is outgaining the Wildcat nearly 4-1 in total yardage on one less snap. New plays aren't the answer. Better blocking is, and I'm not sure this remade interior line has the ability (especially the pulling ability) to make the 'Cat purr again down here this year.
Q: What's up with the Beast? I don't want to be too much of a wet blanket after a win, but (Brandon) Marshall seems to give up on routes and plays that have often cost Miami points. Just like Henne's only pick yesterday; it seemed as if Marshall gave up on the route and then it was jumped. On a side note, it was picked but it seemed that Marshall fell on his back with possessionand after that it was mutual possession and the ball should have remained with the Fins; but it did seem he gave up on that as well by allowing it to be ripped after the fact. Is it a conditioning or just not caring 100 percent of the time? Jordan Schell, Arlington, Va.
A: Marshall, as we're all learning, is a complicated individual whose emotions seemingly run the gamut within the course of each game. He is no flatliner, that's for sure. The man is indeed a "caged tiger," as Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning recently said, and at other times he seems to get really frustrated. But "give up"? No, I don't see that at all. Marshall is too much of a competitor to do that on game day. He truly is the modern-day "alpha receiver," as Tony Sparano called him last week, this team has been seeking for the past decade or so. Sit back and enjoy the show.
Q: Are there any moves the Dolphins might make before the trading deadline? And wouldn't it be sensible for the team to explore the market for (Chad) Pennington? Steve, New York City.
A: Don't see the Dolphins making any deals before Tuesday's deadline, as they remain reluctant to mortgage their future in any way. Plus, with the likes of Channing Crowder already back in the lineup and rookies Jared Odrick and John Jerry coming back soon, midseason reinforcements are already part of the Dolphins' plan. As for trading Pennington, that would be foolish at this point. With him and Tyler Thigpen on the roster, the Dolphins are as well protected at quarterback as any team in the league. Plus, Pennington provides a leadership component like few backups at any position ever could. Did you see him get after Lydon Murtha on the sideline after the young offensive lineman made his second field-goal team mistake in as many games? Why would you want to remove that sort of strong voice from the Dolphins' sideline just to pick up another mid-round draft pick? Plus, Pennington's salary jumps significantly if he's dealt, so that hurts his marketability as well. Keep Pennington, I say. For insurance. For leadership. For game-planning. For perspective. For his rapping ability. For all the things he brings to the table.
Q: Hi Mike. Why does Dolphins management never want to talk about injuries, etc? I've always listened to coach Sparano's press conference, and at the end he tells nothing. Why??? What can a team win by knowing that Crowder, for example, doesn΄t play? Matches have to be played. This hiding philosophy, I consider it stupid!!! What do you think? Brian, Argentina.
A: Don't blame Tony Sparano. This thinking goes back to the tone Bill Parcells has set for all the organizations he's led over the years. Pat Kirwan, in his excellent new book "Take Your Eye Off the Ball," tells the story that when Parcells was running the Jets' draft room, he wouldn't allow bathroom breaks once the draft had begun. Five minutes before the draft started, everyone was told to hit the restroom, and once everyone had returned, the doors were locked and that was it for the next 10 or 12 hours. That's how concerned the Tuna was about leaks of any sort, and that wasn't even during a game week but the draft itself. I'd imagine that approach is similar today with the Dolphins, and that thinking permeates everything the team does, up to and most definitely including injuries. I agree, it's annoying and for the most part pointless. But in the Dolphins' defense, they are not alone in being so secretive. That's pretty much the way things are throughout the NFL, with the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers being a very notable exception.
Q: What's up, Mike? Enjoy reading your Q&A's all the way from Cali. I believe Welker was so productive the last few years because of Moss. Do you think Bess can produce as well as Welker did the last few years now that the Beast is on board? Ivan Rodriguez, San Jose, Calif.
A: Thanks for the props, Non-Pudge. I like your theory, and so far it's bearing out. That's how much attention Marshall has been getting from opposing secondaries. As a result, Marshall isn't the only Dolphins receiver on pace for a career high in receptions. Bess is on pace to finish the year with 84 receptions for 980 yards, both of which would be career highs. His current highs are 76 and 758. Welker remains on his own plateau when it comes to slot work, but Bess is climbing fast.
Q: Hey Mike, just seen Shawne Merriman will be available. Will Miami be interested? Jason, Honolulu.
A: Don't see it, although with that haircut, the disgraced Chargers sack master certainly would give new meaning to the term "Fins up." Merriman currently is on injured reserve, but once he's healthy, probably sometime in November, he's expected to request his release so he can sign somewhere else. I'd be very surprised if that somewhere else was Miami.
Q: Some of the play calling has been suspect (Wildcat call on 3 and 6), and some of the personnel decisions have also been suspect. For example, Jason Allen fell down again in the Pats game and was lucky to have a big play called back because of a penalty. We have seen Jason mostly get beat over the last five years, although he is playing better this year. Wouldn't it make sense for Sean Smith to regain his starting status and allow Jason less snaps and more energy on special teams, where he is usually at his best? Thanks. Ron Perlstein, Boca Raton.
A: There's no doubt Jason Allen will be watched closely for signs of slippage, some of which you've already noted. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Sean Smith win back his starting job at some point this season. You don't start all 16 games as a rookie cornerback in this league and simply stop viewing yourself as starting material in Year 2. You raise a valid point, one that may be showing up in these special teams breakdowns. The gap between Allen and Smith on special teams where Allen still makes a fair amount of appearances, just not as many as before may be greater than the gap between Allen and Smith in coverage. Sort of reminds me of the old baseball debate over whether to use, say, Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen or as a starter. If he can handle starting, of course you'd rather have the better arm in that role. But some guys are better suited for the bullpen, and perhaps Jason Allen is best used on special teams. Smith took over for Allen on one series in the first half against the Patriots. I'd look for him to gradually share a little more of the burden, starting this week at Green Bay.
Q: What is the status of Channing Crowder and Will Allen? When are they coming back? Alex, Orlando.
A: Channing Crowder hasn't played since the first quarter of the first preseason game, way back on Aug. 14, but he's getting closer and closer to rejoining the lineup. He has been missed, as evidenced by the average of 140 rushing yards the Dolphins have allowed the past three weeks. Allen was placed on injured reserve one week before the season began with a slow-healing knee and cannot play for the Dolphins this year. Only an injury settlement would free him up to sign elsewhere, but with most of the $10.7 million that remains on his contract through next year still to be paid out, that seems unlikely during the 2010 season.
Q: When will Tony Sporano relize first off that we need a new Offensive Coridinator because the play calling is rediclous.And second this is a copy cat league so just like teams copied the Wildcat they will now copy the defense that was figuered out to stop it. So lets stop the BS and let Henne and Company play offense. As A fan it feals like every year we go in the wrong direction. Mike, Old Bridge, N.J.
A: Mike, not sure if you typed this missive with your thumbs while in heavy traffic on your way to work, but you might want to try spellcheck. Just a suggestion. I usually fix the spelling and grammar in these Ask Mike questions, but I decided to leave yours alone as a desperate plea to the good people of Old Bridge. Folks, it's time to throw a little more money at your school system up there. As for Dan Henning and the Wildcat, I still say both have value to the Dolphins. Better execution, starting up front with a remade offensive line, would make both once-beloved entities look better than they have so far this year.
Q: Hope you take advantage of the BYE week and rest. After the Pats game I don't even want to think about football for a couple of weeks. Do you think the poor special teams plays is directly related to the churning of the bottom of the roster that took place right before the season started and continued into the first couple weeks? If so, to what extent are Sparano and Ireland to blame? Jordi, New York City.
A: Thanks, Jordi. Doing my best to gear up for the rest of the season starting Monday. In the meantime, I'm not so sure we can blame the revolving door at the bottom of the roster so much as the fact the Dolphins' core special teams this year haven't produced the way that group did last year. Guys like Nate Jones, Reggie Torbor, Charlie Anderson and Erik Walden have moved on while key special teamers from 2009 such as Jason Allen, Chris Clemons, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake and Vontae Davis have moved into starting roles that have either limited or eliminated their special teams contributions. That's a TON of turnover from one year to the next.
Q: Mike, Very disappointed in Monday's game. Although not as bad as everyone thinks. Other than the 2 TD's from special teams and if BM ran the whole route instead of stopping then you take away 3 TD's and the game is a lot closer than people realize. All we need to do now is stop with the $%@$#^#%#$@ Wildcat (3rd and 6, are you kidding me?) and fix our special teams. I thought the defense was great by shutting down Moss and not letting the first two picks hurt us. Now all we need are some people on special teams and we actually might turn this season around. Scott, Parlin, N.J.
A: Tony Sparano shares your optimism, a point he made repeatedly this week. This Dolphins defense is tied for sixth in the NFL, for instance, led by a pass defense that has risen from 24th overall under Paul Pasqualoni to sixth under Mike Nolan. These next 4-6 weeks will be semi-monstrous, but I still believe the Dolphins can make a playoff run, especially if they can improve on special teams.
Q: From what you know of Steve Ross, is he the kind of owner that will tire of this nonsense and make a change if they continue to embarrass themselves all year? Sparano is an idiot, no coach would allow the Wildcat to be used like this, and field a team so unprepared week after week. It's the blind leading the blind. With a terrible QB who has a big arm and a bird sized brain. He has much a chance of being a long time QB solution as I do. He's a stiff. Tom Hartman.
A: Tom, unless I'm missing something, the Dolphins have only "embarrassed themselves" in the second half against New England. They led at halftime and were one solid half from going to 3-1. Obviously, it didn't happen, but your pessimism is a big overwrought, don't you think? As for Steve Ross, there's no way of telling just how patient he'll be as an NFL owner because this is just his second season in charge. But when you lay out the kind of cash he did this offseason, winning had better follow. I think everyone knows that, starting with the Trifecta.
Q: Pennington sits with an 11-5 record [in 2008]. We had a chance to put them away in the first half and Henne by himself killed the fins. He makes dumb mistakes that the other Chad doesn't! He was 11-5 just two years ago. There's no reason he should be playing with the third-best QB in Fins history sitting. Obviously the special teams play doesn't happen often. What does is stupid QB'ing!!! Write that! We have a good team and it's being wasted- just like with Fiedler. Henne is the Jacory of the Fins. Destroying a good thing by himself! Michael Pafford, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Pennington may yet get his shot this season, but I really don't think the time is here yet. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano saw a lot of good in Henne's performance Monday night, even with the three picks and a couple other throws that nearly ended up in the wrong hands. I say stick with Henne until things get significantly more dire than they are now at 2-2. He's still the future of this franchise, no matter what his replacement, whether it's Pennington or Tyler Thigpen, might do in the short term.
Q: Hey, Mike, do you think the Dolphins will fire their special teams coach, John Bonamego this week? Because he has done a very poor job for the past 2 weeks. Also, I don't see much of a difference from last year's defense to this year's defense. Would you not agree? I mean the defense kept giving yards after yards with ease for the past few weeks. Lastly, do you think the Dolphins might consider putting Pennington back as their starting QB? Since there is a bye week coming up, this would be a good time to make the switch in order to provide a spark into their season. Also this can help Henne understand his mistakes that he made so far and maybe learn from them. Shawn.
A: Well, I was too slow on the trigger to answer your first question, which I was going to answer with, "Anything is possible at this point with the Dolphins reeling and special teams such a mess." I'd definitely look for more roster churn when it comes to the special teams (non) contributors who keep making the same mistakes week after week. If Erik Walden could get cut a week ago for one mistake in punt protection, I wouldn't want to be, say, Lydon Murtha after allowing two Patriots to crash through and block Dan Carpenter's 53-yard field goal attempt. As for the defense, it was the best of the three phases for the Dolphins, but that's not saying much. Pennington? That's a solid fallback card, as good as anybody else in the league could play, but after just two losses? Not sure that would really "help" Henne at this point in his career, to get benched. The guy has made 17 starts in the NFL, going 9-8, and I'm pretty sure he's never been demoted in his career, going back to Michigan and probably back through high school. How would he take such a move now? That potential loss of confidence can't be overlooked.
Q: Hello Mike, I think the Dolphins coaching staff pride themselves on being a "grind-it-out" type of team. A team that hangs around until the fourth quarter and wins on a late field goal or a last-possession defensive stand. My question is after this complete and total embarrassment on the field Monday Night, what kind of team are we now? We certainly cannot be this type of team with a minus-3 turnover ratio after 4 games, and a special teams unit that routinely gives up precious field position at the drop of a hat. I also think it's time to shelve the Wildcat. That scheme hasn't worked well at all this year, plus the timing for using it has been very questionable. I know we have had a few injuries (Crowder, Jerry, Odrick) but will those guys be able to make the difference between what we have witnessed the last two weeks versus what we saw the first two games? All I can say is our bye couldn't be coming at a better time. This bye week could be the turning point in our season, so we better make the most of it. Your thoughts? Mike Huddleson, Tipp City, Ohio.
A: You're right, Mike, Dolphins are a team in search of an identity. Amazing what a couple of home losses against division opponents can do to a team's confidence level. As for the Wildcat, it certainly isn't trending well. I really wonder about the new umpire placement as a possible factor in its demise. Defensive linemen are getting away with more on the interior now that they're shielded from view, and O-linemen are getting flagged for holding a bit more often now that the umpire is in the offensive backfield.
Q: Can anyone tell me how this coaching staff does not get mentioned when it comes to coaches that are on the hot seat?? I mean talk about not prepared to face opportunity? I am embarrassed to be fan this morning. If anyone thinks Henne is the answer for us to contend, let me know!! Started the game with attitude and then got whupped. Sad day in a Fins Fan!! Renso Hernandez, Columbus, Ga.
A: Well, you got your wish with the firing of John Bonamego. Special teams are Darren Rizzi's headache now and his alone. As for Tony Sparano, the man knows what he's doing and still has the respect of his players. Sleep this one off, Renso, and let's see what the Dolphins look like on the other side of the bye.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to read my questions. Been a fan since the early '80's of the fins. As of Week 4, this Fins team has phenomenal holes in special teams. (It seemed to be the worst showing from the team since the blowout in Jacksonville at Jimmy Johnson's final game where basically the team gave up.) From your inside point of view and resources, does the problem start with special teams coaching ability? I'm sure its partly execution and personnel too but isn't that still pointing to a coaching problem (i.e. preparing the players and also picking the right players for game days)? Even if it is partially a player/personnel problem, is it even possible for a team to overcome such a deficiency while in season? Also, how probably would the Dolphins organization entertain the idea of looking at Bill Cowher for a prospective head coach should the opportunity arise? Phillip.
A: Jacksonville? Don't forget a 27-point Dolphins loss to the Jets in 2007 and another in 2004. Their last loss by more than Monday's margin came in 2001 at St. Louis in Week 3 (41-10). The good news there is that team pulled it together and finished the year at 11-5 and in the playoffs. As for Cowher, it's sounding more and more like he's ready to get back into coaching at age 53. If things completely fell apart here which I don't project at all I'm assuming Cowher would get a long look, especially if Carl Peterson has come aboard by then to assist his friend Steve Ross in remaking the Dolphins (again). Remember, Peterson was in his first year running the Chiefs football side in '89 when he brought in Marty Schottenheimer as head coach and Cowher as a young defensive coordinator. Cowher stayed three years before getting the head coaching job with the Steelers, and the rest is history.
Q: As a Florida native, a Michigan undergrad, and a life-long Dolfan, I have to ask... with our seemingly depleting backfield (Ricky getting old, Ronnie probably not getting resigned), in the event of a lockout next year (or even without a lockout) do you see the Fins drafting Denard Robinson in 2 years? Does the Trifecta really fall back on Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard? Robinson would also bring the versatility to the Wildcat that we desperately need. What are your thoughts? Jason, Davie.
A: Jason, it's way too soon to lay out such a scenario. So many variables on that one, starting with Ronnie's contract status and extending on through Robinson's draft value. I mean, come on two years? We have no idea if all (any?) of the current personalities running the Dolphins will even be in place at that time. There's no doubt the Michigan sophomore and former Deerfield Beach Buck is a beast running the football, but if you're the Trifecta, do you really want to put your faith in another Rich Rodriguez creation after the Pat White disappointment?
Q: Jared Oldrick has barely seen the field. Would you consider him a first-round bust yet? Chris, Chambersburg, Penn.
A: Congratulations, Chris. I'm pretty sure you just set a new NFL fan record for assignment of the "first-round bust" tag on a rookie player. And nice touch with that typo. "OLD-rick?" Will file that away for, oh, about 10-12 years from now when the big defensive end from Penn State finally starts slowing down. For now, though, Odrick is coming along fine. He's out of the walking boot and should return to the starting lineup at Green Bay on Oct. 17 (after the bye week), where his run-stuffing talents will be much needed after the Dolphins let their last two foes go for right around a buck fifty on the ground.
Q: Why are the Dolphins kicking field goals inside the 2 with the powerful offense they possess? The 3 points did not help them or give them a lead. It did not show confidence in the offense and gave the Jets a confidence boost (at HOME). I do not like the way Sparano coaches in those times when the team can make a statement. Instead they go for the 3. If it is for the lead then GREAT or if it is for the win then GREAT, but what a weak display of confidence in your offense. I am doubtful about the rest of the season after seeing the coaching staff playing not to lose rather than playing to WIN. Help me, Mike, help me understand how me, a fan, can see more than these coaches who get paid millions for obviously poor decisions. 9-7 here we come. Another year of just wait till next year. Oh, boy!!!! Richard Albury, Nassau, Bahamas.
A: I can understand your frustrations when it comes to the Dolphins' red-zone production, but they'd already had three cracks inside the 10 on that possession a first-down Wildcat run for 1 yard that resulted in a 10-yard holding penalty, and later two straight Chad Henne incompletions from the 2. The score was 21-17 Jets, with about 20 minutes (or a third of the game) left to play. A short field goal was definitely the right play there, as it sets you up to go ahead without having to score a touchdown. Plus, it's not like the Jets offense was unstoppable at that point in the game. That short Dan Carpenter field goal came during a three-possession stretch where the Jets produced a total of 26 yards on offense. The only points (a 30-yard field goal) came after a blocked punt gave them the ball at the Miami 17. So, relax, Richard. Let it go, man, and stop panicking. Let's see what happens on Monday night against the Patriots.
Q: Hey Mike, has Channing Crowder been practicing this week? Thanks. Shane, Davie.
A: Channing has actually been practicing since Wednesday Sept. 22 after missing 36 days of work with that groin strain. He looks to be moving a little better each day, and provided he doesn't have any setbacks this week I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see him on the field against the Patriots. Then again, if he tweaks it at all in practice, the smart thing to do at that point would be to sit him through the bye and give him another two weeks to steel himself for the final 75 percent of the schedule.
Q: Hey Mike, any chance the Dolphins will pick up Adrian Arrington? He is about the same size as Roberto Wallace, but he and Henne have history and wouldn't take long to get the chemistry back. Thanks, Scott.
A: Good thought, Scott, but I don't see the Dolphins dumping Wallace or Marlon Moore at this point. They remain excited about their potential. Arrington, a seventh-rounder in 2008, spent his final two seasons catching a ton of passes from Chad Henne at Michigan 111 receptions for 1,460 yards and 17 touchdowns, including two strong bowl games -- so the chemistry should definitely be there. But he missed the '08 season with a toe injury and was on the practice squad all year in 2009 until an emergency callup for the NFC title game. Big preseason for Arrington (6-3, 192) this year, though, and he definitely makes practice squad interest (at least) for somebody out there. Trouble for the Dolphins is they already have two receivers Julius Pruitt and newly signed Brooks Foster on their eight-man practice squad.
Q: Why don't the Dolphins utilize the hurry-up offense more (like the Colts) in order to wear down opposing defenses, especially in September games? It looked like that Jets special-teamer feigned a hamstring pull in order to give their defense more time to rest. Tom Mauger, Orlando.
A: That's a lot to ask of a young quarterback, especially one that's admittedly not as comfortable in the shotgun. I like it for shock value, though. Always have, regardless of the juncture in the game. And I don't doubt for a second your contention about Jets gamesmanship.
Q: With the Dolphins having one of the best receivers in the league, can someone explain to me how we only threw deep once at Marshall? Is it the quarterback or the playcalling? Renso Hernandez, Columbus, Ga.
A: Mostly the playcalling, Renso, and keep in mind the Dolphins were playing a backup at right guard (Pat McQuistan) who was making his first NFL start after four seasons mostly on the bench. Shaun Ellis blew past McQuistan for his first quarter sack and Chad Henne was sacked twice overall and hit five more times. Deep passes only work if you can protect the passer. In fairness to Dan Henning, the first play of the game for the Dolphins offense was a deep post for Brian Hartline that Henne just barely overthrew.
My quibble with the usage of Marshall and it admittedly comes on a night when he was officially targeted 17 times, plus two more touches on running plays, and produced 166 receiving yards was why they didn't come back to him on another fade on fourth and 4 from the Jets 5 at the end of the game? Henne overthrew the fade to Marshall on first down from the 11 and Antonio Cromartie, in single coverage, stuck his right hand in Marshall's chest as the ball flew overhead (no flag). But that was it. Even on the final play, the force to Anthony Fasano, Henne NEVER LOOKED at Marshall. That was rookie Roberto Wallace lining up as the H-back and running a post in hopes of clearing out some room for Fasano, but Henne seemed to lock in on his tight end and Brodney Pool was able to make the leaping deflection that resulted in an interception for Drew Coleman.
NBC's Cris Collinsworth noted the Jets were rolling a safety Marshall's way on that final set of downs "They took Brandon Marshall away on every single play. They had double coverage every time" but Collinsworth, the former receiver, also endorsed the idea of forcing one into Marshall regardless. "I don't care," he said. "I would tell Brandon Marshall, 'You go get down to the end line. I'm going to throw you a high fastball and you do your best Dwight Clark imitation.' "
Sounds good to me. I mean, isn't that why you're paying the guy $50 million?
Q: Mike, do you think Dan Henning is holding the offense back? I say that because it seems like the offense is more than capable of breaking out with points if they have to. I think Henning needs to change the offensive philosophy and also stop taking Chad Henne off the field, especially when he is hot. The "Wildcat" is also no longer a threat when every other team is now prepared for it. Laron Taylor, Elizabeth, N.J.
A: Let me start by saying Dan Henning has forgotten more offensive theory than most of his critics will ever know, and yet I, too, am not a big fan of taking Henne off the field for Wildcat shenanigans. Dan Marino, during his weekly appearance on WQAM with old target Joe Rose, expressed much the same reservation about yanking the starting quarterback while pointing out the Jets, when they insert ex-Missouri quarterback Brad Smith for Wildcat snaps, have a more versatile two-way threat than the Dolphins do with Ronnie Brown.
Last night the Dolphins deployed the Wildcat eight times. Seven of those snaps resulted in 6 yards of total offense, plus there was a 10-yard holding penalty on Pat McQuistan that wiped out a short gain for Ronnie and caused the Dolphins to settle for a short field goal that made it 21-20 instead of the go-ahead touchdown.
Most troubling, five separate times the Dolphins went Wildcat directly following Henne completions. He hit Davone Bess for 17 yards to the Jets' 18 in the second quarter; Dolphins went Wildcat for the next two plays. He hit Brian Hartline for 15 yards to the Jets' 20; Wildcat for next two plays. He hit Brandon Marshall for 40 yards to the Jets' 7; Wildcat for the next play (and a holding penalty). Henne hit Hartline for 19 more yards late in the third quarter; here came the Wildcat again. And finally Henne hit Lou Polite for 14 yards to the Jets' 36; once again, here came the Wildcat and a loss of 6 for Patrick Cobbs on the end-around. "Sometimes you can outtrick yourself," Chris Collinsworth said on the broadcast, noting the Cobbs counter play off an unbalanced line "blew up." So, to recap, that was five Henne completions for a combined 105 yards, and they were directly followed by five Wildcat snaps that resulted in minus-12 yards, including the holding penalty, and a vicious hit on Ronnie as he floated a pass downfield that could easily have been intercepted.
Could it be time to put the 'Cat back in the bag?
Q: Would you agree that we made a mistake getting rid of Ted Ginn Jr too soon??? Him with B Marshall would have opened up a lot. He would definitely stretch the defense. Our offensive line is horrible at run blocking and it's time to seriously overhaul our backfield. Ricky looks every bit of 33 years old and Ronnie is not gonna be re-signed anyway so cut bait. I'm tired of the Trifecta signing all of thier retread mistakes from Dallas. Get us our own playmakers. Do not try to validate your failures on our clock. Devidid Woods, Pittsburgh.
A: Said it before and I'll say it again: Ginn's time was up here, and his deep-threat role was overstated considering the problems he had holding onto the ball once it got there. By the way, Ginn has been hurt with a knee injury and can't get on the field for the 49ers, who are 0-3. The O-line missed rookie road-grader John Jerry last night, and Ricky does appear to be slowing down a bit. (Needs to stop fumbling, too.) As for the Dallas "retreads," Bobby Carpenter has been a nice find, McQuistan and Cory Procter have provided much-needed depth and Lousaka Polite showed again last night why he's one of the toughest players, pound for pound, the league. The Dolphins' fullback appeared to injured his right wrist or hand area late in the third quarter. He was doubled over in pain three times as he tried to make his way off the field, then again once he reached the sideline. And yet here was Polite, making a big catch for 14 yards to set up Dan Carpenter's third and final field goal of the night.
Q: Mike, it appeared as if the Jets didn't want any part of Vontae Davis in that game. We're they afraid to look his way or did he just lock down his man that well? It was like Vontae didn't even play. Scott Sweeney, Freehold, N.J.
A: Word is spreading, Scott, and it's only going to become even more pronounced as Vontae comes into his own and Jason Allen battles the coverage demons that once threatened his career. I counted only a handful of times the Jets threw at Vontae last night without going through the full broadcast yet and he only gave up a couple of short completions to Jerrocho Cotchery, at least that I can find. The Dolphins, even under Mike Nolan, typically don't like to "flip" their corners based on matchups. But they did flip them in the second meeting last year against the Patriots, and Vontae Davis battled Randy Moss for most of the afternoon in a 22-21 comeback win. I wouldn't be surprised if we see Vontae assigned to Moss against next Monday night, especially when you consider Jason Allen's shaky history against big No. 81.
Q: It was a great game. I am glad I got to watch it from Iraq. Why can't our defense stop tight ends? Is this the offense we can expect every week, the one that puts points on the board and does not care so much about running or passing? James, Balad, Iraq.
A: I'm glad you got to see the game as well, James, and you're right, it was a heck of a matchup. It's not like the Dolphins didn't try different things against Dustin Keller. He beat at least five different Dolphins in coverage Sean Smith, Yeremiah Bell, Tim Dobbins, Quentin Moses and Bobby Carpenter -- while piling up all those early catches (five for 91 yards, including two touchdowns, in the first 16 1/2 minutes). He caught just one more pass for 7 yards the rest of the night, but the early damage was a huge factor in the Jets' win. As for the offense, the Dolphins dropped back to pass 48 times and ran it 22 times on their 70 plays. That's a 69/31 ratio in favor of the pass, not exactly the balance the Dolphins would prefer but falling into the early 14-0 hole had a lot to do with that. The Jets, meanwhile, dropped back for 29 passes and ran it 28 times, almost perfect balance on their 57 offensive snaps as called by offensive coordinator Brian (Son of Marty) Schottenheimer.
Q: Great article on Tonga! I have another question that we Dolphin fans in Seattle are asking. Does Bill Parcells come to practice at all any more? Is he around at all? Thanks, Bill, Seattle.
A: Thanks for the props, Seattle Bill. Enjoyed working on that story on Dolphins rookie OLB Koa Misi and his third cousin, assistant strength and conditioning coach Dave Puloka. As for the Tuna, I'm pretty much out there every day at practice and I haven't seen him at a single practice since Wednesday Sep. 8, which also happened to be the day after his move into a consulting role was announced. Omar saw Parcells leaving the building once around mid-afternoon, and there was a report of him swinging a golf club out in front of the facility. It's my understanding he still breaks down game tape and is available for big-picture issues that might spring up, but the day-to-day grind has been left behind, which was sort of the point of stepping aside and letting Jeff Ireland become the new football czar, don't you think?
Q: Mike, when are the Dolphins going to learn how to tackle? I know they are trying to take the ball away, but they have 3 or 4 players on the guy and he is still gaining yards. Nobody goes for the legs anymore. What's up with that? Don't they watch the tapes? Thanks, Okeechobee Bill.
A: There were too many missed tackles at Minnesota. That's true, Okeechobee Bill. But you have to remember who they Dolphins were trying to bring down up there: Adrian Peterson, one of the hardest runners in the game. AP can make anybody look silly, but when the Dolphins needed to corral him most those three straight cracks from the 4 and in with the game on the line they did what needed to be done. Will be interesting to see how they far tonight against a resurgent LaDainian Tomlinson and the rugged kid from Iowa, Shonn Greene.
Q: Mike, I keep seeing the replay of Jason Allen's interception on the goal line against Favre. It looks like his momentum carried him into the end zone and he certainly wasn't downed until he was in the endzone. Had the receiver caught this it would have been a TD. Why wasn't this called a touchback and brought back out to the 20-yard-line? Thanks, Ernie, Brooksville.
A: I agreed with you at the time, Ernie, and upon further review as well. Obviously that turned out to be a big swing play as Ricky Williams' ensuing fumble was recovered at the 1 instead of out at the 20. Must say it just never came up, neither after the game or during the week, when Tony Sparano is pretty much on to the next opponent by Wednesday's press briefing. That was one of several questionable officiating moments in that 14-10 win for the Dolphins. Had the score been reversed, I'm sure we would have dissected every one of those calls, including the spot on Jason Allen's goal-line pick.
Q: Mike, what happened to the classic "Dolphins" script logo that used to be in the end zones? Do we have to have the plain word Miami? What will it be for home games this year? Thanks! Andrew, San Diego.
A: Andrew, I'm with you on this. Really liked the script "Dolphins" logo, which I still see occasionally, just not in the end zones. Not sure what they're putting there tonight. For all I know, it could say "Club LIV" or "Fergieland." Will let you know on Twitter (Twitter.com/MikeBerardino) once I make it out to the stadium around 5:30 tonight.
Q: As you may know, this past year, Coach Sparano has implemented the "Feed the Wolf Campaign" to his players, to promote an aggressive, success-oriented motif. Miami Dolphin fans have taken this to heart,and we too would like to "Feed the Wolf." A rather large group fans and myself have been posting on all known Dolphin forums and contacting radio stations to start a tradition at the games. We would like to boost our home game advantage by howling when the defense takes the field and on key downs. Our goal is to restore our stadium's proud culture to its fan-frenzy state of the Shula era and rally our team to a home victory. We are doing our best to get the message out and any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. William Murmann.
A: Feed the Wolf? What's that? Never heard of it. Seriously, I like your idea, especially after the Karlos Dansby-led post-game howling in the Dolphins locker room on Sunday. Would be even better if there was a full moon on Sunday night. Once upon a time, Rick Weaver launched an unlikely movement with his suggestion to bring white handkerchiefs to Dolphins home games. Maybe howling is the next phase in Dolphins fandom. Maybe the Dolphins could add Wolf Blitzer as their next celebrity owner. I mean, come on. You're not gonna find a better name for this team than that. And don't forget, Olympic water polo standout Wolf Wigo has strong Fort Lauderdale family ties. (His dad is CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.) He just might be available for the pregame coin toss. And how about a halftime concert by Van Halen. I hear Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's boy, plays a mean bass. OK, OK, I'll stop.
Q: Why is it that no matter the staff or players, the Dolphins always have trouble with special teams and covering TE's? Jedi Vader, Temple Hills, Md.
A: Actually thought the Dolphins did OK, all things considered against TE Visanthe Shiancoe in Minnesota, and the special teams coverage wasn't bad against Percy Harvin, Greg Camarillo, et al. The return game needs to improve, however, which is why you saw Clifton Smith get bounced after two games. I'm curious to see what Marlon Moore might be able to do on punt returns, but if he's not up to it yet, sure-handed Davone Bess is fine in that role.
Q: Because Sean Smith's role has been decreased, and with Clifton Smith being cut, can Sean Smith return kickoffs and/or punts? It seems with his size and speed that he could be a good return man. Jeff Miller, Defiance Ohio.
A: Sean is a great athlete but he hasn't fielded a single punt or kickoff in any practices I've seen since he got here in the spring of 2009. This is no time for wild experimentation. Besides, returners tend to be best when they're small and shifty, not big and rangy.
Q: Is it me or do you think the Dolphins have not used all their "Surprises" yet on Offense until they play a better opponent? Chris Mellito, Chambersburg, Penn.
A: Boy, I sure hope this isn't all they have in that playbook. In fact, I'm quite sure there's more for OC Dan Henning to spring on unsuspecting foes as the season moves along. For instance, Tyler Thigpen was active Sunday but never got on the field. Maybe this will be the week we see the Tyler Thigpen Experience as a changeup from the usual Wildcat, which after a fast start Sunday finished at just 14 yards of total offense on five direct snaps to Ronnie Brown.
Q: Mike, where was play-action the whole game? 'Sota was stuffing the box and you have a weapon like Marshall and they didn't take advantage of it enough IMO. I'm not saying we should go for a play-action fly route, but a simple play-action to Fasano in the flats for even a couple yards helps throw off the defense and help the QB get into a rhythm. What's your take and do you think we'll see a different game plan against the Jets? Lou, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Still working on my Game Rewind, which should hit the blog this afternoon, but for now I ran through all 20 Henne passing opportunities (15 attempts, plus two sacks, two scrambles and another incompletion wiped out by offsetting penalties), and here's what I found. Dolphins ran play action just three times all afternoon, but one of them was on Marshall's 46-yard catch to open Miami's first offensive series. There also was a 3-yard checkdown to Ronnie Brown and a deep ball to Hartline that drew a flag but was wiped out by an offensive pass interference call on Anthony Fasano. So, yeah, you'd like to see more play action out of Henne, especially when you consider the Dolphins worked just twice out of the shotgun (a 12-yard completion to Davone Bess that came up short on third and 19 and a scramble for no gain). The empty backfield was employed five times with mixed results. The only touchdown for the Dolphins offense came out of that set, the 5-yard fade to a resurgent Brian Hartline see, told you everything would be fine but there also was a sack, a hurried incompletion on third and 10 and a scramble for a gain of 1 that was essentially a sack. Henne was 1 for 3 out of the empty backfield and never really looked comfortable after that pass to Hartline. One last word on play action. Henne never came within 2 yards of the back on any of those play-action attempts. Not sure if this is the back's fault or his, but you'd at least like to see a little more convincing effort that a simple two-hand poke of the football in that general direction. In other words, Henne's not exactly Steve DeBerg on the play fake, at least not 15 games into his career as a starter (9-6 record).
Q: Hey Mike, don't want to make a big deal out of nothing, but should take anything from the fact that Chad Henne was NOT named a team captain? Joe D, Ridgewood, N.J.
A: I wouldn't say so, not at this stage in his career and with a strong quartet of selections in his stead, including Jake Long on offense. Now if Chad Pennington had been voted in again, which I really thought might be possible, we'd be talking about an entirely different scenario.
Q: Why couldn't the Dolphins put Will Allen on the PUP list so he would miss the first 6 weeks of the season like they did with Matt Roth last year? Fritz, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
A: Allen practiced for the first 10 days or so of training camp. According to PUP rules, you have to be on PUP at the start of camp to be eligible for it once the season opens. I don't really understand why they rule reads that way. Seems overly restrictive, but it's really for offseason injuries that carry over into camp.
Q: Do we have an idea if or when Channing Crowder will be back? Because if there's one negative to the defensive performance this game it was Tim Dobbins. I watched him miss about 3 tfl's and 2 sacks and I'm guessing he was responsible for at least some of Shiancoe's yards. He was REALLY bad. Jordan Maya, Weston.
A: Nothing firm on this yet, but my gut tells me Channing returns to practice on Wednesday in preparation for the Jets and his old friend Rex Ryan. As for Dobbins, I'll have a more definitive breakdown on his day in Tuesday's Game Rewind, but you're right about at least one missed tackle for loss (Adrian Peterson ended up with a gain of 23) and a missed shot at sacking Favre (a 20-yard completion to Jim Kleinsasser was the result. In Dobbins' defense, he was right there with Karlos Dansby and Vontae Davis on the fourth-and-goal stop of Peterson during the Dolphins' great goal-line stand with two minutes to play.
Q: I wanted to email you about something that bothers me. [Sunday] during the CBS telecast, Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf made a few jokes about how Coach Tony Sparano was wearing sunglasses inside the Vikings' dome. The PROBLEM I find with this is that Coach Sparano had an accident many years ago which left his eyes very sensitive to light and therefore almost always wears sunglasses. The fact that the media continues to make jokes about his wearing glasses during games inside or at night is bothersome and in poor taste. This is his 3rd year as the Miami Dolphins coach. I would think that big media outlets would now about this already. CBS aren't the only guilty parties. Sunday night on NFL Network, Rich Eisen, Deion Sanders, and Steve Mariucci made similar jokes about how Coach Sparano was wearing sunglasses indoors. I've had to listen to these jokes for three years now and It amazes me how these people who ONLY cover the NFL don't know this. I thought maybe you could spread the word. Dr. Jonathan Roldan.
A: You got it, Doc, and you're right. It's shameful, really, that anyone could still mess that up, much less rights holders. Rather, Sparano should be held up as an inspiration to anyone dealing with similar problems.
Q: Mike, it is so exciting to be a Dolphin fan right now: 2-0 and on top of the AFC East. However the offense has scored 13 points and 7 points in the last two games. When is offensive coordinator [Dan Henning] getting fired? We have more talent then that, and this week I would say they executed the game plan pretty well, so the problem must be the game plan right? James, Balad, Iraq.
A: Henning isn't going anywhere. Now stop being such a killjoy and enjoy the 2-0 start.
Q: The long ball to Brandon Marshall seems to be there and working. Why doesn't Miami stretch the field more often? Why is the playbook still the conservative book that was used when [Ted Ginn Jr.] was the featured receiver? Paul , Pembroke Pines.
A: Marshall is such a big threat, he needs even more than the eight chances (four catches he got Sunday. Protection of the quarterback is a huge issue here. The Dolphins line did a better job protecting Henne in Minnesota (five total hits) than it did in Buffalo (11), but that is probably your reason why we didn't see as much vertical stuff to Marshall as we'd both like. You have to pick your spots there.
Q: During the Vikings game, it looked like the Wildcat interrupted the normal rhythm of the game and took the offense and Henne out of sync. In fact, when the Wildcat fails, it leaves Henne in a 3rd-and-long situation. Unless the Dolphins figure out how to pass out of the Wildcat, would you agree that the Wildcat should be shelved?
A: You make a good point, especially when it comes to the red zone usage, but the Wildcat is in the Dolphins' DNA at this point and it will stay there as long as Ronnie Brown is here to operate it.
Q: As a Fins fan in New Jersey, I'm not concerned [about Brian Hartline] at THIS point. The guy has talent, has performed well (last year) and is a smart young man (his degree is not in basket weaving, unlike many NFL receivers). He will be fine. I'll give him this year before I judge. Thanks. Jim, Robbinsville, N.J.
A: Agreed. Let's see how Hartline does Sunday against a banged-up Vikings secondary before writing him off. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a strong afternoon. By the way, here's what Dolphins receivers coach Karl Dorrell told me this week when I asked if he still saw Hartline as a downfield threat: "You do see that in him. I think some people get lulled to sleep because they don't think he can run as well as he really does. He has a lot of physical qualities about himself that makes him a good player. He's got good size. He's not a small guy. And he has long arms and he has long legs and he can run a little bit. He can reach and extend and do things that I think surprises a lot of people."
Q: Why did the Dolphins keep snapping the ball with 10-11 seconds on the play clock at the end of the Buffalo game when we should have been trying to run the clock out? Why not take it down to 2-3? Also, I thought the play calling was atrocious on the last series. Two wide runs to lose yardage and then a pass to stop the clock? Three runs up the gut where we had been gashing the Bills all day might have gotten a first down and certainly would have given Dan Carpenter a very makeable FG. That would have forced the Bills to get A TD to win instead of a FG to tie. Wood, Elkridge, Md.
A: I agree with your thinking on the play clock, but Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said this week he wasn't as concerned about eating up those extra seconds as making sure Chad Henne protected the ball. In theory, trying to run the clock down all the way could enable the defense to shift another time or two and confuse a young quarterback making just his 14th career start. As for the playcalling at the end, it all worked out, so why drive yourself crazy over it?
Q: Why don't the Dolphins let the play clock run down a la Peyton Manning when they are playing with the lead? Against the Bills, Henne only let the clock run down to 14 or 13 seconds and then they snapped the ball. They could have run another minute off the clock on the drive late in the fourth quarter. Also, coach called timeout with 21 seconds left in the half instead of letting the clock run down before the field goal attempt. Almost cost us a FG by the Bills. CLOCK MANAGEMENT. We had similar problems last year. Go Fins!!! Mark, Lancaster, Penn.
A: See above on question No. 1. On the second, I agree completely. Not sure what happened there and it got lost in the shuffle this week, but you're right, Rian Lindell and his cannon leg almost got them again.
Q: The Vikings have two 5′9 corners. Why don't the Dolphins play Roberto Wallace along with Marshall to take advantage of it? Michael Irby, Mobile, Ala.
A: Interesting idea, but it seems Marlon Moore is still a bit ahead of Wallace at this point and the addition of Clifton Smith as a kick returner makes it almost impossible to bring five wide receivers to the game. I do, however, see some fades to Brandon Marshall in the immediate future.
Q: Mike, as always, love your insights. Riddle me this: With Tony McDaniel in and Odrick out, will Mike Nolan switch him to NT and Randy Starks to DE on passing and shotgun plays? Also, I think our secondary is ahead of Favre's injured receiving corps, sooooo? Lay it on me. Dolphin Ted, Fort Lauderdale.
A: McDaniel's greatest strength is his versatility, so yeah, I think you'll continue to see him move around. Just because Starks says he hasn't practiced any 3-4 end doesn't mean he can't move out there at times, given his strong recent history at that spot. But for the most part, I'd expect to see a rotation of McDaniel, Lionel Dotson and maybe even a little Ryan Baker at the right end spot against the Vikes. As for your second question, Percy Harvin is supposed to play despite a hip injury, but it was certainly apparent in Week 1 how much they miss Sidney Rice.
Q: Based on what you saw on Sunday from Jason Allen, is he legit or is Sparano trying to send Smith a message? Noc, North Miami Beach.
Q: Hey Mike, i know i am thinking wayyyyyyyyyyy down the road but next year's draft do you think we will look for a blue chip RB? i personally don't think ronnie will be here next year and Ricky might be here for maybe two more seasons. I think it's time to go get a stud RB in the first round (ex. Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, etc.) What do you think? And yes, I know I'm thinking way down the road. Eric Mix, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A: Never too early for NFL fans to think draft, especially on a college football Saturday. Ingram and Williams are both intriguing underclassmen who project as strong pro prospects, but you might want to remember the name Allen Bradford. The USC senior went for 129 yards on 13 carries this afternoon at the Metrodome in a 32-21 win over unranked Minnesota, and the 5-11, 235-pounder's day included a 56-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. On hand to watch was Dolphins football czar Jeff Ireland, who had plenty of Trojans pro prospects to evaluate. Bradford (ranked ninth among all draft-likely running backs) is one of six Trojans ranked in the top 10 at their position on NFLDraftScout.com's preseason list. The others are center Kris O'Dowd (No. 3, 6-5, 300 pounds), fullback Stanley Havili (No. 1), wide receiver Ronald Johnson (No. 7, 53-yard TD catch Saturday), defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (No. 3) and outside linebacker Michael Morgan (No. 4). Just missing the top 10 was OLB Malcolm Smith, who was 12th. O'Dowd, in particular, had to pique Ireland's interest considering the recent turnover at that spot for the Dolphins and the 216 yards rushing (5.7 yard average) the 3-0 Trojans pounded out on Saturday. Then again, O'Dowd has already had shoulder surgery and two dislocations in his right knee, so I'm not sure he meets the durability standard. Bradford, by the way, runs just a 4.56 40 and the ex-safety had multiple hip issues in the past, so I'm not so sure about him either. Besides, after the Patrick Turner washout, you wonder how long it will be before Ireland pulls the trigger on another Trojan.
Q: Now that we swapped players with Minnesota, what advantages do each team have with the information they're getting? Noc, North Miami, FL.
A: Well, in theory, Greg Camarillo will be able to give the Vikings all sorts of info about the Dolphins offense you know he had it down cold, of course as well as what they like to do on defense. Same thing for CB Benny Sapp in the opposite direction. Both coaches say that sort of thing is overrated, but in a league where every staff works 18- to 20-hour days searching for the slightest of edges that might lead to a victory come Sunday, you'd better believe both Sapp and Camarillo were spilling their guts all week. Vontae Davis said the first thing he did after the Buffalo game was start pumping Sapp for info on the Vikings receivers. The guess here is the two traded guys cancel each other out.
Q: The Dolphins are missing a mix of veterans and youth. Too little experience on this team. Guys like Charles Grant, Marques Douglas, and J.T. should still be in town. They also could have gotten Adewale [Oguleye] off the street to add some veteran depth. I am all for the youth movement, but you have to have a mix. You thoughts? Jedi Vader, Temple Hills, Md.
A: Vader, don't forget Charlie Anderson, Jake Grove, Will Allen, et al. It also hurts having Channing Crowder out of the mix for the past four-plus weeks with that groin issue. Tony Sparano says he likes the mix of young and experienced, but there's no doubt the Dolphins are skewing younger than might be ideal, especially at spots like right guard, free safety, outside linebacker and on special teams in general. Still, it's a young man's game, health and durability are major issues in this building and would you rather do it this way or the Jets' way? Me? I'll take the Dolphins' way because it's more sustainable.
Q: I think [Karlos] Dansby can cover even the top tight ends in the league. He showed a bit in the Atlanta game. Jcbar82, Twitterland.
A: I agree. Tony Gonzalez was largely frustrated with Dansby and friends in coverage that night, and did you see Dansby chase Lee Evans halfway across the field in Buffalo. That pass was off target, but it was Dansby's speed and hustle that forced Trent Edwards to try to be a little too perfect. Should be fun watching big 'Los, not to mention Bobby Carpenter, take their shots at covering Visanthe Shiancoe this Sunday in the Metrodome.
Q: Thanks for the advice Mike. I have a question about the defensive line. What are the chances that Miami will look to bring back Douglas or Grant now that Odrick is down for 2-6 weeks? Would either of these vets come back for a minimium contract? Thanks, and look forward to your columns. Clint Parrett, Gautier, Miss.
A: First off, who said anything about six weeks on Odrick? Worst case it sounds, for now, like we're talking four weeks, which would put him back in the lineup for the trip to Green Bay after the bye week. Best case, we're talking two weeks and a return against New England. As for Douglas and Grant, neither has signed elsewhere as far as I know, and I was actually a little surprised we didn't see Douglas brought back this week. Instead it was Lionel Dotson, the former seventh-rounder of the Trifecta who I didn't think should have been cut at the end of preseason anyway. Robert Rose, ex-Ohio State, is still here for now, but he may be nursing an injury judging by the way he's been limping through the locker room. And don't forget big Cliff Geathers, Robert's son and Jumpy's nephew. The ex-USC Gamecock is on the practice squad and certainly has the right genes to be a factor at defensive end.
Q: Why hasn't any team picked up Donald Thomas yet? I thought he was solid. Mike Crapanzano, Twitterland.
A: I agree. Was surprised to see him get cut here. Omar Kelly is reporting the Steelers are taking a look at the former UConn Husky. I wouldn't be shocked to see DT earn a starting guard spot somewhere else before the year is out. He did make 13 starts for the Dolphins the past two years, including 12 straight a year ago.
Q: I'm still scratching my head over some of the calls for the offense. Why didn't we open up the field on Buffalo? The offense still seams uneasy. I don't know! G Money, Flint, Mich.
A: Going back to Thursday, Tony Sparano had said his biggest key to winning this game was winning the turnover battle. Well, there weren't any turnovers Sunday on either side so the fact that Chad Henne managed his way through this game with a ton of check-downs and was able to avoid the big mistake was good enough for the Dolphins coaches. Even offensive coordinator Dan Henning, asked Thursday what would make Sunday a successful 2010 debut for Henne, said it came down to winning and nothing more. Sure, Henne's 5.4 yards per attempt wasn't very impressive, but at least it was better than Trent Edwards' putrid 4.1 YPA on the other side. After waiting since 2005 to be 1-0, the Dolphins will take it.
Q: Mike, in the Bills game, what's with the prevent defense with eight minutes left. They backed right off after that field goal. Almost overshadowed a solid performance by the D. On offense, we need to at least throw to the first-down marker. These 3-yard passes gotta go. Other than that, not bad, I'll take it. Your thoughts? Darren, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
A: Truthfully, the Bills should have gone to the no-huddle offense much earlier. That fourth quarter TD drive, capped by a blown coverage (Benny Sapp and Tyrone Culver) on fourth-and-11 from the Dolphins' 31, was the only sustained sign of life the Bills managed to show all day against a much-improved Dolphins defense. By going no-huddle, Mike Nolan wasn't able to get his sub packages into the game, and some confusion seemed to result. As for the short passes on third down, I agree. The Dolphins have emphasized run after catch more than even, but you still have to get past the marker before "sitting down" on those routes. I counted four of those situations on third-down passes, including a 3-yard pass to Davone Bess on third-and-4 that at least made Dan Carpenter's 43-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter a little easier.
Q: Henne just cannot make decisions quick enough. Three sacks are all on him this game. Cal405, Twitter World.
A: Cal, I disagree. On the sack on the Dolphins' first offensive play of the fourth quarter, right tackle Vernon Carey was beaten badly. On the one in the second quarter from the Bills' 33, Ricky Williams failed to pick up the blitz. On the final sack of the day, you might have a point, but the Dolphins were clinging to a 13-10 lead with a little over two minutes left at the Bills' 43 and were just looking to avoid the big mistake.
Q: Hey Mike, I'm still scratching my head over the moves made by the Dolphins. Why put Will Allen on IR and cut Douglas, Grant and Procter for four guys that don't have any experience and are projects at best? If Steve Ross expects to win the Super Bow this year, wouldn't vets be better than projects? Thanks for the advice. Clint P, Gautier, Miss.
A: I'm with you, Clint. The Will Allen decision is one that threatens to hang over this team all season. Obviously, the Dolphins are counting on Jason Allen and Vontae Davis to keep it going and Sean Smith to get it going, not to mention Benny Sapp and Nolan Carroll in the slot. Realistically, however, Will Allen could have wound up as their best corner once his knee fully recovered, whether that was in Week 3 or 4 or whenever he returned. He certainly has the resume to be that sort of championship piece.
Q: Has the regime given up on this year already? I was feeling really good before training camp, not so much now. First they trade Camarillo, now we are one play away from Moore or Wallace. I can't remember the last time we had four good receivers, let alone one, and they trade away our best hands for a backup? Will Allen on IR? We NEED him, he's our best corner and now they've pretty much sent him packing because he wont come back after being treated like that. Then the cuts come. They get rid of David Martin, Donald Thomas, Charlie Anderson and Lionel Dotson. I understand none of them are great players (Martin is pretty good) but they've been around a while and knew the system, they can fill in for an injury without missing a beat. I also thought they made a big mistake letting Ness go. They replace all those guys with total scrubs. Just does not make sense. At least poach a Bill/Jet/Pat to get some info, those teams do that to us every year, it has to provide an advantage or why else would they do it? I think letting those players go costs us 2-3 games this year. Randy
A: Wow, Randy, you're really bumming me out. Are you suggesting the Dolphins will need "Hello, my name is" stickers on the front of their uniforms so they can address each other properly in Buffalo? By my count, six current members of the 53-man roster have been added since Friday: OL Pat McQuistan, KR/RB Clifton Smith, OL Jermey Parnell, DE Robert Rose, DE Clifton Geathers and ILB Bobby Carpenter. That's 11 percent of the roster, but Dolphins coach Tony Sparano insists this sort of thing is nothing unusual for those final half-dozen spots on the roster. At least half of these new names will probably be inactive on Sunday anyway, but Smith, for instance, could be back to receive the opening kickoff of the season.
Q: Why are the trifecta getting all these no-name players, when some big name players where available? TJ, Michael Clayton, David Tyree,Victor Hopson, Vincent Jackson? Just wondering what is going on? G Money, Flint, Mich.
A: Vincent Jackson, we've already been over here at Ask Mike. Houshmandzadeh's skills would have been redundant with what the Dolphins already have. And the other guys aren't exactly big names.
Q: What are the issues with Sean Smith? I know he's gotten beat a few times in the preseason, but so have the other CB's on the team. It's got to be other issues. Maybe him being tardy to the Atlanta game was the final straw. He's not playing with a mean streak. He has to tackle a lot better, and I thought he would because they said he had gain 10 pounds or more of muscle. The knock on Sean coming out of Utah was he can't tackle and he obviously hasn't improved in that important area of his game. And now he's getting torched and showing up late for games. We would've ever thought Jason Allen would be the new starter by coach's decision? Kudos to Jason Allen for his perseverance. Stanoh.
A: Lapses in concentration and technique are admittedly holding Smith back as much as anything. He's still immensely talented, still deserving of a starting spot and, as Tony Sparano pointed out this week, needs to keep himself ready at all times for his next big opportunity. It's unlikely that would come as the nickel corner in place of Benny Sapp. That's a spot where Smith's physical stature would actually work against him a bit, judging from Sparano's comments on what it takes to play against slot receivers. But if that's what it takes to get Smith back on the field and to continue this run of improvement by Jason Allen at the boundary corner, then, by all means, the Dolphins should give it a try. In the practice reps we saw during training camp, I definitely saw Smith line up at slot corner a handful of times, but that was it.
Q: Were the Fins the team that supposedly signed Vincent Jackson to a one-year deal? JKC, Vancouver, Canada.
A: What a tantalizing scenario, huh? Pairing another big target like Jackson with Beast Marshall? Jackson's camp isn't talking. However, it's unlikely the Dolphins were that mystery team, especially when you consider the potential cost in draft picks (Jeff Ireland hordes those, as he should) and that Jackson is facing a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The Dolphins, in putting Will Allen and Nate Garner on injured reserve this year (and David Martin last year), have shown repeatedly they aren't willing to wait around for players to return from issues that jeopardize the early part of the season. By the way, a source tells me the Dolphins, as recently as cutdown day on Sept. 4, believed Will Allen "would be healthy and ready to go within two weeks." Allen, sources say, was leaning more toward getting back in time for Week 3 against the Jets. Something obviously changed in the 24 hours before Allen landed on IR, effectively ending his season before it began.
Q: Why did the team cut David Martin? Seems like he was playing well and was an asset in the two tight end set. Jeff, Orlando.
A: No reason was given. The Dolphins don't do reasons. His agent, Terry Williams, insisted his client was healthy, maybe healthier than he was in 2008, when he and Anthony Fasano put together franchise-record production at the position. However, a source with direct knowledge of the situation questioned Martin's ability to hold up health-wise at age 31 and with knee and sports hernia issues in his rearview mirror. That doubt may have convince the Dolphins it wasn't a good idea to fully guarantee Martin's $755,000 salary and try to sneak him back onto the roster after the first week of games. Guess we'll find out Sunday at Buffalo just how much Martin has left. He didn't catch a single pass in four preseason games, but you know he has to be highly motivated to stick it to his old team in the season opener.
Q: Hi Mike, I am so ready for this season to kick off, then I look at our schedule and just cringe. I know we get the AFC/NFC North favs on the road, which makes our home games must wins. Is it safe to say the opener in Buffalo is a must win? Realistically, I cannot see us winning more than eight games. How do you think we will do? Jerry Pizzemento, Albany, N.Y.
A: Buffalo is absolutely a must-win, Jerry. Lose that one, and the Dolphins will be asking for real trouble. That said, I have them heading into the bye week (Oct. 10) at 3-1. Night home games against division rivals usually work out pretty well for good Dolphins teams, and this team is good. The next block of four games is a beast. I have them beating Big Ben in his second game back off suspension but losing the three on the road (Green Bay, Cincinnati, Baltimore). But even with a 4-4 mark at the break, I believe a sprint to the finish is entirely possible. There's no reason the Dolphins can't win their next four after that home against Titans, Bears and Browns; road against the Raiders and that still leaves a pair of holiday-time home games against the Bills and Lions. Win those, split the final two road games against the Jets (more likely win for Fins) and Patriots, and you've got an 11-5 season, 5-1 in the divison, and a likely second AFC East crown in three years. Too optimistic? Perhaps. And this assumes a quick return to health for Channing Crowder and Jake Grove. But 11-5 seems do-able to me at this point.
Q: Mike, are you concerned about John Clayton saying that Chad Henne was figured out at the end of last season? Steve, Carson City, Nev.
A: Saw that, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. I know he's "The Professor" and all, but I'm not really sure what he's talking about. Didn't Henne pass for 322 yards or more in three of the last four games he was able to finish? Wasn't he 16 for 20 against Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau's Pittsburgh defense in the finale before getting knocked out with an eye injury? Wasn't Henne's completion percentage at least .630 in each of his final four games? True, he threw three picks apiece at Buffalo and at Tennessee, but I still say Henne has what it takes to win in this league. And now that he has Brandon Marshall running routes for him, his weaponry can't be faulted either.
Q: Mike, Since I live up in NJ it's hard to see all the games, especially the preseason. So far this year though I haven't heard anything about the "WILDCAT". Are the Fins doing away with it now that we have a QB with an arm and a WR that can not only get downfield but that can also catch? Scott, Parlin, N.J.
A: The Wildcat is still around, and I suspect we'll still see it here and there in 2010, although probably not as often as in the past two seasons. The Dolphins ran four Wildcat plays in the second preseason game at Jacksonville, all of them in the red zone. Three of those gained a combined 6 yards rushing no first downs, no touchdowns and the fourth saw a holding call wipe out a 12-yard gain around right end for Ricky Williams. Against the Falcons last week, the Dolphins ran two more Wildcat plays, both in plus territory (the 38- and 23-yard-lines), but they only gained a combined 5 yards. So that makes a combined six Wildcat snaps so far this season all but one of them going to Ronnie Brown; Patrick Cobbs took the other for a combined 11 yards, plus a 10-yard holding call. No first downs, no touchdowns. Not yet, anyway.
Q: Mike, one question. Are we going to put enough pressure on the quarterback this year? If we can't, what are the Dolphins' backup plans? Carlos, West Covina, Calif.
A: Mike Nolan has made his reputation in this league for his ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He's just not tipping his hand yet when it comes to those exotic blitz packages. Just because the Dolphins haven't pounded opposing QBs yet three sacks in the first three preseason games vs. eight sacks allowed doesn't mean they won't get there when it counts. They are keeping things fairly vanilla so far. Plus, while they went without a single QB hit in Fake Game 3, they did manage a combined nine QB hits in the first two preseason games.
Q: What is the deal with Jason Allen? He has great size at FS and CB and is a demon on special teams. Randy Moss whips everyone. Why does he keep getting passed over? Joe, Richmond, Va.
A: I'm a little surprised Jason didn't get a look at nickel corner this year when Will Allen went down, but the Dolphins want to keep things simple for him and let him focus on working as a backup boundary corner. You're right about his special teams work. He's tremendous in that area, which is why he's not in any roster danger come Saturday's cutdown.
Q: Have you heard anything about Channing Crowder's injury? The last I heard it was still undisclosed? Do you expect to see him back on the field anytime soon? Will he start if he's healthy? Adam Watson
A: Tony Sparano has been extremely sparing with details on Crowder's situation. When I asked him last week if Channing could have played against Jacksonville had that been a regular-season game, he paused and said he didn't know. Of course, Channing still hasn't returned to practice and Sunday he wasn't even in the bubble during workouts. When asked Sunday if he had any concern Channing might not be ready for Buffalo on Sept. 12, Sparano said, "I don't know right now." Asked if he was preparing for that possibility, he said, "Not at this particular second, no." Of course, the ultra-prepared Dolphins are preparing for that possibility. That's why Charlie Anderson got so many snaps at inside linebacker against the Falcons and worked there again on Sunday. That's why it's so vital Tim Dobbins keeps that balky ankle healthy and why Micah Johnson's 56-play showing (including 39 on defense) was such an eye-opener against the Falcons.
Remember, Channing has only played one quarter this preseason and appears questionable at best for Thursday's game at Dallas. Is that any way to enter a new season coming off foot surgery?
Q: So now that Antonio Bryant has been released, do you see the Dolphins taking a chance on him? He can be a legitimate starter opposite of Marshall. Do you think he would be an upgrade also? Jay, Kuwait City, Kuwait.
A: Jay, if the Dolphins were that concerned about Brian Hartline's ability to start opposite Brandon Marshall, do you really think they would have traded Greg Camarillo to the Vikings last week? Plus, the Bengals may be known for odd decisions, but you don't pay $8 million in go-away money to somebody who can still play, especially when Bryant didn't even play a single regular-season game for them.
Q: I'm a little concerned about our secondary for a couple reasons. The corners are giving up technique, resulting in big plays by the opposition because of poor angles being taken and not using their hands correctly. Second thing, with the exception of V Davis and Y Bell, the hitting is not going to get it. Clemons' and Smith's hitting has to improve, especially Clemons because he's the free safety. He has to be able to make tackles in space and lay kill shots when needed. Having a punishing hitter or hitters in the secondary creates footsteps for opposing receivers to hear or think about when they're trying to catch the ball. I saw Bob Sanders the other night shooting the gaps and laying some serious wood. Too bad he was the only one to show up that night, but you get my point. Stanoh.
A: I hear ya, Stanoh, but I actually have seen Smith's tackling improve this preseason. I know, I know, he went without a single tackle against the Falcons, but he was out of sorts following his first-quarter benching for tardiness. Clemons has fanned on a couple of tackles this preseason, which is troubling. He's going to have to pick it up, especially if Mike Nolan is going to be sending Yeremiah Bell on as many safety blitzes as we're expecting once the season starts.
Q: Hi Mike, what is going on with the Jets and all of their acquisitions? In your opinion, how severely have they handicapped themselves in the future when it comes to salary cap or dealing future picks to win now? Longer term, a weak Jets and Bills is good for the Fins, like 4 wins a year good. Ryan Enright, Toronto.
A:You mean the New York franchise Dolphins coach Tony Sparano referred to this week as "that other team"?
Clearly, That Other Team owner Woody Johnson is going for it, sensing a window of opportunity. How soon that window closes and what happens when it does is anybody's guess. We have no idea what the new salary cap will look like under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but if it's anything like the old one, you're right, the Jets, er, That Other Team is setting itself up for quite a fall when some of these long-term deals (invariably) don't work out.
That Other Team's projected starters on defense, for instance, have an average Week 1 age of 28.1 years. That's almost three full years older than the Dolphins' projected starting defense (25.3 years).
Just one Dolphins defensive starter (strong safety Yeremiah Bell) will open the year older than 28. Bell is 32. Five defensive starters for That Other Team will be older than 28 when they open that new stadium against the Ravens on Monday Night Football Sept. 13.
And lastly, a whopping seven Dolphins projected defensive starters are in their first, second or third seasons. That Other Team? It has just one such player (Vernon Gholston), and he's not even guaranteed a starting spot. That could go to fourth-year man Mike DeVito instead.
Q: Love this Ask Mike! Earlier this year I posed that Vontae should be considered at free safety because he was a stud tackler and gets burned with his back to the QB. Same issues. My question here is: Would it make sense for the Dolphins to package some guys that probably won't be Fins this or next year (such as Thigpen, Cobbs, W. Allen and Camarillo) and who have some obvious value -- to some of the lower-echelon teams, for a single draft pick? I never understood why we don't see this happening at this time of year when there are always a few teams in dire straits that could pick up a couple of starters and depth. Also, what round would that pick be? Thanks, as always, for your (and O's) contributions. Dolphin Ted, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Let's leave Vontae alone for now, huh? Year 2 for any player is a big consolidation year, but especially for a cornerback. The last thing he needs in his mind is a last-second position switch. I still believe he becomes a Pro Bowl corner down the line.
As for package deals, let's not forget the Dolphins are trying to win THIS YEAR, so dealing any or all of the players you mentioned above for draft picks alone wouldn't exactly jibe with that goal. Witness Wednesday's trade of Camarillo to the Vikings for veteran cornerback Benny Sapp. That, by the way, marked the Dolphins' first player-for-player swap since Oct. 18, 2005, when Nick Saban sent QB A.J. Feeley and a sixth-rounder to the Chargers for QB Cleo Lemon.
Just last year the Dolphins sent offensive linemen Andy Alleman and Ike Ndukwe, vets with a combined 20 starts at guard for a playoff team in 2008, to the rebuilding Chiefs for a sixth-rounder in 2010. GM Jeff Ireland later parlayed that pick, No. 173 overall, as a sweetener in the seven-piece deal the Dolphins did with the Chargers on draft day. You know, the one that netted the Dolphins DE Jared Odrick and three linebackers: Koa Misi, A.J. Edds and Tim Dobbins.
If I could see the Dolphins doing that anywhere this year, it might be at defensive line, where they are pretty deep with affordable options.
Q: So it looks like a battle could be brewing between Starks and Solai. I saw Randy get manhandled a few times [against the Bucs] and Solai, although playing against second string, stepped up his game. Thoughts? Paul Trust, Delray Beach.
A: No battle brewing, Paul. Starks is the main man at nose tackle, especially after he broke through for a sack on Saturday at Jacksonville. The slimmed-down Soliai, however, seems to be earning the coaching staff's trust as a short-yardage and goal-line package option at the position.
Q: Hi Mike, Keep up the good work. With Pat White most likely being cut and not making the final roster, I was wondering who the Dolphins could have drafted instead with that second round pick instead of Pat White. Looking back years from now it looks to me like this will be the biggest regret by the Trifecta as far as drafting goes. Matt, Ventura, Calif.
A: Thanks, Matt. Yes, it's sad to see the apparent end coming so soon for Pat White, who is buried with the Dolphins but could have a future in the Canadian Football League. Winnipeg, Hamilton and British Columbia are three teams in the CFL that figure to have interest in White should the Dolphins cut ties with him, a source says, although White would have just 10 days to report once a CFL claim was entered. "The bigger field might play to his strengths a little more," one talent evaluator told me.
As for your question about players the Dolphins could have had instead, 16 names were submitted between White's selection at No. 44 overall in 2009 and Sean Smith's pick at No. 61. Included among those 16 are a productive running back (LeSean McCoy, Eagles), wide receiver (Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns) and defensive end (Connor Barwin, Texans) as well as a projected starting outside linebacker (Clint Sintim, Giants), a talented backup outside linebacker (Paul Kruger, Ravens) and a starting strong safety (Sherrod Martin, Panthers). Even more painful for a Dolphins team still looking for help on the offensive line, they passed on a pair of starting guards (Max Unger, Seahawks; Andy Levitre, Bills)and two more starting tackles (Phil Loadholt, Vikings; Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots).
And I won't even get into this mindbender of a question: If the Dolphins had let the Patriots go ahead and take White, as they were rumored to do where they took Vollmer (58th overall), would Bill Belichick have gone after another undersized quarterback named Julian Edelman in the seventh round?
Q: Henne is closer to a game manager than a gunslinger. Probably always will be. Problem is, how many out of the last 20 Super Bowl winning MVP's have been closer to the game-manager label? Let's go with Thigpen. What do you think? Eds, Glen Allen, Va.
A: I think you're wrong about Henne. He can sling with the best of them when he's on, as he reminded us Saturday with an 11-for-14 showing at Jacksonville that included two drops (Brian Hartline and Brandon Marshall). His only misfire was a bullet intended for Marshall at the goalline that was nearly picked off. He also is more mobile than you realize. Witness the moving pocket the Dolphins used on Henne's 55-yard scoring strike to Anthony Fasano. Talented as Thigpen is, and I definitely like his upside, there's no quarterback controversy with the Dolphins. Not yet anyway, and quite possibly not for many years to come.
Q: Hi Mike, how do you see Ryan Baker, No. 90, fitting into the Dolphin scheme? Ed Wood, Coconut Creek.
A: There's still a dozen defensive linemen in camp, slugging it out for playing time, and that has made it difficult for the hard-working Baker to get on the field. But I know the staff likes this versatile grinder from Purdue, liked what he showed last year on the practice squad and for those five games in which he was active. And there's a good chance they aren't using him as much this preseason because they're hoping to slip him through waivers and onto the practice squad, for which he is still eligible.
Q: I'm from Chicagoland and there have been talks of the Bears trading Greg Olsen for O-Line Help. What would you think of an Olsen-for-Donald Thomas or Nate Garner trade? Barry B, Sugar Grove, IL.
A: I love wacky trade proposals, Barry. It's the baseball writer in me. Unfortunately, the Bears aren't as dumb as you might think, so there's no way they'd let a proven, 60-catch tight end like Olsen go in a deal for Thomas (still in the doghouse for some unexplained reason) and/or Garner (great versatility but coming off a second surgery on his broken foot). Plus, Olsen's poor blocking skills wouldn't mesh any better with what the Dolphins like to get out of their tight ends.
Q: What happened to all of the rookie hype Donald Thomas was receiving from the coaching staff prior to his foot injury last year. Seems it was a bit premature as he's having difficulty securing a starting role at guard. DP, Chicago.
A: DP, you need to hook up with Barry in Sugar Grove and hash this one out. First of all, Thomas' foot injury came in his rookie season of 2008. He won back the starting job to open 2009 and held it for 12 weeks before giving way to Garner upon Justin Smiley's return to the lineup. Unfortunately for Thomas, he was pushed aside for the most part during training camp, even dropping as low as third-string during the Bucs preseason game. Now along comes Randy Thomas, a veteran right guard with 143 career starts in this league. A source close to Donald Thomas this week admitted to being a "little disappointed" with how the Dolphins had been using him over the last week to 10 days, adding Thomas had never been given an adequate explanation for why he landed in the doghouse last season and is still being forced to fight his way out of it. Is it pass protection issues? Work ethic? Thomas still doesn't know. Health isn't the issue, I'm told, and Thomas' upside remains great for a 24-year-old who didn't even start playing football until he went straight from pickup basketball to football walk-on at the University of Connecticut. I still say Donald Thomas becomes a regular starter in this league. I'm just not sure anymore it's going to happen with the Dolphins.
Q: If Alabama played against an NFL team made up of players who are in during the fourth quarter of preseason games, who would win? Jimson3, Twitter World.
A: First time I remember having this discussion was 20 years ago with those great UNLV hoops teams. What would happen if Tark's boys played the lowly Clippers? Basketball people assured me even the worst professional team would wax the greatest college team, and I'd assume the same would hold true in the NFL. So great as the Crimson Tide might be and even with Nick Saban's NFL experience on the sideline, I'd have to side with the pros in a one-time matchup against, say, the Rams or Lions. That your proposition involves third-string preseason NFL'ers makes it a little different, but if you let those third-stringers have a full week of reps to prepare for Saban's boys, I'd still take the pros just due to their physical maturity and the talent required just to get a look in the NFL, much less stick on an 80-man training camp roster.
Q: Maybe Brandon's jersey is just unlucky! TG Jr. had the dropsies now Marshall. What's the history of Miami's #19? Are there any other skeletons in that closet? Jeff, Orlando.
A: Not really. Marshall is just the sixth player in Dolphins history to wear No. 19, and no one besides Ginn is even close to infamous. Reyna Thompson wore the number for one season (1986), before switching to No. 24. Next up was quarterback Scott Mitchell (1990-93), followed by Bernie Kosar (1994-96), Nate Jacquet (1998) and Ginn (2007-09).
Q: What are the chances that Brandon Marshall changes his jersey number for real? Something about that #19. Rhett, Tallahassee.
A: Given how many No. 19 jerseys the Dolphins have already sold with Marshall's name on the back, I'd say the odds are pretty long. But there's definitely a chance. Just last year, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis changed jersey numbers on the eve of the regular season, simply to satisfy Smith's superstitious preference for anything with a "4" in it. One thing I can safely say is Marshall won't be wearing his beloved No. 15. Davone Bess simply isn't giving that up. But once some other guys get cut, there will be options for the Dolphins to change the Number of the Beast.
Q: Shouldn't Pat White be considered as an option to return kickoffs and/or punts? His ability to create his own opportunities in traffic, make people miss, his intelligence (he is a QB) and blazing speed would be huge assets in the return game, wouldn't they? Craig, Plantation.
A: Makes sense to me, and outwardly White appears willing to do whatever it takes to help the team and get on the field anyway he can. Privately, that could be another matter. Regardless, Tony Sparano's flat denial on Monday that he is considering any sort of position experiment for White "I have no other agenda but to try to continue to develop this player as a quarterback on our team," Sparano said pretty much renders that issue a moot point for this season.
Q: How about using Pat White as a slot receiver like Wes Welker? Since Pat has put on some weight, the Fins could use him like the Pats use Wes and the other kid [Julian] Edelman. It would be a shame to have a talented person like Pat sitting on the side lines. Greg Paul Hewitt, Tamarac.
A: I had the same thought again after watching White relegated to three do-nothing snaps of mop-up duty on Saturday night against the Bucs. I asked White afterwards about becoming a returner or receiver, and the former 2009 second-round pick gave that Chesire cat smile of his and refused to get into specifics. "That's not for me to discuss," he said when I asked him the last time he'd run pass routes at any level. "I'm doing what I'm coached to do right here." Meaning, without saying as much, he could only give name, rank and serial number as he'd been instructed. Sort of made me think we aren't too far from seeing White try to do some other jobs. You at least have to try it before writing him off as a failed experiment, don't you? However, his heart has to be in it. That's as big of an issue as the physical ability to make the conversion.
Q: What is going on with Ronnie Brown's contract? Did he sign the one-year deal or get a longer one? I say trade him! He is just going to get hurt anyway! James, Balad, Iraq.
A: The lack of a holdout as opposed to Darrelle Revis, Shawne Merriman and others automatically meant Brown had signed his tender at $3.97 million for 2010. Credit to Brown for swallowing his pride and refusing to make an issue of his contract. He is highly motivated to produce at a high level this season, then cross his fingers and hope a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is forged in time for him to profit (somewhere) in 2011. Thought he looked pretty good running in that slop on Saturday night (five carries for 20 yards, long of 8 yards) as he shows no ill effects from the broken foot he suffered last November.
Q: Do you think that the Fins gave up on Ginn too soon, considering that they don't have a punt returner or kick returner in mind? I know that Ginn hasn't made an impact as a wide receiver but he certainly won the Jets game last year with his 2 TDs and those don't grow on trees. And he's a burner! JKC, Vancouver.
A: JKC, have you ever heard of addition by subtraction? While Ginn's speed would have been nice to still have around on kickoffs and go routes, the negative energy his mere presence would have brought to the locker room was too much to bear. That's why the Dolphins chose to dump him for a fifth-round pick, a pick they turned into impressive young corner/kickoff returner Nolan Carroll, by the way. How convenient. Carroll took one back 27 yards in the rain the other night and should get more looks this Saturday at Jacksonville. Ginn was terrible on punt returns, by the way.
Q: What are Roberto Wallace's chances of making the team? Brandon [Marshall] seems to like him. Suzi O'Keefe.
A: The undrafted rookie receiver from San Diego State has an outside shot at making the 53-man roster. That will mostly depend on how Patrick Turner holds up the rest of camp, and so far Turner has been doing better that he did last year (when he made it purely off potential and third-round draft status). If he gets cut out of camp, the 6-4, 225-pound Wallace is exactly the sort of player the Dolphins would look to stash on their practice squad, but then they might have some competition out there for him at that point. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Monday that Wallace had jumped out at him with his ability to stretch the field, something the Dolphins don't exactly have in abundance now that Ted Ginn Jr. is gone. Said Sparano: "I've noticed him vertical. I've noticed him down the field. I've noticed him competing for contested balls that are in the air. He's certainly made an impression right now as far as that goes. Young guy that's smart at the position, and he's trying to get better every day out here."
Q: Mike, here we go! Training camp has started and I can't wait for the season to start. I think there are two keys to the Dolphins success this season: 1. the QB play; and 2. The ability to pressure the opposing QB. (Imagine Al Davis in a jumpsuit saying the QB must go down and he must go down hard) Since we know that Chad Henne is the starter, my question is about the other side of the ball. Who will be our starting LBs in week 1 this year? I would like to see Wake, Dansby, Crowder and Misi start in week 1. Is that realistic? Jordi, New York.
A: Very much so. Crowder's surgically repaired foot has responded well, Wake is improving against the run and Misi has been joining him on the first unit. Thanks for the image of Weird Al, too. Gotta love the white jumpsuit.
Q: What is the address of the Dolphins summer training facility, and what is their schedule for practices? Do you need tickets to attend? Tim Owens, Naples.
A: Address for the Dolphins training facility is 7500 SW 30th Street, Davie, 33314. Don't need tickets, Tim, but you'd better hurry. The last training camp session open to the public will be held on Aug. 19. After that not even the media will be allowed to watch an entire practice. We'll be herded out of there after about 20 minutes every day.
Q: Hey Mike, I have the best idea all year. Why don't we trade Will Allen to the Ravens? Dominique Foxworth tore his ACL and is out for the season and their secondary was already weak besides Ed Reed. I think we would be able to get something good out of Will Allen, seeing how desperate they are. What do you think? Eric Mix, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A: Sorry, Eric, can't agree with you on this one. Allen is making a nice comeback from his own major knee surgery and drew praise this morning from Tony Sparano for the way he is moving on the field. What happens if some setback befalls one of the two second-year corners? No, you keep Will Allen around and worst case he's your slot corner, a role that has become increasingly important in the pass-happy NFL. You saw how many snaps Nate Jones took there the past couple years, didn't you? Look at the contract that work got for him in Denver.
Q: How long do you think it will take the team to gel? Looks like there are several new players in the mix of both sides of the line. Will preseason be long enough? Bo, Houston.
A: It had better be, considering the run of playoff contenders the Dolphins will face starting in Week 2. It's basically eight straight tough games sandwiched between those trips to Buffalo and Oakland. So far, so good, on the jelling issue. But it's early. Very early. And you're right about all that upheaval along the offensive and defensive lines. Easier to handle on D because of all the rotating the Dolphins do to keep guys fresh.
Q: Mike, here we go! Training camp has started and I can't wait for the season to start. I think there are 2 keys to the Dolphins success this season: 1. the QB play; and 2. The ability to pressure the opposing QB. (Imagine Al Davis in a junp suit saying the QB must go down and he must go down hard.) Since we know that Henne is the starter, my question is about the other side of the ball. Who will be our starting LBs in week 1 this year? I would like to see Wake, Dansby, Crowder and Misi start in week 1. Is that realistic? Jordi, New York.
A: I don't see why not, although you shouldn't discount Charlie Anderson as a veteran presence on the weakside. Wake has been ferocious so far in camp. Even Jake Long is having a hard time blocking him, and one victorious rep against Jake is almost like three wins against a lesser sort.
Q: Mike, any possibility the Dolphins will go after Shawne Merriman from the Chargers? I think he would help out our LB's a lot! Daniel, Merced, Calif.
A: Which Merriman would they be getting? The one who piled up 39.5 sacks his first three seasons out of Maryland from 2005-07? Or the one who has been nagged by injury and ineffectiveness the past two yeas? Plus, Merriman wants to get paid, and the Dolphins already played their big-money hand (for this year at least) with Karlos Dansby on the defensive side. No thanks.
Q: Hey Mike, thanks for supporting the troops! What dictates when training camp starts? I saw some teams start as early as the 23rd and Fins dont start for a week after that. Would it not be good, especially for Rookies, to have that extra week? James, Balad, Iraq.
A: James, the start of training camp is typically determined by the start of your exhibition season. So the teams that play in the Hall of Fame game in Canton on Aug. 8 (Bengals and Cowboys) get to convene roughly a week earlier than teams like the Dolphins, who open their preseason schedule Aug. 14 at home against the Bucs. I'm sure if they left it completely up to the coaches, every team in the NFL would be starting training camp by the middle of July. By the way, Dolphins' first practice free and open to the public is set for 2 p.m. on Friday July 30.
Q: Isn't this the same Randy Starks who started at NT against the Ravens in the playoffs a few years back after Ferg went down with an injury? Isn't that the same game we got destroyed and the Ravens ran all over us? Just sayin'. Tim, Topeka, Kansas.
A: Starks was inactive for the playoff game in January 2009. You're thinking of Paul Soliai, who had just one tackle in support of Ferguson (five tackles) that day, but did force a lost fumble with that first-quarter hit on Le'Ron McClain. Besides, Starks was outstanding last year. Patriots coach Bill Belichick raved about him late in the season, calling Starks one of the most improved players he'd seen all year.
Q: Do you think we should have kept Ted Ginn as a backup WR and returner? RR, Los Angeles.
A: Nah, too much baggage here for Ginn to thrive. He needed a fresh start and gets one in San Francisco.
Q: Why wouldn't the Dolphins jump on signing Bobby McCray? The Fins just sit there and lose out on dominant type players. It's ridiculous! Barry, Boca Raton.
A: While there was a financial component to the Saints' decision they saved a reported $2 million bonus by cutting the veteran defensive end when they did - the reigning Super Bowl champs aren't stupid. If they thought McCray could still be "dominant," as you say, they would have paid him the money in year three of a five-year, $20 million deal. However, McCray had just 1.5 sacks in 16 games last year and with the addition of Alex Brown, his fellow ex-Florida Gator, was deemed expendable. Doubt the Dolphins would be interested with all the depth they have along their defensive line. Besides, McCray comes from a 4-3 with the Saints.
Q: Will Jason Allen get cut this season? A. Henry, Milwaukee.
A: As mentioned in a recent blog on Allen and his contributions on special teams, I believe he's in the right place to hang on through the end of his six-year rookie contract. Nobody values special teams more highly than the Dolphins, and Allen is excellent as a "core-four" guy.
Q: Nick Saban finally apologizes. Wow, because of his lack of integrity during that time I will always hope and root for the team that he coaches to not just lose but to lose by more than 50 in every game he coaches! It's nice he apologized and we as fans, thanks to the Trifecta, can forgive him, but we will always have a part in our hearts that want his teams to get demolished! James, Balad, Iraq.
A: I'm sure you're not alone. Trouble is, Saban is too good a college coach to lose very often, much less by wide margins, especially now that he has things rolling against at Alabama. Maddening, isn't it?
Q: I want to know why, in American sports like the NBA and the NFL, the league champion is proclaimed WORLD CHAMPION??? That΄s not true, and the facts are that in any World Cup, the American teams do not win every time. For example in basketball. USA team won titles, but not all of them. And in American football (football is football, not soccer), USA is the only country along with Canada that play it, so how can you be world champions without competing against other countries? Brian, Argentina.
A: Hey Brian, don't forget baseball, where the World Series winner parades around as "world champion" despite the fact they play pretty good pro ball in Japan as well (see both World Baseball Classics). I hear ya, man. Just don't expect it to change anytime soon. It's all about marketing. If some ad wizard thought the NFL could sell T-shirts proclaiming the Saints as "Interplanetary Champs," you'd better believe they'd be on the rack at your neighborhood sporting goods store tomorrow. Oh, and look out for Germany next Saturday in the World Cup quarterfinals. After taking apart England today, the youthful Germans appear to have what it takes to send the Albiceleste (and Maradona) home a couple rounds too early.
Q: With Logan Mankins and Nick Mangold both wanting out of their teams, do we have the cap room for another big salary player if any of them were to be released? Do you think it's possible to get one of the the four Jets that are upset with their contracts (Harris, Ferguson, Mangold, and dare I say Revis)? I doubt they have the cap room to give all those players the contracts they want. What's your take on it? Eric Mix, Hilton Head Island.
A: Don't think the Dolphins are looking to add another big-ticket offensive lineman. They were disappointed in Justin Smiley's inability to stay healthy after giving him the big bucks, and center Jake Grove finds himself in an offseason battle with journeyman Joe Berger for the starting job. Plus, you see the way they're reacting to O.J. Atogwe's presence on the free-agent market. I would be surprised if the Dolphins made any more splashy additions between now and the start of training camp. As for Darrelle Revis, it appears he and Rex Ryan have talked things out and Revis won't be staging anymore OTA sit-down strikes. (How goofy was that?)
Q: Is the Miami Dolphins stadium being upgraded right now? If so who is paying the bill, the taxpayers in southern Florida or Miami? Jerry Pocklington, Sunland, Calif.
A: Any upgrades to Sun Life Stadium continue to be funded by Dolphins ownership. The Super Bowl Host Committee made some noise earlier this year about getting publicly funded improvements in order to attract that event more frequently in the future, but in light of the NFL's decision to put the big bowl in a domeless stadium in northern New Jersey, you have to wonder what's the worry about a little rain?
Q: The more I think about the 2014 Super Bowl going to NY, the more it troubles me Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but I can't shake this sinking feeling that Roger Goodell pandered to NY because he is already 101% positive that there will be no football next season and granting this lucrative award is his way of extending the "olive branch" to help offset the new Meadowlands stadium costs in the subsequent year. Goodell has been an absolute authoritarian with regards to rules thus far in his tenure so why else would he even let NY bid for the 2014 SB when it clearly does not comply with the NFL's hosting criteria? I fear this is foreshadowing and just like in 1982 the fans will once again be cheated out of a full football season. The only difference is this time the owners seem to have an ace in their pocket named Goodell. Regards,Jeffrey, Deerfield Beach.
A: Whoa, Jeffrey, you must have caught Oliver Stone's recent appearance on Bill Maher or something. Even Ollie would be impressed with your willingness to connect the dots. Me? I'm an optimist, so I still believe management and labor will find a way to preserve the 2011 season. It may take them another year or more to hammer out a deal, with many more twists and turns along the way, but there's just too much money being made (on both sides) not to keep playing. Why risk alienating millions of NFL fans the way baseball did with its fan base in 1994-95? The fallout from Fantasy Football Withdrawal alone would threaten to cripple our nation.
Q: Mike,could Phillip Merling possibly be traded because he is a poor practice player and his arrest isn't good either, so maybe ship him to Dallas for Marcus Spears, Patrick Crayton and a 5th round pick? Mike, Miami Beach.
A: Wouldn't shock me to see Merling on the move, but his value is definitely at a low point as he faces possible NFL discipline in the wake of last week's arrest. The scenario you laid out is far too generous for a player of Merling's limited production and current problems. By the way, he worked consistently as the first-team right defensive end during all five minicamp practices. Either the Dolphins are standing by their man, one they invested the No. 32 overall pick in back in 2008, or they are trying to boost his trade value before turning that spot over to Jared Odrick. I also found it interesting I was prohibited from asking defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers anything about Merling, even as a football player, during our arranged chat on Sunday.
Q: At Marlins game [Friday] night, there must have been 500 Marshall jerseys with number 19 for sale. Think the Dolphins might have thousands premade already? Also, what about Jake Scott for Ring of Honor, right next to Dick Anderson's No. 40, upper left side of stadium. Very appropriate. How about during halftime of Dolphins-Jets on national TV? Laurence Leavy, Davie.
A: That's pretty interesting about the Marshall jerseys with No. 19. They could sell a limited number of those while still leaving him wiggle room for an eventual number change to something less haunted by the ghost of Ted Ginn Jr. As for Jake Scott, I love the idea. Now that he's made his peace with Don Shula as Dave Hyde wrote in a recent column the door is open for the old safety(four Pro Bowl selections, three-time All-NFL first-team choice) to be honored. His number 13, of course, is already retired, but that was for the only other player to wear it in franchise history.
Q: Hey Mike, which safety spot does rookie Jonathan Amaya play and what have you noticed about him thus far? I know they're in t-shirts and shorts but is he fast and have good ball skills as the 2 ints show?
A: Amaya, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada, is working at third-string strong safety, behind Bell and Culver. He does appear to be quick enough, and his instincts and ball skills have indeed caught the eye of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. Asked what he's noticed of Amaya so far, Sparano said the following on Saturday: "That the ball comes to him. That's what he's showing me. And it's funny because in rookie camp, if you remember, he did the same thing. In rookie camp he got his hands on a couple balls, made a couple good breaks on the football. So, this guy, the ball comes to a little bit and the one thing I do know off of film, unless there's a different guy in that body right now, is that this guy will hit you. I mean I do know that. The ball coming to him is a good quality to have right now. He's done a good job mentally back there. He hasn't had many mental errors back there during the course of practice and he's finding the football, so it's hard not to notice."
Q: Hey Mike, what's up? If you're complaining about the summer heat, check out the temps out here. Have Brown and Fasano signed yet? What are the chances of the team releasing Channing Crowder since the guy never makes plays? James, Balad, Iraq.
A: No complaints here, soldier, and a safe and happy Memorial Day to you and yours. As for Brown and Fasano, they haven't signed yet but that appears to be a formality as both signed injury waivers to participate in OTA's and should be under contract by the mid-June deadline. I say Channing gets one more year in the middle of that defense to show he can make the plays you and other fans want to see made. Should help having Dansby by his side, creating havoc, and Tim Dobbins and A.J. Edds appear to be playmakers as well on the inside.
Q: Should we go after LenDale White sice we will have a void next year running back and he is a bruiser like the Trifecta likes? Thanks Mike. Harry, Miami Beach.
A: No way. White is reportedly facing NFL suspension, and if his old college coach, Pete Carroll, didn't want him in Seattle, that should tell you something.
Q: Mike; Do you see Zach Thomas ever getting into the Hall of Fame? When Jimmy Johnson took ZT, it changed the way the NFL viewed LB''s from a size and scheme standpoint. Seeing as his play and size revolutionized the position, opening it up for the Johnathan Vilma's of the world, will this be enough to get him in? Chance Ryan, Asheville.
A: Zach definitely merits consideration based on his long-term production, leadership and all-out playing style, but I don't think he'll get many points in the revolution category you mention. I covered Sam Mills at the end of his career with Carolina in the mid-'90s, and at 5-9 and 229 pounds the "Field Mouse" made it to five Pro Bowls and regularly racked up seasons of 100-plus tackles. That's just one example of an undersized linebacker doing big things. And, of course, Zach came into the league just as Mills was heading out of it.
Q: Mike, what are your insights on the Dolphins TE situation? Do they have confidence in this group, has someone's development really improved, is there a plan for a free agent or do we have a poor TE group? Justin, Lincoln, Ill.
A: As I mentioned recently on a blog about Anthony Fasano, the Dolphins expect to get more from their tight ends now that Brandon Marshall is on the scene to open things up for other receiving targets. The tight end group was disappointing as a whole in 2009, and I was fairly surprised the Dolphins didn't draft or sign a single tight end in April. Fasano seemed to be a bit surprised as well, telling me during a recent charity appearance: "They seem to always bring in a tight end, even if it's a late-round tight end or a free agent, and it didn't happen. There were a lot of tight ends taken. It's a good sign, I guess, not only for me but our group [that the Dolphins didn't draft one]. I think they depend on us." I wouldn't call this group "poor," but it's certainly average at best, unless Joey Haynos, Kory Sperry or John Nalbone steps up in a major way to complement Fasano in 2010.
Q: Mike,we still need a returner. Why not use Tristan Davis? That's what he did at Auburn and he did it well. JC, Bessemer, Ala.
A: Davis is a burner, no doubt. He ran a 4.38 on his Pro Day and certainly showed flashes in college, where he was dogged by a series of nagging injuries (foot, hamstring, shoulder). On 55 career kickoff returns his final three seasons, he averaged 26.5 yards per return. He took two back for touchdowns as a senior. If Patrick Cobbs doesn't make it all the way back from a torn ACL, Davis could be a candidate to step into that role. But he's a long shot at best, in part because this coaching staff LOVES Cobbs.
Q: Just a short story on the class of Zach Thomas! Two years ago I had a friend dying of cancer. I wrote Zach Thomas and told him of the situation. He got the Dolphins to call and send VIP tickets and gave my friend and his son the opportunity to get a field pass before the game and brought my friend and his son into the locker room after the game. Had a football signed by the whole team even after a loss. Zach will always be a class act. Thank you, Zach. Ron Bridges, Niceville.
A: Thanks for sending along that story. Just think how many other lives Thomas touched in a similar fashion during his dozen years as a Miami Dolphin. That's the good side of sports, the side we don't spend enough time talking about. There are plenty of good guys in the NFL, and the Dolphins in particular, but not many of them can match Zach for truly "getting it" when it comes to his role as a franchise icon.
Q: Hey there MIKE, I have not heard very much at all on PATRICK TURNER. I know he is a big target, BUT not only did he not play at all last year when HARTLINE did, BUT I do not ever hear anything about him from any website covering the DOLPHINS. IS HE THAT BAD of a player/receiver? He has to have some value playing wide receiver at USC in college. He was a pretty good receiver for USC WAS HE NOT? I truly believe with MARSHALL on one side and TURNER on the other side, at their SIZE, WHAT a wide receiver [combo] I think they would BE & make. YOUR THOUGHTS on him. Jerry, Tennessee.
A: The Dolphins disclosed on Wednesday that Turner had surgery this offseason and won't return until training camp. So the soonest you would ever see the two big targets lining up together would be August, and by then Turner may have fallen too far behind his competition to ever catch up. He's not a bad player, but at this rate he's looking like the Shawn Murphy of the 2009 draft.
Q: Mike, I remember you got a question "What would we do if Marshall got hurt?" Well, what about trading for an established reciever Like Patrick Crayton or Dwayne Bowe? Isiah, Naples.
A: Good point, Isiah. That wasn't too long ago, either, and now Marshall is indeed out. This, however, is an annual spring tradition for him. Same thing happened the past three offseasons, and all he did in those seasons that followed was put up 100-catch, 1,000-yard performances. Barring a setback, the Beast will be fine and ready for preseason games.
Q: Mike, I heard Joseph Addai might not be back in Indy in 2011. Do you think he could sign with the Fins since that will be a need next season? Bradley, Coral Gables.
A: Whoa, Brad, hey, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here. Ronnie Brown could still return in 2011, although that seems 50/50 at best for now. Ricky Williams is talking about playing beyond 2010, and I think given his comfort level with this franchise that would involve him staying in South Florida (even with Drew Rosenhaus at the agent controls). And lest we forget, barring a new CBA there won't even be a 2011 NFL season. So Addai or any other name running back coming here next spring? Uh, it's a little early for that.
Q: I hear lots of football players say to play GREAT you have to play loose. With this regime watching every player with microscopes, is this team too tight to ever be GREAT? Noc, North Miami Beach.
A: Interesting question. Yes, these Dolphins are pretty buttoned down. Tony Sparano's slogan, the one that's plastered on the walls of the locker room and in the team auditorium, is "Tough. Smart. Disciplined." Yet, these aren't the Tom Coughlin Giants pre-Super Bowl breakthrough. Sparano reminded his team at one point in the second half of last season to get back to the love of the game, to play with the enthusiam they once showed in the back yard or the school yard as kids growing up. That doesn't sound to me like a coach who's afraid to give his team a little more leash when the situation calls for it. Plus, you ever watch Sparano on the sideline? The guy's incredibly effusive. No coach in the game celebrates good plays with as much zest as the man running the Dolphins on game day.
Q: With news/rumors abound regarding the financial health of Dolphins owner Steven Ross, is there at all a possibility that we may ultimately see him make a quick flip of the Dolphins in the near future once the team has returned to prominence? What are you hearing? Chance Ryan, Jacksonville.
A: Haven't heard that at all, Chance. In fact, according to The New York Observer, Ross ranked No. 1 among New York real estate power brokers in a recent article. (He was No. 2 last year.) With the proposed extension of the No. 7 Subway line to the far West side of Midtown, Ross and his Related Cos., stand to profit immensely. He's not going anywhere.
Q: Can you update us if the Dolphins signed any try out players from the [recent] rookie camp? I am hoping they sign the DE from Duke. Peter, Miami.
A: Yes, Vince Oghobaase (6-5, 303 pounds) looked like a solid prospect in those limited drills; he certainly lead the team in primal screams as he worked his way around the tackling dummies. But the current roster is right at the training-camp maximum of 80 and I don't believe the Dolphins have officially signed any of those 14 tryout players that worked out in Davie at the start of May. Now, once they Free Justin Smiley (trademark), perhaps they'll bring in somebody else, and Oghobaase might just be that guy. Center Andy Leavine, from Florida International, also impressed during the three-day minicamp.
Q: The Bears are supposedly intrested in Justin Smiley, so could we do a Smiley for Johnny Knox? Thanks Mike. Sam, Miami.
A: Dolphins have been trying to trade Smiley for close to two months now. I still believe he can play at a high level and that he will start somewhere in 2010. Problem is, once you tell a player not to come to your facility and that news gets out, you're basically telegraphing your intentions to the rest of the league, which will gladly sit back until you release said player and sign him for peanuts.
Q: With our recent drafts and undrafted free agents, who is the scout in charge of the Mountain West & Big Sky area? Ron Clare, Ogden, Utah.
A: Great question. The man who keeps turning up these great players from Utah, Montana, Weber State, etc. is Dolphins regional scout Adam Engroff. Based in Boise, Idaho, he's in his 12th season with the team and covers the West for the Dolphins. Engroff is a native of Topeka, Kan., who previously worked in football operations for the Orange Bowl Committee (1998-99) and for the Prep Recruiting Network (1997-98. He holds degrees from Kansas State and Lynn University. When I asked Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland about the decision to draft a Utah defensive player in the second round the past two years, he mentioned Engroff and his "good relationship" with the Utah coaching staff. "They just have the kind of guys that we're looking: high character guys, high motoro guys," Ireland said. "They're well coached. It is one of those programs obviously in the last couple of years that we've felt very good about the guys being ready to become pros." It's interesting to note Ireland, who sees a ton of college games live, didn't see Misi play in person last season, so that should tell you the level of trust he places in Engroff.
Q: Hi Mike. Still think the Dolphins missed out on a pure NT. These guys don't have to be athletic or pass rushers....they just need to clog the interior to allow the linebackers to make plays. Don't think Randy Starks is a pure NT. What do you think? Elliot, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Starks is a different type of nose in that he uses speed and smarts as much as bulk to create havoc in the middle. He's shown he can do that in the past, so I think he'll be fine. That said, I'm with you. In a draft featuring a handful (or more) of good young noses, with the 3-4 proliferating around the league, I thought the Dolphins should have burned a pick on one somewhere along the line. Keep an eye on Maryland's Travis Ivey, though. Kid is BIG and talented and he could stick on the 53-man roster.
Q: I haven't seen any Dolphin writers anywhere (perhaps I missed it) mention that the fact the Jets are claiming themselves Super Bowl Champions is the best thing for Miami. Two years ago, coming off a one-win season, there were no expectations at all. Miami delivered a storybook season. Last year, expectations were supremely high. Losing season. This year, there are high expectations, but for the Jets even higher. Maybe it takes some of the pressure off the Dolphins and they can just go play football. Do you agree? Chris, Titusville.
A: Sorry, Chris. Nice try. There's pressure on all three of the top teams in the AFC East Dolphins, Jets and Patriots for different reasons. You don't spend a combined $93 million on two players the way the Dolphins did on Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby and not enter the year with the whole league watching you.
Q: Mike, the Dolphins could use a punt returner and a nice established veteran wideout like Patrick Crayton. The Cowboys are looking to trade him after they got Dez Bryant. He is a Parcells find so for a 7th could we get him. Mike, Miami Beach.
A: Good name, but I think the Dolphins are set at receiver for now. They're going to have a hard time finding a spot for the highly intriguing Ryan Grice-Mullen as it is, and RGM can return punts and kickoffs with anybody.
Q: What are the Dolphins' backup plans if Brandon Marshall was to get hurt or miss a few games. W/o him the receiving core doesn't scare any defense. Also the tight ends on the team are no deep threat either. are they planning on adding another playmaker to the offense instead of placing all their eggs in one basket? David Martin is still out there and he is more of a deep threat at tight end than Fasano. Remember the Cowboys gave him and Akin away for a fourth-round pick for a reason. Bird, Miami Gardens.
A: There really is no backup plan for Marshall getting hurt as there are no other $50 million receivers on the roster. I'd suppose an injury to Marshall would mean more opportunities for Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartline on the outside, but the Dolphins obviously are hoping Marshall continues to be as durable as he's been through his first four NFL seasons (one missed game for reasons other than team or league suspension). David Martin was missed last season but it seems the Dolphins feel they can live with what they have at tight end, although I've been told they were strongly considering drafting Arizona's Rob Gronkowski before he went to New England in the second round, two picks after Koa Misi landed in Miami.
Q: Is there a time-table for Brandon Marshall to pick his jersey number? I really want to buy it and I feel like the organization should force him to pick it already because it's going to be a hot-seller. Maurice Slydell, Coral Springs.
A: Whoa, Mo. Did you catch any of Marshall's act in Denver? Last thing the Dolphins need to be doing is awakening B-Marsh's inner diva by forcing him to pick some digits that don't mesh with his, uh, aura. It will get solved in due time and the Dolphins will sell a TON of Marshall jerseys. I still say Davone Bess eventually steps aside for a sizable donation to his charity. He's a reasonable man, and Marshall seems like a pretty persuasive dude.
Q: Insofar as Tebow on jersey sales alone looks like a good marketing move for Denver, I wonder what your take is on a struggling Jacksonville franchise not taking a run at him in the draft. It's not like they are rock solid at QB anyway and it seems that season ticket sales and related spin off sales would have certainly been a good business decision and maybe over time a good football decision. Your thoughts? Gary, Melbourne Beach.
A: First-round picks should not be spent on marketing moves or attempts to sell more seats. If Tebow can complete his transformation and become a starting QB in the NFL, the pick makes sense. If not, the Broncos blew it.
Q: Has Pat White gained the weight they asked him to over the offseason, and do think there is any chance they will try him at receiver? Gabriel, Flint, Mich.
A: White's camp has been very tight-lipped about his conditioning plans and possible transformation after failing to complete a single pass (in just five tries) as a rookie.White did some tweeting last month in which he if indeed that was him, and no one has said it wasn't made it clear he wasn't too keen on trying wide receiver, but I don't think the Dolphins are there yet. The emphasis remains, according to Tony Sparano, on helping White become the best NFL quarterback he can be. But it wouldn't surprise me to see White, at minimum, returning kickoffs by training camp.
Q: I guess you don't work in May? James, Sumter, S.C.
A: Actually, James, I put in two solid days at the start of this month before the good folks at the Sun Sentinel gave me a 10-day block of time. I was supposed to use this time wisely cleaning out my home office, doing a ton of yard work, helping my kids with their baseball swings but I'm afraid I didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. Regardless, I'm back now, pale and semi-rested, in case you hadn't guessed, and looking forward to the next time the Dolphins let the media obsesrve their OTA's on May 19. Thanks for noticing my absence.
Q: Hey Mike; I love your Q&A. I will miss it while I am deployed. My question is the restricted free agents that have not signed yet whats there deal? I believe it's R. Brown and Fasano that have not signed. When do they become free agents? Can we trade whatever rights we have to them? Thanks, Go Fins. James, Sumter, S.C.
A: Hello again, James. Felt like I let you down, so you get TWO questions in today. It's still my understanding that neither Brown nor Fasano has signed his tender that was the case last I checked directly with them. Nor is either player in any hurry to do so. Dolphins can't trade either restricted free agent until/unless he signs the tender, and June 1 is the deadline to do so. Both players are obviously hoping for long-term offers, but none appear forthcoming.
Q: Mike, what are your thoughts, and the chances, of Miami signing Adalius Thomas. Michael, New York City.
A: Thomas was cut by the Patriots on April 26, two days after the draft. If the Dolphins were going to make a play for him as another South Florida media outlet led you to believe I have to think it would have happened by now. Thomas has a strong history with new Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, so you can't totally rule out a low-cost signing. But Thomas is 32 and coming off a couple of very unproductive seasons in New England. That's why he's still sitting out there on the open market 17 days later.
Q: With O.J. Atogwe hitting the market on June 1 and Adalius Thomas already there as well as the fact he played some of the best years of his career under the charge of Mike Nolan, what do you think the odds are we get one these guys? I'm sure the age factor is going to play heavily into that decision but I think some veteran support is going to be needed with such a young D. Eric, Fin-a-delphia.
A: Atogwe, another restricted free agent, makes more sense to me than Thomas, but he won't come cheap, not after pulling down 19 interceptions the past five seasons. That's a strange case, one that amounts to a game of high-stakes chicken. With Atogwe having no interest in signing his $1.226 million right-of-first-refusal tender, and with the Rams reportedly reluctant to pay him the $7.7 million it would cost to renew him for next season, look for Atogwe dislocated shoulder and all to cash in big-time on the open market. Question is, after the Dolphins spent all that money on two players (Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall) do they want to throw Antrel Rolle money at Atogwe as well? It's not like his presence in St. Louis has made the Rams a playoff contender or even a decent product. Plus, it's believed Jerry Jones is preparing to back up the Brinks truck for him in Dallas. As for your location, be careful around Eagles fans. Talk Fins smack up there and somebody might try to Taser you.
Q: Mike, What are your thoughts about the Fins making a move for Vernon Davis? We need a TE. Not saying with Marshall Fasano shouldn't have a better season but an upgrade is an upgrade. Rick, West Palm Beach.
A: According to CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers are talking about an extension for Vontae Davis' older brother after Vernon enjoyed a breakout year in 2009. Vernon is reportedly looking for $40 million over five years, with $25 million of that guaranteed. So I'd say my thoughts on a Davis Brothers reunion in South Florida are: It'd be great to watch and a joy to cover, but don't get your hopes up.
Q: Accountability is a two way street and just like the commissioner, team executives and coaches expect it of players, so should they expect it of themselves. I am ashamed of the way this franchise has been brought to the mud by how Zach, JT and Dez have been treated, as it has not only brought us bad press, but it cost us the safety from Pitt and potentially future FA given how Parcells now is trying to cut out agents in negotiations. Will the commissioner suspend Ireland and/or reprimand Ireland and Parcells? If not, will Mr. Ross take action because this is the problem that you have when you give full control to ex-coaches who know football, but have no clue about business/PR/employment law and how to treat people. I thought our franchise learned a lesson after allowing Saban to mistreat so many employees during his stay, and now Parcells is taking it to a worse level. Love my Dolphins, but what is going on is wrong and while I am not saying to fire anyone, something serious has to happen and some type of supervision/oversight must be placed over Parcells and Ireland. Peter, Miami.
A: Not sure you can lump the Ryan Clark misfire into this perceived pattern of harsh treatment of players and ex-players. At this point I doubt Roger Goodell would wade into this mess (which I am on the record in calling unfortunate but overblown). It seems the NFL would prefer Steve Ross and the Dolphins make a statement with some action of their own regarding the Ireland-Bryant question and apology. With each passing day, as this thing flares up into a national debate about the handling of pre-draft interviews, the chances diminish of Ross simply letting this controversy fade away. As for the "supervision/oversight" you suggest, there were enough tensions already between the football side and the business side of theh Dolphins operation, even with the gulf of professional separation that existed before this episode. Merging those two entities and trying to make the Trifecta (and especially Bill Parcells) answer more regularly to non-football types who work for Ross might sound good in theory but in reality it can only lead to yet another regime change for a franchise that has endured too many of those in the past decade-plus. Let's hope they find a happy medium.
Q: Hey Mike, love the Q & A sessions. Anyways, what's up with the Denver Broncos picking up all the Dolphin players we cut. Just to name a few: Andre Goodman, Vonnie Holliday and Akin Adoleye. Is it [Josh] Mcdaniels liking our players that much? Muni, Orlando.
A: And you left out Nate Jones and Reynaldo Hill, which will probably give the Broncos three recent Dolphins in the defensive backfield of their nickel package. Like any other business, word of mouth is a big factor. Remember, McDaniels came to the Broncos from New England, so he would have watched a ton of film on these ex-Dolphins over the years in addition to competing against them twice a year.
Q: Hi Mike, could you give us any insight into what the Dolphins are saying about running a hybrid 3-4 defense? Can we be successful without having that huge NT to anchor the defense? Elliot, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland told the media during the draft that he was fully confident Randy Starks could handle the assignment as the full-time nose tackle. Starks is the same 310 pounds at which he played last year, which is roughly what Jason Ferguson has been playing at (or at least has been listed at) for years. "I'm not going to get bigger, smaller or anything like that," Starks said this week. As for the so-called hybrid 3-4, the Dolphins were going to a four-man line on passing downs last year under former defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni. Look for more of the same from new DC Mike Nolan, along with WAY more inside linebacker blitzes. That's why Karlos Dansby is going to be so vital to the new setup.
Q: Let's start a petition to have a number change for A.J. Edds. Mike, Parkland.
A: Go right ahead. You can leave your vote on the Dolphins blog here at SunSentinel.com. No rookie deserves to step into a beehive like the one surrounding a perceived (real?) feud between old No. 54, Zach Thomas, and the team he served so nobly for a dozen years. Hey, at least they didn't assign No. 99 to Jared Odrick. He'll be No. 98, Matt Roth's old number.
Q: Mike, do you think the Dolphins were targeting Jared Odrick all along when they decided to trade down? Or were they after Big Dan Williams at DT when they decided to drop in the first round, and then Arizona swooped in and selected him? What are your thoughts here? I think it was a good deal to get back into the early part of the 2nd round after the Marshall trade, but did they lose their guy (Williams) on the gamble? Mike, Tipp City, Ohio.
A: You can never really tell with the Trifecta, but I tend to believe your version. Jeff Ireland was asked flat-out last night if Odrick was the guy they were targeting all along in the trade-down scenario, and he talked about how "you have your board set. We stayed with our board when we moved down to 28."
Having said two weeks ago that one of this draft's strengths was its surplus of "big guys," I believe the Dolphins felt fairly confident either Williams or Odrick would still be there at No. 28. They could live with either one, and by extension they could live without the guy they lost in the shuffle.
Still, Williams is 25 pounds heavier and more of an anchor type who can play nose tackle. Odrick (rhymes with "Odd Pick") is a stretch at the nose, but clearly there are plenty of other uses for him and he might yet develop into that nose type a la Jason Ferguson and Jay Ratliff, as Omar has mentioned. It would have been interesting to see which big guy the Dolphins would have tabbed at No. 28 if both Big Dan and Odrick had been available.
Q: I'm excited about the second and third round today. I can't remember a deeper second than this. The combination of trading down, strange picks and a deep draft have given the Dolphins these candidates to choose from: Sergio Kindle, Taylor Mays, Terrence Cody, Golden Tate, Nate Allen, Arrelious Benn, Linval Joseph, Jimmy Graham, Ricky Sapp, Toby Gerhart, Cam Thomas and Mardy Gilyard. Half the teams between picks 33 and 39 will be wanting something other than an ILB, NT and FS. Today's draft should be good. Mike, what do think the chances are of Miami acquiring more picks through trades in rounds 3 through 4? I'm expecting some very good players to still be available even then. Mark, Maitland.
A: You're right, Mark. It's going to be wild tonight, especially in the early going, with all the movement at the top of the second round. Wouldn't surprise me if the Dolphins moved up a few more slots to get their man, whether it be a Kindle or a safety. Don't be shocked if they deal Phillip Merling now that Jared Odrick's in hand. Merling should be able to bring a second-rounder or at least a high third in return; maybe that's what Ireland had in mind when he said last night, "I don't really want to get into where we're going to play the kid [Odrick] right this minute. I think you'll see soon enough where he'll be playing."
I don't see them going for Cody, but maybe they grab a more traditional nose tackle prospect in the late rounds. Not sure they want to trade down too far in the second. Maybe another spot or so, but one of the things that was appealing about the deal with San Diego was the chance to slot in at No. 40, just ahead of division rivals Buffalo (41) and, of course, New England (44, 47 and 53). Don't think the Dolphins want to let the Pats pick once, much less twice, before they pick again. The draft-pick value chart says the No. 40 pick is worth 500 points. Dropping down, say, a dozen spots to where the Steelers are at No. 52 (just ahead of New England's final No. 2, for now) would bring the Dolphins the equivalent of a very late third-rounder. Not sure that difference is worth letting Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio and Co. have their way with the draft board two more times before you pick again.
Q: Regardless of how the next [two] days unfold I have a tough time buying into the fact that the Fins will be better off for the next 2 yrs w/out #99 on the team. Thoughts? Rob G, Waterbury, Conn.
A: Agreed, especially after the Dolphins failed to spend their top pick on a replacement at outside linebacker. Sure, they could go get that guy at No. 40 overall and probably will, but even then you'd think a guy like Jason Taylor would be invaluable in a mentoring/part-time role. I'm afraid it really comes down to him never being a Parcells Guy, as Zach Thomas so aptly put it this week. The only way you earn that title is through your achievements while working for the Tuna, not against him. Prior accolades clearly don't count, and I guess Jason just didn't do enough last season to win over the man whose vote still counts the most around here. All in all, another very sad ending in a sport with little room for sentimentality.
Q: Hello Mr. Berardino, How many current Dolphins do you see being traded on or before Draft Day? Do you think the Dolphins will try to trade down from the 12th pick? Thank You & Keep up the good work. Billy Bob, Panama City.
A: Thanks, BB. The Dolphins still want to replace that second-round pick they gave up in the Marshall deal, so I believe there's a very good chance they will indeed trade down out of the No. 12 slot unless someone out there gives them a No. 2 for Ronnie Brown (and maybe even if that happens as well). Keep an eye on the Steelers (18th overall), Texans (20th overall), Packers (23rd), Eagles (24th) and Chargers (28th). (I'm not buying any possible deals between the Dolphins and Patriots. Not with the AFC East setting up to be an all-out battle this year.) All of the aforementioned teams pick in the bottom half of the first round, appear to have an interest in moving up and, along with those first-rounders, have second-round picks in a range that matches up well with the Dolphins' total (1200 points) on the draft pick value chart. For instance, if (J-Lo favorite) Dan Williams gets past Buffalo at No. 9 and is still there at No. 12, the Chargers (looking for a nose tackle) might be willing to deal picks 28 and 40 to the Dolphins. That combination would leave a difference of just 40 points, or the equivalent of a late fifth-round pick. Then again, if Williams gets to the Dolphins, I'm projecting them to just go ahead and take him for themselves. (Happy now, J-Lo?) If not, I think they'll trade down and go for an OLB. They could also draft Williams, hold him until later in the first round and make a determination on whether to trade him for two picks (or more) at that point.
Q: Mike: Was the recent addition at the WR spot in Miami a move that just came about, or was the Dolphin front office planning this addition for sometime? IMO the local sports media totally missed the boat on this one as virtually all said Miami had no interest, or shouldn't have any in Marshall. Do u feel the Dolphins acquisition of Marshall was a move made so quickly due in response to what the Jets had been doing? Tyler Gauge, Jacksonville.
A: No idea how long the Dolphins had a private Marshall Plan, but it seems highly unlikely the Jets' noisy offseason failed to have ANY impact on the Trifecta's willingness to roll the dice. In retrospect, maybe I should have known something was up when I asked Dan Henning in mid-December about "diva receivers" and whether they could ever be so good they might actually be worth the trouble. I alluded to Marshall and his record 21-catch game four days earlier, and Henning stared down at the lectern for a full seven seconds before answering in the affirmative. (Selfish aside: Man, I enjoy listening to Henning talk football. I'm actually going through a little Henning withdrawal just now. Think the Dolphins should make him available to talk about every one of these draft picks. You know, just to keep things interesting and provide some historical perspective.)
Q: Mike, I'm really liking what I see developing on the offensive line. Last year, the Fins acquired [Lydon Murtha], who is a freak of nature and has huge potential and this year have added Incognito and [Dmitri Tsoumpas] from Canada. [Tsoumpas] is the most intriguing because of his accomplishments in the CFL. I see this young group developing into solid backups and even pushing the starters. Am I too optimistic or do we have a potentially special thing developing in the offensive line? Mark, Maitland.
A: The Dolphins know their offensive linemen, and yes, they are stockpiling a number of versatile, physical and, in Richie I's case, downright nasty dudes for O-line coach Dave DuGuglielmo to mold. It's one reason they shopped Justin Smiley around these past few weeks, although it now looks like he could return. Hoping he does. He's a good dude and a winning player.
Q: Hey Mike, does Ryan Grice-Mullen have a realistic chance of making this team? With Ginn and his family gone, perhaps he could carve out a role returning kicks? (For those who don't know, Grice-Mullen starred as WR at Univ of Hawaii opposite Davone Bess.) I doubt he makes the cut at WR, as his skill set is very similar to Bess and we're already overstocked with # 3 receivers. What do you think? Phins Fan Hawaii, Honolulu.
A: Things are pretty crowded in that receivers room now that the Beast has arrived. Even with Ginn gone, it's hard to see RGM making the team unless Patrick Turner just completely falls on his face in training camp. As for the kickoff return capability, depends on who comes this way in the draft and on the return to health of Patrick Cobbs, who can return kickoffs as well.
Q: Hey Mike! I asked a question here before, but you didn't answer. I am wandering, what do you think of the other WR's the Fins have? Taurus Johnson, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Julius Pruitt, etc. Lauren, Hobe Sound.
A: Sorry to disappoint you. Get a lot of mail here at Ask Mike. Wish I had more of an opinion on those guys, but haven't noticed much in practice on Johnson or Pruitt. See above answer on RGM.
Q: Hey Mike, Dolphins completed two trades: gave two 2nd round draft picks to Denver for Brandon Marshall and received one 5th round draft pick from SF for Ted Ginn Jr. Who do you honestly believe got the better deal with each of those trades? Jeff Miller, Defiance, Ohio.
A: Hard to say for sure until we see who is taken with those picks, so in the first case we really can't say for sure until the 2011 draft and then on into the season. But considering neither Marshall nor Ginn could realistically return to their former teams (too much baggage for both), the trading teams had to be relatively pleased with their respective hauls. In Marshall's case, the acquiring team had to shell out so much loot although probably not nearly as much as originally reported -- he'd better put up a fourth straight season of 100 or more catches and lead a team into the playoffs for the first time in his controversial career. If he fails on either count, there will be disappointment. The expectation level is that great.
Q: Any idea what number Marshall will wear and do you see the Dolphins trading down to get more picks? Brian Ruiz, Patterson, Calif.
A: No idea yet on the number, although he's listed as No. 0 on the roster at the Dolphins team Web site. I doubt he'll go with that, but who knows? Marshall mentioned No. 87 (which is open) at his introductory news conference last Thursday. The only other number in the 80s that's open is 88. Davone Bess' agent says No. 15 isn't for sale. Marshall wore No. 6 at Central Florida, but that belongs to Pat White. (Maybe he'll sell it if the Dolphins promise not to move him to receiver.) As for trading down, yes, I think that's very possible, almost likely at this point.
Q: I know everyone hates Ginn but he did give us two wins against the Jets -- including burning Revis, which not many have done -- so at least thanks for that. Good luck to him and hopefully Miami grabs a stud somehow in the 5th. Hey, BMarshall was a 4th! Michael, New York City.
A: Not sure if two wins over the Jets in one year offsets the heartache of the complete Ginn era in South Florida, but I join you in wishing him luck in the Bay Area. He might want to shut down that Twitter account, however. That was very poor form he showed on Friday in ripping a fan who basically said he was glad No. 19 was gone.
Q: Sorry Mike, but i gotta laugh every time I read comment's by south florida sport's writer's when there alway's positive , x-y- & z will or will never happen with a certain player on our team (DOLPHINS),or another player from a different team,-FYI- DON'T SEE THE FISH GETTING INVOLVED WITH BRANDON MARSHALL AND THIS TRI- FECTA, WON'T GIVE UP VALUABLE PICKS FOR TROUBLED DIVA RECEEEVAS, MIKE NOLAN MUST OF SAID STAY AWAY FROM THAT BROTHER HE IS BAAAAAAAD NEW'S,ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, That's why I laugh everytime I read these questions people like you respond to, you think you know more than all fans can every know, well it just goes to show that beat- writers are like weather men, wrong most of the time but still keep there job's. How about in the future just saying you have no idea what there gonna do because just like the average fan , Bill Parcells isn't gonna let me in on what the game plan is. SEE YA MIKE. Kilbasi King, Shenandoah, Penn.
A: Sure, KK, happy I could amuse you once more. Your missive certainly brought a smile to my face. Not sure about the education system up there in your home area, but you're right about one thing: The Tuna (and those who work for him) are as secretive as any organization in football, maybe in all of sports. They also, as Mick Jagger once sang in "You Can't Always Get What You Want," are "practiced at the art of deception." See GM Jeff Ireland's impassioned defense of Gibril Wilson eight days before dumping him for nothing and coach Tony Sparano's apparent denial of any interest in Marshall or Terrell Owens ("I don't know if either of them makes sense for our ballclub, one way or the other") at the owners meetings in Orlando just three weeks before going out and making the mega-deal for the ex-Denver Diva. You can ask the right questions in this business, but if people in the know mislead you to achieve their ultimate aims, there's not much we can do about it. Funny thing is, along the way, they're only keeping their fan base in the dark, but everyone (as usual) wants to shoot the messengers. On a side note, better bring an umbrella to Thursday's draft party. I'm predicting a deluge of hype, with a strong chance of scattered lies.
Q: Hey Mike, just heard that the Jets got Santonio Holmes from the Steelers for a 5th. What are the Dolphins doing? Why wouldn't they make an offer? Even with his off-field issues, he is well worth a 5th. What do you think? Graeme, Englewood.
A: I hear ya, Graeme. At first glance, it seems like a great opportunity squandered by a team in serious need of exactly what Holmes brings. It's not like he's old or infirm. At 26, the man from Belle Glade is coming off career bests of 79 catches and 1,248 receiving yards. However, subsequent reports have confirmed Holmes will miss the first four games of 2010 under the league's substance-abuse policy. (He's the first former Super Bowl MVP to meet such a fate, according to profootballtalk.com.) One more slip, and he could be lost for the year. Also, for a team coming off a span of three arrests of major contributors in a six-week span, this isn't exactly the best time for the Dolphins to be adding to their judicial uncertainty. Plus, the Steelers reportedly offered Holmes around to nearly the entire league AFC North excepted, I'm assuming and that fifth-rounder from the Jets was the best they could do. Lastly, productive as Holmes is, at 5-10 he isn't the big, physical (6-2 or better) speedster the Dolphins have been searching for to be their true No. 1 target. For all those reasons, I can understand why the Dolphins said "pass" yet again.
Q: With a rumour that Vincent Jackson may be on the move, do you think the number 12 spot in the draft is too high for him? Would the trifecta consider it? Or do you think (Brandon) Marshall can be had for a lower pick? 2nd and 3rd for Marshall? JKC, Vancouver, B.C.
A: Super agent Drew Rosenhaus said Sunday night on his weekly appearance on South Florida TV that Marshall will be traded for a second-rounder pick plus another lesser pick. Still don't see the Dolphins getting involved there, especially with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan having seen firsthand the combustible natire of Marshall's personality last year in Denver. As for Jackson, that No. 12 pick (plus the Dolphins' third-rounder, under the current tender rate) is too high considering the talent that should be on the board at that point. Jackson is also looking at a suspension of (most likely) two games after pleading guilty to his second DUI since 2006. Jackson isn't going anywhere.
Q: Mike, Have Fins Been Working With P White On Throwing This Off Season? Not A Bad Sr Season Throwing Ball At WVU. Was It a Mistake to Change Delivery In 1st Place? Robert Cerra, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Robert, Why Do You Capitalize Every Word In Your Question? Please Stop Doing That. It's Annoying To All Of Us, I'm Sure. As for Pat White, Tony Sparano said a few weeks ago in Orlando "there's still work to be done" with the second-year man out of West Virginia. He said there would be no position switch to slot receiver or anywhere else until the Dolphins "do (their) due diligence and find out the improvements made, one way or the other, and how good those improvements are." Sparano said his "biggest concern" with White has always been his ability to grasp the full offensive package, but right there with that, it seems, is "getting him to throw it the way we want him to throw it." Mistake to change the delivery? Probably not. A high release is essential to get the ball through those huge defensive linemen. But it should have been tested in advance of the draft, the way Tim Tebow has done, rather than waiting until after the Dolphins had spent a second-round pick on a QB who still needs significant development time.
Q: What went wrong with Pat White? When he was drafted he had amazing passing statistics. He was reputed to be a multifaceted threat. Could even be used as a receiver. Now I hear he is inaccurate, slow and basically useless. What happen to Pat White between collage to the pros? How could the Dolphins make such a big mistake? Mark, Maitland.
A: I think you're too harsh on Pat here. See above answer.
Q: Mike, can't the Dolphins send a 3rd-round pick and then some to Kansas City for Dwayne Bowe? He's a big physical receiver that Parcells likes. Phil, Pembroke Pines.
A: Funny you mention that. I asked Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli (Parcell's son-in-law) about Bowe and how he was coming along at the NFL Scouting Combine. Here's what he said: "We feel that Dwayne is a talented player that needs to continue to grow and get better. He made progress this year and he got better and he needs to continue to get better. That's a common them with all of us." As a followup, I asked Pioli what he thought Bowe's ceiling might be. "I don't know," he said. "Hope to find out. Hope we haven't seen it yet." Now, does any part of that answer make you believe Bowe the 25 year old from Miami Norland High School is more or less available via trade than he might have been in the past? Really not sure. He still has two years left on his rookie contract. He is coming off a season marked by a four-game NFL suspension for using a banned diuretic. He also saw his numbers go down markedly in the first year of a new offense even as newcomer Chris Chambers thrived in his absence; however, with Charlie Weis on the scene, the Chiefs need more offensive weapons, not less. That said, Pioli has made it clear since taking over a little over a year ago that he's constantly on the prowl for upgrades, and he's also looking to rebuild his offensive line. So after signing veteran Casey Wiegmann to come in and compete for the starting center job, and after bringing in Thomas Jones as the expected feature running back, and after throwing a ton of money at quarteraback Matt Cassell a year ago, you figure the Chiefs might be interested in Justin Smiley. So there is it: Smiley and a sixth-rounder for Bowe. At least that's an offer that might make some sense between trading partners with a strong history of collaboration.
Q: Hey Mike, thanks for the outlet for us fans! Parcells & Co always built their teams thru the draft, and to do that they had to ultimately deal some veteran players who still had value in order to acquire those picks. This is a formula the Pats continued to follow once Bill left and it's taken them to the promised land several times. Why are we not seeing players like Ginn, Brown and Pennington being dealt to do just this? Dan Mac, Asheville, N.C.
A: Well, according to a Dolphins source, you're about to see starting left guard Justin Smiley traded with three years left on his contract and most likely a number of years beyond that left on his NFL career. As for Ginn, I could see him dealt for a modest draft pick depending on the Dolphins' ability to find his successor in the first couple of rounds, especially if that pick has the ability to return kicks as well. Ronnie Brown is coming off surgery (and now a DUI charge), which doesn't exactly inspire a feeding frenzy out there in restricted free agency. Pennington, also coming off surgery, could be dealt at training camp. That's why there's an escalator in his new one-year contract.
Q: Hey mike my question to u is, what position do u think the Miami Dolphins need to upgrade the most on defense to even get close or have a shot at the playoffs? S,FS,NT,LB or any other position on defense and also what player or players in the draft do u think would fit in best with our defense that would be able to come in right away and make an impact? Is there any chance Miami would take Sergio Kindle or Eric Berry or Rolando McClain with the 12th pick? Who out of those players do u think Miami would even consider taking at 12 if, of course, they are still there? If not who is your pick at 12? thanks mike. Go Dolphins. Willie, Miami.
A: At this point, with 3 1/2 weeks left until the Dolphins are on the clock, I still say they should trade down and take Tennessee DT Dan Williams at around No. 18 or 20. But there's definitely a chance the Dolphins still take one of the three players you mentioned at No. 12, although Kindle seems to have dropped and Berry will likely be gone (and maybe McClain too).
Q: Please respond to my question regarding Channing Crowder. He sided publicly with Joey Porter, runs his mouth too (ie: Rex Ryan). He has never been a game changer, but I will admit we missed him in our run defense when he was hurt. That seems like it would be enough for the Trifecta to consider him in a trade. I am looking for something big to happen. There is more to the Porter fiasco than meets the eye. Thanks. John Valdes, Campobello, S.C.
A: See above with regard to the difficulty of trading a player coming off a significant injury. I think the Trifecta is intrigued by the possibilities of a Dansby-Crowder ILB combination.
Q: Hey Mike - what are the chances that the Dolphins trade their spot in the draft and what do you think they can get for it? At this point, I would rather see the Dolphins move down in the first round and pick-up some extra picks later on. Brian, Andover, N.J.
A: At this point, I'm with you. I think the chances are pretty good, especially if a Dez Bryant falls into their range and the Dolphins determine they don't want to mess with him.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about Sean Smith moving to FS. Why not the stud-tackling, ball-hawking Vontae Davis to FS? Then Will Allen gets his starting position back. Ted, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I found it interesting that Tony Sparano said this week in Orlando that his team would play the four best defensive backs. He didn't add "regardless of current position," but you could definitely infer that. Elite corners are harder to find (and more valuable) than elite safeties. Vontae could become an elite corner, so I think he stays put. At this point and we're still in late March here -- my guess would be a return to the arrangement from early last year: Will Allen starts and the two young guys rotate at the other spot. But if Will Allen's knee acts up at all as he returns from major surgery, he could be the one who rotates through with Vontae the most likely candidate to get the most snaps at corner.
Q: The Fins cut Matt Roth, who was signed by Cleveland and played well in their last 6 games. If the Fins are in need of LBing help why did they let him go? Was it salary, work ethic, talent or what. What am I missing from this picture or not grasping? If you need talent, you just don't let a good player go. Joseph Vigna, Port St. Lucie.
A: Agreed, Joseph. All of us are still waiting to hear a plausible explanation. The "football decision" idea still doesn't pass muster, especially not after Roth went nuts in Cleveland those last six games.
Q: I'm wondering why the Dolphins don't drop Pennington and take a crack at getting Vick. I think he's a bigger Pat White and he could do so much with their system. Jeff Kane, Pittsburgh.
A: Jeff, I know your question was sent in before these latest trade rumors involving Donovan McNabb, but if the Dolphins had an interest in Vick they would have made a run at him last summer. As my grandparents used to say, he's not their cup of tea.
Q: Hi Mike, can you explain to me what the prototypical defensive line on a 3-4 defense should be? The way I am imagining it is that you have an extremely big guy at NT to take up 2 blockers on a consistent basis. And the DE's on a 3-4 would be the DT's on a 4-3 that would significantly clog the tackles and guards so the OLB's or hybrid DE's can have their way. Blake, Dallas.
A: I'd say you pretty much answered your own question. Thanks!
Q: Hi Mike, all the experts keep saying this could be the deepest draft in 10 years, so my question is who are the Dolphins going to deal in order to acquire something akin to the 12 picks the Pats have amassed? Ginn, Crowder, Smiley, White, Thigpen could any of these bring in a 2nd/3rd or 4th? Thanks for the good work, Mike. Alan, Bucks, England.
A: Well, Smiley is already being shopped just for this purpose. Considering his health issues and the $13 million still left on his contract over the next three years, he MIGHT bring a third-rounder, more likely a little lower. As for the others you mentioned, I could definitely see Ginn being dealt for a mid-round pick. Unfortunately, Baltimore Cam Cameron's employer has already addressed its need at receiver with the additions of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. That always seemed like the best possible landing spot for Ginn. Cleveland is home, so maybe the Dolphins try to get Mike Holmgren to bite on a player who's got a little Desmond Howard in him. As for the QBs, somebody's going to get dealt at some point. Maybe that's why Tony Sparano refused to specify this week whether Tyler Thigpen or Pat White was the No. 2 QB. Chad Pennington is nominally No. 3, but come one, once he's fully healthy, he's your true No. 2, even if one of the others is active on game day for gimmick-package purposes. Dolphins, by the way, now have 10 picks, thanks to picking up another seventh-rounder as compensation.
Q: Hey, Mike! Keep up the great job! Your updates are always enjoyed! I see that Cincinnati just signed Antonio Bryant to a four year deal for around twenty-eight million dollars. I believe that [Larry] Fitzgerald is making about ten million a season, right? So by that logic Antonio Bryant should put up around 70% of the production that Fitzgerald does. I don't see that happening. Anyway, can you give the contract information for our WR stable as far as how much longer we have our current WR's and what the value of those contracts are? I know our receivers aren't flashy or getting elected to the Pro Bowl, but, given their production I bet we are getting a fair return on the financial investment maybe with the exception of Ted Ginn. Go Phins! Crace, Cincinnati.
A: Crace, Ginn is signed for another three seasons (through 2012) at the following salaries: $1.036 million, $1.394 million and $1.8 million. Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline are signed through 2012 at the rookie minimums ($395,000, $480,000 and $565,000). Greg Camarillo is signed through 2011 for $1.15 million and $1.55 million. And Davone Bess recently re-signed as a pretend (er, exclusive-rights) free agent. He'll reportedly make $470,000 in 2010 and would be a restricted free agent a year from now. That means the Dolphins' top five receivers are signed for 2010 at a combined $3.05 million, which as you noted won't even buy you half a season of Antonio Bryant's erratic production.
Q: Hey Mike, I would like to present my NFL OT suggestion. Each team is allowed a 2-minute possession to score a TD. If score is still tied go to decisive field kicks similar to soccer's penalty kicks. I think that would be interesting, what do you think? A Abady, Chicago.
A: Uh, so would having the two head coaches meet at midfield for a sumo match to decide who wins. Then again, that would really favor the Jets, wouldn't it?
Q: Since this regime is willing to admit mistakes by cutting them (Wilford and Gerbil), are they gonna cut (pardon the pun) their losses with Pat White? Dude stinks. Tyler Thigpen is clearly better and we need Pennington. Can't carry four QBs, White can't play receiver or RB. Can you foresee this happening???? Devidid Woods, Pittsburgh.
A: Not on St. Patrick's Day, that's for sure. Eventually, however, yes. You're right about the current overbooking at the position. Something has to give. Whether that will be White moving to receiver -- something Tony Sparano has brushed aside on the few occasions it has been mentioned -- or a trade involving one of the other QBs not named Henne remains to be seen. I have to believe, however, the Dolphins will give White another offseason to continue getting stronger and keep working on the playbook before making any sort of final decision on his future.
Q: Hey Mike, what do u think of Sean Smith moving to FS safety? His speed and height would make him a great coverage safety. Jason, Hawaii.
A: This has come up before, and my stock reply is Smith could move inside down the road as he adds weight and loses some speed. But for now, I think he's best suited for corner, where he had a solid debut year. His ball skills are probably the best among Dolphins defensive backs, but his tackling still needs work.
Q: What's good, Mike? Since the Dolphins need help at the wide receiver position, do you see Demaryius Thomas of Georgia Tech really dropping to the Phins in the second round or am I dreaming? Jake Taylor, Palm Bay.
A: That's the name that keeps popping to the top of my list of second-round receiver options, which is where I see the Dolphins grabbing their latest candidate to solve a long-running problem. How realistic is that? Hard to say until after Thomas' has his personal workout day closer to the draft, if "Bay-Bay" is able to have one at all after breaking a metatarsal bone in his foot and undergoing surgery in mid-February. (According to the great Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Thomas is out in Arizona undergoing radical therapy on his foot in hopes of running for scouts before the April 15 deadline). King predicts Thomas will go in the bottom quarter of the first round, but there's also the matter of Thomas' background (mother and grandmother in jail for cocaine trafficking) that could cause him to slip even further in the draft. The Dolphins put huge stock in a player's makeup, but if Thomas is there at No. 43, I think he'd be too tempting for the Dolphins to pass up (assuming his foot is recovering properly).
Q: Who do you see the Dolphins picking up to replace Joey Porter and eventually Jason Taylor? K. Turner.
A: Good question. Cameron Wake will get the first crack at stepping into one of those spots, and you have to believe the Dolphins will be looking for another pass-rushing OLB early in the draft, possibly as early as the 12th overall pick. Whether that's Sergio Kindle or Derrick Morgan or somebody else remains to be seen, but they definitely need an infusion of youth at the position. As for JT, things have been awfully quiet on that front, haven't they?
Planning to answer more of your questions on Friday morning, so please send them along (as well as submissions for Guest Blogger Friday). In the meantime, I'd love to have you as a follower at http://twitter.com/MikeBerardino.
Q: Mike, I have a request for you. Given Jim Mandich's health, I have started a petition to ask the Dolphins to add him this season to the Honor Roll at Sun Life Stadium, which is an honor that he has earned based on his many years of service to the Dolphins as a player, broadcaster, and his work with the alumni association. I am sure that he will be getting better and doing our games on the radio for many years to come (God willing), but this is an honor that he deserves to enjoy with his family, friends and fans. Please help us promote this petition any way you can and let everyone else at the Sun Sentinel know. Our Facebook page promoting this is: http://www.facebook.com/peter.ramis?ref=profile#!/pages/We-want-Jim-Mandich-added-to-the-Dolphin-Honor-Roll/397992394847?ref=ts. Peter Ramis, Miami.
A: Great idea, Peter. Count me among your supporters.
Q: Is it possible to offer Denver next year first and fourth pick for Brandon Marshall? Caribbeanfin
A: Teams may offer to work out deals for other teams' restricted free agents in all kinds of creative ways; they don't necessarily have to pay the stated price tag in terms of picks. However, those draft picks must be in the 2010 draft and the deal must be worked out no later than April 14, eight days before the start of the 2010 draft. As for Marshall coming to the Dolphins, don't hold your breath.
Q: Got a weird idea in my head. No one seems to want the first pick anymore. The Rams might be targeting Bradford. They know the next two teams don't want Bradford. What is to stop them from doing what the Vikes did a few years ago, on purpose? They could have their pick ready, waiting for the right slot (Number three, as Washington would take him, were he there). They could get the guy they wanted, in a more affordable slot. I know you aren't getting value back for dropping down, but who cares? They are still getting their guy. Any team could do this, if they are targeting someone they would be reaching for. Have the pick ready just before the next team they suspect might go for him. Rob G, Atlanta.
A: Interesting idea, Rob, but WAY too risky that high in the draft -- don't forget, the Lions or Bucs could always trade down with another team that needs a quarterback (if, indeed, that's who the Rams decide they want). As for the money component, there's a QB premium that stands separate and apart from the slotting that takes place in the remainder of the draft. Look at the contract Mark Sanchez got from the Jets last year at No. 5: (five years, up to $60 million, with $28 million guaranteed), not to mention the deal the Lions gave Matthew Stafford at No. 1 (six years, $78 million, $42 million guaranteed).
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