Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dolphins trim roster to 53

The deadline for final cuts came and went this afternoon and the Dolphins parted ways with 17 players to get down to the 53-man limit. Keep in mind that although certain players did not get cut today, it does not mean they are safe for the regular season. The team is sure to add some players from other teams' cuts, which will push some more guys off the roster.

For now, here are the team's final cuts, along with some brief analysis.

CB Will Billingsley

Billingsley had intriguing physical tools but was way too raw to make the roster over the likes of Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas. He could be a project on the practice squad.

LB Titus Brown

Brown is a solid pass-rushing prospect but did not stand out in preseason. He too is a candidate for the practice squad.

S Courtney Bryan

Even with the release of Davis, Bryan didn't have a good chance to make the roster as Yeremiah Bell's backup. If the Dolphins don't add anyone else, a free safety like Renaldo Hill will probable double as a backup strong safety. As a Cameron signing with no practice squad eligibility, it seems unlikely he'll return to Miami.

C Mike Byrne

The writing was on the wall for my boy Byrne when he didn't play in the final two preseason games. Not surprisingly, I've been told he isn't in consideration for the practice squad right now.

WR Jayson Foster

Foster's size will always be a negative and he failed to make up for it with any impressive special teams play in the preseason. I expect he could make he practice squad, but if Armstrong gets cut in favor of a waiver claim, Armstrong would probably jump him in line for that.

LB Maurice Fountain

Fountain never really had a shot to make the team. He's had on great year in af2 and a barely notable year in the arena league. The talent just isn't there.

LB Junior Glymph

Glymph had a slight edge having been in camp with the Cowboys last season, but Rob Ninkovich easily outplayed him for a reserve outside linebacker spot. He'll probably continue to be a journeyman.

T Daren Heerspink

He may have been only one of four tackles on the roster, but he never showed enough to warrant an active roster spot. The Dolphins will look at other teams' cuts for tackle depth.

RB Lex Hilliard

Hilliard showed very little in the preseason, averaging 2.8 yards per carry in mop-up duty in the preseason. Fellow sixth-rounder Jalen Parmele made the team and is far and away the better prospect. I'm not even sure Hilliard has earned a roster spot at this point.

FB Reagan Mauia

Some fans (and EA Sports, who rated him an 89 in Madden 09) might be surprised, but I'm not. I had initially expected Mauia to make the team because of his upside, but Boomer Grigsby clearly outperformed Mauia in camp and preseason and this was clearly the right choice. Mauia is overrated as a blocker, he's not a good ball carrier, he can't catch the ball and he doesn't play special teams. Of course, he'll probably end up on the Patriots and rush for 100 yards against us.

LB Edmond Miles

This is one of the two cut I did not predict, though it's certainly not surprising. I had Miles making the roster solely because of his special teams play, but I fully realize he's very undersized for the scheme and understand this move completely. The Dolphins will look for a more appropriate backup inside. (Ahmad Brooks, please.)

TE Matthew Mulligan

Perhaps the least surprising cut of all. Mulligan entered camp as the sixth tight end and only moved up to fifth because Aaron Halterman went on injured reserve. A pure blocking tight end, I'm not sure he has a future in this league.

TE Justin Peelle

A surprise to some, Peelle was simply beat out by Ryan as the No. 3 tight end. Ryan showed good blocking skills in the preseason and even made a great touchdown catch against the Saints. Peelle will catch on somewhere else.

LB Kelly Poppinga

Another guy that really never had a prayer. Poppinga was invisible in the preseason and clearly is not older brother Brady, who starts for the Packers.

G/T Pedro Sosa

This might not be the end for Sosa in Miami. The most recent signing on the team, Sosa wasn't around long enough to contribute right away, but he should be a practice squad candidate and, if so, could be activated during the season.

G Matt Spanos

I initially had Spanos making the roster, but he was a guy I felt would be replaced by a waiver claim and wouldn't be around at the season opener. With Spanos already cut and only eight offensive linemen on the team, it seems another cut down survivor will get the axe instead of Spanos. He is a candidate for the practice squad, but I'd prefer Sosa.

DT Anthony Toribio

3-4 teams often only keep two nose tackles and Toribio had little chance of making the roster with Jason Ferguson and Paul Soliai ahead of him. His future in the league might not extend far behind this preseason.


Overall, the players that were cut that I did not predict were Edmond Miles and Matt Spanos. Making the team that I did not predict were Anthony Armstrong and Lionel Dotson. Other than that it seems I was right on, but then again there weren't many hard predictions here. It's the sign of a team that's really lacking depth and still rebuilding.



Of the guys that survived the final cuts, I'd consider these five the most likely to be cut in favor of outside players prior to the season opener:

1. Anthony Armstrong
2. Lionel Dotson
3. Quentin Moses
4. Rob Ninkovich
5. Ike Ndukwe

If I had to make one specific guess, I'd say that one of the sixth receivers (likely Armstrong) will be cut in favor of a ninth offensive lineman. There is no way the team goes into the regular season with only eight offensive lineman.

Remember, the Miami's roster will not be finalized until the Jets and Dolphins square off on Sept. 7, so keep checking back for any roster moves the team makes over the next week.

Friday, August 29, 2008

QB Josh McCown traded to Panthers

Although the Dolphins have spent recent weeks shopping second-year quarterback John Beck around the league, it was veteran Josh McCown who was given the first ticket out of town. A day before final cuts, the Dolphins traded McCown to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick in 2009.

Background

A third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 out of Sam Houston State, McCown played four seasons for the Cardinals through the 2005 season. He spent the 2006 season as a backup in Detroit before heading to Oakland in 2007. During the first six years of his career, he completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 6,582 yards and 35 touchdowns along with 40 interceptions.

An unrestricted free agent in 2008, McCown was signed by the Dolphins to a two-year, $6.25 million contract with $2.5 million guaranteed. He was expected to compete for the starting job with 2007 second-rounder John Beck, but the arrival of free agent Chad Pennington and emergence of rookie Chad Henne pushed McCown down the depth chart. He did not appear in the team's final three preseason games.

Analysis

McCown was brought in this offseason to provide a veteran presence on a team that had none at quarterback, but Chad Pennington was an upgrade in that department and therefore made McCown expendable. McCown would have been relegated to third string this season if he were to make the squad at all, so it is good the team was able to get something in return. The compensation is likely in the area of a conditional seventh-rounder, as is often the case with these types of deals. If McCown were to be cut by Carolina prior to the regular season, Miami would likely get nothing. (I do, however, expect McCown will earn a roster spot over Brett Basanez.)

Dolphins fans have to be happy with this move because the organization was able to get something in return for a player that could very well have been cut. While it is true the team did pay $2.5 million guaranteed to a player they kept exactly six months, the team has plenty of cap space and the money is really a non-issue.

The trade of McCown leaves the team with three quarterbacks: Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and John Beck. Pennington and Henne are entrenched in the top two spots on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Beck's status is not totally secure even with the departure of McCown. Beck will remain with the team beyond tomorrow's final cuts, but I expect the Dolphins will still try to deal Beck and pull the trigger if they get what they deem enough in return. It would not surprise me to see Beck moved sometime between now and the trade deadline (usually in mid-October), so that is something to keep an eye on.

Final 53-Man Roster Predictions: Defense & Special Teams

This is the second part of my final roster predictions, with this entry covering the defense and special teams. As stated in my offensive predictions (as in predictions on offensive players, not predictions that are offensive), I am predicting the 53-man roster based only on the players currently with the franchise. I will note, when applicable, when a player is a candidate to get replaced by another team's cut.

Defensive end

In: Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, Vonnie Holliday, Randy Starks, Rodrique Wright
Out: Lionel Dotson

Not a ton of surprises here. Wright is the only real question mark, but he's had a good preseason and I like his potential and fit in the defense. The two high-drafted rookies have really impressed, Langford in particular. Meanwhile, seventh-round pick Dotson had been invisible prior to the Saints game and I think it's too little too late. He may, however, have earned himself a shot at the practice squad.

Nose tackle

In: Jason Ferguson, Paul Soliai
Out: Anthony Toribio

Ferguson is a lock as starter and is clearly a force in the interior line. Soliai has a ton of potential and has followed up a disappointing rookie season in 2007 with a strong camp and preseason. The team would be crazy to part ways with Soliai at this point, and you can be sure he'd be snatched up by a division rival immediately. Toribio, an undrafted rookie from Carson-Newman, has failed to stand out.

Outside linebacker

In: Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Rob Ninkovich
Out: Junior Glymph, Titus Brown, Maurice Fountain

If everyone had just listened to me from the beginning, Matt Roth could have been working at outside linebacker this whole time instead of just the last week or two! As it is, Roth is now the favorite to start on the strong side opposite Joey Porter. Behind those two, Quentin Moses and Charlie Anderson are not locks but will both make the team in my estimation. (Especially Moses, who I still feel has a ton of potential.) Ninkovich and Glymph are the favorites for a potential fifth and likely final outside linebacker spot and while Glymph has the Cowboys connection, Ninkovich has been more impressive in preseason which is why I'm giving him the nod. Brown hasn't stood out and Fountain, a recent addition, has very little pro experience.

Inside linebacker

In: Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor, Edmond Miles
Out: Kelly Poppinga

Crowder and Ayodele are entrenched as starters and Torbor seems to be the top backup. Miles is undersized for the scheme, but he's a very good special teamer which is why I'm initially giving him a spot here. Granted, he could easily be replaced by another team's cut, or he could give way to a player at another position (strong safety perhaps?). Poppinga, the brother of Packers starter Brady, just hasn't shown much of anything.

Cornerback

In: Will Allen, Andre' Goodman, Michael Lehan, Nathan Jones, Joey Thomas
Out: Will Billingsley

Out of the six players the Dolphins have at the position, the five most likely to make the team are blatantly obvious. Billingsley is very inexperienced and raw and is more of practice squad material. Meanwhile, Allen and Goodman should start with Lehan seeing plenty of playing time as well. Thomas and Jones are both former Cowboys who can hold down the No. 4 and 5 jobs, though neither will be completely safe until the season opener.

Safety

In: Chris Crocker, Jason Allen, Renaldo Hill, Yeremiah Bell
Out: Courtney Bryan

It seems Chris Crocker has become the favorite to start at free safety, while Renaldo Hill has had a strong preseason while recovering from a torn ACL. Jason Allen has had his moments too, and while he hasn't totally earned a roster spot I think the team will keep him around and continue to develop him. As a former first-rounder, it wouldn't be ideal to cut him anyway.

With the surprise release of Keith Davis, Courtney Bryan is the lone backup to Yeremiah Bell at strong safety. I still don't think Bryan makes the team, and if Bell has a true backup (as opposed to one of the free safeties doubling as one) it will likely come from another team.

Special teams

In: Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
Out: Olindo Mare, Matt Turk, Ed Perry

Okay, so none of these guys actually have competition on the team right now. There's nothing to predict here.

Players most likely to be replaced by other teams' cuts:
1. Edmond Miles
2. Joey Thomas
3. Nathan Jones
4. Rob Ninkovich
5. Rodrique Wright

Most likely practice squad candidates:
1. Will Billingsley
2. Anthony Toribio
3. Lionel Dotson
4. Titus Brown
5. Maurice Fountain

And so concludes my final roster predictions for the Miami Dolphins in 2008. We'll know within the next two days how on (or off) the mark I was, and regardless of how well I did I'll be here with all the details on Miami's cuts as well as their additions that likely follow.

Final 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

As the preseason comes to a close around the league, the Dolphins topped the New Orleans Saints Thursday night to finish a strong 3-1 in this year's exhibition series.

Over the next two days, all 32 teams will be forced to trim their 75-man rosters down to the regular season active roster limit of 53. The Dolphins are currently below the roster limit at 72 players, but that still leaves 19 to be trimmed by the August 30 deadline.

It should be noted that the Dolphins' final 53-man roster is not all with the team at present time. There is no doubt the team will scour the waiver wires looking to add depth and talent to the lower end of their roster.

As it would be too difficult a task to predict a complete final roster including players added from the cuts of other teams, I am simply going to predict the 53-man roster based on the players currently with the franchise. I will note, when applicable, when a player on the team is a candidate to get replaced by another team's cut.

Quarterback

In:
Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, John Beck
Out: Josh McCown

If there was ever a position to have a qualifier on a prediction, this is it. There is no question the team would love to trade Beck and if they can get something for him I think they'll jump at it. That would obviously change things and McCown would be the guy to stick as the No. 3 quarterback. I predict that if Beck can't be dealt, he'll stick around as he should have more trade value in the future than McCown would. If Beck is shipped off, McCown stays.

(Side note: You know what I'd like to see? Beck traded, McCown cut, and the Dolphins pick up Jets rookie fifth-rounder Erik Ainge, who could be the odd man out with Brett Favre, Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff.)

Running back

In: Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele
Out: Lex Hilliard

There are no guarantees with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, as the first is one slip-up away from another lengthy suspension and the other is still recovering from a torn ACL. That is exactly why keeping four backs makes sense here, even if it's not preferred. Cobbs is a valued special teams guy and Parmele appears to have the makings of a good backup running back and spot starter. Hilliard has shown almost nothing that says he should make the team, so this should be an easy choice.

Fullback

In: Boomer Grigsby
Out: Reagan Mauia

So he can run through drywall. It's not that impressive, and it sure as hell doesn't make him a good football player. Reagan Mauia has been completely shown up by free agent signing Boomer Grigsby. Grigsby is a better blocker, better pass catcher and a superb special teamer. Sparano has heavily implied he prefers to keep only one fullback and likes one that can contribute in different areas. That says to me that Grigsby has the job and Mauia's out the door.

Wide receiver

In: Ted Ginn Jr., Derek Hagan, Ernest Wilford, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo
Out: Anthony Armstrong, Jayson Foster

There really is only one question for me here, and it's the No. 5 spot. I think Ginn, Hagan, Wilford and Bess are locks, or at least close to it. I'm predicting Camarillo gets the No. 5 job because of his special teams play, though Armstrong has made a case for himself as late. Foster meanwhile hasn't shown nearly enough to warrant a spot. If the team kept six receivers, I'd choose Armstrong for the last spot, but I think five is the way to go and Armstrong heads to the practice squad.

Tight end

In: Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Sean Ryan
Out: Justin Peelle, Matthew Mulligan

I was uncertain this offseason about Martin making the team and to be honest I had hoped he would not. Unfortunately, it seems Sparano has declared him a lock along with the starter Fasano. That leaves one spot left (assuming the team keeps three) and that comes down to Peelle and Ryan. The latter is a Parcells boy and has shown strong blocking skills. He also had a great touchdown grab in the preseason finale. Peelle has been solid as well, coming back from a knee injury that hampered him early in camp. It seems to be a toss-up as to which one will make the team, so I'm going to go out on a minor limb and say Ryan will. That being said, the No. 3 tight end could be replaced before the regular season anyway.

Offensive line

In: Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Trey Darilek, Shawn Murphy, Ike Ndukwe, Matt Spanos
Out: Mike Byrne, Pedro Sosa, Daren Heerspink

As I see it, there are six locks on the offensive line, and those players are the first six I listed above. (Long through Darilek). Darilek is the only non-starter lock, but I consider him one because of his versatility. Not only is he currently serving as backup center where he's played a ton the past two games, but he's also got tons of guard and tackle experience. That will get him to stick.

I figure you have three more spots left after that for a total of nine offensive lineman. Based on who is on the team presently, Murphy, Ndukwe and Spanos seem to be the most logical choices. Murphy because of his draft status, Ndukwe because he is the only backup left tackle (and has guard experience) and Spanos because he has been working as the sole No. 2 right guard before Pedro Sosa was added a few days back.

That being said, Ndukwe and Spanos will not be safe if they survive final cuts, because I would almost put money on them being replaced by players cut from other teams. As I said before, these predictions are based only on the Dolphins' current team and that is the sole reason Ndukwe and Spanos are considered "in" here. I'll be shocked if they are on the team come September 7.

Players most likely to be replaced by other teams' cuts:
1. Matt Spanos
2. Ike Ndukwe
3. Justin Peelle
4. Greg Camarillo

Most likely practice squad candidates:
1. Anthony Armstrong
2. Matt Spanos
3. Pedro Sosa
4. Daren Heerspink

Well, those are my predictions for the Dolphins' roster on offense. We have here a total of 25 players making the team, made up of three quarterbacks, four running backs, one fullback, five wide receivers, three tight ends and nine offensive linemen. That leaves 28 players for defense and special teams, so check out my next entry (it will be above this one on the blog) for those predictions!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SS Keith Davis released (no more details to come?)

With no further details coming out and all the Dolphins beat writers apparently convinced this is just a football move, I suppose it's time to cover the Keith Davis release here. As I'm sure you know by now, the Dolphins released Davis yesterday despite already being three men under the roster limit. Davis had been signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Cowboys this offseason.

Background

An undrafted free agent in 2002 out of San Jose State, Davis spent the first six years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. (Technically, he was out of football in 2003, but whatever.) He started a career-high 15 games in 2005, but has primarily been a backup and special teams player where he has excelled. In 58 games (22 starts), Davis has recorded 132 tackles, three forced fumbles and five passes defensed.

Signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Dolphins this offseason, Davis had been listed as the No. 2 strong safety behind Yeremiah Bell and ahead of Courtney Bryan on the depth chart all training camp and preseason.

Analysis

The timing and circumstances surrounding this move are curious to say the least. Things to consider:
  • Davis had plenty of experience with Bill Parcells, which was clearly the reason he was brought in.
  • He was given a two-year, $3.5 million contract this offseason. Not starter money, but not exactly minimum salaries either.
  • Davis is a proven special teams player, which is a unit that has struggled for the Dolphins in recent years.
  • While not a starting-caliber player on defense, Davis has plenty of experience at both safety positions and is a suitable backup.
  • With Davis' departure, the only backup behind Yeremiah Bell at strong safety is second-year undrafted player Courtney Bryan, who has not stood out at all in the preseason.
  • Prior to Davis' release, the Dolphins had 72 players. This is three under the current 75-man roster limit, so there was no need to cut anyone at the time.
Davis was never a lock to make the team, but given his history with Parcells and Miami's safety depth I would have considered him a very good shot. Davis had not stood out on defense in the preseason, but his special teams play was good as always. Furthermore, Courtney Bryan hadn't showcased himself much either and in my view doesn't have much of an NFL career. I cannot see Davis' release meaning Bryan will make the team even if he is currently second and final strong safety on the roster at the moment.

What the move might mean is the Dolphins will keep Yeremiah Bell as the lone strong safety along with three free safeties in Chris Crocker, Jason Allen and Renaldo Hill. However, I don't consider any of those three good candidates to fill in for Bell at strong safety as they all lack the bulk to play the run as often as they would need to do. That is why I would expect the Dolphins to add another strong safety after final cuts and potentially keep five safeties total.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SS Keith Davis released, more details to come

In a very surprising move, the Dolphins have reportedly released safety Keith Davis. The 29-year-old Davis was signed this offseason as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys.

The move is surprising for several reasons. They are:
  • The Dolphins gave him a two-year, $3.5 million this offseason and he is a "Parcells guy."
  • He's a standout special teams player in addition to having experience at both safety spots. He hadn't played poorly enough this preseason, nor had anyone else stood out, to make you think he was in danger of not making the club.
  • The move comes with the Dolphins having essentially no depth at strong safety behind Yeremiah Bell.
  • The move also comes when the team had 72 players - three under the current 75-man limit that remains in effect until final cuts four days from now.
The move is made all the more curious as the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reports that Davis was initially on the team's flight manifest to New Orleans and was even given a room number, proving this was a last-minute thing.

I am inclined to agree with Salguero that there is more to this than meets the eye here. (The good news is we now have a reason for a Transformers tag on the blog!) That is why I will refrain on analyzing this transaction until more details are released in the next day or two. It is a strange move and is definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Undrafted rookie OL Pedro Sosa signed

Comfortably under today's new 75-man roster limit, the Dolphins added rookie offensive lineman Pedro Sosa on Monday. Sosa had initially worked out for the Dolphins in July but was not signed. He will wear No. 78.

Background

Sosa was a three-year starter at Rutgers at the left tackle position. He was named a second-team All-Big East selection as both a junior and a senior. A knee injury hampered his senior season and prevented him from participating in the NFL Scouting Combine. Originally projected as a mid-round selection, the injury caused Sosa to go undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft. He initially worked out for the Dolphins in July but was not signed.

Analysis

This is a good, low-risk move by the Dolphins. Sosa is a legitimate NFL prospect and provides good competition for Miami's lacking offensive line depth. He has good quickness and athleticism, which make up for being slightly smaller (6-3, 310) than the ideal. He played tackle at Rutgers but probably projects more at guard at the next level. That being said, his experience at tackle does make help his versatility in the NFL.

One would initially assume such a late arrival would significantly hurt Sosa's chances of making the squad. That being said, Miami is sorely lacking both talent and experience in offensive line depth and none of their current backups (except Trey Darilek) are locks to make the team.

Sosa initially worked at right guard, and if he remains there he will provide direct competition for fellow undrafted rookie Matt Spanos (USC). Spanos has been working with the second-team at right guard lately, but he is a strong candidate to be replaced on the roster once final cuts are made and the Dolphins claim players from other teams.

I'm going to predict that Sosa makes the team ahead of Spanos, though if he does not he'd be a viable candidate for the practice squad. If Sosa proves he is healthy, he is a much better prospect than Spanos and should be able to jump him on the depth chart.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dolphins release Kircus and Roberson

(Note: Sorry for the late update on this, my birthday was this weekend and I've been busy. I'll have something on the Dolphins-Chiefs game tomorrow.)

Despite already being below next Tuesday's 75-man roster limit, the Dolphins parted ways with two players prior to their third preseason game on August 23. Wide receiver David Kircus and Chris Roberson - both in their first year with the club - were released.

Background

A sixth-round draft choice by the Lions in 2005, Kircus spent two seasons in Detroit before being cut prior to the 2005 season. He played with the Denver Broncos in 2006 and was out of football last season before being signed by the Dolphins in February.

Roberson, 25, was drafted in the seventh round by the Jaguars in 2005 out of Eastern Michigan. He spent two seasons with the team, including the 2006 season on injured reserve. He was out of football in 2007 and was signed by the Dolphins on July 30 after the team waived undrafted rookie cornerback Scorpio Babers.

Analysis

Not really any big surprises here. I initially thought Kircus had a shot to beat out Greg Camarillo, but Kircus failed to separate himself and as we all know Camarillo is a valued special teams guy. The departure of Kircus leaves the Dolphins with seven receivers for two, maybe three spots. I think Camarillo and Davone Bess have the No. 4 and 5 spots locked up, which leaves Anthony Armstrong and Jayson Foster trying to convince the organization they should keep a sixth wideout. Either would be a strong candidate for the practice squad.

Roberson's departure leaves the Dolphins with six corners. There's little uncertainty left at the position in my view, as I believe Allen, Andre' Goodman, Michael Lehan, Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas are likely to earn the five spots on the active roster. Will Billingsley is the odd man out, though his physical tools make him an interesting practice squad candidate.

With Kircus and Roberson gone, the Dolphins' active roster now stands at 71. As the roster limit after this Tuesday's cut down is 75, the Dolphins are not required to make any roster moves this week. The roster must be trimmed to 53 on August 30.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Six Potential Cowboys Cuts to Watch

Since the arrival of Bill Parcells in Miami, there has been no shortage of players, coaches and executives added to the Dolphins' organization with connections to the Dallas Cowboys.

With NFL teams trimming more than 20 players of their rosters by August 30, the Dolphins will have another opportunity to reel in even more ex-Cowboys. There is no question the Dolphins are lacking depth in certain areas and it will be interesting to see if Parcells and Ireland scour their former team's cuts to bolster the back end of Miami's roster.

Here are six Cowboys players that could be appealing to Miami if they fail to make the squad in Dallas. Why six? Because, that's why.

1. Richard Bartel
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Height/Weight: 6-3, 246
  • Age: 25
  • College: Tarleton State
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... John Beck and/or Josh McCown
It is likely the Dolphins will part ways with either John Beck or Josh McCown prior the regular season, despite Sparano's weak claim the team could keep four quarterbacks. But is it possible the Dolphins could actually ditch both Beck and McCown? If the Dolphins deemed a prospect worthy of the No. 3 job, the answer is yes.

If Beck is dealt before the season begins (which seems quite possible now) and the two Chads have the top two spots on the depth chart locked up, is it really necessary to keep McCown as the emergency third-stringer? McCown was merely brought in to be a veteran on the squad - a role now filled by a more talented Pennington. In my mind, I'm not sure the Dolphins would have a problem adding a prospect like Bartel as the No. 3 guy rather than keep a mediocre journeyman like McCown.

What's the skinny on Bartel? He was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and spent the season on the practice squad. He originally attended SMU before transferring to Tarleton State. He's obviously a bit of a project, but he has a good arm is pretty smart. Bartel may end up on Dallas' practice squad if the team elects to keep only Tony Romo and Brad Johnson active, so why not offer Bartel a better gig and decent pay raise?

2. Rodney Hannah
  • Position: Tight end
  • Height/Weight: 6-6, 255
  • Age: 24
  • College: Houston
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... David Martin, Justin Peelle or Sean Ryan
Tight end is probably one of the worst positions on the Dolphins at this point and the team is hoping Anthony Fasano shows some of the talent that earned him a second-round selection by Dallas in 2006. Beyond that, free-agent bust David Martin and pure blockers Justin Peelle and Sean Ryan are all competing for roster spots. While two of the three might make the team initially, none is so valuable they couldn't be replaced at any time.

Hannah will likely be pushed off the Dallas roster by a talented group of Dallas tight ends in Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett and Tony Curtis. A former college basketball player, Hannah has good size and physical tools and spent last season on the Cowboys' practice squad. While the next Antonio Gates he might be not be, he's certainly a prospect worthy adding to Miami's tight end stable, where there is little upside to be found.

3. Remi Ayodele
  • Position: Nose tackle
  • Height/Weight: 6-2, 300
  • Age: 25
  • College: Oklahoma
  • Acquired: Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... Paul Soliai, though not necessarily anyone at the position
If his surname sounds familiar, it's because his older brother, linebacker Akin Ayodele, is the Dolphins' starting inside linebacker. While not as accomplished as his sibling, Remi has had a few stints with the Cowboys over the past three years made his NFL debut with the team last season. He's a borderline prospect who doesn't have nearly the upside of Paul Soliai, which is why I could see Soliai sticking around even if Ayodele were to be added. That could be a long shot, however, as 3-4 teams don't often carry three nose tackles.

4. Alan Ball
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Height/Weight: 6-1, 176
  • Age: 23
  • College: Illinois
  • Acquired: 7th Round (2007)
  • Could replace... Nathan Jones or Joey Thomas
Sparano has spoken repeatedly about "turning over every rock" in trying to find players and cornerback is definitely a position where the rock-turning won't slow down any time soon. The Dolphins lack a true No. 1 corner and have depth issues as well. No one in the group outside of Will Allen is entirely untouchable.

Even if Ball is cut, it doesn't necessarily mean he's not talented. He's currently battling at a position that also features Terence Newman, Anthony Henry, Pacman Jones and Mike Jenkins. Ball has good height for a corner, is still very young and has some upside. While Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas are both in Miami because of their Dallas connections, Ball is a guy that could cause one to be replaced.

5. Darrell Robertson
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Height/Weight: 6-4, 255
  • Age: 22
  • College: Georgia Tech
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2008)
  • Could replace... Rob Ninkovich, Junior Glymph or Titus Brown
Unlike the previous four players mentioned, Robertson hasn't a direct connection to any of the Dolphins' staff. That being said, Ireland surely scouted Robertson in preparation for the 2008 NFL Daft.

The Dolphins are still transitioning to the 3-4 defense and lack an entire roster of ideal personnel. The Dolphins are thin at outside linebacker with only Joey Porter assured a starting job and no one else even guaranteed a roster spot.

An All-ACC performer at defensive end, Robertson is a talented pass rusher and prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. It might be worth giving him a shot over Rob Ninkovich, journeyman Junior Glymph or undrafted rookie Titus Brown.

6. WR Todd Lowber
  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Height/Weight: 6-3, 205
  • Age: 26
  • College: Ramapo
  • Acquired: Free Agent (2008)
  • Could replace... Greg Camarillo, David Kircus or Anthony Armstrong
Like Robertson, Lowber has no direct connection to Parcells, Ireland or any former Cowboys coaches now in Miami. Admittedly, I list him here primarily because I have been intrigued by him as a prospect for over a year now.

Lowber played college basketball and was a high jumper at a school called Ramapo in New Jersey. Until his arrival in the NFL in 2007, he had never played organized football in his life. So how exactly did he even make it this far when most of us have more experience with the game than him?

That can easily be explained by one number: 4.11. That's the 40-yard dash time Lowber put up in a personal workout in 2007, prompting the Minnesota Vikings to offer him a contract. He failed to make the squad out of camp and spent time on the New York Giants' practice squad last season, earning a Super Bowl ring in the process.

Re-signed by the Giants this offseason, Lowber was released this summer and was briefly on the practice squad of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts before being picked up by Dallas. His pursuit to make the Cowboys is currently being chronicled on the HBO series Hard Knocks.

It's not surprising that Lowber is still very raw as an NFL receiver. He still trying to grasp the game and has much to learn, but his physical tools are undeniable. He has good size, blazing speed and astounding leaping ability to go along with smarts and drive. As thin as Miami is at receiver, it'd be worth trying to get Lowber, if only on the practice squad, and see if receivers coach Karl Dorrell can tap some of his potential.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cornerback Travis Daniels dealt to Browns

It wasn't the rampantly-rumored John Beck trade, but the Dolphins did make a minor splash on the trade front today. Fourth-year cornerback Travis Daniels was shipped to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for what is believed to be a seventh-round pick.

Background

Daniels, 25, was drafted by former Dolphins head coach Nick Saban in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Saban had previously coached Daniels while the two were at LSU.

Despite being a second-day pick, Daniels was thrust into the starting lineup early as he opened 14 of 16 games for the Dolphins in 2005. It would prove to be his best season for the Dolphins as he recorded 61 tackles, 13 pass deflections and an interception.

Daniels appeared in 28 games over the following two seasons, starting 11. He recorded just two interceptions and five pass deflections over in that span.

Prior to the trade, Daniels had been competing for a backup cornerback job with Nathan Jones, Joey Thomas, Will Billingsley and Chris Roberson in training camp.

Daniels' departure leaves the Dolphins with only half their 2005 draft class remaining on the roster. Second overall pick Ronnie Brown, second-rounder Matt Roth and third-rounder Channing Crowder are still with the franchise, while Daniels and seventh-rounders Anthony Alabi (Chiefs) and Kevin Vickerson (Titans) have moved on.

Analysis

As thin as the Dolphins' secondary is, this is not a move that really hurts the Dolphins in any way. On the contrary, it is one with which I am particularly pleased. Though the draft pick is likely to be a late-round pick, it is good the Dolphins a least got something for him.

Daniels looked promising as a rookie in 2005, but in my opinion he failed to progress and might have even regressed over the past few years. His biggest positives are his height (6-1) and his versatility (he can play both corner and safety), but he doesn't possess great speed or athleticism for a corner and really isn't starting material. Daniels is a No. 3 or 4 corner at best, and on a good team possibly No. 4 or 5.

As you know if you've been reading the blog this offseason, I'd been pretty skeptical about Daniels' chances to make the team. I considered Will Allen, Andre' Goodman and Michael Lehan locks and I felt a couple of guys - Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas - would challenge Daniels for spots on the team. That seems to have come to fruition now.

With Daniels out of the picture, the Dolphins have four players vying for two final cornerback spots. (Assuming the team keeps five.) My predictions as boring and obvious as they can be. Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas - two players with Cowboys experience - seem like the mostly likely candidates. I consider Chris Roberson and Will Billingsley long shots at this point, though Billingsley's physical tools make him an interesting practice squad candidate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dolphins at Jaguars: Thoughts & Observations (Defense/Special Teams)

Here are my continued thoughts and observations from the Dolphins-Jaguars game, once again broken up by position.

Defensive line
  • Jason Ferguson's a great player at the interior defensive line spot. His acquisition was huge for the Dolphins because finding a capable starting nose tackle was a keep component in running the 3-4 defense.
  • Meanwhile, backup nose tackle Paul Soliai showed some play-making ability as well, forcing a Maurice Jones-Drew fumble at the goal line. I hate to keep repeating myself, but Soliai has the physical tools to be a great nose tackle and if he puts some effort into it (which it sounds like he has this camp) he'll get there.
  • Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling look of starting at the end spots immediately Langford in particular is a hell of a player. Both players do a great job of disrupting things at the line of scrimmage. As much as I liked him in free agency, I'm quite frankly not even sure the Randy Starks signing was necessary at this point. He'll figure into the rotation and he's capable of playing all three line positions, but right now he's still just a really expensive backup.
  • I'd like it if there were a backup spot on this team for Rodrique Wright, but I'm not sure that's the case.
Linebacker
  • Channing Crowder is separating himself as the leader on defense. He leads both vocally and by example. Dolphins fans won't forget Zach Thomas, but Crowder is a better player for this scheme and will excel.
  • Akin Ayodele should definitely start over Reggie Torbor. Torbor's a fine backup, but Ayodele's got the defense down from his time in Dallas. He had a great diving pass deflection as well.
  • I still don't consider Matt Roth an ideal player in the team's 3-4 scheme, but outside linebacker is where he belongs in it as opposed to end. With Charlie Anderson dinged and unproven, Roth might be the best option to start opposite Joey Porter this season. Quentin Moses will still get his chances though.
Cornerback
  • With Lehan missing a lot of time in camp due to an ankle injury, André Goodman has made a strong case for starting opposite Will Allen with some good plays downfield. The secondary isn't great, but if the Dolphins' line plays well they won't have to be.
  • Joey Thomas, a guy I've predicted will secure the final cornerback spot, had a very nice interception of former Dolphin Cleo Lemon, while Nathan Jones struggled in coverage. I don't believe Jones is in danger of being cut though.
  • Things got pretty ugly late in the game for the secondary. Fortunately, the guys that were playing are bottom-of-the-roster types that won't make the regular season roster.
Safety
  • Yeremiah Bell is a monster out there. Anyone that appreciates football would be be interested in seeing what Bell could do in a full season.
  • Jason Allen was solid once again, but I won't be sold until I see him through a season.
  • Chris Crocker isn't very impressive, but neither is Renaldo Hill. Tie for the roster spot goes to Crocker.
  • Keith Davis nearly made a bonehead play trying to recover Jones-Drew's fumble in the end zone. Let it go out of bounds and take the possession!
Special teams
  • Rookie placekicker Dan Carpenter was a perfect 4-for-4 and is 6-for-6 in the preseason. As long as he keeps this up, you won't hear me complain anymore about cutting Jay Feely.
  • Various Dolphins beat writers have nailed it when they said during camp that punter Brandon Fields can really boom them, but takes a long time to get them off. The blocking better be good.
Conclusion

More important than the win itself, the best thing to take from this game is how well the Dolphins' first- and second-teams played. Preseason or not, the Dolphins' starters far outplayed the Jaguars' starters for a half of football. It doesn't mean the Dolphins are contenders or even that they're going to win many regular season games, but it certainly looks like things are heading in the right direction.

Dolphins at Jaguars: Thoughts & Observations (Offense)

The following are my thoughts and observations from the Dolphins Week 2 preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. At the risk of their being no pattern or organization to these random notes, I've decided to at least group them by position.

Quarterback
  • Dolphins fans have to be pleased with the way the quarterbacks performed in this game. Chad Pennington, in what little passing he did, was a very efficient 5-for-6 and looked as good as any Dolphins quarterback has in a long time. Sparano might not be willing to name a starter at this point, but there's no question Pennington is the best guy for the job.
  • Speaking of Pennington starting, I have to say that I am cautiously yet increasingly optimistic about the Dolphins' chances to win games this season. I do not believe they will be contenders for a playoff spot, but Pennington's ability to manage the game and avoid mistakes will keep the Dolphins in games, which could even propel them to around .500 for the season.
  • Rookie Chad Henne looked very good as well and certainly didn't look like a rookie. He is very poised in the pocket and confidently delivers his throws with poise and accuracy. He knows when to use touch on his throws but has the arm to really gun it in there. All indications are he's ready to be the No. 2 quarterback out of the game.
  • As for the quarterbacks that didn't get to play, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the team has little use for McCown and Beck outside of a third stringer. While I am an advocate of keeping Beck and cutting McCown lose, it certainly appears like the team is ready to part ways with Beck now if they can get something for him. There's a good argument for the move and I wouldn't be too upset, as Pennington is the now and Henne is the future.
Running back
  • Ricky Williams continues to run the ball well and it is a welcome sight given Ronnie Brown's rehab. I am confident Brown will still get his touches before being eased back into the starting role in 2009 (I will address Mort's Brown rumors in a future post) and it certainly looks like the Dolphins will have a hell of a 1-2 punch at tailback.
  • Boomer Grigsby continues to outplay Reagan Mauia and the second-year Cameron draft pick is in danger of not making the roster. Grigsby is a fine blocker, a better receiver and a special teams ace.
Wide receiver/Tight end
  • Second-year receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. had a very impressive game (4 catches, 58 yards) and showed what he can do as a receiver when he has a good quarterback throwing to him. Ginn has a great attitude and work ethic to go along with extreme talent. He's going to prove a lot of haters wrong if the Dolphins build a good offense around him.
  • Speaking of Ginn, I was disappointed to see a catch he made along the sidelines ruled in complete upon review by the referee. The play, which was a semi-long pass from Henne to Ginn down the right sideline, occurred with about 2-3 minutes left in the second quarter. Ginn made a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab and, in my view, was able to secure the ball prior to taking two steps in-bounds. While it is true that he did bobble the ball initially, he had one foot on the ground when he gained control and took another step in bounds, thus giving him two feet and possession. There is no doubt in my mind the refs blew this one.
  • Derek Hagan also had a couple of good catches and appears to be the best candidate for the No. 2 job. That still isn't a good thing, however, and receiver remains a thin position for the Dolphins.
  • It was sad to see Ernest Wilford playing in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars. I was a big fan of his entering free agency and glad to see the Dolphins sign him, but he's really been losing ground lately. If he didn't have so much money guaranteed and if the Dolphins weren't so thin at the position, I think he'd be in danger of losing his job. His problems might be might though because I know he has the ability to be a good NFL receiver.
  • Davone Bess remains the team's best undrafted rookie receiver and will likely make the team, but Sparano isn't going to put up with careless mistakes like his false start on the second offensive play of the game.
  • Speaking of which, there was no excuse for the delay of game penalty following the false start. It was a sloppy start to the game and it was nice to see the Dolphins rebound.
  • The Dolphins could really be lacking any kind of receiving threat at tight end. If Anthony Fasano doesn't show he can be a starter this season, the position will be a high priority in 2009.
Offensive line
  • I can't remember the last time I saw a Dolphins quarterback have time to throw like Pennington and Henne did in this game. The line started off slow early, forcing Pennington to scramble a few times as the pocket collapsed, but for the most part they really let him sit back their and let his receivers get open. A good line is the key to a productive offense and it will help mask the team's weaknesses at other positions.
  • Rookie first overall pick Jake Long had another very strong performance. He had only one poor play in my view where he complete whiffed on a block and let Patrick Cobbs get eaten up in the backfield, but other than that he was very good.
  • Sixth-rounder Donald Thomas also had a good showing and is seemingly entrenched as the starting right guard. He'll make some rookie mistakes here and there, but he's a massive mauler with a lot of upside.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Veteran offensive lineman Steve McKinney released

In a somewhat surprising move, the Dolphins have parted ways with veteran offensive lineman Steve McKinney. The team signed had signed the 32-year-old McKinney in May.

I call the move somewhat surprising because McKinney was signed to provide some veteran depth in the interior line and potentially compete for the open starting guard spot. That being said, the move is not entirely surprising because rookie Donald Thomas has seemingly locked up that starting gig and McKinney is still recovering from the torn ACL that caused him to miss last season in Houston.

It's hard to determine whether or not this is more the result of McKinney's health or the team's confidence in it's younger backups. With the five starters apparently set, there are seven players competing for four (or possibly five, but I doubt it) backup spots.

Trey Darilek is the closest thing to a lock in my view because of his experience and versatility. He can literally play anywhere along the line, which is an extremely valuable thing because it saves teams a roster spot (or two) to use elsewhere. He also has experience with the staff from his time in Dallas during the 2007 preseason.

Rookie Shawn Murphy is close to a lock simply by being a fourth-round selection. That being said, he hasn't really shown much in camp and it's not out of the question that he could be cut. Even some third-rounders have been cut in recent years, including a current Dolphin in Quentin Moses.

I believe Cam Cameron holdover Ike Ndukwe makes the team because of his ability to play guard and tackle and the team's complete lack of other tackles on the roster. Ndukwe is a big-bodied prospect who has bounced around the league for a few years.

If we assume those three make the squad, you have undrafted rookies Mike Byrne (Delaware), Matt Spanos (Southern Cal) and Daren Heerspink (Portland State) likely competing for one final spot on the roster. I believe Byrne is the best shot of that group, as I've seen him play the most in the preseason and I know he's had plenty of time with the second team. He also has some versatility under his belt, with college experience at tackle and plenty of offseason and camp experience at the interior line spots.

However, it's important to remember that even if a guy like Byrne or Heerspink initially survives the final cuts, they are by no means safe in the long run. The ninth and likely final offensive lineman to make the roster will be a strong candidate to be cut in the event another player is claimed off waivers from another team. In fact, I'd be very surprised if we see no changes at the bottom spots of the line between final cuts and the regular season opener.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dolphins waive three players

The Dolphins their roster by three today, waiving linebacker Keith Saunders and wide receivers John Dunlap and Selwyn Lymon. All three were signed as undrafted free agents this offseason. Saunders was a former college defensive end at Alabama who was trying to make the team as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, while Dunlap and Lymon were two of the four undrafted receivers the Dolphins had in camp (in addition to Arena wideout Anthony Armstrong).

The moves, which come just a day before the team's second preseason game, put the Dolphins' active roster at just 75 players - five below the current roster limit. The Dolphins now have eight active wide receivers and seven outside linebackers.

There are no surprises here, as I didn't have any of these three making the final roster. Saunders was no higher than the fifth or sixth outside linebacker, and I considered fellow undrafted rookie Titus Brown a better shot to make the final roster (though still not a good shot). I thought Lymon would be competitive for the No. 5 receiver spot early in the offseason with his size, but Davone Bess has stood out as expected and the team is high on Jayson Foster so he didn't have much of a chance.

I am a little surprised to see Saunders and Lymon get cut before the likes of Anthony Armstrong and Maurice Fountain, but it makes sense that the team wanted to give the two former AFLers more of a look instead of the undrafted rookies they'd had since early May. All will likely be cut before the regular season begins.

Placekicker Jay Feely released

This entry is a few days late, but I've been waiting until the tears for Feely stopped flowing before I wrote about this. Okay, not really. The Madden NFL 09 release has kind of been occupying my time. Sue me.

As you well know by now, the Dolphins have released placekicker Jay Feely and essentially handed the job to undrafted rookie Dan Carpenter. Feely was arguably one of the Dolphins' most valuable players last season, converting 21 of 23 field-goal attempts on his way to a single-season franchise record for field goal percentage (91.3).

I've acknowledged the possibility of this happening all offseason, but I had predicted/hoped that it would not happen given Feely's production. One knock on Feely was his kickoff ability, as he ranked 34th in the NFL last season among players with 10 or more kickoff attempts (44th overall). However, if you look at his career statistics you will see that his 57.8-yard average last season was well below his usual numbers. His 64.6-yard average with the Giants in 2006 would have ranked him EIGHTH in the NFL last season. Obviously he has the ability, and I'm inclined to believe his low average last season was more the result of the Dolphins' strategy (i.e. pooch-kicking) than anything else.

Feely's kickoff ability is just an excuse, and the simply fact is he was cut because Bill Parcells didn't like him. From Day 1, there were rumblings that Parcells wasn't happy with Feely's media-friendly behavior, and even though the kicker gave in to the organization's demands by toning down his exposure it clearly didn't matter. Parcells cut Feely because he is the kind of guy that likes to exert his authority every once in a while just for the hell of it.

Maybe Dan Carpenter will pan out. Maybe he does have a better leg, and maybe he'll continue to improve on his 72.8 college field-goal percentage. (His average went up every year, from 62.1 as a freshman to 82.6 as a senior.) That, however, remains to be seen, while Feely has already established himself as one of the elite kickers in the NFL and was without a doubt one of Cam Cameron's and Randy Mueller's best signings. You can bet Feely goes (are you listening, Kansas City?), he'll have the production to make Parcells regret this decision if Carpenter flops.

Monday, August 11, 2008

LB Kelvin Smith waived/injured

For the third time this offseason, the Dolphins have waived/injured a player. This time, it's second-year linebacker Kelvin Smith.

Smith, 24, was entering his second season with the Dolphins. He was drafted by the team in the seventh round (219th overall) out of Syracuse in 2007. He spent most of last season on the team's practice squad before finishing the year on the active roster. The Dolphins waived/injured Smith today after he suffered a serious knee injury covering a punt in Saturday's preseason opener against Tampa Bay.

Analysis

This isn't a very big loss for the Dolphins because I didn't have Smith making the team anyway. He had no chance at cracking the top three at inside linebacker behind Crowder, Ayodele and Torbor, so he was essentially competing with Edmond Miles for a roster spot. While I do think Smith is a better fit for the 3-4 than Miles, he is not a very good fit and is not the special teams player Miles is. His injury the other day looked to me like a torn ACL and if that's the case he'll miss the whole season. I doubt he is with the team next year, though he should get another opportunity if his rehab goes well.

Waived/Injured revisited

As I've had to discuss twice this offseason due to the media's incompetence in understanding or explain this process, "waived/injured" is not the same thing as being "waived." A player that is waived goes through waivers (where other teams can claim him and add him to their roster), after which time they become a free agent if unclaimed. A player that is waived/injured is exposed to waivers, then reverts to the team's injured reserve list if unclaimed. Since players who are waived/injured often have a serious injury like Smith, they are very rarely ever claimed by other teams. This has already happened twice on the Dolphins with wide receiver Tab Perry and tight end Aaron Halterman, both of which are currently on I.R. Smith is unlikely to be claimed in this case so he will likely land on I.R. for the team. An injury settlement is a possibility, but for now he's still a member of the team.

Dolphins add AFL pass rusher

With linebackers Joey Porter, Kelvin Smith and Charlie Anderson all nursing injuries following the team's preseason opener, the Dolphins used their open roster spot on a pass-rushing linebacker from the Arena Football League by signing Maurice Fountain of the Utah Blaze to a contract. Fountain is the second AFL player signed by the Dolphins in the past month, following Dallas Desperados wideout Anthony Armstrong who was added on July 26.

Background

A college defensive end, the 25-year-old Fountain was a four-year letterman at Clemson from 2001-2004. (In case you're wondering, Dolphins second-rounder Phillip Merling didn't arrive at Clemson until 2005, so the two never played together.) I'd love to tell you about his senior college statistics, but I was unable to find them because the Clemson's website 2004 statistics PDF wasn't working. You can see his bio through 2003 here. He clearly wasn't a real standout through his junior season.

I've also been unable to find out what he was up to from 2005-2006 after his college career ended. Maybe he was recovering from a college injury, or maybe he simply wasn't viewed as a professional prospect. Whatever it was, he didn't play professional football in the two years following his tenure at Clemson, unless it was a very minor indoor league or something to that effect.

In 2007, Fountain signed with the Manchester Wolves of af2 (the Arena football's "minor league"). That season he recorded 29.5 tackles, a franchise-record 13 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and four passes defensed.

Fountain was then signed by the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League in 2008. He recorded recorded 13 tackles (10 solo), four sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes defensed on the year. For his efforts he was named to the AFL All-Rookie Team.

Analysis

Fountain's only real production at the professional level was in af2 in 2007, which doesn't make him much of an NFL prospect. The fact it's taken him this long to get here probably isn't a good sign and while it is true that some guys can come out of nowhere those instances are few and far between. He's a prototypical 3-4 linebacker (a college football defensive end and measuring in at around 6-4 and 270 lb.) so he fits the scheme, but the college and pro production to this point really isn't there. He's a long shot to make the team even with all the injuries and is probably nothing more than a camp body. He's likely still under contract with the Blaze (when signed by an NFL team, AFL players go to the other league/exempt list) and would probably return to them if cut by Miami.

Links:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Update Final Roster Predictions (8/9)

I was unable to see the whole game last night and what I did see was not great quality, so I'll have to recap it after watching the NFL Network replay. Should be tonight or tomorrow at the latest.

Posting this a little late (in the video I say the first preseason game is "tonight" when it happened yesterday) but nothing's really changed.



The final roster prediction in text form:

Quarterback (3): Chad Pennington, John Beck, Chad Henne

Running back (4):
Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Jalen Parmele, Patrick Cobbs

Fullback (1): Boomer Grigsby

Wide receiver (5): Ted Ginn, Jr., Ernest Wilford, Derek Hagan, David Kircus, Davone Bess

Tight end (3): Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Sean Ryan

Offensive line (9): Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Trey Darilek, Ike Ndukwe, Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas, Shawn Murphy, Steve McKinney, Samson Satele

Defensive end (5): Matt Roth, Vonnie Holliday, Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling

Nose tackle (2): Jason Ferguson, Paul Soliai

Outside linebacker (5): Joey Porter, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Junior Glymph, Rob Ninkovich

Inside linebacker (4): Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor, Edmond Miles

Cornerback (5): Will Allen, Michael Lehan, Andre' Goodman, Nathan Jones, Joey Thomas (note: If Lehan begins season on PUP, add Travis Daniels to this list)

Safety (4): Jason Allen, Chris Crocker, Yeremiah Bell, Keith Davis

Special teams (3): Jay Feely, Brandon Fields, John Denney

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Updated Thoughts/Observations/Predictions (defense)

Here are my updated thoughts and observations for the defensive side of the ball. I'm not trying to break any news here, but really just collect my thoughts and point out what has changed in my view two weeks into camp.

Defensive end
  • I loved Kendall Langford as a prospect before he was drafted, I loved when we picked him and I love what I'm hearing about him now. The experimentation with standing up Roth and Holliday has given Langford a lot of time with the first-team defense and he's impressed Sparano quite a bit. He's a perfect 3-4 end.
  • Speaking of Roth and Holliday, I really hope that all this stuff about them standing up is just a little practice in case of an emergency in-game. All you need to know about Holliday playing linebacker you can find out in one of Channing Crowder's interviews on the official website. If Holliday gets pressed into a role that calls for him to go into coverage, we're screwed.
  • I'm disappointed with how slowly Randy Starks has come along; he was a guy I really wanted before free agency began. I still think once he gets used to the 3-4 he's going to be a quality starter, as he's still very young for a four-year vet.
Nose tackle
  • The acquisition of Jason Ferguson was an invaluable one. We were sorely lacking a starting nose tackle before he arrived and he's filling the void perfectly. He's also going to push center Samson Satele to be even better.
  • One thing I was pleased to hear was a comment from Channing Crowder about how second-year man Paul Soliai had lot a lot of weight, had come into camp tearing people up and had really impressed. Good to see from a guy that couldn't beat out Steve Fifita for the No. 2 job last year, since Soliai has prototypical nose tackle size.
Linebacker
  • The loss of Jason Taylor as an outside pass rusher will hurt, but it was the best move for both parties. JT wanted out and the team is trying to get younger. They got good value for him and the draft picks will be here beyond the final two years of Jason's career he would have wasted in Miami.
  • The battle to replace Taylor between Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses and possibly Junior Glymph will be an interesting one to watch. Joey Porter will be productive on the opposite side and I'm confident that Anderson or Moses (or possibly both) will be able to be excel in the starting role. As an avid SEC follower, I'm a big Moses fan and think he has quite a lot of potential, so I'd love to see him grab the job. For this season, it might be best to rotate a few guys at the position.
  • Even though Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor will be under contract next season at inside linebacker, I think Channing Crowder is going to earn an extension with his play this year. Unlike Zach Thomas, Crowder fits wonderfully in the Dolphins' new defense scheme. I have a feeling this is the year he takes it to the next level, and if that's the case I think the front office will lock him up long-term.
Cornerback
  • Michael Lehan's slow progress with his ankle injury is a concern, especially given how thin our secondary is. Whether or not he ends up on the PUP list during the regular season will determine if an extra corner makes the team following the preseason. (No one let Travis Daniels near him, or he might injure him further to save himself from being cut.)
  • On the plus side, it sounds like ex-Cowboy Nathan Jones is having a quality camp and should be able to fill the nickel role.
  • Beyond that, however, there's little talent. Injuries here will screw this team.
Safety
  • My prediction regarding the free safety spot hasn't changed one bit. I think Jason Allen locks up the starting job, Chris Crocker earns the backup gig and Renaldo Hill gets the boot.
  • I'm really excited to see what Yeremiah Bell can do with a full year of starting. He'll obviously need to stay healthy, but if he can I think he'll surprise some people that don't follow the Dolphins. He could start for quite a few teams in the league.

Updated Thoughts/Observations/Predictions (offense and special teams)

We're a couple weeks into camp and the Dolphins play their first preseason game tonight, and while not many major roster moves have been made my views and predictions on the way the roster will shake out have changed drastically. Here are some of my updated thoughts/observations/predictions based on what's been reported thus far.

Quarterback
  • The acquisition of Chad Pennington definitely changes the team's quarterback competition. There are good arguments for the release of either McCown or Beck, but McCown should and probably will be the guy to get the axe (or in his case, chain saw). McCown was here to be the veteran of the bunch and Pennington is an upgraded version of that. Beck may not pan out, but he's still unproven and has potential which is why he'll stay over McCown, who has pretty much established his mediocrity.
  • That being said, reports of camp regarding Beck have been generally negative. While two weeks of camp don't define a career, we've yet to see Beck has taken the next step and there's little cause for optimism. With Chad Henne being the organization's hand-picked quarterback of the future, it seems unlikely Beck fits into the team's long-term plans.
Running back
  • You have to love the reports about Ronnie and Ricky coming out of camp. Ronnie will probably be eased back into the starting role in 2008 as he heals, but it sounds like he's recovering nicely and the two should be a hell of a tandem.
  • There have also been plenty of good reports about rookie Jalen Parmele, and it sounds like he'll be a quality backup at the very least. He probably won't see too much action in 2008 barring injury (the Lorenzo Booker of the year), but his touches will increase in future seasons.
  • It looks like I was wrong in my prediction regarding rookie Lex Hilliard. Word is he hasn't shown much in camp on offense or on special teams (the condition I had for him beating out Patrick Cobbs), while Cobbs continues to excel on special teams and seems to be one of the team's hardest workers. I'd be very shocked if Hilliard makes the team and Cobbs does not. Hilliard is practice squad material at best, and perhaps not even that.
Fullback
  • Another prediction I think I got wrong. Mauia has shown nothing catching the ball, while Grigsby has at least been solid and has the major edge on special teams. Given that, combined with Sparano's comments about preferring to only keep one fullback who can contribute in different areas, I'm inclined to believe that Grigsby not only beats Mauia out for the starting job, but Mauia doesn't even make the squad.
Wide receiver
  • It's good to hear how second-year receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. is progressing with his route-running. Dolphins fans may not have agreed with the pick and may still not, but if this guy ever gets a legit quarterback he could be the next Steve Smith.
  • It's not a good sign that Ernest Wilford is falling down the depth chart. While Derek Hagan deserves some credit for his good camp, Wilford was brought in as a starter and his inability to get separation is disappointing even for a possession guy like him. Hopefully he picks it up, because he was a guy I wanted in free agency and I feel he can be a legit starter (not to mention a damn good end-zone threat).
  • No surprise that Davone Bess has been the best undrafted rookie wideout thus far. Him making the team as the No. 5 receiver is one prediction I still feel good about.
Tight end
  • No surprise that Fasano has already jumped into the starting tight end job. He's not a game breaker, but I think he'll be solid.
  • I'm interested to see if incumbent starter David Martin makes the squad. I think Sean Ryan's blocking and connections with the staff give him a good chance to make the team. Justin Peelle's injury has hurt his own chances and may open the door for Martin to stick around if the team keeps three tight ends.
Offensive line
  • You have to love the reports of sixth-round pick Donald Thomas in camp. He's worked at the starting right guard spot for a week now and it seems he has a legit shot to win the job. I'd always heard he had more upside than fourth-rounder Shawn Murphy, but I didn't expect him to excel this quickly.
  • Thomas' emergence is also good because it allows Trey Darilek to be a versatile backup. Darilek is not starting material, as he wasn't even in the NFL last year and hasn't played since 2005. (He has played in the preseason in recent years and also in the CFL last season.) He's a useful guy to have on the bench because he can play four offensive line positions, if not all of them.
  • I'm quite surprised the Dolphins haven't done much to add to the offensive line depth. Perhaps this is a vote of confidence for Darilek and Ike Ndukwe, though you'd think they'd at least bring in a couple more guys to compete.

Special teams
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: If Dan Carpenter doesn't completely blow Jay Feely away in the preseason, you have to stick with Feely. It sounds like Carpenter is providing some pretty solid competition, but that shouldn't be enough to win him the job over a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker like Feely.
  • Something tells me Brandon Fields and John Denney are pretty safe. Just a hunch.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dolphin add ex-Jets QB Pennington

The Dolphins' quarterback competition gained a whole new twist Friday as the Dolphins signed former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington to a two-year, $11.5 million contract. The Dolphins did not have to make a roster move to add Pennington as they were two players under the 80-man roster limit to begin the day. Pennington was released yesterday after the Jets' acquisition of he who shall remain nameless here because I'm sick of hearing about him.

Pennington entered the NFL as the 18th overall pick out of Marshall in 2000. He was drafted by then-Jets head coach Bill Parcells, who currently serves as the Dolphins' vice president of football operations. After backing up Vinny Testaverde for two seasons, he stepped into the starting role in 2002. That season war arguably the best of his career as he passed for 3,120 yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions. In his eight seasons with the Jets, he completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 13,738 yards and 82 touchdowns with 55 interceptions.

Analysis

We all know the scouting report on Pennington. Smart and accurate but lacking in arm strength. Regardless of his inadequacies, I am ecstatic with this move and think it's definitely a positive. In my mind, anyone that is against it simply doesn't understand the situation .

Essentially, Pennington is just a replacement for McCown in the role of placeholder. Whether it's McCown, Pennington or Beck, the Dolphins' starting quarterback in 2008 is essentially just keeping the seat warm for Chad Henne. The front office drafted Henne to be the quarterback of the future and will likely give him a shot to start in 2009, if not sooner. Anyone that starts before then is not viewed by the team as the likely long-term answer.

For that reason, it's silly to be upset about the addition of Pennington. As I said when McCown was acquired, it really doesn't matter who the guy is because he's not viewed by the team as the long-term answer. He's simply a guy with experience to start for the time being, because the Dolphins didn't have one coming into the offseason.

Pennington is simply an upgraded placeholder and that cannot be a bad thing. He does not have the arm McCown does, nor does he have the mobility in the pocket, but he is a solid NFL quarterback and will not make as many mistakes as McCown would. He won't light up defenses for 400 yards, but he'll keep his team in games more times that not by managing the game and avoiding costly mistakes.

The Dolphins a little better today, and that's something fans should be happy about. With (hopefully) a solid defense and a ridiculous tandem at running back, Pennington gives the team a chance to not be one of the league's bottom feeders. The season opener against the Jets just got a little more interesting as well.