Sunday, November 30, 2008

2008 Week 13 Recap: Dolphins at Rams

The Dolphins pulled out another close game today, beating the St. Louis Rams 16-12. Now at a record of 7-5, the Dolphins are still alive in the playoff hunt. Here's my recap of the game:


Offense & Special Teams
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Defense
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Wes Welker Gets Jacked Up

I should have a Dolphins-Pats recap up sometime tonight/tomorrow as well as an article on Justin Smiley's injury, but for now I just had to share some videos of Patriots wideout Wes Welker getting jacked up. Why do I love it so much? Because I think Welker's an arrogant little prick and he's insanely overrated. Plus, I think this is a clean hit. Ryan Clark, you are my hero.


Dolphins Sign Center Al Johnson

The Bill Parcells connection continues in Miami as the team has added another player from Tuna's tenure in Dallas. With an open roster spot due to receiver Greg Camarillo's injury, the Dolphins added former Cowboys center Al Johnson on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Background

A second-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior at Wisconsin in 2002, Johnson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (38th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. After working with the first-team offense during training camp, a knee injury landed Johnson injured reserve on Aug. 23, forcing him to miss his entire rookie season.

Johnson beat out Tyson Walter for the Cowboys' starting center job in 2004 and went on to start all but one game for Dallas during the regular season. The following season, Johnson started all 16 games for the Cowboys but split time throughout the year with Andre Gurode.

Gurode overtook Johnson for the starting center job in 2006 as Johnson started none of the 16 games in which he played. Johnson became an unrestricted free agent following the season.

On March 6, 2007, Johnson signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. A knee injury bothered Johnson early in the season, but he went on to start 14 games for Arizona in 2007.

A knee injury nagged Johnson throughout training camp and the preseason in 2008 and the team eventually placed him on season-ending injured reserve on Sept. 6. He was released with an injury settlement on Oct. 21.

Johnson worked out for the Dolphins on Nov. 28 and was signed the following day to replace wide receiver Greg Camarillo, who was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week.

Analysis

While myself and many in the Dolphins media expected practice squad receiver Anthony Armstrong to fill Camarillo's roster spot, it makes sense the team went another direction.

Miami only dresses four receivers on game days (Ernest Wilford has been the odd man out lately), so promoting Armstrong wouldn't have much impact against St. Louis because he's just be the fifth receiver and wouldn't dress anyway.

As for Johnson, he's a good signing who has plenty of experience and ability. Johnson's a solid blocker but doesn't possess great strength and certainly isn't a mauler. He also has some injury concerns, as his career has been littered with knee problems every season.

There is some uncertainty to the reason behind Johnson's signing. One line of thinking says he's just a backup for Samson Satele, as Andy Alleman has been seeing a lot of time at right guard of late.

However, there's another school of thought that believes Johnson is being brought in to push Satele for the starting job. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the move comes on the heels of a game in which Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork spent four quarters dominating Satele.

Which side do I fall on? Right now I'd say the former. While it's impossible to know Bill Parcells' motives and Johnson certainly has the experience and ability to push for a starting center job, I'm a big fan of Satele and feel he has a ton of upside. Struggling with quite possibly the best nose tackle in football in Wilfork does not mean Satele can't been a good center in this league.

Week 13 Game Predictions

Four straight weeks of 12 picks correct. How amazing am I? I can't believe girls aren't throwing themselves at me with these kind of prognostication skills.

Last week's record: 12-4
Season record: 113-63 (64.2%)

Bills over 49ers - Buffalo had been wholly unimpressive before a thrashing of the Chiefs, but they should be able to beat the Niners here.

Ravens over Bengals - There's just no way Baltimore should have a problem here.

Colts over Browns - The Colts are rolling and Cleveland's a mess.

Packers over Panthers - The Panthers haven't been that impressive lately, and I think Green Bay rebounds from a big loss to New Orleans last week.

Dolphins over Rams - Despite being manhandled by New England last week, there's simply no reason Miami shouldn't dominate St. Louis.

Saints over Buccaneers - A tough divisional matchup that could go either way, but if Drew Brees catches fire the Bucs won't be able to keep up.

Giants over Redskins - If any team could derail the rolling Giants, it's their very good division-rival Redskins. But the G-Men are just playing too well right now for me to pick against.

Chargers over Falcons - The Chargers keep letting a lot of us down by underachieving, but something tells me they pull one out against Atlanta.

Raiders over Chiefs - Tyler Thigpen's recent play had me picking the Chiefs up until now, but with Oakland's performance against Denver last week I decided to reconsider.

Patriots over Steelers - Easily the most difficult game of the week to pick. It could go either way, but New England's looking very good right now so I'm going with them.

Jets over Broncos - Should be a high-scoring affair, but the Jets should be able to pull it out over the up-and-down Broncos.

Vikings over Bears - Games like this are always toss-ups, but I think Adrian Peterson has another big day against Chicago.

Texans over Jaguars - The Jaguars have let me down throughout the year, and the Texans can win no matter what quarterback plays.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dolphins Lose WR Greg Camarillo For Season

In a season without many significant injuries, the Miami Dolphins were dealt their biggest blow yet as wide receiver Greg Camarillo suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New England Patriots in Week 12.

Background

Originally a walk-on at Stanford in 2000, Camarillo was a three-time Academic All-Pac-10 selection. He finished his four-year college career with just 46 receptions for 613 yards.

After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Camarillo signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent on May 16, 2005. He caught six passes for 78 yards in his first preseason but was waived and spent his entire rookie season on the team's practice squad.

Camarillo made the Chargers' active roster in 2006 and was played in four games, recording three tackles. The Chargers waived Camarillo during final cuts following the 2007 preseason.

The Dolphins claimed Camarillo off waivers on Sept. 3, 2007, reuniting him with then-Dolphins head coach and former Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

In his first year with the Dolphins, Camarillo caught eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard touchdown grab against the Baltimore Ravens in overtime for Miami's lone win of the 2007 season.

Facing another battle to make the team with a new head coach in 2008, Camarillo proved to be one of the team's hardest workers and its most consistent receiver. He caught six passes for 58 yards in the preseason and eventually earned one of the team's starting wideout jobs.

Teaming with second-year receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., Camarillo was quarterback Chad Pennington's favorite target through much of the 2008 season. He caught 11 passes for 111 yards (both career highs) in a win over the Denver Broncos.

After catching his second touchdown of the season early in Week 12 against the New England Patriots, Camarillo suffered torn ligaments in his left knee as he attempted to tackle Brandon Meriweather after a fourth-quarter interception. The torn ACL and MCL landed Camarillo on season-ending injured reserve the following day.

The injury came the week after the team rewarded Camarillo with a three-year contract extension worth just under $6 million that would keep the receiver in Miami through 2011. Camarillo ended his season leading the Dolphins in receptions (55) and receiving yards (613) with two touchdowns.

Analysis

For the second straight season, the Dolphins have lost a key offensive player who was trying to make a tackle against the New England Patriots. As you may recall, running back Ronnie Brown suffered a similar fate against the Patriots last year.

I was initially skeptical about Camarillo's upside prior to the season but was quite pleased with his effort and work ethic in camp. He has his physical limitations, but Camarillo is a good route-runner with reliable hands, making for an ideal slot receiver.

The timetable for Camarillo's return will be a question mark until he begins rehabbing and camp gets closer. The team will likely look for another starting wide receiver in the offseason, although I expect they would have done this anyway as Camarillo is more suited for a No. 3 role.

The loss of Camarillo is significant for the Dolphins because of how thin they are at the receiver position. I'm a big Ginn supporter and he's starting to flash some ability, but he can't do it alone and other guys will have to step up to fill the void left by Camarillo.

Undrafted rookie Davone Bess will step into the starting lineup and could thrive in that role. A polished receiver with great production in college at Hawaii, Bess is coming off career-highs in receptions (5) and yards (87) against the Patriots. He's not on Camarillo's level yet, but he is potentially more talented and should be up to the task.

The injury also opens the door for Brandon London, primarily a special-teamer, to get more looks on offense. London had a near-touchdown against Denver and has good size, but head coach Tony Sparano has been somewhat disappointed with his inconsistency in practice.

Finally, look for free agent bust Ernest Wilford to finally see the field. This will be a big month for Wilford, who has a long way to go to prove to the organization that he's worth keeping and shouldn't be cap casualty in the coming offseason. Wilford has great size and good hands but has struggled to get separation from defensive backs in the past.

Because the Dolphins have yet to fill Camarillo's roster spot and their next game is less than two days away, it's looking more and more likely the Dolphins will promote a receiver from the practice squad. That player will almost assuredly be Anthony Armstrong, a former AFL speedster who has been on the practice squad all season after being waived just prior to the opener. More recent addition Todd Lowber has had much less time in the offense and is probably farther from being able to contribute at this point.

Meanwhile, former Dolphins third-round pick Derek Hagan has had some workouts for NFL teams since being let go by Miami earlier this month but remains a free agent. He too is an option to be brought back, though it likely won't be this week and I'm not sure the team has much interest in him.

Bengals Sign OT Kirk Barton Off Dolphins' Practice Squad

The Dolphins lost one of their practice squad players today as offensive tackle Kirk Barton was signed to the active roster of the Cincinnati Bengals. Barton was added by the Bengals for depth after offensive linemen Scott Kooistra and Andrew Whitworth were placed on injured reserve.

Background

An All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State, Kirk Barton was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He made the team following the preseason but was waived just one game into the regular season to make room for veteran tackle Fred Miller.

Barton was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 11 when tight end Sean Ryan was released. He was inactive every game with the Dolphins until being waived on Oct. 16 to make room for fullback Lousaka Polite.

The San Francisco 49ers claimed Barton off waivers but he did not see game action before being waived once again on Nov. 9. The Dolphins re-signed him to the practice squad two days later.

In Cincinnati, Barton joins the fourth franchise of his young career. Because he was signed directly off another team's practice squad, he must remain on the Bengals' active roster for at least three weeks. He will wear No. 70.

Analysis

Barton was a solid lineman in college but doesn't have great physical tools at the pro level. I still think he might be a better fit at guard and it wouldn't surprise me to see him moved there eventually.

From the Dolphins' perspective this is not a huge loss. Barton is a fine prospect and was good to have on the practice squad given his previous stint with the team earlier in the season, but he wasn't vital to any long-term plans and can easily be replaced.

When looking at potential replacements for Barton on the practice squad, the only recently-released Dolphin still available is cornerback Will Billingsley. (Defensive tackle Anthony Toribio has joined Green Bay's practice squad and tight end Matthew Mulligan has joined Tennessee's).

However, the team now has no offensive linemen on the practice squad and might want to add another one to replace Barton. There aren't any likely candidates from the team's training camp roster (Mike Byrne is in the CFL while Daren Heerspink, Pedro Sosa and Matt Spanos have been out of football) which means any lineman Miami signs to the practice squad will likely be a fresh face.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Game Predictions

With three games today, I thought I'd post my predictions instead of telling you who I picked after the fact. Here they are:

Titans over Lions - I mean, come on.

Cowboys over Seahawks - I'm predicting a big game for Dallas today.

Cardinals over Eagles - A tough game for me to pick, but Philly's a mess right now.

Well, there ya go. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No recap this week

I've been sick this week and it took me too long to get around to it, so I don't think I'm going to do any recap videos for the Dolphins-Patriots game. It's been too long since the game and it's not fresh enough in my head that I'd be able to provide much insight. Sorry guys.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week 12 Dolphins-Patriots Video Highlights

While I wait until tomorrow when I've calmed down about today's game, here are some highlight videos of the Dolphins' 48-24 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 12.


Dolphins-Patriots highlights



Channing Crowder hit on Wes Welker



Channing Crowder-Matt Light brawl

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Week 12 Game Predictions

A third straight 12-pick week for me. I'm pretty amazing. Like Nostradamus. Already got one this week with the easy Pittsburgh pick. Let's get to it.

Last week's record: 12-4
Season record: 101-59 (63.1%)

Browns over Texans - I almost wanted to go with Houston here, but Cleveland's coming off a win over Buffalo and played good games in losses to Denver and Baltimore before that.

Cowboys over 49ers - Can the Cowboys get hot and make a playoff run? That remains to be seen, but they have a good chance to get a win here against the 49ers.

Buccaneers over Lions - Could Rod Marinelli get the Lions their first win of the season against his former team? Probably not, Detroit is just too awful.

Jets over Titans - Am I crazy? Perhaps. Tennessee has some injuries in the secondary, and as much as I want the Jets to lose I think this could finally be the game the Titans drop.

Bills over Chiefs - It's hard to pick the Bills here, even against the 1-9 Chiefs. It wouldn't surprise me to see an upset, but I think the Bills notch their first win in a while.

Bears over Rams - Orton's back and the Rams proved their few good games a while back were a fluke. Can't pick them here.

Dolphins over Patriots - A total homer pick, this game scares the crap out of me. It's not gonna be nearly as easy for Miami this time around.

Vikings over Jaguars - Jacksonville has let me down a bunch this year, so I'm picking Adrian Peterson and the Vikings to come out on top.

Ravens over Eagles - I think Baltimore will beat Philadelphia hear, unless it goes into double overtime in which case I expect McNabb to lead his team to victory.

Broncos over Raiders - Oakland's just completely unimpressive and I don't expect Denver to have a problem with bitter division rival here.

Panthers over Falcons - A very tough division game to pick, but I think Carolina's great defense will be too much for Matt Ryan once again.

Giants over Cardinals - Arizona has the offense firepower to pull off an upset, but it's hard to pick against the Giants.

Redskins over Seahawks - Washington disappointed in a home game against Dallas, but should be able to handle the Seahawks.

Colts over Chargers - In a rematch of a great game from '07, I like the Colts to keep rolling over the disappointing Chargers.

Saints over Packers - An extremely difficult game to pick, I'll say Drew Brees lights things up at home and leads his team to victory.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Who Should Stay and Who Should Go: Addressing Miami's Upcoming Free Agents

I cannot take credit for the topic of this entry - I initially saw it brought up on a Dolphins Facebook group of which I'm the admin and this week the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero wrote an article on it just this week. However, I feel it's certainly an interesting subject and one which I could throw in my two cents.

Miami has just six unrestricted free agents entering the 2009 offseason, one of which has never played for the team: wide receiver Tab Perry. The other five are currently starting for the Dolphins: strong safety Yeremiah Bell, offensive tackle Vernon Carey, linebacker Channing Crowder, cornerback Andre' Goodman and free safety Renaldo Hill.

I will address each player (excluding Perry) individually, ranking them in the order I think they should be prioritized when the Dolphins go to re-sign them. Keep in mind that this list might not reflect the order of their talent levels, but rather looking at the whole picture (money playing a big part of it).

1. Yeremiah Bell, SS

A gem of a late pick from the Wannstedt Era, Bell has developed into a monster safety and should be the Dolphins' top priority among their unrestricted free agents in 2009. He has a nose for the ball, is the best tackler on the team and is a leader on the defense. His presence is felt throughout the unit and his absence is always very apparent.

The Dolphins lucked out with Bell's Achilles' injury last season, as it ruined his chance of showcasing himself for the rest of the league heading into free agency in 2008. Due to the injury, the Dolphins were able to sign him for a bargain one-year deal worth $1 million.

Re-signing him won't be that easy this time. He's proved to be a vital part of the secondary and the defense and there is no doubt in my mind teams will line up to sign him. He might not be among the NFL's elite at the position, but he's certainly in the tier below it.

It seems the Dolphins are waiting for Bell to prove he can make it through a full season before rewarding him with a multi-year deal, and that's wise given his somewhat troublesome injury history. But if Bell comes through in that regard, the Dolphins should do whatever they can to lock him up long-term before the free agency period even opens.

2. Channing Crowder, LB

Crowder is no question a solid young player. He's got 3+ years of NFL starting experience and he's still just 24 years old. He's a smart player and a good tackler who learned from one of the best in Zach Thomas.

So why does he come in second here to Bell? One simple reason: play-making ability. It's a category in which Bell is the clear winner. In three-and-a-half seasons of starting, Crowder has just 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and no interceptions. Bell has three forced fumbles already this season!

Don't get me wrong - Crowder's a good player and a likable guy, and I'd like to see him stay in a Dolphins uniform. But when it comes to hitting the free agent market, I fear he's more likely to be overpaid by another team, whereas Bell will probably be worth the offers he gets and therefore should be worth more to the Dolphins.

There's no doubt in my mind that Crowder will continue to develop and have a long career as a solid inside linebacker. I just haven't seen him make that jump to the next level and I'm not sure if he's ever going to be anything more than a decent run-stopper. I hope he proves me wrong (and the Dolphins wrong if he leaves) but I don't want to see Miami overpay for a guy who is only solid at a position that's not hard to fill.

3. Andre' Goodman, CB

Goodman has received a lot of grief from the Dolphins during his time here, some of it deserved. That being the case, I actually think he's been a strong player for Miami more often than not.

I've always been of the belief that Goodman was Miami's best corner in 2006, his first year with the team. Shoulder injuries caused problems for him in 2007 and he was playing in a seriously decimiated secondary that didn't make his job any easier.

However, Goodman has rebounded quite nicely in 2008 and has made the absence of Michael Lehan, who had a very good 2007 season, hardly noticeable. Though Will Allen deserves a lot of credit and is definitely Miami's best corner, Goodman has come on strong and has done a great job against some tough receivers like Lee Evans and Brandon Marshall as of late.

Is Goodman a starting corner on a good team? No, probably not. But everything I've seen of him tells me he can be a damn good nickel corner, and he's certainly shown he can come in and start for you if needed.

I'm sure the Dolphins will look to add to the position in the offseason and I'd even endorse selecting a corner like Vontae Davis or Malcolm Jenkins in the first round, but I'd love to see Goodman stick around. If you can get him re-signed for somewhere between $1-2 million per year like the contract Lehan got (three years, $4.95 million), he's worth every penny.

4. Renaldo Hill, FS

Before Jason Allen was moved back to corner and started seeing playing time due to injury, I had seen Dolphins fans complain about why the 2006 first-rounder wasn't starting over someone like Renaldo Hill. If you found yourself asking this question, then all I can say is that you probably weren't watching. The answer is simple: Hill is a lot better.

Hill is far from the sexiest name out there at the safety position and he probably should not be starting long-term. He doesn't possess great play-making ability or great speed and is now on the wrong side of 30.

That being the case, the secondary is clearly better with Hill in at free safety (and I don't think it's just because Chris Crocker was so bad). He's a good tackler and is often around the ball. Though not to the extent that Bell does, Hill helps hold the unit together and prevents many big plays.

As I said, I don't think Hill is a long-term answer at free safety, but he is an experienced veteran who can make positive plays on the field, perhaps making him an ideal backup. If I'm running the Dolphins, I'm looking in free agency or the draft for a young free safety to develop, but I'm also exploring the re-signing of Hill to be a backup if the price is right.

5. Vernon Carey, OT

Do I think Vernon Carey is last out of these five players in terms of talent at their respective positions? No, I don't. In fact, I'd say he's probably third and possibly even second ahead of Crowder.

But, as I said at the beginning of this article, I'm taking into account all factors and money is a big one. Carey, like Crowder, is a guy I feel will get more money than he deserves on the open market and thus is someone the Dolphins should be sure not to overpay.

I know Carey has had his good times and is a solid starter, but I've never really been completely satisfied with the pick. (I wanted Vince Wilfork, and even though he's pretty much a douche he's still an excellent player while Carey is not.) In his time at left tackle, I felt Carey was over-matched and potentially even below average, while on the right side he's simply a serviceable starter.

Would I be totally upset if the Dolphins re-signed Carey? No, as long as the deal wasn't more than 2-3 years and the money wasn't that great. It'd also make sense to keep some familiarity on the right side of the line, especially with the problems we've had at right guard and a still-unproven Donald Thomas set to take the reigns there again in 2009. I just don't want to see Miami overpay for someone I feel is merely decent, and a big part of me would like to see us move on and try and find a new right tackle in the draft.

List of Miami's 2009 Free Agents

As mentioned above, Miami has six unrestricted free agents in the 2009 offseason. They are:
  • SS Yeremiah Bell
  • OT Vernon Carey
  • LB Channing Crowder
  • CB Andre' Goodman
  • FS Renaldo Hill
  • WR Tab Perry
Additionally, if my research is correct, Miami has zero restricted free agents next offseason and the following three exclusive-rights free agents:
  • TE Aaron Halterman (currently on I.R.)
  • LB Quentin Moses
  • OG Ikechuku Ndukwe
Exclusive-rights free agents (ERFAs) are players whose contracts have expired that have two or fewer accrued seasons in the NFL. (An accrued season is essentially at least six games on the active roster or on I.R.)

The Dolphins have a good salary cap situation and, as you can see, will not be as risk of losing many key parts of their team this offseason. With the Dolphins currently sitting at 6-4 and having already shown vast improvement from last season, things are definitely looking up for the franchise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dolphins Claim LB Erik Walden Off Waivers, Add NT Joe Cohen to Practice Squad

The Dolphins continued to shuffle their special teams players today, claiming rookie linebacker Erik Walden off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs. Waived to make room for Walden on the active roster was linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who was recently promoted from the practice squad and saw action against the Raiders last Sunday.

The Dolphins also made a practice squad move yesterday, adding former 49ers defensive lineman Joe Cohen to their practice squad. A fourth-round pick by San Francisco in 2007 out of Florida, Cohen takes the open practice squad spot vacated by Ninkovich last week.

(CLICK HERE to see the my latest projected depth chart following these roster moves!)

Rob Ninkovich

A fifth-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Ninkovich spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL early in the regular season. Another knee injury forced him to miss the following preseason and the Saints eventually waived him prior to the 2007 regular season.

Ninkovich was then claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins. He saw action in four games, recording two tackles, while being inactive for 12 others.

Despite leading the team with two sacks in the 2008 preseason, Ninkovich was waived on Aug. 31 and re-signed to the practice squad. He was eventually promoted to the active roster on Nov. 15 when guard Matt McChesney was placed on injured reserve. Ninkovich played special teams against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 16 but did not record any tackles. He was waived on Nov. 20.

Erik Walden

A Georgia native, Walden had an impressive collegiate career as a defensive end at Middle Tennessee State, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors each of his final two seasons and setting the school record in sacks.

After recording nine sacks over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Walden had his best year as a junior in 2006, racking up 48 tackles (14.5 for a loss), three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to go along with his school-record 11.5 sacks.

As a senior in 2007, Walden appeared in just 10 games due to a toe injury but still managed to record 46 tackles (8.5 for a loss), two sacks, an interception, two pass breakups and a safety. Walden's 22.5 career sacks set a school record.

In pre-draft workouts, Walden posted a 33-inch vertical leap, 25-bench reps of 225 pounds and ran a 40-yard dash of 4.72 seconds. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round (167th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. Coincidentally, the pick Dallas used to select Walden was originally acquired from Miami in a swap of sixth-rounders in the Jason Ferguson deal. (Miami took guard Donald Thomas with the pick from Dallas.)

In the 2008 preseason, Walden appeared in all four games for the Cowboys including a start in the final contest and recorded seven tackles (five solo) and no sacks. He was waived by the team on August 30 during final cuts.

The following day, Walden was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded 10 special teams in nine games with the Chiefs, though was held without a tackle over the final four games. The Chiefs waived him on Nov. 20.

Walden will play outside linebacker for the Dolphins and wear No. 50, which had previously been worn by linebacker Marc Magro on the practice squad this season and linebacker Edmond Miles in 2007.

Because Walden has been claimed off waivers twice and has never been a free agent, his rookie contract with Dallas remains intact. He is under contract for the next four years at base salaries of $295,000 in 2008, $385,000 in 2009, $470,000 in 2010 and $555,000 in 2011.

Analysis

Ninkovich is a solid prospect in my opinion but the Dolphins clearly view him as primarily a special teams guy at the moment. He'll probably be re-added to the practice squad if he clears waivers and if he wants to come back. I think he can be an NFL backup at linebacker or defensive end (depending on the scheme) and he's probably not too far away from another shot on the active roster.

As for Walden, he's a good claim for the Dolphins as he has strong pass-rushing skills, some upside and comes cheap. Also, what might be even more important for the Dolphins in the near future, he showed good ability on special teams in his time with Kansas City. As we all know by now, Miami's special teams unit has been the target of much criticism this season and their averages in punt- and kick-return yards allowed are dismal.

It's no surprise the Dolphins had a strong interest in Walden. Having been drafted by the Cowboys, Miami general manager Jeff Ireland no doubt scouted Walden out of Middle Tennessee State and we've seen all year a shared interest between the franchises in the similar players.

A college football defensive end, Walden translates perfectly as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 3-4. Though he doesn't possess great strength and there are concerns about his ability to learn a playbook, Walden possesses good finesse moves as a pass rusher. He has great athleticism with long arms and has great initial burst.

While he may initially be limited to a special teams role as was the guy he replaced, Walden does have some upside and at the very least could become a good situational pass rusher. His addition to the team costs next to nothing and is a good all-around add for the Dolphins, even if it is no sure thing.


Joe Cohen

Regarded as one of the nation's top fullbacks coming out of high school, Cohen saw time on offense in 10 games as a freshman in 2003. He was then moved to the defensive line during spring drills in 2004. He was a teammate of current Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder each of his first two seasons.

As a junior in 2005, Cohen appeared in 12 contests for the Gators including nine starts on the defensive line. He recorded 15 tackles (four for a loss), one sack and one interception on the season.

Cohen started 12 games and played in 14 at defensive tackle as a senior 2006, including Florida's BCS Championship over Ohio State. On the year he recorded 26 tackles (two for a loss), half a sack and a pass defensed.

Prior to the 2007 NFL Draft, Cohen worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine, posted a 4.80 shuttle time, 7.88 three-cone drill, 31-inch vertical leap and 8-foot-8 broad jump.

The San Francisco 49ers drafted Cohen in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year contract with the team on May 24. However, a knee injury suffered in the preseason finale landed Cohen on injured reserve his rookie season.

Cohen appeared in three preseason games for the 49ers in 2008, working at both nose tackle and defensive end in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. However, he was waived by the team during the first wave of cuts on Aug. 23.

Analysis

Though he technically takes Ninkovich's spot on the practice squad, Cohen is essentially the replacement for nose tackle Anthony Toribio, who was released from the Dolphins' practice squad on Nov. 12 and has since moved on to Green Bay's practice squad.

Though Cohen has yet to prove himself as a pro and the knee injury from his rookie year is a concern, he's a quality prospect to add to the practice squad and try to develop. He doesn't have great speed and agility and doesn't possess much a pass rusher, but Cohen is a stout run stuffer who clogs up holes on the line of scrimmage and rarely gets overpowered.

Cohen has the versatility to play inside or outside on the 3-4 line, though I suspect he'll primarily focus on nose tackle given the number of ends Miami already has and the fact that Toribio was recently let go. While he doesn't have the bulk of a Vince Wilfork, Dallas' (and perhaps now Miami's) 3-4 nose tackles haven't always been out of that mold. (The Cowboys' current nose tackle is only about 300 pounds.)

As a practice squad player, Cohen will earn about $5,200 a week. His spot on the practice squad is not safe and he could be cut at any time (including if/when Ninkovich gets re-added to the practice squad). However, I suspect he may stick around through the season and be given a shot to win a job on the team in camp in 2009.

Lots of content in the next few days...

My school week is wrapping up before Thanksgiving break (thankfully!) and it's a good thing too because there's a lot I have to cover here on the blog. As of write now, I plan on having articles on the following things over the next two days or so:
Additionally, I'll have to do my weekly picks article around Saturday. By my count, that's at least 42,000 (or seven, I'm not good at math) articles to do over the next few days, so I sure do have a lot on my plate!

Oh, and since I'm positing at the moment, I might as well give you my Thursday night pick ahead of time: Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My 2008 Pro Bowl Ballot: AFC Offense

We've passed the halfway mark of the 2008 regular season and the Pro Bowl voting has been going on for some time. With those lazy Dolphins not having made a transaction this week (and it's already Tuesday!) I felt this was as good a time as any to give you my current 2008 Pro Bowl ballot.

I'm sure things will change by season's end and I'll have a sort of all-2008 team at the end of the year, but for now here's how I feel the Pro Bowl squads should be at the moment. I'll have four separate articles for this, as i feel they could get a bit long. This one is for the AFC Offense.

Quarterbacks

Earning Votes: Philip Rivers (Chargers), Brett Favre (Jets), Jay Cutler (Broncos)
Just Missed It: Chad Pennington (Dolphins)

The talented Chargers are vastly underachieving, but it's certainly by no fault of Rivers, who leads the AFC in passer rating at 100.9 and touchdowns with 21.

Meanwhile, Favre and Cutler have certainly had their share of shaky outings, but they've also had some of the best passing performances this season and are among the NFL's elite passers.

Even though I didn't vote for him, there's a strong argument for the inclusion of someone like Pennington, who may not have the touchdown numbers but has played mistake-free football most of the season and has been the catalyst in Miami's turnaround.

Running backs

Earning Votes: Thomas Jones (Jets), Chris Johnson (Titans), Steve Slaton (Texans)
Just Missed It: Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)

He is by no means the sexiest name when you think of the league's top running backs (you probably don't think of him at all, actually) but Jones is leading the AFC with 854 rushing yards and is second in touchdowns with nine - alright eight more than he had all of last season.

Meanwhile, rookies Johnson and Slaton have both been very impressive, currently ranking second and third, respectively in the conference in rushing.

For the second straight position, a Dolphins play just missed out on getting my vote. Brown's had a fine year and is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's had too many unproductive games this year (due to offensive line woes) and you can only put so much stock in his nine touchdowns, many of which have been on goal-line carries.

Fullbacks

Earning Votes: Le'Ron McClain (Ravens)
Just Missed It: Ahmard Hall (Titans)

McClain's been a beast for Baltimore this season, showing skills as a lead blocker, a goal-line back and even as a receiver. In all honesty, he could probably be a productive feature back on a good team.

An undrafted free agent in 2006, Hall has helped Chris Johnson and LenDale White produce one of the top rushing games in the NFL.

Wide receivers

Earning Votes: Andre Johnson (Texans), Brandon Marshall (Broncos), Lee Evans (Bills), Reggie Wayne (Colts)
Just Missed It: T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Bengals)

Never getting the attention he deserves, Johnson is third in the AFC in receptions and has over 150 yards more than any other receiver in the conference. The man directly behind him is Marshall, who has established himself as Jay Cutler's most reliable target.

Evans earns a vote for one stat in particular: 18.9 yards per reception - by far higher than anyone else in the conference that has a significant amount of catches. Meanwhile, Wayne has been his usual self as he ranks third in the AFC in receiving and has as many touchdowns (5) as any of the conference's top 10 receivers.

I almost feel like I should vote for Houshmazilla simply because he's racked up good numbers (73 catches, 726 yards) with essentially no quarterback this year, but a poor, Welker-like 9.9-yard average is what bumped him off the list for me.

Tight ends

Earning Votes: Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs), Antonio Gates (Chargers)
Just Missed It: Owen Daniels (Texans)

Gonzalez continues to be a premier NFL tight end and leads the AFC at his position in catches (55) and yards (583). Meanwhile, Gates remains one of the league's best end-zone targets with a position-best six scores.

Daniels actually has more catches (45) and yards (555) than Gates, but has just two touchdowns to Gates' six.

Centers

Earning Votes: Kevin Mawae (Titans), Samson Satele (Dolphins)
Just Missed It: Nick Mangold (Jets)

Mawae has been one of the best at his position for a long time and leads an offense line for the conference's best team (and one of its best running games). Satele deserved a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie and is definitely getting some love from me here.

Guards

Earning Votes: Alan Faneca (Jets), Logan Mankins (Patriots), Justin Smiley (Dolphins)
Just Missed It: Derrick Dockery (Bills)

One of the most prized free agents of the offseason, Faneca has been as advertised for the Jets and has helped the team created a productive all-around offense. Mankins has been a rock for the Patriots since they drafted him, while Smiley as a great pickup for Miami in the offeason.

Tackles

Earning Votes: Michael Roos (Titans), David Stewart (Titans), Ryan Clady (Broncos)
Just Missed It: Joe Thomas (Browns)

Six. That's how many sacks the Titans have allowed all season, which is why both their starting tackles get Pro Bowl nods from me. Meanwhile, rookie Ryan Clady has been stellar for the Broncos (sorry Dolphins fans, but Jake Long hasn't even been close yet) and still has yet to allow a sack in his NFL career.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dolphins-Raiders Video Highlights

Well the Dolphins eked out another win this week, beating the Oakland Raiders 17-15 thanks to a late Dan Carpenter field goal.

Despite being winners of four straight, not all is good in Dolphins land and there are definitely some things about which to be concerned. I'll touch on that in my recap videos tomorrow, but for now here are some highlight videos of the Dolphins' win over the Raiders:


Raiders vs. Dolphins highlights



Ted Ginn, Jr. 40-yard touchdown run



Ted Ginn, Jr. 23-yard catch in traffic

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dolphins Place Guard Matt McChesney on IR, Promote LB Rob Ninkovich from Practice Squad

Just over a week after being promoted to the active roster and seeing his first NFL regular season action since 2005, the season has ended for guard Matt McChesney. The Dolphins placed McChesney on injured reserve today with a knee injury and have signed linebacker Rob Ninkovich from the practice squad to take McChesney's place on the roster.

Matt McChesney

An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a defensive tackle at Colorado, McChesney went undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft and subsequently signed with the St. Louis Rams. He failed to make the team and was released following the preseason.

The New York Jets signed McChesney to their practice squad during the 2005 season and he eventually was promoted to the active roster, making his NFL debut in December and recording three tackles on the year.

McChesney was then moved to the offensive line and spent the next two years between reserve lists and the practice squad. The Jets eventually released him prior to the 2008 regular season and cut ties with him for good after a brief practice squad stint in September.

The Dolphins signed McChesney to the their practice squad on September 24, releasing tight end Drew Atchison to make room. He remained there until Nov. 7 when the Dolphins signed him to replace the recently waived Evan Mathis.

McChesney saw action in a reserve role against the Seattle Seahawks last week, replacing starting left guard Justin Smiley due to injury. Prior to being placed on I.R., McChesney had been listed as questionable for the team's Week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders.

McChesney is signed through 2009 at a base salary of $460,000.

Rob Ninkovich

As as senior at Purdue in 2005, Ninkovich earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after recording 48 tackles, eight sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Following his collegiate career, Ninkovich was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round (135th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. He led the team in sacks during the 2006 preseason with three but was lost for the year with a torn ACL three games into the regular season.

The following year, Ninkovich injured his knee in a July 2007 practice and missed the preseason. He was waived by the team prior to the regular season opener and claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 7.

Ninkovich went on to play in four games for the Dolphins in 2007, recording two tackles. He was inactive for 12 of the team's games, including 11 of the final 13 during the regular season.

In the 2008 preseason, Ninkovich tied defense end Randy Starks for a team-best two sacks. However after initially surviving final cuts, Ninkovich was waived on Aug. 31 to help make room for Miami's waiver claims (Andy Alleman, Nate Garner, Brandon London) and re-signed to the practice squad.

Ninkovich will wear No. 93, as he has since joining the team last year. The Dolphins now have an open spot on the practice squad which should be filled next week.

Analysis

Well that's what McChesney gets for taking Mike Byrne's number, isn't it?

This appears to be more of a "stashing" move when it comes to McChesney. The fourth-year guard had practiced some this week and was listed as questionable, making it hard to believe he was too hurt to get back in the field over the next six weeks.

The Dolphins likely felt like they had enough depth on the offensive line and enough young players they could try over the rest of the season, allowing them to stash McChesney on I.R. until next year's training camp, when he'll compete for a backup job.

As for Ninkovich, his addition to the active roster might actually be felt in a few areas. As a "bottom-of-the-roster" player, it seems likely that if he's active on game days it will be to play special teams. As we all know, this has been a huge sore spot for the Dolphins in 2008 and the team has made various roster moves in recent weeks in an attempt to solidify the unit.

That being said, Ninkovich could also end up seeing some time on defense. While he hasn't been able to get on the field much during the regular season in his career, he has recorded five sacks between during the '06 and '08 preseasons and, from what I could tell, looked quite promising during the exhibition games this year.

While Miami's pass rush is nothing to complain about, it's important to remember that over half the team's sacks (21) have been made by Joey Porter (12), while players like Matt Roth (just half a sack since Week 5) have failed to establish themselves as consistent producers in this area. Not to mention, can you ever really have too much pressure on the quarterback? (Answer: No.)

For those reasons, I feel like Ninkovich could be given a shot at becoming part of the outside linebacker rotation. While "Nink" will likely be asked to play special teams first, he's shown some pass-rushing skills and versatility at linebacker and, as we all know, those in charge of this team have shown time and time again that they'll play the players they feel give them the best chance to win regardless of background, draft status or contract.

CLICK HERE to see the my latest projected depth chart following these roster moves.

Week 11 Game Predictions

Wow. Two straight weeks of getting 12 of 14 picks right. Who's the man? (Hint: Me.) Too bad I've already missed one this week. Yep, picked the Patriots. Ah well.

Last week's record: 12-2
Season record: 89-55 (61.8%)

Broncos over Falcons - Didn't I learn anything from picking the Saints over Atlanta last week? Apparently not. I think it's about time the Falcons lose another one.

Eagles over Bengals - Never picking Cincinnati. Not happening.

Packers over Bears - With Orton starting for Chicago again, this is probably an upset pick. But really in this rivalry, it's always a toss-up.

Colts over Texans - Indianapolis is about to get on a roll, just watch. They may not win the AFC South, but I think they'll secure a wild card spot.

Saints over Chiefs - So apparently Tyler Thigpen doesn't suck. In fact, he's played damn good ball over the last month. But the Chiefs' defense still does suck, and New Orleans' offense will be too much for them to handle.

Dolphins over Raiders - If the Dolphins want to think about the playoffs this season, they have to win the games they should. This is one of those games and I think Miami pulls it out.

Giants over Ravens - Wow, an incredibly tough intra-conference game to pick. I'll stick with the Super Bowl champs, but it could easily go either way.

Vikings over Buccaneers - Tampa Bay hasn't looked that good lately, even in two wins over bad teams (Seattle and Kansas City). I think Adrian Peterson leads the Vikings to a win here.

Panthers over Lions - Jake Delhomme's performance against Oakland last week (7-for-27, four interceptions) might be one of the worst quarterbacking jobs in a victory in the history of the league. Still, he could probably repeat that performance (which is unlikely) and still beat the hapless Lions.

49ers over Rams - Mike Singletary's well on his way to proving he should not be an NFL head coach, but I still can't justify picking St. Louis any this season.

Cardinals over Seahawks - The ageless Kurt Warner is playing at an MVP level and should have no problem picking apart their division rivals from the Pacific Northwest.

Steelers over Chargers - Could the Chargers pull off an upset here? Sure, but I'm not betting on it.

Titans over Jaguars - You simply can't pick against a Titans team that's rolling like this.

Cowboys over Redskins - Can the return of Tony Romo spark the Cowboys? I'm going to (somewhat) boldly say it can and it will.

Bills over Browns - The Bills have really fallen off lately and that quick start was clearly a fluke, but I still like them against the Browns.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dolphins Re-Sign OT Kirk Barton to Practice Squad, Release DT Anthony Toribio

For what seems like the 20th time this season, defensive tackle Anthony Toribio has been released from the Dolphins' practice squad. Taking his place will be offensive tackle Kirk Barton, who re-joins the Dolphins after a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers.

Anthony Toribio

A three-time all-conference selection at Carson Newman, Toribio (6-1, 300) was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent on May 3, 2008.

Toribio appeared in all four games for the Dolphins during the 2008 preseason, recording one tackle. He was released by the team during final cuts on Aug. 30 and subsequently re-signed to the practice squad.

Toribio has been on and off the Dolphins' practice squad since the beginning of the season, swapping places with cornerback Will Billingsley on multiple occasions. He was released most recently on Nov. 12.

Update: Toribio has since found a new gig, signing to the practice squad of the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 13.

Kirk Barton

A first-team All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State in 2007, Barton was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round (247th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He made the team following the preseason and appeared in the regular season opener before being waived on Sept. 10.

The Dolphins claimed Barton off waivers the following day, releasing tight end Sean Ryan to make room. He was inactive every game he was on the team and was eventually waived by the team on Oct. 16 to make room for fullback Lousaka Polite.

Barton then joined the third team of his young career as he was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco 49ers. He spent two games inactive with the team before being waived on Nov. 9.

Barton cleared waivers and was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad on Nov. 12. He gives the Dolphins 12 the offensive linemen in the organization in addition to 10 on the active roster and one on I.R. Barton's old No. 76 is currently being worn by offensive tackle Brandon Frye.

Analysis

It seems after three different active roster stints, teams have finally figured out that Barton is simply not there yet and is practice squad material at the moment.

The fact that Barton has been on an active roster three times already but has yet to see much game action and has been released three times indicates that teams thought highly of him as a college prospect but he's simply not delivering in practice.

The addition of Barton is of minimal impact. He's familiar with the offense and was a strong college player who has potential, but he's clearly not ready to contribute and might not even be the team's first choice if they needed to add a lineman due to injury.

As a practice squad player, Barton will receive a weekly salary of about $5,200. He has more experience at tackle but could be worked at guard, where he might be a better fit and where Miami has a bigger need.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dolphins Sign WR Todd Lowber to Practice Squad

As the Dolphins continue to make a playoff run, they've added a player who earned a Super Bowl ring less than a year ago. Newly signed to the Dolphins' practice squad is wide receiver Todd Lowber, who was on the Giants' practice squad for their 2007 championship run and went to camp with Dallas earlier this year.

Background

A college basketball player and high-jumping champion at Ramapo College in New Jersey, Lowber had never played organized football in his life prior to 2006. However, that didn't dissuade NFL teams from being interested in him. That's because Lowber measures in at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash between 4.1 and 4.2 seconds.

After holding a workout for NFL teams in April 2007, the Minnesota Vikings signed Lowber to a three-year contract. He appeared in three preseason games for the Vikings but caught no passes and was waived on Aug. 27 prior to the regular season.

Lowber was then signed to the practice squad of the New York Giants on Sept. 21. He was released on Oct. 15, re-signed on Nov. 20, then released again on Jan. 8. During this time, he was practice squad teammates with current Dolphins receiver Brandon London. The Giants re-signed him to a future contract in February 2008 but released him in June.

On July 23, Lowber was signed to the practice squad of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. He remained there only a week before his release, at which time he joined the Dallas Cowboys for training camp.

Lowber's attempt to make the team was covered heavily on HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys. However, he caught just two passes for 44 yards during the preseason and was released on Aug. 30 during final cuts.

Lowber fills the practice squad spot vacated when guard Matt McChesney was promoted to the active roster last week. He gives the Dolphins two wideouts on the practice squad, joining Anthony Armstrong.

Analysis

Rarely have I been so excited about a practice squad signing.

I've followed Lowber's career since I first hear about him in early 2007 and have grown to become a big fan. He's got a great story and from what I can tell reading interviews and watching him on Hard Knocks, he's a good guy and had a truckload of determination and perseverance.

Also, despite him having no direct connection to anyone in the Miami front office (since anyone from Dallas was already here by the time the Cowboys signed him) I listed him as one of Six Potential Cowboys Cuts to Watch back in an August entry. It stands to reason the two franchises would still have similar tastes when it comes to players, and it appears that is the case here.

As one would expect given his lack of a football background, Lowber is very raw and is still not a refined NFL player. His route-running still needs work, as do most of the finer points of the wide receiver position. To be perfectly honest, he's not a lock to ever make it as a pro and it will take a lot of work if he is going to make it.

That being said, his physical tools are undeniable. He's got ideal wideout size (6-3, 200) and blazing speed (he's been timed under 4.2 in the forty). Combine that with his work ethic and determination, and he's easily a project worth undertaking for an NFL team. I'm just glad it's the Dolphins.

Todd Lowber interview on the way?

I'm happy to announce that Todd has agreed to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions in a Q&A session for this site. It will be my site's second interview, following last month's Q&A with tight end Joey Haynos. So be sure to check back in the next week for so for an exclusive Q&A with Dolphins wide receiver Todd Lowber!

Dolphins Re-Sign Safety Bryan, Release Safety Brannon Condren

Looking to shore up a struggling special teams unit, the Dolphins have brought back a familiar face by re-signing second-year safety Courtney Bryan. Released to make room for Bryan on the roster was safety Brannon Condren, who had spent four games with the Dolphins after coming over from St. Louis.

Brannon Condren

A two-year starter at Troy, Condren was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round (131st overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He split his rookie season between the practice squad and active roster, appearing in 8 games (no starts) and recording five tackles.

Despite a two-interception preseason with the Colts in 2008, Condren was released by the team during final cuts on Aug. 30.

Condren was subsequently claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Rams. However, he was inactive every game with the team and eventually waived on Oct. 10 to make room for wide receiver Derek Stanley.

Condren was signed by the Dolphins on October 14 after the team waived safety Tyrone Culver. He appeared in four games for the Dolphins, recording three special teams tackles, before being waived on Nov. 10.

Courtney Bryan

Originally signed by the Dolphins under Cam Cameron as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico State in 2007, Bryan made the Dolphins out of training camp as a backup safety and special teams player.

Bryan went on to appear in 12 games as a rookie, recording 11 tackles. He primarily played on special teams but saw some extended time on defense later in the season due to mounting injuries.

Bryan appeared in all four preseason games for the Dolphins in the 2008 under new head coach Tony Sparano, recording nine tackles (all solo) and a pass deflection. However, he was released at the conclusion of the preseason as the Dolphins picked up Tyrone Culver from the Green Bay Packers.

Bryan rejoins the Dolphins having been a free agent since the 2008 preseason. He will primarily work on special teams and will again don his old No. 47.

Analysis

This move is purely a special teams one and Bryan is unlikely to see time on defense barring a few injuries. He's got experience as both safety positions but probably doesn't have much of a future in the NFL beyond that of a backup and special teamer.

For those of you were wondering why Bryan hasn't been on a practice squad this season, his time with Miami in 2007 made him ineligible for practice squad gigs.

The Dolphins continue to shuffle special teams players, looking to get the most efficient group they can with what other teams have discarded. The unit has been a sore spot for the Dolphins this season, as indicates by the following numbers:
  • Miami's KR average: 19.7 (32nd)
  • Miami's PR average: 8.6 (20th)
  • Opponent's KR average: 28.0 (32nd)
  • Opponent's PR average: (14.3) (31st)
Those ranks say it all. Miami is dead last in the NFL in both kick return average and opponent's kick return average. The former is due in part to Davone Bess beginning the season as kick returner, and the Dolphins' average should go up with the much more electric Ted Ginn, Jr. taking over the job.

As you can see, this is definitely an area that needs improvement and that is vital for any playoff run for which fans are hoping. Field position is a huge aspect of football and the Dolphins cannot afford to continue allowing opponents to begin drives with such good field position.

Condren wasn't the lone reason for Miami's special teams struggles, just as Bryan is not the lone savior. Bryan's place on the roster is not at all secure and the Dolphins will continue to shuffle these bottom-of-the-roster types until they can find a productive special teams unit.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

2008 Week 10 Recap: Seahawks at Dolphins

Here's my recap of the Dolphins' Week 10 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Note: One thing I forgot to mention at all in either video was running back Patrick Cobbs. Recently signed to a two-year extension, Cobbs had what I would call a fantastic all-around game against Seattle. He had a couple great special teams tackles (he barely missed on a few others) and made some key blocks on offense including one on Ronnie Brown's late touchdown run.

Now that that's out of the way, are the videos:

Offense:




Defense & Special Teams:



Also, here are a couple of highlights from the Seahawks' game for your convenience:

Ted Ginn, Jr.'s touchdown



Ricky Williams' 51-yard touchdown run

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Week 10 game predictions

Holy-freaking-crap! After three straight weeks of 7-7 performances, I actually had a good week in Week 9 picking 12 of 14 games correctly. Let's keep rolling.

P.S. I picked the Broncos over the Browns in the Thursday game but I forgot I needed to post my week's predictions before then. What, you don't believe me? After all we've been through? Fine. Then feast your eyes on this screen-capture-tastic evidence:









Bam, son.


Last week's record: 12-2
Season record: 77-53 (59.2%)

Saints over Falcons - In what one would not have expected to be an upset pick, I think the Saints' offense has a big day and halts the Falcons' momentum.

Titans over Bears - I probably would have gone with the Titans anyway, but Rex Grossman seals it for me. (I don't care if he had a good half last week.)

Jaguars over Lions - The Jaguars are falling apart, but can Daunte Culpepper lead an awful Lions squad to victory less than a week after signing? I'm not thinking so.

Dolphins over Seahawks - If the Dolphins are going to make a playoff run, they have to win the games they are supposed to win. This is one of them, especially with Seneca Wallace still starting for Seattle.

Packers over Vikings - Big divisional matchups like this can go either way, but I really like the Packers.

Patriots and Bills - After a hot start to the season, the Bills have come back down to earth. They've already dropped two divisional games in a row and I'm predicting a third straight here.

Jets over Rams - The Rams have proven they can sneak up on people, but not with Kenneth Darby in for Steven Jackson at running back.

Ravens over Houston - Not much else to say, I expect the Ravens to keep rolling here.

Panthers over Raiders - The Raiders are an absolute mess right now and the Panthers have a lot more firepower on offense.

Colts over Steelers - Why would an inconsistent '08 Peyton Manning lead his team to victory over the NFL's top defense? Because I said so.

Chargers over Chiefs - The Chargers haven't been the team we expected, but they should be able to handle KC.

Giants over Eagles - This great divisional matchup could absolutely go either way, but the Giants have just been playing too well lately to bet against them.

Cardinals over 49ers - The Cardinals aren't great, but they do have a strong passing game and I expect it to be more than the Niners can match.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Guard Evan Mathis released; Matt McChesney Promoted from Practice Squad

Less than two weeks after seeing significant playing time against the Bills and Broncos, right guard Evan Mathis has been released from the team. Taking his place will be guard Matt McChesney, who was elevated from the practice squad.

Evan Mathis

An All-SEC performer at Alabama, Mathis was drafted by the Panthers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. After playing only in a reserve role as a rookie, Mathis started 15 games for the Panthers in 2006.

Mathis failed to hold onto the starting job beyond that season and was relegated to a backup role in 2007. He was released by the Panthers during final cuts in 2008.

Mathis was signed by the Dolphins on Sept. 9 after rookie Donald Thomas, who had earned the starting right guard spot in the preseason, was knocked out for the season with foot injury. Recently, Mathis had been sharing time at right guard with Ike Ndukwe.

Matt McChesney

Originally a defensive tackle, McChesney played college football at Colorado and was signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2005.

After being released by the Rams in July, McChesney was signed to the practice squad of the New York Jets mid-season. He was signed to the active roster late in the season and appeared in three games, recording three tackles.

In 2006, McChesney was moved to the offensive line and spent the entire season honing his new craft on the practice squad.

The following offseason, McChesney was an All-NFL Europa performer for the Frankfurt Galaxy. He spent the entire NFL season on the Reserve/NFL Europa Non-Football Injury list.

After being re-signed in the 2008 offseason, McChesney was released by the Jets during final cuts. He began the season on the practice squad before being release on Sept. 15. He was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad on Sept. 24 when the team released tight end Drew Atchison.

McChesney will wear No. 60, which was worn by undrafted rookie Mike Byrne (my boy) in training camp.

Analysis

Despite being a former third-round pick, Mathis has failed to hold onto starting opportunities with two different franchises over the past three seasons. He was unimpressive in his time in Miami and was unable to beat out a journeyman in Ike Ndukwe, leading one to believe Mathis is likely bound for a career as a backup.

As for the Dolphins, the right guard position has been a season-long question to which the Dolphins don't have the answer. Rookie phenom Donald Thomas was supposed to run away with the job, but an unfortunate injury in the season opener and a lack of depth on the offensive line has haunted the team.

With the exception of the two first Wildcat appearances (New England and San Diego), the Dolphins' running backs have been unable to find consistent room with which to work. Their struggles are due in large part to the talent hole at right guard.

As the Dolphins push for the playoffs in a tight AFC East race, the team is trying all sorts of options at right guard this season. Ndukwe held the role at first, then Mathis was given a shot. Next up might be Andy Alleman – a third-rounder by the Saints in 2007 who hasn't seen much action this season. Beyond that could be McChesney, and eventually recent-signing Brandon Frye after he learns the offense a little better.

None of these players can be counted on as saviors, even the former high draft picks like Mathis and Alleman. However, If I had to pick a few with the best potential, I would probably go with Alleman and Frye. Alleman has versatility along the interior line while Frye has a lot of tackle experience, though obviously neither has earned a significant NFL role to date.

One thing is for sure: if the Dolphins don't patch up this hole on the line and get some kind of productive running game going, a playoff push is going to be difficult and a run in the playoffs might be near-impossible.

One more thing: the mere fact that Shawn Murphy's name has not even been mentioned lately (or all season, as he hasn't yet even dressed for a game) does not bode well for the rookie fourth-rounder. He might stick around through next preseason as the front office might like to give him one more chance to prove himself, but right now I'd say he's a long shot to be with the team once the 2009 season roles around.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dolphins Extend RB Patrick Cobbs; Other Random Dolphins Notes

Here's a collection of random Dolphins-related notes. Better buckle up. Let's go.

I'm famous!

Starting off on a completely egotistical note, I was apparently given a mention in a recent blog entry of the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero. I had emailed Salguero earlier this week asking to ask Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano about the right guard situation, as I'd noticed some swapping of Ike Ndukwe and Evan Mathis lately. Props to Salguero for getting Sparano to shed some light on the situation.

Cobbs gets extension

As I'm sure all of you know, the Dolphins have extended the contract of running back Patrick Cobbs. It happened over a week ago but I wanted to wait for the NFLPA database to update so I could provide the contract numbers.

Cobbs' new contract, which will keep him with the Dolphins through the 2010 season provided he does not get cut or traded before then, pays him base salaries of $640,588 in 2008, $680,000 in 2009 and $775,000 in 2010. As a result of this new contract, Cobbs will now skip restricted free agency in the 2009 offseason and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the new deal.

As for some brief analysis of the deal, I'm all for it. Cobbs isn't really starter material, but he's a solid backup and can contribute in a variety of ways. He has a tremendous work ethic, good hands and is a strong special teams player. Whether or not this deal says anything about what the team thinks of sixth-rounders Jalen Parmele and Lex Hilliard – both on the practice squad – is hard to know.

Billingsley in, Mulligan out

For seemingly the 57th time this season, cornerback Will Billingsley has been re-signed to the practice squad. To make room for Billingsley, the Dolphins released tight end Matthew Mulligan.

An undrafted free agent out of Maine in 2008, Mulligan had been on the Dolphins' practice squad the entire regular season. Billingsley – a street free agent from North Carolina A&T picked up in the offseason – has been on and off the practice squad throughout the season.

Ex-Dolphin updates

Assuming I'm not the only dork interested in these things, here are a couple updates on some former Dolphins players and their new gigs:
  • Safety Chris Crocker signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30. He had been released by the Dolphins on Oct. 21 when the team re-signed safety Tyrone Culver.
  • Tight end Sean Ryan signed with the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 3. A former Cowboy, Ryan signed with the Dolphins during the 2008 offseason and was released after the season opener.
  • Linebacker Tyson Smith was signed to the practice squad of the Denver Broncos on Nov. 4. Smith began the season on the Dolphins' practice squad and remained there until his release on Oct. 8.
  • Wide receiver Jayson Foster was signed to the practice squad of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 14. Foster joined the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern in the offseason but was released during final cuts.
  • Linebacker Kelly Poppinga was signed to the practice squad of the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 4. Poppinga signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of BYU in 2008 but did not make the squad out of training camp.
  • Running back Samkon Gado signed with the St. Louis Rams on November 4. Gado spent part of last season with the Dolphins after multiple injuries at the running back position.
  • Tight end Jason Rader was released by the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 29. Rader spent the 2005 and 2006 season with the Dolphins before being released during final cuts in 2007.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dolphins Part Ways with WR Hagan, Sign OT Frye

Buried on the Dolphins' depth chart by a group including three undrafted players, the Dolphins parted ways with their 2006 third-round pick by waiving wide receiver Derek Hagan on November 4.

To take Hagan's spot on the roster, the Dolphins' signed second-year offensive tackle Brandon Frye off the Houston Texans' practice squad. Frye was drafted by the Texans out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round in 2007.

Derek Hagan

A California native, Hagan played college football at Arizona State (2002-05) where he was one of the most prolific receivers in Pac-10 history. As a senior in 2005, Hagan caught 77 passes for 1,210 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to a first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He finished his career first in Pac-10 history in receptions (258) and second in receiving yards (3,939) while amassing 27 touchdowns.

Despite his college performance, a poor showing at Senior Bowl week earned Hagan the label of bad hands. Projected by some to go as high as the second round, Hagan was drafted by Nick Saban and the Dolphins in the third round (82nd overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Hagan's pre-draft drop problems followed him to the NFL and he finished his rookie season with just 21 receptions for 221 yards and a touchdown in 16 games.

Hagan saw somewhat better production in his 2007 sophomore campaign under Cam Cameron, setting career highs in receptions (29), receiving yards (373) and touchdowns (2).

Under his third head coach in three seasons in 2008, Hagan initially earned the starting wide receiver job opposite Ted Ginn, Jr. despite finishing sixth on the team in receiving during the preseason.

Hagan quickly lost his hold on the job, failing to start the regular season opener and falling behind the likes of Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brandon London on the depth chart. Appearing in just four games as a reserve this season and only one game altogether since Week 3, Hagan recorded three receptions for 51 yards and no scores.

Hagan ends his tenure with the Dolphins with 53 catches for 645 yards and three touchdowns. He was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2009 season. With his release, only two of the Dolphins' six '06 draft picks - first-rounder Jason Allen and seventh-rounder Rodrique Wright - remain with the organization.

Brandon Frye

Originally a defensive end at Virginia Tech, Frye moved to the offensive line while redshirting in 2002. He worked as a backup tackle until late in the 2005 season, when he was forced into the starting lineup due to injury in the Gator Bowl. He maintained the starting left tackle job as a senior in 2006.

While at Virginia Tech, Frye was consistently a standout in the weight room. He posted the top 40 time at his position as both a freshman and sophomore and was consistently one of the most impressive lifters on the team, setting a position record with a 705-pound squat. He posted a 5.08-second 40 times at the NFL Scouting Combine in Feb. 2007.

Frye was selected by the Houston Texans in the fifth round (163rd overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft with a pick acquired in a draft-dray trade with the New Orleans Saints. He signed a contract with the Texans on July 26.

After being released by the Texans during final cuts, Frye began the season on the practice squad until he was promoted to the active roster on October 31 when linebacker Shawn Barber went on injured reserve. Frye spent the remainder of the season on the active roster but did not see any game action.

In the 2008 offseason, Frye was re-signed by the Texans as an exclusive-rights free agent on March 31. He was once again waived during final cuts and was re-signed to the Texans' practice squad, where he remained until being signed by the Dolphins on November 5. Because he was signed off another team's practice squad, Frye must remain on the Dolphins' active roster for at least three weeks.

Frye gives the Dolphins 10 offensive lineman on the active roster in addition to an 11th on the practice squad. He will wear No. 76, which was most recently worn by offensive tackle Kirk Barton earlier in the season.

Analysis

Despite Hagan's draft status and Miami's inexperienced receiving corps, it's not a surprise to see Hagan released here. Though he really hasn't had many (or any) good quarterbacks to work with until the arrival of Chad Pennington, he still often struggled with drops and failed to seize good opportunities - namely following the Chris Chambers trade in 2007 and in training camp this year.

The impact of the Hagan release is practically nonexistent as he had been unable to get on the field in recent weeks and was not a contributor. All of Miami's young receivers - Ginn, Camarillo, Bess, London - have shown promise at times this season, making Hagan expendable.

(To be fair, a big reason why Hagan might have gotten the axe now instead of the equally-disappointing Ernest Wilford might only be because of Wilford's big contract and the fact he was brought in by the current regime, while Hagan was a Saban/Cameron holdover.)

As for Frye, something tells me he might have been brought in to be given a chance at the right guard spot despite his history at tackle.

The Dolphins were dealt a tough blow in the season opener when promising sixth-rounder Donald Thomas was lost for the season with a foot injury. Since Thomas went down, the Dolphins have tried Cameron holdover Ike Ndukwe and free agent pickup Evan Mathis at right guard - both times with little success. The Dolphins' rushing game has clearly suffered as a result, and one needs to look no further than Ronnie Brown's recent rushing averages (3.8, 2.1, 3.1, 3.0 since Week 5) to see the problem.

With the rest of the line practically settled, the right guard spot is the only real weak (but still very important) link. That brings us to Frye.

A blind-side tackle in college, I believe Frye has the necessarily tools to transition inside at the pro level. (Note: I am unsure if Frye has seen time inside in his 1+ years in Houston, but it wouldn't surprise me.) He might have size (6-4, 305) better suited inside, and he possesses impressive athletic ability, good strength and a nonstop motor.

With no regular season appearances, Frye is no guarantee to be a savior at the right guard position. It's not even a given he'll be tried there, though I'd be willing to bet on it given the team's recent struggles at the position and the timing of Frye's signing.

However, he is a young player with some good qualities and potentially, which has been the Dolphins' MO lately. The Dolphins are simply adding a handful of young offensive linemen in hopes of finding some potential gems, and time will only tell of Frye is one of those.