Saturday, July 31, 2010

Miami Dolphins: 2010 Training Camp Preview

The Miami Dolphins opened up training camp yesterday afternoon in Davie, so it's time to take an overall look at how the team is shaping up heading into the season.

The following is a position-by-position breakdown of the Dolphins' current 80-man roster (plus unsigned restricted free agent Ronnie Brown), along with predictions for who I currently see making the team's active roster.


Quarterbacks (3): Chad Henne (starter), Tyler Thigpen, Chad Pennington
Released: Pat White

Chad Henne enters camp the unquestioned starter, as it should be. He showed a great arm and good leadership during his first full season of starting in 2009 and looks to have a lot of upside. New weapons like Brandon Marshall will only help.

Tyler Thigpen seems likely to stick around as a backup given his upside and potential trade value next offseason as a restricted free agent.

Veteran Chad Pennington's presence is welcome. It's a luxury to have a player with his experience and productivity, and even if he never plays, he will surely be an asset to Henne's development.

A lot of people want to give Pat White more time to prove himself, but I've seen enough. I don't care about any of the fluff coming from the team or the other players—White is not an NFL quarterback.

There is no doubt in my mind that White is not good enough to be on the Dolphins roster. The only question is whether the team admits that now and goes into the 2010 season without him, or continues to keep him on simply because they don't want to admit their mistake in last year's second round.

For the team's benefit, hopefully it's the former.

Running backs (4): Ronnie Brown (starter), Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard
Released: Tristan Davis, Kory Sheets

The Dolphins head into this season once again stacked at running back, with two capable starters in Brown and Williams.

Whether you have only one of them or both, they are both good enough and the Dolphins' line is good enough that running the ball should be no problem.

I expect Patrick Cobbs, who is coming off a torn ACL, to overtake Lex Hilliard for the No. 3 job. Hilliard is not that impressive (averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in 2009) and isn't the versatile coach favorite Cobbs is.

Much has been made about Kory Sheets' blazing speed, but I don't see him making the roster even as a returner. He's just not going to contribute any on offense to make it worth it.

Fullback (1): Lousaka Polite
Released: Rolly Lumbala

Polite played like a Pro Bowler last season, and he is not going to be challenged by CFL import Lumbala.

The Dolphins don't usually keep two fullbacks, so Lumbala would have to make himself indispensable on special teams to stick around.

Wide receivers (5): Brandon Marshall (starter), Brian Hartline (starter), Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Patrick Turner
Released: Ryan Grice-Mullen, Taurus Johnson, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace

Marshall enters his first Dolphins camp as the No. 1 receiver, and that won't change. He may have his off-the-field problems, but there is little doubt his talent fills the biggest void of the Dolphins' offense.

The biggest question at receiver is who will start opposite Marshall. My favorite all offseason has been second-year player Brian Hartline, and it looks like that may just happen as Hartline has spent the first two days of camp with the first team.

Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo are both fairly reliable receivers (Camarillo more so than Bess) and should compete for catches beyond Marshall and Hartline.

I'd prefer to see Camarillo in the slot during three-receiver sets, as he has everything Bess does along with much better hands.

Patrick Turner was extremely disappointing as a rookie third-rounder last year, but the Dolphins don't really have anyone better to keep around, which is why I think Turner gets another shot in 2010.

Ryan Grice-Mullen is a poor man's Davone Bess, and there is simply no reason for two of them. Taurus Johnson and Julius Pruitt both have their positive traits, but they would have to really separate themselves to make the Dolphins keep either over Turner.

Tight ends (3): Anthony Fasano, Joey Haynos, Kory Sperry
Released: Jared Bronson, John Nalbone

A quality blocker, Fasano's receiving numbers were way down in 2009 after a career year during his first season with the Dolphins.

Joey Haynos hasn't developed into anything more than a backup yet, but he probably won't be challenged for the No. 2 job by any of the other tight ends on the roster.

The real battle here is between 2009 fifth-rounder John Nalbone and undrafted second-year player Kory Sperry. The money has to be on Sperry at this point, who got the call to the active roster during the 2009 season over Nalbone, despite Nalbone being one of the team's own drafted rookies.

Offensive tackles (3): Jake Long (starter - LT), Vernon Carey (starter - RT), Andrew Gardner
Released: Lydon Murtha

There isn't much to wonder about here, as Long is one of the elite left tackles in all of football and Carey is very solid as well as highly compensated.

The Dolphins' sixth-round pick in 2009, Gardner appears to be unchallenged for the backup left tackle job, and early reports from camp indicate he's in great shape.

Lydon Murtha isn't a bad option as a backup right tackle, but he will probably get pushed off the roster by Nate Garner, who provides more experience and versatility at other positions.

Offensive guards (4): John Jerry (starter - LG), Richie Incognito (starter - RG), Nate Garner, Cory Procter
Released: Donald Thomas

Early reports have Jerry starting at right guard and Procter at left guard, although I expect at some point, we'll get back to the Jerry-at-LG, Incognito-at-RG setup most of us expected. The Dolphins do love to shuffle their linemen around during camp.

In the event that Jerry and Incognito nail down the starting jobs, the favorites to back them up have to be Garner and Procter.

Garner was actually quite solid filling in for Justin Smiley last season, while Procter has lots of starting and backup experience and is a familiar face from his time in Dallas.

The odd man out might actually be Thomas, who has opened each of the past two seasons as the team's starting right guard after being selected in the sixth round in 2008.

Injuries and poor play have held Thomas back, and the Dolphins have plenty of other options right now. Thomas doesn't have the experience Procter does or the versatility Garner does, which is why I see him as the fifth-best guard on the team and a potential roster casualty.

Centers (2): Jake Grove (starter), Joe Berger
Released: Andrew Hartline

This is another position where there is little doubt as to who is making the team, as both Grove and Berger were excellent starters when they played last season.

As good as Berger played in 2009, I still think Grove has to be the starter. He is better, and the Dolphins did not sign him to a $29 million contract to sit on the bench.

A former college tackle, Hartline doesn't stand much of a chance of sticking around.

Defensive ends (5): Kendall Langford (starter - LDE), Jared Odrick (starter - RDE), Charles Grant, Marques Douglas, Tony McDaniel
Placed on I.R.: Phillip Merling (Achilles')
Released: Ryan Baker, Lionel Dotson

Langford returns for his third straight season as a starter, and the guy is a rock. He's not flashy, as with most 3-4 defensive ends, but he's a great run-stuffer and does his job well.

With Merling reportedly out for the season, an extra roster spot should open and Odrick should have a clear path to the starting right guard job. Odrick would really have to play himself out of the starting lineup, and I don't expect that to happen.

Recent veteran additions Douglas and Grant may be competing for one spot, but based on the lack of talent behind them, I think both have a good shot to make the team. If only one is kept, it will probably be Douglas.

I like Baker over McDaniel in terms of potential, but McDaniel has more experience and is no longer practice-squad eligible. I think the Dolphins try to sneak Baker back to the practice squad to work as a practice defensive end/nose tackle.

After two seasons of really contributing nothing, I think the veteran depth the Dolphins now have at end finally pushes 2008 seventh-round pick Dotson off the roster.

Nose tackles (2): Randy Starks (starter), Paul Soliai
Released: Montavious Stanley, Travis Ivey

For those of you concerned about Starks moving from defensive end to nose tackle, take a look at the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys made a Pro Bowl nose tackle out of former 3-4 end Jay Ratliff. Starks is similar in style and is just as good, if not better, than Ratliff. The Dolphins won't miss a thing with Starks replacing Jason Ferguson, and probably have even upgraded.

Paul Soliai hasn't developed into the starter everyone has hoped, but he is a solid backup nose tackle and has all the size and talent in the world if he ever decides he wants to be something more.

I don't see Soliai getting pushed off the roster by a journeyman like Stanley or a raw undrafted free agent in Ivey.

Outside linebackers (5): Cameron Wake (starter - WOLB), Koa Misi (starter - SOLB), Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Ikaika Alama-Francis
Released: Chris McCoy, Erik Walden

Anderson has had his moments, but is best suited as a backup. I think the Dolphins have to give Wake a real chance to show what he can do as a full-time starter, given his ability as a pass rusher.

It looks as if Misi is going to get first dibs on the other starting job, and could go almost unchallenged if the Dolphins focus Anderson on the weak side.

Moses returns as an experienced backup, while I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and say recently converted defensive end (and former Lions defensive tackle) Ikaika Alama-Francis makes the roster after shifting to outside linebacker.

According to Tony Sparano, linebackers coach Bill Sheridan says Alama-Francis can gain and lose weight quickly and has the athleticism for the move. He reportedly weighs around 275 now, so I can see him as a Matt Roth-type on the strong side.

Walden finally gets kicked off the roster after two years of special teams duty, but little else.

Meanwhile, I think seventh-round rookie McCoy is ticketed for the practice squad in his first full season.

Inside linebackers (4): Karlos Dansby (starter - MIKE ILB), Channing Crowder (starter - MOE ILB), Tim Dobbins, A. J. Edds
Released: J. D. Folsom, Austin Spitler

The Dolphins upgraded their defense in a major way with the signing of Dansby, who brings a talent level and play-making ability the team has been missing at the position for quite some time.

I believe there could be a bit of a competition for the other starting inside linebacker job, though Crowder should still be considered the favorite. However, I wouldn't put it past new arrival Dobbins to push him for playing time.

Rookie fourth-rounder Edds should also see some time on defense as a rookie given his athleticism and ability in pass coverage, which is a department the Dolphins' linebackers have been lacking in recent years.

In a battle between a 2009 seventh-rounder and 2010 seventh-rounder, Folsom and Spitler are likely competing for one practice squad spot.

Cornerbacks (5): Vontae Davis (starter), Sean Smith (starter), Will Allen, Jason Allen, Nolan Carroll
Released: Evan Oglesby, Nate Ness, A. J. Wallace, Ross Weaver

The Dolphins are a bit deeper at cornerback than they were a year ago, given the experience of Davis and Smith as well as the return of Will Allen.

I expect Allen to play quite a bit, but I don't believe the team will let him inhibit the progression of the team's talented young corners.

Former first-rounder Jason Allen has been a bust at corner, but he is absolutely one of the best special teams players on the team and is needed more than ever with the departure of Nathan Jones. I don't see him getting cut at this point.

Veteran Oglesby and fifth-rounder Carroll are likely competing for one roster spot, and I'll give it to Carroll. Oglesby doesn't offer an upside at this point in his career, whereas Carroll's lack of experience isn't a big deal as the No. 5 cornerback.

I don't give Ness, Wallace, or Weaver much chance to make the team, although it's quite possible one could make the practice squad. Ness should have the advantage at this point as the most experienced of the three.

Safeties (4): Chris Clemons (starter - FS), Yeremiah Bell (starter - SS), Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver
Released: Jonathon Amaya

It appears Clemons will get a chance to prove himself as the team's starting free safety, and rookie Jones doesn't seem to be ready to seriously push for the job yet. Whether or not Clemons can actually handle the job remains to be seen, but he's the team's best option right now.

Bell is entrenched as the starting strong safety, although I expect to see his backup Culver on defense at times too. Culver has been a good dime back for the Dolphins over the past few seasons.

A talented undrafted rookie, Amaya will have to excel on special teams to persuade the Dolphins to keep five safeties. He's an excellent developmental candidate for the practice squad if he doesn't get picked up by someone else.

Special Teams (3): Dan Carpenter (placekicker), Brandon Fields (punter), John Denney (long snapper)
Released: none

Three special teams spots, and three players to fill them. All three signed contract extensions this offseason, and all three are very good at their jobs. Nothing to figure out here.


Practice Squad

The Dolphins will likely get at least one or two of their practice squad players from other teams' cuts, but just for fun, here is the eight-man practice squad I would make with the team's own cuts:
  • Kory Sheets — Lighting fast and some play-making ability on offense and in the return game.
  • Julius Pruitt — Good blend of size (6-2, 206) and 4.3 speed, so worth keeping around to develop.
  • John Nalbone — The Dolphins like to have four tight ends between the active roster and practice squad, so they will probably keep Nalbone around if he doesn't go elsewhere.
  • Andrew Hartline — One of only two offensive line cuts eligible for the practice squad (Murtha being the other) and Hartline offers more position versatility in practice.
  • Ryan Baker — Still practice squad eligible, not flashy enough to attract attention from other teams, and can play both defensive end and nose tackle.
  • Austin Spitler — It's between Folsom and Spitler for his spot, and I like Spitler a bit better.
  • Nate Ness — Ness has experience at both corner and safety, so he'll be useful in practice.
  • Jonathon Amaya — A play-making safety with a bit of upside, Amaya is one of the Dolphins' more talented undrafted free agents and is worth grooming a bit.

Remember, not all players I have being released above are eligible for the practice squad. Players eligible for the practice squad are:
"players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFLexperience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season gamesduring their only Accrued Season(s)."
With that in mind, remember that guys like Pat White and Donald Thomas are not eligible.


As always, check out the constantly-updated projected depth chart here.


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Dolphins to work out Arena quarterback Tommy Grady

Despite having four quarterbacks already on the roster (if you want to call Pat White a quarterback), the Miami Dolphins have made arrangements to work out Tommy Grady of the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz on Monday, Aug. 2.

Originally a member of the Oklahoma Sooners in 2003, Grady redshirted in 2003 and was the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Jason White in 2004. Grady appeared in five games for the Sooners that season, totaling 63 yards and a touchdown pass.

After sitting out due to transfer rules in 2005, Grady saw action in seven games a the backup quarterback for the Utah Utes, throwing for 102 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.

Grady threw for 681 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions as the primary backup to starter Brian Johnson in 2007.

Undrafted in 2008, Grady served as the backup quarterback for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of af2 in 2009.

With the Yard Dawgz moving to the new Arena Football League in 2010, Grady took the reins as the team's starting quarterback over former FSU quarterback Xavier Lee.

Despite a 6-10 record and a second-place finish in the division, Grady excelled for the Yard Dawgz in 2010 with 4,307 passing yards and 81 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

With the Yard Dawgz' season officially coming to an end Friday, the team's coach gave Grady his blessing to explore this NFL opportunity.

A big, strong-armed quarterback at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, Grady is a somewhat intriguing prospect but has a long way to go to even sniff an NFL career. He would likely be groomed on the practice squad if he were to stick around at all in Miami.


Evan Oglesby out with illness

No one landed on the PUP list on Miami's first day of training camp yesterday, but the Dolphins did place cornerback Evan Oglesby on the Active/Non-Football Injury list.

This does not remove Oglesby from the 80-man roster, and he can be activated from this list at any time when he is ready to return to the field.

Although it is not known what Oglesby's exact illness is, it is likely minor and he should be activated in a few days. Teams simply make these kinds of moves because they are necessary precursors to having players on these lists during the regular season, if needed.

A five-year NFL veteran, the 27-year-old Oglesby is coming for a reserve cornerback job in his second season and first camp with the Dolphins.


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Friday, July 30, 2010

Dolphins release OG Ray Feinga

Though training camp has just begun today, the Miami Dolphins have already trimmed their roster a bit, waiving second-year guard Ray Feinga.

Feinga—a two-time All-Mountain West selection at BYU—went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Signed to Miami's practice squad in December after stints with the Rams and Chargers, Feinga was re-signed by the Dolphins following the 2009 season.

The 6-foot-4, 337-pound Feinga was penciled in as the fourth-team left guard behind John Jerry, Nate Garner, and Cory Procter.

Feinga joins Dimitri Tsoumpas as one of two guard released by the Dolphins since yesterday.

With the release of Feinga, the Dolphins now have five guards, 12 offensive linemen, and 80 total players on the active roster.

Bronson returns

According to a tweet from Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, undrafted tight end Jared Bronson has returned to the team one year after failing to report for training camp.

Undrafted out of Central Washington in 2009, Bronson signed with the Dolphins on April 30, 2009, only to be placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list on Aug. 2.

Bronson's return gives the Dolphins five tight ends, though he is an extreme long shot to make the roster. His No. 89 is now worn by wide receiver Taurus Johnson.


As always, you can check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions.


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Miami Dolphins' Top Training Camp Battles of 2010

I've written six articles counting down the Miami Dolphins' top 10 training camp battles of 2010, but with camp starting today, it seems I need to accelerate things a bit.

You can check out the first six entries of the countdown in my archives, but in order to get the rest of them out in a timely manner, I've decided to put together a slideshow for the top four.




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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dolphins sign DE Charles Grant; waive OG Dimitri Tsoumpas

The Miami Dolphins made their third defensive line addition of the past week today, signing former New Orleans Saints defensive end Charles Grant to a two-year contract.

Released by the New Orleans Saints in March three years into a seven-year, $63 million contract, Grant's deal with the Dolphins is believed to be worth up to $4.5 million.

The Dolphins also released rookie guard Dimitri Tsoumpas to bring the team's roster down to the 80-man limit.

Tsoumpas joined the Dolphins in January after two seasons with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, including an All-Star selection in 2009.

Background

Originally drafted by the Saints 25th overall out of Georgia in 2002, Started six of 16 games as a rookie and totaled 37 tackles, seven sacks, and four forced fumbles.

Granted notched double-digit sacks totals of 10 and 10.5 during his second and third seasons, respectively, while starting all 32 games during that span.

Starting all but 12 games for the Saints since the beginning of the 2005 season, Grant has been an up-and-down producer and has seen his pass-rushing impact drop off dramatically.

In addition to a high mark of six sacks (in 2006) over the last five years, Grant has failed to total more than three sacks in three seasons during that span.

After starting all 16 regular season games and recording 5.5 sacks for the Saints in 2009, Grant missed the entire postseason with a torn triceps.

Released on March 4, Grant listed the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Tennessee Titans as three teams for which he'd like to play.

In May, Grant was clear of involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from the February 2008 deaths of a 23-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn child during an altercation at a Georgia nightclub.

Instead, Grant plead guilty to public affray, leading to a $1,000 fine, one year of probation, and was forced to pay the sheriff's office $20,000 for the cost of the investigation.

Grant's UFL rights were claimed by the Omaha Nighthawks last month, but he did not sign with the team.

Analysis

It's a bit surprising to see the Dolphins part ways with Tsoumpas before camp, as he was coming off a pretty good, albeit brief, CFL career. I would have expected for him to at least get a look as a reserve guard—at least over someone like Ray Feinga.

Either Tsoumpas expressed a desire to return to the CFL or the Dolphins just weren't impressed with what they saw of him in offseason workouts. Either way, he's the one that got the axe when it came time to trim the roster down to 80.

It's a bit surprising to see Grant signed here, as this is the third veteran defensive lineman added this week.

Despite his deal being advertised as a two-year, $4.5 million pact, I don't expect there is too much commitment on the Dolphins' end.

Transitioning from a 4-3 defensive end role, Grant has the bulk to stay at end in the 3-4 despite it being a very different role.

Grant has been a better run stopper than pass rusher for some time now, and his 6-5, 290-pound frame is similar to that of Phillip Merling's.

Despite his long career as a starter, Grant's play has actually dipped quite a bit in recent years, and he even shouldn't be considered a lock to make the roster.

In truth, Grant may be competing for one roster spot with fellow veteran Marques Douglas, who was signed on Monday.

My money would be on Douglas at this point, as he has more experience in the scheme and with the Dolphins' coaching staff. Plus, he's just been a lot better in recent years.

As always, you can check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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Dolphins ink final two draft picks

On the eve of training camp, the Miami Dolphins ensured all their drafted rookies would be in attendance by signing first-round defensive end Jared Odrick and second-round linebacker Koa Misi to contracts.

Per published reports, Odrick—the 28th overall pick in April's draft—will receive a five-year contract worth $13 million with $7.133 million in guaranteed money.

The 40th overall pick, Misi agreed to terms on a four-year contract with a total value of $4.73 million and guaranteed money around $2.8 million.

Barring an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Odrick will have one year of restricted free agency in 2015 before being able to hit the open market. Misi will have two years of restricted free agency ahead of him.

The Dolphins' first two draft picks in 2010, Odrick and Misi are both expected to have significant roles within the team's defense as rookies.

Initially expected to compete with Phillip Merling for playing time at right defensive end in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme, Odrick should have a better chance to start now that Merling will miss the remainder of the 2010 season with a torn Achilles' tendon.

Even with the recent signings of veteran defensive ends Marques Douglas and Charles Grant, Odrick is an NFL-ready defensive lineman and should see extensive playing time regardless of who is pushing him.

Meanwhile, Misi looks to be the favorite to start as the Dolphins' strong-side outside linebacker. The versatile Charlie Anderson may be given a chance to win the job, although he is primarily expected to compete with Cameron Wake on the weak side.

With all nine of the Dolphins' drafted rookies under contract, there will be no one getting a late start in competitions for playing time.

Along with Odrick and Misi, third-round left guard John Jerry is another one of Miami's draft picks that looks to have a significant role during his first NFL season.


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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Training Camp Battles #5: Backup Nose Tackle

With the retirement of Jason Ferguson, who was facing a suspension for the first eight games of the 2010 season, the need for a quality backup to starting nose tackle Randy Starks is more important than ever.

The primary backup at this point looks once again to be 2007 fourth-rounder Paul Soliai.

Despite a monstrous frame at 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, the prototypical nose tackle hasn't established himself as a reliable start to this point.

With his professional career plagued by maturity and conditioning issues, Soliai is just hoping to earn a backup role with the Dolphins at this point.

Soliai's primary competition should come from Ryan Baker, who made the switch from defensive end to nose tackle during his rookie season as an undrafted free agent.

Baker (6-5, 295) js a completely different kind of player than Soliai, but the Dolphins obviously like what they've seen from him by giving him playing time on defense as such a low-profile rookie.

Rounding out the competition will be recently-signed journeyman Montavious Stanley and undrafted rookie Travis Ivey.

Stanley has experience with members of the Dolphins' staff from his time in Dallas, but has been unable to establish himself as a big contributor in four NFL seasons.

Meanwhile, Ivey probably isn't at the point where he is a serious threat to the three other players already mentioned, and is probably just trying to land a spot on the practice squad.

A converted defensive end similar to Jay Ratliff in Dallas, the very talented Starks should get the bulk of playing time at nose tackle.

However, the Dolphins will need a reliable No. 2 man to spell him from time to time and contribute in certain defensive fronts.


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Dolphins sign Pro Bowl placekicker Dan Carpenter to extension

In the same offseason they signed long snapper John Denney and punter Brandon Fields to contract extensions, the Miami Dolphins have likewise rewarded the third and final member of their core special teams unit.

It was reported today that the Dolphins signed placekicker Dan Carpenter to a three-year, $6.21 million contract extension.

According to Alain Poupart of Scout.com, Carpenter will earn base salaries of $1 million in 2010, $2.53 million in 2011, and $2.68 million in 2012.

The extension comes roughly four months after Carpenter re-signed with the Dolphins on a one-year, $470,000 contract as an exclusive-rights free agent.

In addition to more than doubling Carpenter's 2010 earnings, the new contract also buys out Carpenter's first two years of restricted free agency.

Barring an extension of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Carpenter will be a restricted free agent for two more seasons after this contract expires before he will be able to hit the open market in 2015.

Should the CBA be extended and the old free agency rules be reimplemented, Carpenter will be able to hit the unrestricted free agent market immediately in 2013.

Although the Dolphins didn't have to offer Carpenter an extension as he was under team control for the next four years, it was the right move to give him a raise now.

Carpenter has been highly productive during his first two pro seasons since joining the team as an undrafted free agent, converting 46-of-53 (86.8 percent) of field-goal attempts.

The Montana alum replaced San Diego Chargers' placekicker Nate Kaeding on the AFC's Pro Bowl roster following the 2009 season after posting an 89.3 field-goal percentage.

Combined with Denney and Fields, Carpenter completes an extremely productive and cohesive special teams unit in Miami.

The Dolphins have done well to lock up all three players to contract extensions and keep the entire unit together in the coming years.


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Top Training Camp Battles #6: Backup Quarterbacks

After a strong showing during his sophomore season, there is little doubt that Chad Henne is the franchise quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

His backups, however, are a bit more undecided.

Veteran Chad Pennington is an ideal backup with his experience, accuracy, and leadership, but it's unclear just how recovered he is from the shoulder injury that ended his 2009 season prematurely.

The Dolphins also have a quality backup in 26-year-old Tyler Thigpen, who played well as the starter of a pretty bad Kansas City Chiefs team in 2008.

Then, there is Pat White.

The biggest draft mistake during Bill Parcells' time in Miami, White showed zero ability as an NFL quarterback or spread option weapon as a rookie.

Frail in stature and lacking the arm strength or accuracy to play quarterback, White is what I believe to be a wasted draft pick.

The only question is how long it will take for the Dolphins to admit their mistake and part ways with their 2009 second-round pick.

If the Dolphins are smart, they'll cut ties with White, let Tyler Thigpen serve as Henne's primary backup, and keep Pennington around as a veteran backup and mentor.

Alternatively, the Dolphins could also place Pennington on the PUP list and keep White around as the third-stringer once again, in the faint hope that he proves some worth.


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top Training Camp Battles #7: Starting Right Guard

One of the Miami Dolphins' most underrated additions of the 2010 offseason was the signing of guard Richie Incognito.

Though he brings with him a troubled past that includes penalty problems, a reputation as a dirty player, and clashes with coaches, Incognito could end up being a nice find for the Dolphins.

Signed to a very reasonable one-year, $925,000 contract this offseason, Incognito will have a year to prove to the Dolphins that his problems are behind him and that he can be a long-term starter in the NFL.

Projected to start at right guard, Incognito fits the mold of a Bill Parcells lineman as a strong mauler lineman with a mean streak.

Incognito's primary competition will be third-year player Donald Thomas, who hopes to regain the staff's confidence two years after earning the starting job as a sixth-round rookie.

After missing 15 games his rookie season due to injury, Thomas was benched during the 2009 season for lack of productivity.

Now fighting for just a roster spot, Thomas will have to prove to the Dolphins that he is a starting-caliber player and that he, and not Incognito, is the better long-term solution.

My money is on Incognito at this point, as I just feel he has more upside. Of course, Incognito is a bad decision away from being out of the mix entirely, so it would be nice if Thomas could handle the job as well.


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Top Training Camp Battles #8: Starting Center

Looking to replace Samson Satele with a tougher, stronger center, the Miami Dolphins signed center Jake Grove to a five-year, $29 million contract last offseason.

Despite playing in just 12 games, Grove was the second-most productive run-blocking center in the National Football League in 2009, trailing only the New York Jets' Nick Mangold.

Nevertheless, the Dolphins have said that Grove won't be handed the starting job in 2010, due in large part to the great play of backup Joe Berger.

A former Dolphin and Dallas Cowboys, Berger was brought in last year as a versatile backup interior lineman. Despite starting just six of 16 games, Berger ranked as the 12th best center in the NFL.

While both players were highly productive in 2009, I don't consider this much of a battle in all honesty.

The important thing is that Grove played well, and he's given no reason for the Dolphins to take away his job.

The Dolphins have equally no reason to remove Grove from the starting lineup, given his high productivity and the large amount of money invested in him.

Grove's durability has always been a concern and was again in his first season with the Dolphins, but he's the team's best option and is getting paid serious starter money.

Meanwhile Berger, while a pleasant surprise in 2009, is still better suited for a top backup role.


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dolphins sign journeyman NT Montavious Stanley

Two days after signing veteran defensive end Marques Douglas, the Miami Dolphins have added more depth to their defensive front by signing nose tackle Montavious Stanley.

A four-year NFL veteran and journeyman, Stanley (6-2, 302) will likely compete for a reserve spot at nose tackle in 2010.

With Stanley's signing the Dolphins now have 78 players on their 80-man offseason roster. One player will need to be released when the Dolphins ink their three unsigned players—draft picks Jared Odrick and Koai Misi and restricted free agent Ronnie Brown.

Background

Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round out of Louisville in 2006, Stanley failed to make the team's active roster out of training camp and joined the St. Louis Rams' practice squad to begin the regular season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Stanley to their active roster just eight days later. He played in three games and recorded four tackles, half a sack, and a forced fumble before being waived in November.

Stanley was signed to the Cowboys' active roster later in the 2006 season and re-signed with the team as an exclusive-rights free agent the following offseason.

Waived by Dallas during cutdowns during the 2007 preseason, Stanley was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 28.

Stanley went on to see his most extensive playing time with the Falcons, appearing in 14 games (six starts) for the team in 2007 while totaling 29 tackles.

A roster casualty prior to the 2008 regular season, Stanley signed with the New Orleans Saints in October and appeared in just one game.

Re-signed by the Jaguars in 2009, Stanley appeared in a career-high 15 games (no starts) and recorded 20 tackles, one sack, and three pass deflections.

After re-signing with the Jaguars as a restricted free agent in March, Stanley was waived on April 26. He had joined the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks before being signed by the Dolphins.

Analysis

In an amusing little turn of events, the guy who competed for the backup job to Jason Ferguson for two seasons in Dallas replaces the now-retired Ferguson on the Dolphins' roster three years later.

While listed at only 302 pounds, Stanley is strong with a solid, compact frame. Despite having what seems to be 3-4 defensive end size, he will indeed play nose tackle for the Dolphins.

As we've seen before with Bill Parcells and his staff, the team doesn't prefer those 340-350-pound nose tackles that some 3-4 teams utilize.

Instead, Parcells has opted for guys like Jason Ferguson (310), Jay Ratliff (303) and now Randy Starks (305). Stanley served as a nose tackle behind Ferguson in Dallas with many of the same staff, and should continue to play there in Miami.

The addition of Stanley gives the Dolphins five nose tackles, joining starter Starks, returning backups Paul Soliai and Ryan Baker, and undrafted rookie Travis Ivey.

Stanley obviously doesn't offer a ton of upside as a four-year journeyman in the NFL, but one advantage he'll have in competing for a backup spot is his two years of time with members of the Dolphins' staff that worked with him in Dallas.

Starks is entrenched as the starter, which means Stanley's primary competition will be Soliai and Baker. Ivey is not widely considered to be NFL-ready at this point.

Soliai has been a problem child and a bit of a disappointment since being drafted in the fourth round in 2007, never mastering the mental side of the game despite his prototypical nose tackle frame.

Baker, a converted defensive end, saw brief playing time as a rookie in 2009 after being signed as an undrafted free agent from Purdue.

The Dolphins will likely keep two nose tackles total, with three being a possibility as well. The versatility to play anywhere on the line from Baker and defensive end Tony McDaniel will help their chances.

That means Stanley will really need to separate himself from the rest of the pack, and probably win the No. 2 nose tackle job outright to earn a spot on the Dolphins' roster.

No longer eligible for the practice squad, Stanley—plucked by the Dolphins from the Omaha Nighthawks—could be back in the UFL if he can't crack the Dolphins' active roster.

As always, you can check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting the latest transactions here.


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Friday, July 23, 2010

Top Training Camp Battles #9: Starting Inside Linebacker

The biggest splash made by the Miami Dolphins on defense this offseason was the signing of free agent Karlos Dansby, but that doesn't mean the team's productivity problems at inside linebacker are entirely solved.

Akin Ayodele has been released and is now in Denver Broncos, while returning linebacker Channing Crowder is coming off an injury-shortened 2009 season with a career-low 52 tackles in 13 games.

Furthermore, Crowder has seemingly been allergic to making big plays in his five seasons in the NFL, recording just 2.5 sacks and one interception in 71 career games.

While Crowder doesn't have any clear-cut starting material to challenge him, it's come to the point in his career where the Dolphins are absolutely not going to just hand him the starting job.

Originally thought to be a special-teams throw-in to the Chargers-Dolphins big draft-day deal that landed San Diego running back Ryan Mathews and Miami defensive end Jared Odrick in Round One, linebacker Tim Dobbins could give Crowder a run for his money.

An experienced 3-4 linebacker after four seasons in San Diego, Dobbins is coming of his two best years as a pro with a combined 112 tackles, one sacks, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles.

Dobbins lacks ideal height for the position at just 6-foot-1, but he is a solidly-built linebacker and good hitter with solid run defense skills.

Crowder is no slouch against the run himself and has always been a pretty sure tackler, but he has certainly failed to emerge as the great NFL starter some thought he could be when he was drafted in 2005.

Also pushing for playing time on defense will be rookie fourth-round pick A. J. Edds of Iowa. Speed, agility, and coverage skills are some of Edds' best qualities, and they happen to be the things Crowder is lacking the most.

Edds will primarily back up Karlos Dansby as a rookie, but a good showing in training camp and practices throughout the season could earn him more playing time at Crowder's or Dobbins' expense.

Crowder probably should be considered the favorite to start at this point given his experience and superior productivity to any of his competition, but expect Dobbins and Edds to give him a strong run for his money.


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Dolphins lose Phillip Merling for season; sign DE Marques Douglas

Dolphins third-year defensive end Phillip Merling wrapped up a rocky offseason, which included an arrest for aggravated battery against his pregnant girlfriend, with a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon.

A second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2008, Merling has been a significant reserve in the team's defensive line rotation the past two seasons, but has quietly drawn criticism from the coaching staff about his lack of development.

Expected to compete with rookie first-round pick Jared Odrick for a starting job at right defensive end with Randy Starks moving to nose tackle, Merling will now miss the entire 2010 season.

Merling, who suffered the injury away from the Dolphins' facility or staff, could miss out on his entire 2010 salary if he is placed on the reserve/non-football injury list by the team.

Amid rumors the Dolphins could have an interest in first-round disappointment Marcus Spears of the Dallas Cowboys, the team instead opted to sign veteran free agent Marques Douglas.

Douglas, 33, will receive a two-year, $2.5 million contract from the Dolphins, although exact contract details are not yet known.

Background

Sign as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens out of Howard in 1999, Douglas did not appear in a game during his first pro season. He made his NFL debut with the New Orleans Saints in 2000, but did not record any statistics.

Douglas re-joined the Ravens for four seasons beginning in 2001, going on to play 39 games (32 starts) and record 145 tackles, 12 sacks, and three forced fumbles during that span.

Douglas spent the next three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers through 2007, starting 47 of 48 possible games and totaling 190 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

A free agent in 2008, Douglas signed a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March, only to be traded back to the Ravens for 2009 seventh-round pick before the season began.

Released after one season in Baltimore during which he recorded 34 tackles, Douglas started 12 games the New York Jets in 2009. He contributed 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble for the NFL's best defense, while his 64 tackles ranked first on the team among defensive linemen.

Once again a free agent in 2010, Douglas was rumored to be a candidate to be re-signed by the Jets, but the team showed no interest.

While Douglas may replace Merling in terms of his role with the team, Merling has not yet been removed from the active roster, which now stands at 77.

Analysis

It's hard to really say how much the loss of Merling will impact the Dolphins, because I'm not much sure how long he would have been with the team anyway given his legal problems and the team's continued disappointment with his play over the past two seasons.

Although he was solid in rotation, he failed to establish himself as a reliable starter during his first pro seasons, being outplayed by Kendall Langford, who was drafted a round later the same year as Merling.

I don't think Merling was a bad player at all, and I'd honestly say his less significant role compared to Langford's was more a reflection of Langford than Merling.

Still, the Dolphins didn't lose a true starter here, and it's hard to see the Dolphins keeping Merling around much longer given the extremely serious nature of the charges against him. In an offseason with four Dolphins arrested, Merling's case was by far the worst of the bunch.

Rather than trade for a backup with ties to the Dolphins' staff in Marcus Spears, the Dolphins instead opted to sign a more proven, albeit older, backup with ties to the Dolphins' staff in Marques Douglas.

Not only does Douglas bring with him seven years (four with Baltimore, three with San Francisco) of experience under new Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but he also brings seven years of experience under Rex Ryan—head coach of the division rival New York Jets.

Douglas isn't an every-down starter at this point in his carer, but he's an experienced and still-productive player with vast experience in the Dolphins' scheme.

His track record is significantly better than that of Spears, and he didn't require the team to give up any compensation to add him as Spears would have.

Merling's departure from the Dolphins' 2010 defense should open the door wide open for first-rounder Jared Odrick to get plenty of playing time (though that was never really in doubt), while Douglas is more than capable of filling the rotational role Merling has served in the past—likely better than Merling himself.

As always, you can check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these latest transactions here.


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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top Training Camp Battles #10: Starting Cornerback

In nearly a dozen articles over the next week, I'll be outlining what I believe are the top training camp battles for the Miami Dolphins in 2010.

Starting at No. 10 is the starting cornerback/third cornerback battle, between Will Allen, Vontae Davis, and Sean Smith.

Before a torn ACL ended his season prematurely, Allen was the Dolphins' No. 1 shutdown corner and totaled 21 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass deflections in six games.

The Dolphins' first-round pick in 2009, Davis stepped into Allen's starting role and opened nine of 16 contests, recording 51 tackles, 11 pass deflections, and a team-high four interceptions.

Smith started every game for the Dolphins as a second-round rookie in 2009, amassing 38 tackles and 12 pass deflections.

With Allen coming back healthy, it'll be interesting to see where the 31-year-old veteran fits in with the two promising young corners in Davis and Smith.

While Allen has been exceptional since he arrived in Miami and is obviously the team's most seasoned and sound cornerback, it seems unlikely the team will play him so much that it impedes the progress of the younger players.

And that is the way it should be. The team doesn't have any proven depth behind their top three corners, so Allen is obviously going to play significantly regardless of his specific title.

However, the Dolphins would also be best served in the long-term by starting Davis and Smith and letting them continue to grow into the elite cornerback tandem they have the potential to be.

In the end, I expect all three to play extensively. But I do believe that Allen won't get such significant playing time that it impedes the progress of the team's future starting cornerbacks.


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dolphins agree to terms with third-round OG John Jerry

With the start of training camp just 10 days away, the Dolphins have inked another one of their draft picks as third-rounder John Jerry agreed to terms today.

Jerry will receive minimum base salaries of $320,000 in 2010, $405,000 in 2011, $490,000 in 2012, and $575,000 in 2013, as well as a signing bonus of roughly $868,000.

Selected 73rd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, Jerry will convert to left guard for the Dolphins after spending most of his collegiate career at Ole Miss at tackle.

A bruising power-blocker at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, Jerry is considered the favorite to start for the Dolphins at left guard following the trade of veteran Justin Smiley to Jacksonville.

Free-agent pickup Richie Incognito is expected to start at right guard with Donald Thomas backing him up.

However, Thomas could be given a shot to compete with Jerry on the left side as well, and Nate Garner should be in the mix if he is healthy.

Veteran Cory Procter can't be counted out either due to his starting experience in Dallas and his time with members the Dolphins' coaching staff, including head coach Tony Sparano.

Still, Jerry has the talent to start as a rookie and is projected as a long-term starter for the Dolphins regardless of when he actually takes the reins of the position.

With Jerry's signing, the Dolphins have only first-rounder Jared Odrick and second-rounder Koa Misi left unsigned.

The Dolphins open training camp July 30 in Davie, Fla.


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Thursday, July 15, 2010

NT Jason Ferguson announces retirement

Coming off a torn biceps injury and facing an eight-game suspension to begin the 2010 season, Miami Dolphins veteran nose tackle Jason Ferguson has decided to retire after 13 seasons.

Thursday's announcement came just four months after the 35-year-old Ferguson opted to re-sign with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent.

Originally drafted by Bill Parcells and the New York Jets in the seventh round in 1997, Ferguson spent eight seasons with the Jets through the 2004 season.

Brought to Dallas by Parcells in 2005, Ferguson played three seasons for the Cowboys before being traded to the Dolphins in the 2008 offseason for a swap of sixth-round picks as well as a 2009 sixth-round pick.

In 25 games over two seasons with the Dolphins, Ferguson started all but three games at nose tackle and totaled 55 tackles.

With Randy Starks' move to the starting nose tackle position in 2010, Ferguson was likely to fill a veteran mentor role during his suspension and a rotational backup role upon his return.

Instead, the Dolphins will roll with Starks as the uncontested starter and 2007 fourth-rounder Paul Soliai as his primary backup.

Ryan Baker, who like Starks transitioned from defensive end to more of a nose tackle position, will have his chances of making the team significantly helped by Ferguson's retirement.

Undrafted rookie Travis Ivey of Maryland is the fourth and final nose tackle on the Dolphins' offseason roster, although he is not believed to be ready for the NFL at this time.

For Ferguson to officially retire, he will have to file paperwork with the league and be placed on the reserve/retired list by the Dolphins. Until that time, he will count toward the Dolphins 80-man roster, which currently has 76 players.


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Dolphins sign fifth-round pick Reshad Jones

The Miami Dolphins inked another one of their draft picks Monday, signing safety Reshad Jones to a four-year contract.

Drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth round out of Georgia, Jones received a four-year, $1.95 million contract that included a signing bonus of just more than $160,000.

As with the other Dolphins' rookies signed to this point, Jones will receive minimum base salaries of $320,000 in 2010, $405,000 in 2011, $490,000 in 2012, and $575,000 in 2013.

Barring an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Jones will have two years of restricted free agency following the end of his rookie deal before he will be able to hit the open market.

Projected by some as a second- or third-round pick, Jones totaled 194 tackles and pulled down 11 interceptions during his three-year career with the Bulldogs.

In Miami, Jones is currently penciled in as the second-string free safety behind 2009 fifth-rounder Chris Clemons. However, the Dolphins should give Jones every opportunity to win the starting job as a rookie if he outplays his competition.

With the signing of Jones, the Dolphins have only first-round pick Jared Odrick, second-round pick Koa Misi, and third-round pick John Jerry as their only unsigned picks.

The Dolphins open training camp July 30 in Davie, Fla.


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Channing Crowder NOT out for season

An accidental tweet by New York Jets beat writer Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News yesterday mistakenly reported that Miami Dolphins starting linebacker Channing Crowder would miss the 2010 season with a foot injury.

These reports turned out to be false, as Crowder is indeed healthy and expected to take part in training camp three weeks from now.

Apparently, Mehta was watching a re-broadcast of a Bears-Vikings game on NFL Network and saw an old crawl from the ESPN broadcast. Thus, the report of Crowder's season-ending injury was from 2009 and is not current news.

The tweet, which cited the Associated Press as its source and sparked re-posts by sites like MSNBC, Pro Football Talk, Rotoworld, and Yahoo! Sports, has since been deleted by Mehta. The Phinsider has a good breakdown of the entire situation.

Coming off the least productive season of his five-year career, Crowder will compete for the starting inside linebacker job alongside Karlos Dansby. He is expected to face stiff competition from newly-acquired Tim Dobbins, while rookie fourth-rounder A. J. Edds should push for playing time as well.


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Miami Dolphins Alumni Update: June 2010

Here are all the pro football transactions involving former members of the Miami Dolphins for the month of June 2010:
  • June 1 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) signed offensive tackle Michael Byrne to a contract. Byrne spent training camp with the Dolphins in 2008, but was waived on Aug. 30 during final cuts.
  • June 3 — The Cleveland Browns re-signed wide receiver James Robinson to a contract. Robinson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being released on Nov. 4.
  • June 3 — The Utah Blaze (UFL) placed defensive lineman Manuel Wright on the suspended list. Drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth round of the 2005 Supplemental Draft, Wright appeared in three games and recorded four tackles and a sack in two seasons with the team.
  • June 4 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) placed quarterback Gibran Hamdan on the retired list. Hamdan spent the 2007 offseason with the Dolphins, but was waived during final cuts in September.
  • June 5 — The BC Lions (CFL) released defensive end Abraham Wright. Wright spent his only season with the Dolphins on injured reserve after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
  • June 7 — The Buffalo Bills signed linebacker Reggie Torbor to a contract. Torbor played in all 32 games for the Dolphins from 2008 to 2009, starting three games and totaling 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception, four pass deflections. He was released by the Dolphins on May 27.
  • June 7 — The Sacramento Mountain Lions (UFL) signed quarterback Daunte Culpepper to a contract. Acquired from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a second-round pick in 2006, Culpepper appeared in four games for the Dolphins and threw for 929 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions. He was released on July 17, 2007.
  • June 7 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) release offensive tackle Michael Byrne.
  • June 9 — The Washington Redskins terminated the contract of tight end Sean Ryan. Ryan appeared in the Dolphins' 2008 regular season opener before being released on Sept. 12.
  • June 10 — The Baltimore Ravens placed wide receiver Chris Hannon on waivers. Hannon spent two games with the Dolphins in December 2009, but did not appear in a game and was waived Dec. 22.
  • June 11 — The Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) activated wide receiver Kelly Campbell from the suspended list. Campbell was an offseason member of the Dolphins in 2006 and 2007, but did not appear in a game.
  • June 11 — The Montreal Alouettes (CFL) placed defensive tackle Eric Wilson on the suspended list. Wilson spent 2004 and 2005 with the Dolphins as an offensive lineman, but did not appear in a game.
  • June 14 — The Cleveland Browns re-signed RFA outside linebacker Matt Roth to a one-year contract. A second-round pick by Miami in 2005, Roth appeared in 65 games over five seasons with the Dolphins and recorded 140 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He was waived on Nov. 24.
  • June 15 — The BC Lions released wide receiver Kerry Reed. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Reed spent his rookie season on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  • June 15 — The Montreal Alouettes (CFL) activated defensive tackle Eric Wilson from the suspended list.
  • June 15 — The Montreal Alouettes (CFL) placed linebacker Tyson Smith on the retired list. Smith spent part of the 2008 season on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  • June 16 — The Jacksonville Sharks (AFL) activated offensive lineman Pedro Sosa from the suspended list. An undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, Sosa spent the 2008 preseason with the Dolphins before being waived during final cuts.
  • June 16 — The Utah Blaze (UFL) transferred defensive lineman Manuel Wright from the suspended list to injured reserve.
  • June 17 — The Cleveland Browns placed wide receiver James Robinson on waivers.
  • June 17 — The Denver Broncos waived/injured fullback Kyle Eckel. Eckel was under contract with the Dolphins from Sept. 2005 to Sept. 2007, but did not see game action as he was on the Reserve/Military list for the majority of that time.
  • June 18 — The Denver Broncos placed fullback Kyle Eckel on injured reserve.
  • June 18 — The New York Jets placed safety Brannon Condren on waivers. Condren spent nearly a month with the Dolphins between October and November 2008, appearing in four games and recording three special teams tackles before his release on Nov. 10.
  • June 21 — The New York Giants placed punter Jy Bond on waivers. An Australian rules football player, Bond was a member of the Dolphins' offseason roster from March to June 2009.
  • June 24 — The Calgary Stampeders placed wide receiver P. K. Sam on the injured list. Sam spent part of the 2006 season on the Dolphins' practice squad and played in NFL Europa for the team in 2007 before being released during final cuts.
  • June 24 — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) released center Matt Spanos. Spanos spent 2008 training camp with the Dolphins after signing as an undrafted free agent from USC.
  • June 24 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) released defensive end Ben Ishola. Ishola was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006, but waived during final cuts on Sept. 2.
  • June 26 — The Toronto Argonauts re-signed wide receiver James Robinson to a contract.
  • June 28 — The St. Louis Rams waived/injured linebacker K. C. Asiodu. Asiodu spent a week on the Dolphins' practice squad between September and October 2009.
  • June 29 — The St. Louis Rams placed linebacker K. C. Asiodu on injured reserve.
  • June 29 — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) signed cornerback Will Poole to a contract. Drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Poole recorded 31 tackles, a sack, and five pass deflections in three seasons with the team.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breaking down the Dolphins' ratings in Madden NFL 11

EA Sports' next offering of their most popular franchise will be out shortly, as Madden NFL 11 is slated for a North America release on Aug. 10.

Player ratings have trickled out to the media leading up to the game's release, and full player ratings for the Miami Dolphins' roster in the game are now available.

You can view the full ratings here. The following are my comments on what EA Sports got right in their ratings of the Dolphins' players, as well as what they missed.

Quarterback
  • I feel Chad Henne's overall rating is a bit low at 79, but I can understand the rating given his lack of experience and true productivity to this point. He has the age, arm strength and awareness to grow in the game, but he has a lot of potential and I think he should be rated a bit higher at this point. Henne had a much better year than the Jets' Mark Sanchez (12 TDs, 20 INTs, 63.0 QB rating) who is rated an 82 overall.
  • Tyler Thigpen (64) being rated lower than Pat White (66) is a complete joke. Thigpen has pretty decent potential and is at least a quality backup, while White has yet to prove he's good enough to even play in this league.

Running Back / Fullback
  • Ronnie Brown (91) and Ricky Williams (89) are rated about right, and I'm glad to see Brown getting some respect despite his lack of production due to injury lately. Talent-wise, he's rated right where he should be.
  • The absence of Patrick Cobbs is quite perplexing, and it's obviously because he spent last year on injured reserve. Cobbs is a Sparano favorite and will have a much more significant role than either Lex Hilliard (66) or Kory Sheets (65).
  • It's nice to see Lousaka Polite get some love, as his 91 rating puts him as the second best fullback in the game. Polite played like a Pro Bowler all-around last year and is getting the respect he deserves.

Wide Receiver / Tight End
  • Brandon Marshall (96) is rated as one of the best receivers in the game and will be a huge weapon for people that play as the Dolphins. He's appropriately rated with so-so speed (88) but great strength and hands for a receiver.
  • The Dolphins 2-4 receivers are completely out of order, as Brian Hartline (71) stretches the field better than any of them and Greg Camarillo (73) easily has the most reliable hands. Davone Bess (74) should be the lowest of the three.
  • Anthony Fasano (79) is appropriately rated as an average, slow, good-blocking tight end.

Offensive Line
  • Jake Long is appropriately rated at 96 overall, although it's a travesty that the Broncos' Ryan Clady (eight sacks allowed in 2009) is the top tackle in the game at 98, while Cleveland's Joe Thomas is just a 95.
  • Joe Berger (74) might be a bit underrated given how well he played last season, while Donald Thomas (75) is extremely overrated for a player that hasn't done anything in two years. Third-rounder John Jerry (65) should be higher and Thomas lower, as Jerry has a ton of upside and is a favorite to start.

Defensive Line
  • Randy Starks (89) is a bit underrated given how he played last year, although his rating is respectable given that he's moving to a new position in nose tackle in 2010. Kendall Langford should at least be in the low 80s after two very good seasons as a 3-4 end.
  • Jared Odrick is a bit underrated as well for a first-round pick and should at least be in the mid-80s. He should be closer in rating to Phillip Merling (75) as he'll probably end up with more playing time than Merling this season.

Linebacker
  • Karlos Dansby is rated about right at 90 overall, although I'd lower Channing Crowder (79) after the poor 2009 season he had and raise Tim Dobbins (65) a bit.
  • The Dolphins' outside linebacker situation is understandably a mess, as there isn't a proven starter in the bunch. Koa Misi (67) could be rated a little higher as a second-round pick, and I'd put Charlie Anderson (65) in the low 70s as well. I can understand the reasoning behind Cameron Wake (76) as the highest rated outside linebacker due to his pass-rushing productivity in limited duty as a rookie, but his rating is misleading as he's certainly not the top full-time option on the team at outside linebacker.
  • Quentin Moses isn't all that productive on defense, but being the worst-rated player on the team is a bit too harsh.
Cornerback / Safety
  • The folks at EA have apparently lowered Will Allen's rating after an injured season in 2010, as 81 overall is a bit low for one of the better cover corners in the NFL.
  • I think Vontae Davis (82) and Sean Smith (79) are both appropriately rated at this point in their careers, and both have room to progress in franchise mode.
  • Yeremiah Bell (82) is about where he should be as a hard-hitting strong safety, but Tyrone Culver (66) is a bit underrated as a quality dime back the past few seasons.
  • Although Culver should be rated higher than either Chris Clemons or Reshad Jones, Culver should switch positions with Clemons. Culver is currently backing up Bell at strong safety, while Clemons appears to be the favorite to start at free safety.

Special Teams
  • Kicker Dan Carpenter (82) is appropriately rated as an accurate kicker with solid leg strength.
  • Punter Brandon Fields gets screwed big time at just a 67 overall. Fields has a booming leg and is coming of a career year in which he ranked seventh in the NFL in punting average, 10th in net average, and 12th in punts downed inside the 20.


Five Most Overrated
  1. QB Pat White (66) — White still hasn't a completed a pass in the NFL, hasn't shown much as a ball carrier, and got knocked out by a cornerback. He doesn't look like a pro quarterback, and I'd put him at a 55 overall.
  2. OG Donald Thomas (75) — Thomas is rated like a starter, but he hasn't ever played like one. He's battling for a roster spot this year, and I'd say he's no better than a 68 overall at this point.
  3. OLB Cameron Wake (76) — Wake showed some skills as a pass rusher last year, but he hasn't proven he can be an every-down player. He shouldn't be this much higher than the Dolphins' two starting outside linebackers, so I'd say a 71 overall would be appropriate.
  4. ILB Channing Crowder (79) — Crowder is coming off an injury-plagued, career-worst year. He can tackle but not much else, so I'd drop him to a 75 overall.
  5. WR Davone Bess (74) — Bess dropped quite a few passes in 2009 and doesn't stretch the field at all. He doesn't do anything better than Camarillo or Bess and should be rated at a 71 overall.

Five Most Underrated
  1. P Brandon Fields (67) — Field was a top-10 punter in the NFL and is drastically underrated. A rating around 85 overall would be much more fitting.
  2. OLB Quentin Moses (55) — I'm not really a big Quentin Moses fan, but a top backup with a handful of years experience shouldn't be rated this low. I'd put him around a 64 overall, while of course improving Anderson and Misi as well.
  3. OG John Jerry (65) — Jerry is a mauler and I'm betting he'll win a starting guard job as a rookie. A rating of 73 overall would be a good start.
  4. QB Tyler Thigpen (64) — Thigpen was pretty solid as the Chiefs' starter in 2008 and has a good combination of passing and running skills. Some teams view him as a potential starting project, so a rating around 71 would be better.
  5. DE Kendall Langford (79 - 84) — Langford has been a highly productive 3-4 defensive end during his first two seasons in the NFL, and should be rated a bit higher. Something around 84 would be about right.

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