Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dolphins place Nate Garner on I.R., Phillip Merling on Non-Football Injury

Despite already being under today's new 75-man roster limit (down from the offseason limit of 80) the Miami Dolphins made two more in-house roster moves to clear too more spots from the active roster.

Offensive tackle Nate Garner has been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury, while defensive end Phillip Merling (Achilles' tendon) moves from the Active/Non-Football Injury to the Reserve version of the list.

Both moves remove the players from the active roster, leaving the Dolphins with just 72 active players. Linebacker A. J. Edds (already on injured reserve with a torn ACL but still counting on the 80-man) also clears from the active roster with today's cut down date arriving.

By being under the limit, the Dolphins have the flexibility to sign free agents or claim a player or two off waivers from other teams' cuts.

The Dolphins have one preseason game left—at Dallas on Thursday—before they must cut down to their final 53 players on Saturday, Sept. 4.

Analysis

There is no surprise with the Merling transaction, as this was only a matter of time. The move clears Merling from the active roster and allows the team to pursue some or all of his 2010 salary, although whether or not the team will do so is still unknown.

Although he is likely out for the entire 2010 season anyway due to his torn Achilles', I would like to clarify that this move does not officially force Merling out for the season. Rather, the NFI list works the same way as the PUP list—he can be activated in six weeks, or remain out the entire season.

Regardless, it has been a disappointing turn of events for the 2008 second-round pick, who was arrested for domestic battery against his pregnant girlfriend in the offseason before suffering the injury. Although the team will retain his rights and could bring him back in 2011 if he's healthy, they can't be happy with his off-the-field issues or lack of development.

With the starting defensive ends set for years to come in Kendall Langford and Jared Odrick, it remains to be seen if Merling will ever play for the Dolphins again and what kind of role he may have.

As for Garner, the move is somewhat surprising in the sense that Garner is a valuable and versatile backup to have and is someone the team would obviously like to have available, even for half a season, if possible.

Obviously, the Dolphins weren't confident in his ability to recover from foot surgery, or they simply didn't feel as if they could afford to carry an injured Garner on the 53-man roster for possibly half the year.

Garner's departure from the team's 2010 depth chart really hurts the team's depth—not only at his current tackle position, but also across the board as he has played both center and guard and started a handful of games at guard in 2009.

The team's only remaining backup tackles are Andrew Gardner and Lydon Murtha, who have a combined two games played in three combined pro seasons.

Both players have struggled in camp thus far and neither is ready for a significant role in the NFL. In my opinion, the team would prefer to keep neither player active if they currently had better options.

In my best estimation, Murtha will make the team (for now) and Gardner will be waived and possibly re-signed to the practice squad. However, I fully expect the Dolphins to scour the waiver wires for a potential upgrade at the backup tackle spot, which could force Murtha off the roster.

Also due to Garner's injury, I am now predicting guard Donald Thomas will make the roster at left guard. Thomas has failed to develop in two pro seasons and has been playing only with the third-team offense this preseason.

I will have a final prediction for the 53-man roster up Friday (after the final preseason game and before final cuts) so be sure to look out for that.

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


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Monday, August 30, 2010

TE Joey Haynos waived/injured by Dolphins

Three days after Joey Haynos suffered what appeared to be a serious foot injury against the Atlanta Falcons, the Miami Dolphins have confirmed the team has waived/injured the third-year tight end.

Haynos immediately fell to the ground untouched coming off the line during an offensive play in the fourth quarter against the Falcons, leading many speculate a serious foot or Achilles' tendon injury had occurred.

While specific details remain unknown, the injury does appear to be significant and Haynos has been on crutches and a boot since Saturday.

Originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland, Haynos has spent nearly two full seasons with the Dolphins and has amassed 21 catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns in 23 career games.

After serving as the team's No. 3 tight end for most of his rookie season, Haynos moved into a the backup job behind starter Anthony Fasano and started eight games.

Initially assumed to retain the No. 2 job in 2010, the Dolphins shook thing up by re-signing veteran David Martin after a year away from the game.

Analysis

Despite head Tony Sparano saying Sunday that Haynos would be out "a little while" many of us expected the injury to force Haynos out for the entire season. It looks like that indeed is the case.

Technically speaking, Haynos has been waived/injured, which means he will be exposed to waivers for any NFL team to claim him if they choose. If he goes unclaimed, he will revert to the Dolphins' injured reserve list.

Unlike players like Kory Sheets, who was waived/injured earlier this month to clear a space on the 80-man roster, Haynos was not waived/injured for this season, as the Dolphins are already at tomorrow's new 75-man limit, after which time players placed directly on I.R. don't count toward the active roster.

Instead, the Dolphins are simply giving the league an opportunity to claim Haynos and take on his entire contract (a base salary of $470,000 in 2010) if a team is willing. Of course, this is unlikely given Haynos' lack of upside and the likely severity of the injury, but it's worth a shot on Miami's part.

With Haynos likely to clear waivers, he'll simply revert to I.R., which will force him to miss the entire 2010 season. It is possible he could be released from I.R. with an injury settlement at some point this season, which would allow him to sign elsewhere if he can get healthy.

Although such events usually spell a permanent end for a player's tenure with a team, we've seen with recently re-signed David Martin that the Dolphins are open to bring back previously injured players which they have released.

Now that Haynos is out of the 2010 picture, two questions remain: 1) Will the Dolphins keep two or three tight ends on the active roster? and 2) If they do keep three, will the third spot go to John Nalbone?

My guess is that the Dolphins will keep two tight ends, and re-sign Nalbone to the practice squad. Nalbone has shown little since being taken in the fifth round out of Monmouth in 2009, and even failed to get a promotion to the active roster last season. The team instead opted to promoted undrafted rookie Kory Sperry, who had significantly less experience with the team.

With Sperry now in Denver, Nalbone looks to be headed for the practice squad as the Dolphins' third tight end. Of course, the team will continue to scour to the waiver wires for any potential practice squad tight ends, or perhaps even someone worth adding to the 53-man roster at the position.

Until then, expect Miami to roll with just Fasano and Martin to begin the regular season, with a roster spot at another position potentially opened as a result.

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


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Sunday, August 29, 2010

TE Joey Haynos suffers potentially serious foot injury

The Miami Dolphins came out of their third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons primarily unscathed, but backup tight end Joey Haynos did suffer a foot injury that could force him to miss much or all of the 2010 season.

Playing as the tight end on the left side of the line in the fourth quarter against Atlanta, Haynos came out of his two-point stance, took a step, and immediately fell to the ground in pain. He was not engaged with or touched by an opposing player on the play.

The initial prognosis is not good, as head coach Tony Sparano says Haynos will be out "a little while" (coach-speak for quite a long time) and Haynos was seen this weekend with crutches and a walking boot up to his ankle.

Many observers, myself included, fear it may be an injury to Haynos' Achilles' tendon, which could force the third-year tight end to miss the entire season. An MRI has not yet taken place to confirm the damage.

Undrafted out of Maryland in 2008, Haynos was signed by the Dolphins off the Green Bay Packers' practice squad early during his rookie season. He appeared in seven games for the Dolphins that year and caught two passes for 22 yards and a touchdown.

Haynos moved into the No. 2 tight end position in 2009 after an injury to veteran David Martin, catching 19 passes for 162 yards and two scores in 16 games (eight starts).

Initially thought to be retaining the No. 2 job behind starter Anthony Fasano in the coming season, the Dolphins surprisingly re-signed Martin after a year away from the game on Aug. 6. Martin has essentially locked down his former spot in two tight-end sets.

Prior to his injury, Haynos appeared to be the favorite for the No. 3 spot at tight end. Last year's No. 3—Kory Sperry—was waived on Aug. 23 and has since been picked up by the Broncos, while 2009 fifth-round pick John Nalbone spent all of last season on the practice squad and has yet to impress.

With Haynos potentially out for an extended period of time, it is possible the team opts to place him on season-ending injured reserve. I do not expect them to carry him on the active roster even if there is a chance at late-season return.

Despite the injury to Haynos, I do not expect Nalbone to make the Dolphins' active 53-man roster to begin the regular season. He's simply not good enough and a No. 3 tight end isn't a necessity in the offense.

Instead, I expect the Dolphins to scour the waiver wires after final cuts for a better No. 3 option. If there is none to be had, I'd say the Dolphins will roll with two active tight ends and another one or two on the practice squad.


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OG Randy Thomas receives injury settlement

The Miami Dolphins have officially cut ties with guard Randy Thomas, as the National Football Post reports the 11-year veteran has received an injury settlement from the team and has been released.

The Dolphins signed Thomas on Aug. 18 in an effort to beef up the team's guard depth, but he was unable to stay healthy and the team obviously felt he wasn't much of an upgrade.

After playing in the team's second preseason game against Jacksonville, Thomas was placed on injured reserve by the Dolphins on Aug. 25.

A two-time Pro Bowl alternate, Thomas has started 143 games over 11 seasons with the Jets and Redskins.

However, the 34-year-old Thomas has missed significant time in two of the past three seasons with a torn triceps and may be nearing the end of the line.


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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dolphins-Falcons Game Observations

Coming of an impressive offensive performance and victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, the Miami Dolphins fell flat against the Atlanta Falcons yesterday in a 16-6 preseason loss.

In what is widely considered the "dress rehearsal" game in preparation for the regular season, the Dolphins' offense sputtered and failed to find the end zone once.

While the preseason only means so much, the Dolphins having their worst showing with the first team playing nearly three quarters is a bit concerning at this point.

The Dolphins have quite a few things they need to correct, and the regular season is just two weeks away.

Here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Falcons:


Offense
  • Chad Henne had a rough day, but I don't place much of the blame on him. His teammates failed to give him much help in pass protection, and the running game was nonexistent. I thought Henne did a good job putting touch on some passes to the running backs, which was a problem area for him in 2009. He also did a great job hooking up with Brandon Marshall on numerous occasions.
  • Chad Pennington had a better day than Henne and made some nice throws, but a few of them were simply the result of some very bad coverage. Pennington's ball sure does take a long time to get there, and that doesn't work if the defense does its job.
  • Pat White surprisingly got some playing time last night while Tyler Thigpen did not. It's hard to know what to make of this, as the team hadn't shown any interest in getting White playing time before this. He completed all four of his passing attempts but the play-calling played it safe, so there isn't much to get excited about. I still think he's likely to be cut, although it's possible the Dolphins have been showcasing Thigpen for trade and didn't play him last night so he wouldn't get injured and kill a deal.
  • The Dolphins' running backs weren't able to get anything going on the ground as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for 14 yards on 12 carries. When your biggest rush of the night is a 12-yard gain by a wide receiver on an end-around play, you know your line isn't doing its job.
  • Fullback Lousaka Polite failed to convert a 4th-and-short opportunity, and he's usually money in those types of situations. I don't put it all on him though, as the play developed a little slowly and I thought the Dolphins gave him the handoff way too far behind the line for him to make a good effort.
  • Brandon Marshall began the night with a negative on a dropped pass that was initially ruled a fumble before review (replays clearly showed it was a catch and fumble, the referee blew the review call), but he made some very nice catches and runs later on. Watching him play, it's very obvious what kind of difference having a true No. 1 receiver makes.
  • Brian Hartline came up with some good grabs, but looked to hurt his knee or leg after taking a hard hit sliding for a bad throw from Henne. If he's healthy, he's a solid No. 2 receiver.
  • Patrick Turner was nowhere to be found in the passing game tonight, while Marlon Moore had a nice 12-yard run on a little trick play and popped right up after taking a big hit from Falcons safety William Moore. Actually, I think the best lower-tier receiver of the night was fellow undrafted rookie Roberto Wallace, who caught three passes for 28 yards and showed nice "escapability" and run-after-catch skills. It'll be interesting to see who sticks around on the active roster here.
  • The Dolphins' tight ends didn't have a great game, and usually-reliable Anthony Fasano whiffed on a few blocks. Joey Haynos seemed to injure himself coming out of his stance at the snap and fell to the ground untouched. It seemed like a possible Achilles' injury, which could end his season in the worst-case scenario.
  • Jake Long and the rest of the line definitely didn't have their best game, but Long was flagged for a ridiculous holding penalty after making a great pancake block on Abraham. Andrew Gardner was beaten badly at right tackle and appears to be on his way out.
  • John Jerry was flagged for holding once and the Dolphins' interior line got handled by Atlanta's defensive front for much of the game. They have to do a better job of pushing the defensive line or the running game is going nowhere.
  • Donald Thomas was once again relegated to work with the third-team in the fourth quarter of the game, while Cory Procter got some snaps with the one's and two's in the third. I still say Thomas is not on the team come Sept. 12.
  • It appears Jake Grove has emerged as the favorite to start at center after playing nearly twice as many series as Joe Berger, although he did get dinged up as per usual with him and he wasn't that effective anyway.

Defense
  • I thought the Dolphins' defensive line did a pretty good job against the run, with Kendall Langford making one particularly great stop on Michael Turner in the backfield. Rookie Jared Odrick got some good pressure up the middle at times (playing defensive tackle in a four-man line) but he got exposed a few times against the run by letting the backs outside instead of forcing them back inside.
  • Paul Soliai had another good game at nose tackle with five totals tackles (three solo) and is firmly entrenched as the primary backup to Randy Starks.
  • Despite a solid all-around showing from the defensive line, I still think they need to get more pressure as a unit.
  • Rookie Koa Misi has gotten some good push as a pass rusher, but he's not getting to the quarterback enough which can also be said for every other outside linebacker on the team. Ikaika Alama-Francis made some nice plays against the run though, which is his strong suit.
  • Quentin Moses continues to be a ghost and has been hurt much of the preseason, so I fully expect him to be gone at this point. Rookie Chris McCoy hasn't shown enough to make the roster at this point either, which is why I think Erik Walden could stick around due to his special-teams play.
  • I thought it was interesting how Charlie Anderson saw quite a bit of time at inside linebacker next to Tim Dobbins. Anderson has gotten some practice time there before in the past few years and has always been a top emergency option on the inside, although it's unclear if the team views him as a potential No. 4 man. Such an occurrence may shake things up in the battle between J. D. Folsom, Micah Johnson, and Austin Spitler.
  • Speaking of those three, the No. 4 inside linebacker job continues to be one of the hardest ones to predict in my view. Spitler remains the least impressive of the group, while Johnson has continued to rack up the tackles with four more last night. I still think he may end up on the practice squad though.
  • Karlos Dansby showed what makes him better than the average linebackers of the world (such as Channing Crowder), recovering a fumble and showing great ability in coverage. It was impressive to see Dansby routinely stick with a Hall of Fame tight end like Tony Gonzalez, and it's what makes Dansby the complete package.
  • Getting the bad cornerback news out of the way first: Jason Allen struggled against Roddy White, as did Sean Smith. Allen had good coverage a few times but got owned on White's scoring grab, while Smith was burned badly by White on a deep ball only to have Ryan overthrow it. Smith was also benched from the start of the game after showing up late to a team meeting beforehand, so he's not helping himself get out of the doghouse. Regardless, he's still the best option to start right now.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Vontae Davis was the star of the night on defense. He made a handful of deflections, routinely had great coverage on an elite receiver like White, and also forced a fumble that Dansby recovered. It was an excellent and encouraging game for Miami's No. 1 corner.
  • Nobody stood out at safety other than Yeremiah Bell, who came up with a gift-wrapped interception from Matt Ryan. Chris Clemons looks to be unchallenged for the free safety job, but he's only been average thus far.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter converted both of his field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder that cleared the crossbar by a good 15 feet. He also made a great touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff.
  • Brandon Fields had another strong effort, with a long punt of 59 yards and another downed inside the Falcons' 20 yard line (downed by cornerback Kevin Hobbs).
  • Nolan Carroll was upended a few times on kickoffs and limped off the field once, but he appeared to be okay. He has some good burst on his returns and is going to run away with the kick returner job. He was flagged for voluntarily running out of bounds as a gunner on a punt, but that's a rookie mistake.
  • Marlon Moore was given the opportunity to return a punt but didn't do anything with it. One of the most boring punt returners in the NFL, Davone Bess unfortunately appears to have won the job by default.


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Friday, August 27, 2010

Dolphins vs. Falcons - Live Chat

53-man Roster Prediction: Preseason Midpoint Edition

The first wave of cuts (from 80 to 75) is only five days away on Aug. 31, and teams will have to trim all the way down to their final 53 on by Sept. 4.

The Miami Dolphins don't need to make any roster moves until the latter date with just 75 players currently on their active roster, but they do have a long way to go until they get down to 53.

Halfway through the Dolphins' four-game preseason schedule, I felt now would be a good time to take yet another look at the latest projections for the 53-man roster.

For comparison, you can check out my previous predictions from Aug. 13 (before preseason), July 31 (before training camp) and April 29 (post-draft).


*Starters in italics

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

There had been some speculation that Thigpen was possibly being showcased as trade bait in the preseason, but it seems like the Dolphins will roll with him as a backup in 2010 given their lack of interest in getting White playing time.

Thigpen will be a restricted free agent in 2011, so he can be re-signed and dangled as trade bait again next year if they wanted.

After entering the game only to kneel the ball in the preseason opener, White failed to make an appearance in Game 2 against Jacksonville. There is no question White is the Dolphins' quarterback most in need of experience and work, yet he is getting none. The only possible reason? Miami has given up on him.

Running backs (4): Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard
Released: none

There were never any real uncertainties here, and the release of kick returner Tristan Davis left the Dolphins with only the four running backs that were always going to make the team.

I would say that Hilliard isn't a lock to make the team given how much he's buried on the depth chart when everyone else is healthy, but I'm sure he will given the expiring contracts of Brown and Williams though.

Fullbacks (1): Lousaka Polite
Released: Rolly Lumbala

Lumbala has never really had a realistic shot to make the roster, and he still doesn't. He hasn't stood out on special teams, can contribute on offense, and the Dolphins usually only keep on fullback anyway.

Wide receivers (4): Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Patrick Turner
Released: Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Roberto Wallace

The trade of Greg Camarillo really opened things up at the bottom of the depth chart here and it likely ensures at least one of the players competing for a roster spot will make the team.

The best bet of the bunch of 2009-third-rounder Turner, who had a solid preseason opener and has more upside than the rest. Turner may not be ready to contribute, but he absolutely wins this job if the competition is close.

A lot of people like Moore a lot, and I see why. Still, he hasn't shined to the point where he couldn't be slipped to the practice squad. He has some potential, but his development is going to be a long process.

The Dolphins might nee to keep an extra player at another position (such as cornerback) and thus might keep only four receivers. If that happens, Turner probably makes it while two of Moore/Pruitt/Wallace end up on the practice squad to open the season.

Tight ends (3): Anthony Fasano, David Martin, Joey Haynos
Released: John Nalbone

Everything changed when Martin was re-signed, as the veteran looks entrenched in the No. 2 spot just as he was in 2008 despite not playing football last season.

The signing also meant that the team's three young tight ends were competing not for two spots, but for one. The herd was thinned a bit earlier this week with the release of Kory Sperry, who is now with the Broncos.

That leaves Haynos and Nalbone competing for one spot as the No. 3 tight end, although it really isn't much of a competition. Despite not showing much development beyond a backup in two seasons, Haynos has consistently been running with the second team this preseason.

Meanwhile, Nalbone has done absolutely nothing since being drafted in the fifth round this season and appears destined for the practice squad yet again, if anything.

Offensive tackles (4): Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Nate Garner, Lydon Murtha
Released: Andrew Gardner

The timetable for Garner's return from a foot injury is uncertain, but the Dolphins will likely keep him active because he's simply too valuable to have off the bench if he can be healthy at some point this season.

Murtha had a very rocky performance against Jacksonville last weekend, but he has more versatility at both tackle spots and upside than Gardner. He's also been working more on the blind side, which is important.

Offensive guards (3): Richie Incognito, John Jerry, Cory Procter
Released: Ray Feinga, Donald Thomas

A lot of people have been fans of Thomas ever since he came out of nowhere to win the starting right guard job as a rookie sixth-round pick in 2008, but the reality is he hasn't done anything as a pro except for get hurt and get benched.

Thomas has consistently been working with the third team in the preseason, and it absolutely would not surprise me to see him cut or traded before the regular season. He may not have a spot in Miami, but he does possess the upside to garner a mid-to-late rounder in trade.

I think four tackles will be kept over four guards because of the versatility center Joe Berger and tackle Nate Garner provide at the guard spot. There simply isn't the need for four pure guards when you have guys that can play the position in addition to other ones.

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

It was just last week reports emerged that Berger had won the job, but Grove got more series with the first team against Jacksonville. Sparano can say Grove's contract won't factor in, but I have to believe it will and that if it's close, he'll win the job.

A college tackle, Hartline has worked primarily inside for the Dolphins but has actually been practicing outside some lately. The guy is blocked at center and probably doesn't have a spot on the roster regardless of where he lines up, although he should garner practice squad consideration.

Defensive ends (5): Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Charles Grant, Marques Douglas, Ryan Baker
Released: Lionel Dotson, Tony McDaniel
Reserve/Non-Football Injury: Phillip Merling

Veteran pickups don't always make the roster, but both Grant and Douglas have earned their spot and appear to be quality guys to fit into the rotation. Grant's pass-rushing skills have flashed in the preseason, and Douglas is just a solid all-around 3-4 end.

The battle for the potential No. 5 defensive end spot is an intriguing one, but I like what some would consider the dark horse in Baker. He's worked a ton at both end and nose tackle, and the Dolphins are all about position versatility.

A lot of people like Dotson, but the guy just hasn't produced anything in two seasons and it's time to end the experiment at this point. He's been given every chance to at least crack the rotation at end, but he has yet to do so.

Merling's torn Achilles' likely puts him out for the season, and the Dolphins have little use for him anyway and might actually be deeper at end than they were with Merling as the No. 3 the past few seasons. He might very well have played his last snap as a Dolphin.

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

Soliai has never quite lived up to his potential, but he's had a stellar preseason thus far and seems perfectly capable of handling the No. 2 job. He really hasn't had much competition anyway, so it seems the Dolphins are quite content with him around.

The Dolphins rarely keep three pure nose tackles since just one starts, and Stanley hasn't done anything to earn a roster spot. It just makes more sense to keep someone like Ryan Baker, who can back up defensive end and play nose in a pinch.

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

Alama-Francis still has a long way to go in his conversion from defensive lineman to linebacker, and he's struggling chasing down backs from the stand up position thus far. Still, he has upside and is good on special teams, so his roster spot should be safe.

I don't think I've had Walden making the roster at all before this, but he seems like the most logical choice given that neither Moses nor McCoy has shown much of anything and Walden is the best one on special teams. The No. 5 outside linebacker will be limited to a special teams role anyway, so Walden makes the most sense.

Moses, on the other hand, hasn't shown much of anything since he entered the NFL, and it's about him the Dolphins moved on. McCoy, meanwhile, seems like a good practice squad candidate.

Inside linebackers (4): Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, J. D. Folsom
Released: Micah Johnson, Austin Spitler

There's an intriguing three-way battle for the No. 4 inside linebacker job (if the team does indeed keep that many) and each player has made their own case for the job.

Spitler stock is probably the lowest at the moment because he missed a lot of camp with salmonella. Johnson has racked up tackles but has limited mobility, while Folsom has also played solid defense and is the best of the three on special teams.

It's his special teams work that I believe will win Folsom the job, even if he doesn't offer much upside on defense. His competition has done little to unseat the 2009 seventh-round pick, and the fourth inside linebacker doesn't play defense anyway.

Expect one of the losing players on the practice squad, with Spitler being the favorite for that spot over Johnson as an in-house draft pick.

Cornerbacks (6): Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Will Allen, Benny Sapp, Jason Allen, Nolan Carroll
Released: Kevin Hobbs, Nate Ness, Ross Weaver

The Dolphins typically keep only four or five receivers, but things are a bit more crowded now due to Will Allen's knee issues and Sapp's acquisition. Sapp is nothing special, but you have to figure he'll make the team so the Dolphins didn't just give Greg Camarillo away.

You also can't cut Jason Allen or Carroll, because both will have significant roles on special teams. Allen is a superb player on coverage and might just be the team's special teams ace, while Carroll appears close to nailing down the kickoff return gig.

A lot of people are high on Nate Ness after his stellar performance in the preseason opener, but Sapp's acquisition shows the team wasn't content with its corner depth, and there is simply no room for him here.

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

It's a risky move handing an unproven Clemons the starting free safety gig, but the team didn't bring in any competition other than the fifth-rounder Jones and he isn't ready for such a big role yet.

An undrafted rookie, Amaya has had a solid preseason and is the kind of guy you worry about waiving even if you have no room for him. Culver's experience on defense and ability on special teams will probably keep him around, but you really don't want to lose some with Amaya's upside.

Special teams (3): Dan Carpenter, Brandon Fields, John Denney
Released: none

The Dolphins brought in no competition at placekicker, punter, and long snapper, and gave all three of their players at those positions contract extensions this offseason. It's a well-oiled machine that runs very smoothly.


Practice Squad

The Dolphins will likely get a few of their practice squad players from other teams' cuts, but if I were to make an eight-man practice squad from the Dolphins' cuts above, this is how it would look:
  • WR Marlon Moore — The most impressive of the Dolphins young undrafted receivers and worth developing.
  • WR Julius Pruitt — With just four receivers on the active roster, it would practically be a lock that they keep two on the practice squad.
  • TE John Nalbone — Hasn't shown anything since being drafted in the fifth round last year, but he may still end up on the practice squad.
  • C Andrew Hartline — One of the only offensive line cuts still eligible for the practice squad and a good guy to have in practice due to his experience at all the positions.
  • OLB Chris McCoy — The only outside linebacker cut eligible for the practice squad and a rookie draft pick that gets developed.
  • ILB Austin Spitler — Spitler is more of a complete player than Micah Johnson and was drafted by the Dolphins, so he gets the nod.
  • CB Nate Ness — A strong preseason showing won't land him a spot on the active roster, but he'd be nice to have on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
  • SS Jonathon Amaya — Amaya has quite a bit of talent for an undrafted player and has good upside. If he doesn't get picked up elsewhere, he'd be great to have here.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Update: OG Randy Thomas placed on injured reserve

A day after conflicting reports that the Miami Dolphins had waived/injured or terminated the contract of guard Randy Thomas, it turns out neither scenario was actually correct.

According to Pro Football Weekly's NFL transaction wire (the best source on the internet as it comes straight from the league), Thomas was actually placed directly on the team's injured reserve list.

In the scheme of things, the specifics don't matter all that much, because Thomas is extremely unlikely to ever play for the Dolphins regardless of what happened yesterday.

The only difference is that Thomas is still Dolphins property and not yet a free agent, and thus cannot sign with another team.

Odds are Thomas' injury is likely minor and the team will work out an injury settlement with him shortly, which would result in his release.

I'm skeptical Thomas has much left in the tank at 34 and having suffered multiple tears of his triceps in recent years, so it's quite possible this is the end of the line for the long-time NFL veteran.

If Thomas has indeed played his last down in the NFL, he would retire with 143 games played (all starts) and two selections as a Pro Bowl alternate in 11 seasons.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dolphins send WR Greg Camarillo to Vikings for CB Benny Sapp

Deeper at wide receiver than they have been in years yet concerned about their secondary depth and performance, the Miami Dolphins have traded receiver Greg Camarillo to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for cornerback Benny Sapp.


Greg Camarillo

Claimed off waivers from the San Diego Chargers just prior to the 2007 season, Camarillo was primarily a special-teams player during his first season with the Dolphins, catching eight passes and recording three tackles.

He earned a special place on the hearts of Dolphins fans with his 64-yard touchdown reception in overtime against Baltimore, which resulted in what would ultimately be the team's lone victory in their 1-15 season.

Camarillo moved into a starting role in 2008, ranking second behind on the Dolphins behind Ted Ginn, Jr. with 55 receptions and 613 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.

He signed a three-year, $6 million extension that November, but suffered a season-ending torn ACL the same month.

Returning as a starter in 2009, Camarillo opened all 16 games for the Dolphins and caught 50 passes for 552 yards. However, he failed to find the end zone for the first time since 2006 with San Diego.

Camarillo joins Ginn (now with San Francisco) the second Dolphins starting receiver from 2009 to be traded before the 2010 season. He was projected to be the Dolphins' fourth wideout this coming season.

The departure of Camarillo gives the Dolphins seven receivers for what will likely be five spots on the roster.


Benny Sapp

A Fort Lauderdale native, Sapp play high school football at Boyd Anderson High School in Florida with fellow NFL cornerback Asante Samuel.

Sapp transferred to Northern Iowa following his sophomore season with the Iowa Hawkeyes after being kicked off the team. He went on to earn first-team all-conference honors during his senior season with the UNI Panthers in 2003.

Undrafted in 2004, Sapp signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie free agent and appeared in 15 games during his first NFL season. He totaled 15 tackles in 2004 and recorded his first career interception (vs. the Raiders' Kerry Collins) in December.

Sapp went on to play three more seasons in Kansas City, finishing his time there with 140 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 14 pass deflections in 56 games (six starts).

After signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2008, Sapp experienced his best season as a pro with 22 tackles and two interceptions in 14 games.

Sapp was re-signed to a one-year contract in March 2009 and went on to appear in all 16 games (including a career-high seven starts) that season, recording 44 tackles, two forced fumbles, and six pass deflections.

An unrestricted free agent in the 2010 offseason, Sapp was re-signed to a two-year $4.2 million contract on March 9. The deal includes base salaries of $1.4 million in 2010 and $1.7 million in 2011.

Sapp's signing currently gives the Dolphins nine cornerbacks on the 80-man active roster.


Analysis


It's no surprise to see Camarillo traded, and I'm actually happy to say I mentioned the possibility of him not being around much longer during my observations for last weekend's game.

Camarillo is a sure-handed receiver with a work ethic as good as anyone's in the league, and I honestly consider him a better version of Davone Bess, given his bigger size and better hands.

That being the case, it makes more sense for the Dolphins to keep Bess trade Camarillo now.

While not as refined and reliable as Camarillo, Bess is still just 24 years old, makes the league minimum, and is under team control for the next four seasons.

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Camarillo had base salaries totaling $3 million over the next two seasons before heading toward unrestricted free agency.

Relegated to the No. 4 job with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall and the emergence of second-year receiver Brian Hartline, the Dolphins were wise to deal Camarillo and get something for him rather than let him languish on the sidelines.

The trade opens up another spot in the Dolphins' likely five-man receiving corps, with four players competing for the final two spots.

I think this move means Patrick Turner is a lock for one of those spots given the team's investment in him, and undrafted rookie Marlon Moore appears to be ahead of Julius Pruitt and Roberto Wallace for the final spot.

Of course, it's important to remember that the Dolphins could find their No. 5 receiver among other teams' cuts, as they did when they picked up Camarillo in 2007, Brandon London in 2008, and so on.

It's also possible the Dolphins only keep four receivers to open the season if they need an extra player elsewhere due to injury.

In fact, Sapp's acquisition may have a lot to do with the growing concern over Will Allen's recovery from a torn ACL suffered last season. If Allen isn't going to be available to open the season, Sapp provides a veteran off the bench along with Jason Allen behind the team's starters.

Sapp isn't a huge acquisition so it's not like the team made out like bandits here. Sapp is an experienced backup corner, but he lacks ideal size at just 5-foot-9 and has little room to grow or develop.

The arrival of Sapp does, however, hurt the chances of preseason star Nate Ness and veteran Kevin Hobbs to make the roster, as the team obviously doesn't feel comfortable with either being a primary backup in the secondary at this point.

If Will Allen begins the season on the active roster, it's quite possible the team opens with six cornerbacks in all. In addition to the teams starters, Jason Allen is a special teams ace and rookie Nolan Carroll is a promising prospect who should also return kicks.

Sapp isn't a lock to make the roster, but he is a good bet to do so. Even if the Dolphins didn't need Camarillo anymore, he still had some value either on the team or in trade, so I don't think they would have dealt him for someone to just audition for a roster spot.

As always, check out the projected depth chart reflecting these transaction here.


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Dolphins terminate contract of OG Randy Thomas

Well, that didn't take long.

The Miami Dolphins have reportedly terminated the contract of guard Randy Thomas, whom they signed just last week.

Originally drafted by the Bill Parcells-led New York Jets in the second round back in 1999, Thomas has started 143 games with the Jets and Redskins and is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate.

Signed by the Dolphins on Aug. 18, Thomas had been working at left guard behind Richie Incognito and played in the team's preseason game against Jacksonville last Saturday.

Contrary to some reports, it seems Thomas had his contract terminated rather than being waived/injured. The former instantly makes him a free agent, while being waived/injured would send him to injured reserve if he had cleared waivers.

I'm not shocked the Thomas was released so quickly. It was questionable as to whether he'd be able to stay healthy or if he had much left, and the Dolphins obviously felt he wasn't good enough to hold down a reserve spot.

This move does bode well for Donald Thomas' chances to make the team, although I still believe he could be traded or released before the regular season if the team keeps only three guards.

Thomas and Cory Procter currently sit as the second-team left and right guards, respectively, although there is no guarantee the team keeps four if they decide to keep four tackles and two centers.

The release of Thomas gives the Dolphins 75 players, exactly six days before the mandatory cut down to that very number.

As always, check out the projected depth chart here.


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Monday, August 23, 2010

Dolphins waive RB Tristan Davis, NT Travis Ivey, TE Kory Sperry

Despite the cut down from 80 players to 75 still being eight days away on Aug. 31, the Miami Dolphins have already begun trimming their roster by parting ways with three players.

Waived Monday were second-year running back/kick returner Tristan Davis and tight end Kory Sperry, as well as undrafted rookie nose tackle Travis Ivey.

The roster moves leave the Dolphins with 75 players on the active roster. Additionally, defensive end Phillip Merling (Active/Non-Football Injury) and linebacker A. J. Edds (injured reserve) are counting toward the active roster for a total of 77.

Edds will officially not count after the 75-man cut down, which means the Dolphins will need to release one more player to get down to that limit.

Tristan Davis

Undrafted out of Auburn in 2009, Davis signed with the Detroit Lions midway through the preseason last year and later spent time on the team's practice squad. He was added to the Dolphins' practice squad during the 2009 season and re-signed this offseason.

It was no secret the Dolphins needed to upgrade their return game after trading Ted Ginn, Jr. and Davis was one of the top candidates to fill that role in camp.

Working against him, however, was the fact that Davis had no chance to contribute in other areas for a team big on position versatility. Technically a running back, Davis would have been buried on the depth chart and never would have contributed on offense.

Thus, a roster spot would have needed to be left open for Davis solely as a kick returner, and that would have been a tough thing for him to accomplish.

Also hurting him was the fact that rookie fifth-round cornerback Nolan Carroll was better on returns, as well as being a bigger investment and a player who could develop on defense.

The writing was on the wall for Davis when he returned only one kick in the team's preseason opener (which he mishandled in the rain) and didn't get an opportunity last weekend against Jacksonville.

Travis Ivey

An undrafted rookie from Maryland, Ivey had the body for a nose tackle, but not much else.

Ivey wasn't all that productive in college and was reportedly pretty raw coming into camp, so there was practically no chance he'd make the team's active roster. I wouldn't even consider Ivey a candidate for the practice squad at this point given the fact that he didn't even last until the final cut down.

The Dolphins typically keep only two pure nose tackles, which they have in starter Randy Starks and backup Paul Soliai. They'll also probably keep a defensive end like Ryan Baker than double at nose.

Kory Sperry

Sperry made a minor splash with the Dolphins last season, catching a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He appeared in eight games for the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie from Colorado State, while drafted rookie John Nalbone languished on the practice squad.

That being the case, I'm not surprised to see him released here. The Dolphins obviously weren't happy with their young tight ends when they re-signed veteran David Martin after a year out of football, and Joey Haynos obviously had the edge for the No. 3 job.

While it is a bit surprising to see Sperry go before Nalbone, I don't think the move indicates the team likes Nalbone better.

They obviously liked Sperry more in 2009 and it was Sperry and not Nalbone who was working with Haynos in two-tight end sets with the second team against the Jaguars last Saturday.

But with neither player likely to make the final roster, it makes more sense to see what Nalbone could do given the larger investment the team had made in him.

In the end, Nalbone isn't likely to stick around either, so it really doesn't matter who went first.


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


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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dolphins-Jaguars Game Observations

After a nearly two-hour-long delay due to lightning in the Jacksonville area, the Miami Dolphins were finally able to get their second preseason game in against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Dolphins had some lightning of their own early on as the first-team offense excelled for much of the first half. Chad Henne was extremely productive and Brandon Marshall showed flashes of why the Dolphins traded for him in the offseason.

Not all was well with the Dolphins' play, however, and with that I'll turn to my game observations:


Offense
  • Chad Henne was absolutely fantastic last night and showed the potential he has to be a top quarterback in this league. He completed 11 of his 14 passes for 151 yards and two scores, and two of his incompletions were drops. Henne showed everything you want to see in a starter—poise, pocket awareness, good decision-making, arm strength, touch, and accuracy.
  • The Dolphins' backup quarterbacks looked good as well, as Tyler Thigpen did fairly well given his rough pass protection and Chad Pennington did well in limited duty at the end of the first half. Miami has to be one of the deepest teams at quarterback with this trio.
  • Pat White once again saw no action running the offense, and this time wasn't even trusted to hand it off to Lex Hilliard with time running out. White's defenders are running out of excuses, and it's becoming blatantly obvious the Dolphins have given up on the former second-round pick. He should stick around through the preseason in the event of injury, but I don't expect him to be with the team come September.
  • The Dolphins didn't do much on the ground, but didn't really have to as they aired it out for much of the first half. Ronnie Brown was stuffed a few times in the wildcat, but Ricky Williams showed good power on a few runs.
  • I think it's safe to say that the wildcat with Patrick Cobbs leading it is not the same as with Brown leading it. Cobbs is a versatile guy, but he can't carry the load that way.
  • Lousaka Polite was money on third-and-short as always, but Rolly Lumbala was stuffed on his chance to convert a short-yardage play. Lumbala has never really had a chance to make this team and that hurt him even more.
  • Despite one drop, Brandon Marshall was all-around excellent, coming down with a jump ball, showing good run after the catch, and making some devastating blocks downfield. He took out two guys on Anthony Fasano's first touchdown catch in blocking as good as I've ever seen from an NFL receiver. There's no doubt the guy is the complete package.
  • We saw practically no Greg Camarillo last night. I think he'll make the team given how reliable his hands are and how much the staff likes his work ethic, but I'd say there is a very, very faint chance he doesn't make the team. I think in the end he will, though.
  • Marlon Moore excelled more than any of the fringe wideouts with two catches for 32 yards, but his longest reception he was essentially uncovered the entire time. I still haven't seen enough from Moore, Julius Pruitt, or Roberto Wallace to kick Patrick Turner off the roster.
  • Where did that come from? After struggling as a receiver and being asked to primarily block in 2009, Anthony Fasano exploded last night with two big touchdowns. He showed good run-after-catch on his first touchdown with the help of Marshall's blocking, and made a nice grab in the end zone for his second score. We know he can be a productive receiving tight end given his 2008 numbers, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him have a better year than most expected.
  • No one else at tight end really separated themselves, but Joey Haynos and Kory Sperry were working in two-tight end sets late in the game. This says a lot about what the team thinks of 2009 fifth-rounder John Nalbone, who seems to have little chance to make the team.
  • Joe Berger earned the start again at center, but Jake Grove saw plenty of time with the first team and I don't think the battle is over. Berger whiffed poorly on Lumbala's short-yardage carry while Grove had a holding call, so neither was perfect. But Grove is the better player and has the big contract, so if things are close, I expect him to win it.
  • Lydon Murtha was pretty bad as Thigpen's left tackle yesterday, allowing him to be decapitated on a couple plays. He's working as Jake Long's primary left tackle, but he's not guaranteed a roster spot if the team keeps only three tackles.
  • Donald Thomas once again didn't see time until late, and I'm becoming more and more convinced by the day that my prediction for him to be cut could come true. He's living off some imaginary potential with fans from 2008, and it's getting ridiculous. The reality is he's a sixth-rounder who missed all of one season and got benched in his only other one. He's not indispensable and he's not above being cut.
  • It was a tough break (no pun intended) for guard Ray Feinga, who broke his "feinga" last night. Feinga was already a long shot to make the roster, so this probably sealed the deal. He'll probably be waived/injured in the next day or two.

Defense
  • The Dolphins' defensive line did a good job stopping the run early. Kendall Langford made some good plays as always, and Randy Starks was dominant against the run. He also contributed a sack from nose tackle, which is no small feat. Some people have questioned how well Starks will transition to nose, but I am zero percent worried. He's a great player no matter where he plays and has plenty of bulk for the position.
  • Charles Grant had a very good game and got good pressure from the defensive end spot, so it looks like he should have no problem earning a roster spot.
  • It'll be interesting to see who wins the fifth defensive end spot though between Ryan Baker, Lionel Dotson, and Tony McDaniel. McDaniel has the most experience but wasn't that great in 2009, but Baker can double as a nose tackle and looked good last night. I just haven't seen Dotson do anything in two seasons and I think it's time for him to go.
  • The Dolphins' outside linebacker didn't record any sacks, which is a cause for concern given the team's struggling secondary. Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson, and Erik Walden all got some pressure on the quarterback.
  • Ikaika Alama-Francis was pretty quiet last night and actually really whiffed on a run play, so it's obvious his transition from the defensive line is far from complete.
  • Tim Dobbins did well in place of Channing Crowder, and it seems to me that anyone that plays next to Karlos Dansby is going to get quite a few tackles. It wouldn't surprise me to see Dobbins take some of Crowder's playing time in the regular season, especially if he can be better in coverage.
  • The battle for the fourth inside linebacker spot is very heated, although Austin Spitler seems to be losing the most ground. Spitler hasn't looked good in coverage, while J. D. Folsom did well on special teams and against the run. Micah Johnson also racked up three tackles, although his range and athleticism is obviously his weak point. Folsom looks like the favorite at this point.
  • Sean Smith had a rough day and was burned by Mike Sims-Walker a few times, although one of those plays he was picked by his own teammate off the line. Smith and the rest of the secondary struggled for a lot of the game though, and it's a bit concerning at this point.
  • Nolan Carroll had a very rough game on defense and allowed a touchdown on an out route. I still like his upside though, and his special-teams ability should secure him a roster spot while he develops on defense.
  • After a huge game in the preseason opener, cornerback Nate Ness was a bit quieter last night. He replaced Vontae Davis when he left with a chest injury though, so it was nice to see him get a chance earlier in the game. I still don't know where he fits onto the roster unless Will Allen misses significant time. You can't cut Carroll and Jason Allen is phenomenal on special teams (he forced a fumble on a kickoff last night).
  • Chris Clemons wasn't great at free safety, but he still isn't really being challenged by anyone. Reshad Jones made a few plays last night, but I don't think he's ready to start.
  • Yeremiah Bell made a great tackle in space against Maurice Jones-Drew and is probably the only reliable part of the secondary.
  • Undrafted rookie Jonathon Amaya made a great play for an interception, although I don't know if he'll be able to make the team. However, Tyrone Culver hasn't really flashed in camp and Amaya has good upside for an undrafted player, so he may be worth hanging onto over Culver.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter was perfect with two field goals and three extra points, so there doesn't appear to be anything to worry about despite some struggles in camp.
  • Despite two blocks in tow games for Brandon Fields, I'm not concerned about the Dolphins' punter. He's got an elite NFL leg and isn't to blame for either block this preseason. Chris Clemons was actually the culprit last night when the Dolphins allowed a blocked punt and safety while pinned back against their own end zone.
  • Nolan Carroll tightened his grip on the kickoff return job with good burst and vision. Patrick Cobbs simply can't threaten to take one all the way like Carroll can. Tristan Davis was nowhere to be found and might not get another shot before he's cut.
  • Davone Bess fair-caught a punt with plenty of empty room to spare, so that was disappointing. He's not a good return man at all, but he'll probably keep the job in 2010 due to lack of options.
  • Say what you want about Jason Allen as a cornerback, but the guy can play special teams. He laid a perfect hit on the Jaguars' kickoff returner to force a fumble that Tyrone Culver recovered. I don't see any way Allen doesn't make the team given how valuable he is as a special-teams ace.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dolphins at Jaguars - Live Chat

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RB Ricky Williams hoping for contract extension

Entering the final year of his current contract, Ricky Williams is reportedly hoping to receive a one-year contract extension from the Miami Dolphins that will run through the 2011 season.

Now 33, Williams is coming off his first 1,000-yard rushing season since before his abrupt retirement prior to the 2004 season.

In 16 games including seven starts in 2009, Williams rushed for 1,12 yards and 11 touchdowns. He split time with starter Ronnie Brown early in the season and took over as the feature back when Brown suffered a season-ending foot injury in November.

Never a guy who just played for the money, Williams negotiated and signed a one-year extension with the Dolphins prior to the 2009 season. He is slated to make $4.35 million in 2010.

Williams hired super-agent Drew Rosenhaus in March, leading many to believe Williams would be seeking one last big-money deal. However, it seems Williams remains committed to working out an extension with the Dolphins and retiring after the 2011 season.

Analysis

In my mind, re-signing Williams beyond the 2010 season is a no-brainer.

Williams is still a highly productive back and doesn't have the wear and tear that many backs his age do. His conditioning is top-notch and he absolutely has the ability to be a feature back if called upon.

Furthermore, Williams' contract demands have never been outrageous and it's safe to say the guy has earned just a fraction of what he could have in his pro career. Not that Miami should make up for that now, but they should definitely realize that Williams isn't going to hold out for an insane contract.

Williams would also be useful in 2011 if Ronnie Brown isn't re-signed when his contract expires following the 2010 season. Brown is an extremely talented back, but at 29 and having missed quite a bit of time in recent years with various injuries, it's hard to say he's a prime candidate for a long-term contract.

I imagine Brown will be able to get more money elsewhere, which would make the need for Williams in Miami all the greater. Backup Lex Hilliard hasn't been that productive in the regular season and has limited upside, while Patrick Cobbs is more of a third-down back and specialty player.

Williams is still a capable back and should command a fair one-year extension, making him an ideal feature back in 2011 until the Dolphins can find a younger, long-term solution.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dolphins sign veteran OG Randy Thomas, waive WR Ryan Grice-Mullen

Clearly concerned about their offensive line depth after recent injuries to Nate Garner and John Jerry, the Miami Dolphins have signed veteran free-agent guard Randy Thomas to a contract.

To make room for Thomas on the roster, the Dolphins have waived wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen, who was signed from the CFL in January.

Grice-Mullen had been hampered by a hamstring injury in camp and had been outplayed by undrafted rookie receivers Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace.

The moves keep the Dolphins' 80-man roster at 78 active players, plus defensive end Phillip Merling (Active/Non-Football Injury) and linebacker A. J. Edds, who is counting toward the active roster until Aug. 31 despite being on injured reserve.


Randy Thomas

A first-team All-SEC selection at Mississippi State, Thomas was drafted by Bill Parcells and the New York Jets in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft.

Thomas was immediately installed as a starter in the Jets' offensive line as a rookie and went on to start all 61 contests in which he appeared in four seasons with the team.

Thomas also helped Jets running back Curtis Martin to some of his best career seasons, including a then career-high 1,513 yards and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2001. Thomas himself was a Pro Bowl alternate with the Jets in 2002.

A free agent in the 2003 offseason, Thomas signed a seven-year, $28 million contract with the Washington Redskins and was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the second consecutive season.

Thomas started 61 games during his first four seasons with the Redskins, missing only three due to injury during that span. He helped running back Clinton Portis rush for over 2,800 yards between the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

After missing 13 games in 2007 with a torn triceps, Thomas returned to the Redskins' starting lineup in 2008. He opened all 16 contests at right guard, helping Portis top 1,400 yards rushing and earn his second Pro Bowl appearance.

Thomas again suffered a torn triceps two games into the 2009 season and was placed on injured reserve. He was released by the Redskins in March 2010.

An 11-year NFL veteran, Thomas has started all 143 games in which he has appeared. He will wear No. 65 for the Dolphins and will likely work at right guard.

Analysis

It's no real surprise to see Grice-Mullen cut here, as he hadn't been healthy for most of camp and was just one of 11 wide receivers competing for five spots on the active roster.

A poor man's Davone Bess, Grice-Mullen will likely head back to the CFL where he has a chance to actually play.

As for Thomas, goes, he has plenty of NFL experience and has played at a high level at times, and could even play left guard or right tackle in a pinch in addition to being a right guard.

Though Thomas has been a reliable starter for many years in the NFL, I don't see the Dolphins impeding the progress of John Jerry with an injury prone 34-year-old.

At most, Thomas will push Cory Procter and Donald Thomas for a reserve spot on the Dolphins' roster, which is actually a role he has never held having never appeared in an NFL game as a backup.

Thomas certainly has the talent to make the roster if he can stay healthy, though he's coming in late and is probably making close to a $1 million in base salary given the minimum salary for players with more than 10 years of NFL experience is $860,000.

This money is not guaranteed unless Thomas is on the active roster in Week 1, so he will need to prove to the Dolphins not only that he still has the ability to play at this point in his career, but also that he is worth the increased money as a backup over someone like Donald Thomas.

Despite his impressive résumé, Thomas is not a lock to make the Dolphins' final roster and is at the point in his career where his age and health could prevent him from ever playing in the NFL again.

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



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CB Evan Oglesby receives injury settlement

Less than a week after placing cornerback Evan Oglesby on injured reserve with an ankle injury, the Miami Dolphins have released Oglesby from I.R. with an injury settlement on Monday.

The move the Dolphins will pay Oglesby a sum far less than his 2010 base salary of $630,000, and in return, Oglesby becomes a free agent and can sign with any team.

There is always a chance Oglesby could return to the Dolphins at some point this year or next a la David Martin, but it's also quite possible his time in Miami is over for good.

A potential backup candidate at cornerback entering training camp in 2010, Oglesby's train derailed when he began camp on the non-football illness list.

Oglesby was later released and re-signed a few days later, only to suffer an ankle injury upon his return to the practice field.

The Dolphins signed veteran Kevin Hobbs to replace Oglesby on the roster. Hobbs and others are competing for reserve spots in the wake of Will Allen's recent knee surgery.


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dolphins' versatile OL Nate Garner to miss eight weeks

The Miami Dolphins' offensive line depth has taken a significant blow this week, as offensive tackle Nate Garner will reportedly miss the next eight weeks due to a foot injury.

Garner recently had surgery on his foot for the second time this offseason—an injury that forced him to miss time during OTAs.

Though not projected as a starter after seeing time at guard in 2009, the injury is significant because Garner is the top backup right tackle behind Vernon Carey. Garner also had the most versatility among the Dolphins' backup linemen, with the ability to play anywhere on the line.

The Dolphins must now decide if it is worth carrying Garner on the active 53-man roster well into the season, as the eight-week timetable for his return would put him out until October.

Garner's injury will also impact which other reserve linemen make the team following the preseason.

The Dolphins typically keep nine offensive linemen, and a healthy Garner would undoubtedly be in that nine.

If the Dolphins keep an extra spot for Garner in addition to nine healthy linemen, there is an intriguing battle between the backup guards and backup tackles.

With two centers (Jake Grove and Joe Berger) plus four other starting linemen locks, that leaves three roster spots for five players—guards Ray Feinga, Cory Procter, and Donald Thomas, and tackles Lydon Murtha and Andrew Gardner.

I like Procter's chances as an experienced starter and ex-Dallas Cowboy, while Murtha appears to have a good shot as Jake Long's primary backup.

Conversely, Feinga has no NFL experience and has already been waived once during camp, making him the longest shot of the bunch.

That means Donald Thomas and Andrew Gardner are potentially competing for one roster spot. The Dolphins will keep four guards or four tackles, but almost certainly not four of each.

I've had Thomas as a potential roster casualty since camp began, but Garner's injury could certainly help his chances of making the team.

I don't think either Thomas and Gardner are held in very high regard by the Dolphins' organization, so it's possible the Dolphins could opt to keep only eight linemen and pick up a ninth after cuts—the same way Nate Garner was acquired from the Jets two years ago.


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Dolphins sign OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis to contract extension

In what appears to be anticipation of a significant role on defense in 2010, the Miami Dolphins have signed outside linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis to a one-year contract extension through 2011.

Previously slated for restricted free agency as a four-year veteran following the 2010 season, Alama-Francis will now receive a base salary of $640,000 in 2011 in addition to his $545,000 compensation this season.

Originally drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round out of Hawaii in 2007, Alama-Francis appeared in 19 games as a backup defensive lineman for the Lions during his first two pro seasons.

After being waived by the Lions during final cuts in 2009, Alama-Francis was picked up by the Dolphins in late November when nose tackle Jason Ferguson was placed on injured reserve and linebacker Matt Roth was waived. Alama-Francis did not appear in a game last season.

Although he was projected as a defensive end in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, Alama Francis has dropped to 275 pounds and has been moved to outside linebacker at the insistence of linebackers coach Bill Sheridan.

Alama-Francis has impressed the Dolphins coaching staff to the point where he shared first- and second-team reps with starting strong side linebacker Koa Misi in the team's preseason opener on Saturday.

Possessing above-average quickness and athleticism for his size, Alama-Francis clearly has the ability to play standing up in the scheme and has the body and tackling skills to be a good run-stopper in the mold of ex-Dolphin Matt Roth.

Entering the offseason as a defensive end on the roster bubble, Alama-Francis appears to be not only closing in on a roster spot in 2010, but also a significant role in the Dolphins' defense.


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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dolphins-Buccaneers Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins' preseason in a downpour, making what would typically be a pretty sloppy game anyway that much sloppier.

The Dolphins' struggled with drops early on and failed to get much going, although they forced a handful of turnovers from the Buccaneers and eventually found the endzone on a Lex Hilliard run.

The teams also traded field goals in the low-scoring affair, giving Miami a 10-7 win and a 1-0 record in the exhibition portion of the season.

Here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Buccaneers:


Offense
  • There really isn't any way to evaluate Chad Henne's performance, as he had numerous drops during his time in the game and he played in the worst weather conditions of the night.
  • It's hard to say what exactly the motivations were behind Tyler Thigpen playing so much and Pat White not at all (except to kneel at the end of the game, which was just mean). The Dolphins could be showcasing Thigpen for a trade, which would open up the door for White to stick around. Or, the team could just be committed to Thigpen as the No. 2 quarterback, and conversely have given up on White's development. We won't know for a few weeks.
  • Ronnie Brown looked good coming off his foot injury and was especially powerful and shifty in the poor field conditions. If he stays healthy, he's going to be very productive in this offense.
  • Another preseason is here, which means it's time for Dolphins fans everywhere to overrate Lex Hilliard. While he did find the end zone, he wasn't that impressive on the ground (eight carries for 19 yards) and simply isn't anything special.
  • With Brandon Marshall dropping his only two targets of the night in his No. 19 jersey, I could have sworn I was looking at Ted Ginn, Jr. There's not need to panic just yet, as the rain was tough and Marshall is a proven receiver.
  • We saw a few signs of life from disappointing third-round pick Patrick Turner, who caught two passes and led the team with 44 yards. Turner could use a confidence boost, and a few more showings like this should solidify his spot on the roster.
  • Marlon Moore and Julius Pruitt each had a few good grabs, although Moore also had a bad drop, which is something undrafted rookies can't afford. Roberto Wallace failed to make much of an impact with one reception. I simply can't see any of these guys forcing Turner off the roster at this point given the team's investment in him.
  • The Dolphins' tight ends were practically nonexistent in the passing game tonight, which is something we saw a lot of in 2009. We did see David Martin immediately inserted into the first-team offense in two-tight end sets, which says a lot about what the team thinks of its three young tight ends.
  • Jake Long was solid in the weather conditions and was a visible leader in the huddle. Backup Andrew Gardner had a much rougher time with a penalty and some missed blocks on the right side, so he could be hurting himself.
  • I saw a bit about what Omar Kelly has said about Richie Incognito's inability to pull as guard, but he's still better than Donald Thomas. It's quite telling that Thomas didn't get most of his work until late and with the third team. Perhaps my prediction that he doesn't get cut might have some legs. I think a lot of it depends on the health of Nate Garner.
  • Joe Berger got the start at center with Jake Grove a little banged up, although Grove did come in with the second team. Grove also had a bad snap that led to a turnover, but I still don't see Berger winning the starting job.

Defense
  • Jared Odrick stood out to me, as did veteran Marques Douglas, who went nuts every time he made a play. I was a bit disappointed to see Charles Grant fail to make much of an impact after the recent positive reports on him from camp, although his stock should stay where it is.
  • Paul Soliai was an absolute monster at nose tackle, which was nice to see after his rocky career to date. The guy has a rare body for the NFL and could be a great nose tackle if he had the head to go along with it. He appears entrenched as Randy Starks' backup, which Montavious Stanley and Travis Ivey on the outside looking in.
  • It was a pleasant surprise to see Koa Misi and Cameron Wake get some good pressure last night, and it was also interesting to see Ikaika Alama-Francis rotate series with Misi through the first half. I think both Alama-Francis and Misi could end up sharing time during the regular season as well given their different skills.
  • The battle for the fifth outside linebacker spot wasn't settled, as Erik Walden, who I would have considered the worst candidate, came up with the only sack. Quentin Moses was also around on the play, while Chris McCoy failed to record even a tackle. None of these guys will make an impact in the regular season.
  • We didn't see much of Karlos Dansby during his brief time in the game, and it seems Channing Crowder is going to get a lot more attention because he's the easier target for offense. His three tackles were good, but that was never his problem.
  • Austin Spitler racked up the tackles but struggled in coverage, while Micah Johnson also did a good job against the run. Johnson did have a bad roughing call, but it's hard to fault guys trying so desperately to impress for going all out. Right now, Spitler seems like the favorite to win the No. 4 ILB job, as Folsom didn't really stand out. That could change in a day though.
  • Vontae Davis and Sean Smith each had their down moments, Davis allowing a long pass and Smith a touchdown. Davis still had good position on that play though, and Smith recovered well with some good tackles and a nice adjustment on the ball for an interception. I'm not worried about either.
  • Nolan Carroll was a pleasant surprise in his first professional game, and I can't see any way the fifth-rounder doesn't make the team. Jason Allen got picked on a few times which is nothing new, although his special-teams ability helps his chances.
  • Nate Ness was the star of the night, racking up four tackles, two forced fumbles, and a handful of pass breakups. He certainly did nothing but help himself tonight, but it's important to remember that his good play is coming against quarterbacks and receivers that are very unrefined themselves. He still has a battle on his hands to make the roster and a lot of it could depend on the health of Will Allen, although Ness is going to be hard to sneak to the practice squad if he keeps playing this well.
  • I didn't really notice the safeties too much, although I thought Chris Clemons did a solid job in coverage. It definitely looks like the Dolphins will roll with him as the starting free safety, ready or not. Jonathon Amaya also made a few nice plays on the ball and nearly had an interception, although the Bucs ended up completing it.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter converted his one and only field goal attempt off the infield dirt, which is always an admirable task. He's had his ups and downs in camp, but he's in no danger of having his job threatened.
  • Brandon Fields absolutely boomed most of his punts and also also dropped another punt inside the 20. He looks ready to cement himself among the elite punters in the NFL.
  • We really got to see how little a chance some guys are given to make the team. Tristan Davis got one kick return in the pouring rain and brought it back 20 yards, and was never seen again. It really looks like Nolan Carroll, who had a 27-yard return, will win the job, especially since he doubles on defense.
  • The Dolphins' punt returners did absolutely nothing, as Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen combined for eight total yards. Bess is a sub-par returner, but no one else is pushing him and he'll retain his role since he's going to make the team anyway.
Five Up
  • CB Nate Ness — Played great ball at corner and showed great improvement after being on the practice squad last year. He has guys in front of him, but play like this makes him harder to cut.
  • NT Paul Soliai — Was an absolute beast up the middle. He won't supplant Randy Starks, but he did instill confidence that he can handle the No. 2 job and rotate in.
  • Koa Misi — Got some great pressure on the quarterback and forced some bad throws. Definitely looks sound enough to start as a rookie.
  • CB Nolan Carroll — Was excellent in coverage and had Miami's best return of the night. The Dolphins don't like using roster spot on pure returners, so a cornerback with potential that can also handle kickoffs is ideal.
  • Patrick Turner — It was about time we saw something from Turner, and he showed what a weapon he can be with a big catch and run over the middle. The physical tools are there.

Five Down
  • QB Pat White — It's possible that Tyler Thigpen was being showcased for trade, but it still says a lot the team doesn't care much to see White in a game after the role he had as a rookie. The ability just isn't there.
  • OG Donald Thomas — It's been two years since he earned the starting right guard job as a rookie sixth-round pick, and he has done little in the time since. Playing with the scrubs last night was surprising and it's obvious the team is down on him.
  • OT Andrew Gardner — Had a rough outing with a penalty and some poor blocking. If Nate Garner is healthy, he and Lydon Murtha probably push Gardner off the roster.
  • OLB Chris McCoy — Failed to create much pressure or record a tackle in his debut, and was out-played on special teams by his competitors. May be practice squad material.
  • LB J. D. Folsom — Was outplayed by both Austin Spitler and Micah Johnson, which really hurts his chances. There just isn't much upside there, as both his competitors at least fit into the defensive scheme, while Folsom is a pure special-teamer.

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