Friday, December 31, 2010

Dolphins place Karlos Dansby on injured reserve; promote WR Julius Pruitt from practice squad

The final week of the season for non-playoff teams is upon us, and that means players being placed on injured reserve with minor injuries simply because they won't be available for the last game of the year.

The Miami Dolphins made such a move Friday, placing starting inside linebacker Karlos Dansby on injured reserve and promoting second-year wide receiver Julius Pruitt from the practice squad.

Dansby, who had been battling a toe injury and did not practice this week, appeared in the Dolphins' first 14 games of the season before missing last week's contest against the Detroit Lions.

The Dolphins' prized free-agent possession of the 2010 offseason, Dansby arrived in Miami on a five-year, $43 million contract including $22 million guaranteed after six highly productive seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

Dansby immediately stabalized the Dolphins' run defense and became the leader of the unit, racking up 95 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass deflections.

Tim Dobbins, who was also acquired in the offseason in a draft-day trade with the San Diego Chargers, will make his six start of the season in place of the injured Dansby.

Meanwhile, Julius Pruitt will wear No. 11 for the Dolphins and could be active for the season finale in New England, where he'd play special teams and may get a look on offense.

Pruitt, who was signed by the Dolphins in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Ouachita Baptist, has spent his first two pro seasons to date on the team's practice squad.

The speedy, 6-foot-3 receiver has traveled with the team in a handful of road trips already this season, but this is his first promotion to the active roster.

Pruitt was potentially signed to a multi-year deal, which would keep him under contract for training camp in 2011. If he received a one-year deal with his promotion, he will be an exclusive-rights free agent in the offseason.


Analysis

In the short-term, Dansby's absence will most certainly hurt the Dolphins' defense in their season finale against the Patriots.

Dansby is far and away the team's most complete linebacker and the only one of the bunch good in coverage. His absence will make it very difficult for the Dolphins to stop the Patriots' two-headed tight-end threat in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Aside from that, however, Dansby's injury is minor and he should have no trouble recovering in the offseason. He will absolutely return as the starting MIKE linebacker in Mike Nolan's defense in 2011.

As for Pruitt, he was simply either promoted to be given a brief look in Week 17, or merely to be inactive for the finale but already under contract heading into the offseason. (As a practice squad player, he would have become a free agent after Sunday and would have needed to been re-signed.)

If Pruitt is active against New England, he will either serve as the Dolphins' fifth receiver or replace Marlon Moore as the fourth active player at the position. The Dolphins typically keep four receiver active on game days, but have activated five recently and may do so this week if they want Pruitt to play.

Pruitt wouldn't be a factor on offense much and may not even see the field there, though he would probably see some time on special teams if active.

An extremely raw prospect out of college, Pruitt has yet to translate his physical tools into an NFL playing career. If he makes it to training camp in 2011, he'll once again face an uphill battle to make the final roster.

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


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Week 17 Power Rankings

My No. 1 team (the Atlanta Falcons) fell to another top-five team, and the New England Patriots take their rightful spot atop the power rankings.

There's only one more week until the playoffs start and 20 of the NFL teams pack it in for the winter, but here's how I see all of them stacking up at this point in time.


The Top 10

1. New England Patriots (13-2; 2nd) — The Patriots are playing at a level above any other team right now and are just downright scary.

2. Baltimore Ravens (11-4; 3rd) — Ray Rice is getting it done and the Ravens are just playing very sound football right now.

3. New Orleans Saints (11-4; 4th) — They don't seem quite a dangerous as last year due to a declining defense, but they made a huge statement with a win over the Falcons in the Georgie Dome.

4. Atlanta Falcons (12-3; 1st) — My No. 1 team falls with a home loss to the Saints, but they're still a great team and will be dangerous in the playoffs.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4; 5th) — The Steelers need to get Troy Polamalu back for the playoffs, but they are a dangerous team regardless.

6. Chicago Bears (11-4; 7th) — The Bears rebounded from an embarrassing loss to the Patriots with a big win over the Jets in the elements.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (10-5; 6th) — The Eagles stumbled a bit against Minnesota and their momentum may be slowed this week if Michael Vick doesn't play, so it'll be interesting to see how well they do to start the playoffs.

8. New York Jets (10-5; 8th) — The Jets defense didn't show up in the cold last week and now Mark Sanchez is dinged up. Not exactly the way to begin the playoffs.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5; 10th) — The Chiefs' offense continues to steamroll people, and it will be intriguing to see how they handle an elite team in the playoffs.

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-6; 12th) — Peyton Manning has put the Colts on his shoulders and appears to have them headed toward the postseason yet again. How far they'll go is another story.


The Other 22

11. Green Bay Packers (9-6; 14th)
12. New York Giants (9-6; 9th)
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6; 15th)
14. San Diego Chargers (8-7; 11th)
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7; 13th)
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8; 18th)
17. Oakland Raiders (7-8; 16th)
18. Dallas Cowboys (5-10; 17th)
19. Miami Dolphins (7-8; 19th)
20. Minnesota Vikings (6-9; 24rd)
21. Buffalo Bills (4-11; 22nd)
22. Cleveland Browns (5-10; 20th)
23. Tennessee Titans (6-9; 21st)
24. Washington Redskins (6-9; 26th)
25. Houston Texans (5-10; 23rd)
26. Detroit Lions (5-10; 27th)
27. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11; 28th)
28. San Francisco 49ers (5-10; 25th)
29. Denver Broncos (4-11; 30th)
30. Arizona Cardinals (5-10; 31st)
31. Seattle Seahawks (6-9; 29th)
32.Carolina Panthers (2-13; 32nd)


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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dolphins release CB Al Harris from injured reserve

The Miami Dolphins released veteran cornerback Al Harris from injured reserve Thursday, according to Adam Caplan of FoxSports.com.

Harris, 36, was signed by the Dolphins on Nov. 10 to provide depth in the secondary. He recorded three tackles in three games for the team before a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve on Dec. 7.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection joined the Dolphins just two days after his release from the Green Bay Packers, with whom he'd spent the regular season to that point on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform list recovering from a major knee injury suffered in late 2009.

Harris, who also drew interest from the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Minnesota Vikings before signing with the Dolphins, immediately become a free agent and is eligible to sign with any team.

Had he not been released by Miami now, Harris would have been a free agent in the 2011 offseason after his one-year deal with the Dolphins expired.

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


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Dolphins Winning Drive - 12/29/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work. This episode discusses the Dolphins' roster moves involving Kevin Curtis, Eric Ghiaciuc, Allen Barbre, and Mike Rivera.




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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dolphins waive Kevin Curtis, Eric Ghiaciuc; sign two others

Officially out of the playoffs for two weeks now and coming off back-to-back home losses to sub-.500 teams, the Miami Dolphins have begun planning for 2011 by releasing two veterans and signing two others.

The Miami Dolphins waived wide receiver Kevin Curtis and center Eric Ghiaciuc on Tuesday, while signing two former Green Bay Packers in offensive lineman Allen Barbre and linebacker Mike Rivera.

Ghiaciuc was signed in November after an injury to starting center Joe Berger, although he was inactive in his five games with the team.

Meanwhile, Curtis' tenure with the Dolphins lasted just two games in which he had one catch for six yards and one rushing attempt for six yards. Curtis had sat out most of the 2010 season after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous testicle in September.

The moves leave the Dolphins with a full 53-man roster heading into their regular season finale Sunday at New England.


Allen Barbre

Barbre (pronounced BAR-ber) played college football at Missouri Southern State, where he was a four-year starter at left tackle and was a consensus Division II All-American selection after his senior season in 2006.

The first player from his college invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Barbre was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round (112th overall). He appeared in seven games as a rookie, working at left guard and right tackle.

Barbre spent 2008 primarily working on special teams, appearing in eight games (no starts) and occasionally filling in as an injury replacement at left guard.

After earning the Packers' starting right tackle job in 2009 over Breno Giacomini, Barbre opened the Packers' first seven games before an ankle injury sidelined him for the next two. He went on to play in just three more games that season, starting none.

Barbre was placed on injured reserve and released with an injury settlement following final cuts in September 2010. He was signed by the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 28 and appeared in three contests as a reserve before his release on Nov. 23.

Barbre, who originally worked out for the Dolphins in early December, will wear No. 73 with the Dolphins. It is unclear if he will focus on guard or tackle.


Mike Rivera

A Kansas native, Rivera played college football close to home with the Jayhawks. He spent his first season redshirting in in 2004 and recorded 20 tackles on special teams as a second-year freshman in 2005.

Rivera earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore, leading the Jayhawks with 90 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

An honorable mention All-Big 12 again in 2007, Rivera totaled 96 tackles (10.5 for a loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 11 games.

Rivera closed out his collegiate career with his third straight honorable mention all-conference honor, recording 93 tackles, two sacks, and four forced fumbles.

After going undrafted in 2009, Rivera signed with the Chicago Bears and totaled 10 tackles during the preseason before being waived during final cuts.

Rivera was signed to the Tennessee Titans' practice squad to begin the 2009 season and remained there through the end of the year. He was re-signed in 2010 and appeared in three preseason games before landing on injured reserve. He was released prior to the beginning of the regular season.

The Packers signed Rivera to the practice squad on Oct. 13, where he remained until being signed to the Dolphins' active roster on Tuesday.

He will wear No. 57 for the Dolphins and work at inside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme, as well as on special teams.

Analysis

It's no surprise to see Ghiaciuc released, and I'm actually surprised it didn't happen sooner. He's been terrible in his NFL career and has reached journeyman status, so he was no longer needed now that the Dolphins are healthy at center with Joe Berger and Richie Incognito.

It is, however, a bit surprising to see Kevin Curtis cut, especially since he'd played in both games since being signed by the Dolphins. The team may not have felt like he had enough left to warrant a new contract in 2010, so they opted to let him go now instead of waiting until the offseason.

The Dolphins will once again roll with Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace as their third and fourth receivers, although they should face heavy competition for roster spots in 2011.

The scouting report on Barbre is pretty negative, as he's failed miserably at both guard and tackle. He comes from a small school and has a good work ethic and technique, but he lacks elite strength for the guard spot and also has trouble with bull rushers on the edge.

Meanwhile, Rivera profiles as a prototypical 3-4 inside linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 252 pounds, though he'll focus primarily on special teams as long as he's in Miami.

Obviously neither of these players is a very interesting signing, though I'm curious to see if they got two-year deals. That would mean they were signed to be brought back in 2011 where they'd compete for roster spots in the offseason and training camp if they made it that far.

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


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jake Long, Cameron Wake named to AFC Pro Bowl squad

The Miami Dolphins' best player on each side of the ball was greatly rewarded tonight, as it was announced that offensive tackle Jake Long and linebacker Cameron Wake have been selected as starters for the AFC in the 2011 Pro Bowl.

The selection marks Long's third appearance in as many pro seasons, as he has made the Pro Bowl every year since being selected by the Dolphins first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

While still deserving of the selection as one of the best offensive tackles in 2010, Long is actually having somewhat of a down year, in part due to a severe should injury he's been enduring since November.

Long has allowed five sacks this season, which matches his 2010 total. He has also committed eight penalties (four false starts and four holding penalties), up from his 2009 mark of only three.

Still, not all of Long's five sacks have been his fault, and he has without question been one of the elite pass protectors and run blockers in the game.

The path to Honolulu was much more difficult for Cameron Wake, who is just two years removed from playing in the Canadian Football League.

After failing to make it to training camp with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2005, Wake was out of football until joining the BC Lions of the CFL in 2007.

Wake quickly established himself as the league's best pass rusher, earning consecutive Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year awards and All-Star selections after racking up 39 sacks between 2007 and 2008.

Pursued by at least 16 NFL teams in the 2009 offseason, Wake signed a four-year contract with the Miami Dolphins in January and spent his rookie season as a situational pass rusher, totaling 5.5 sacks in 14 games.

With Jason Taylor and Joey Porter leaving via free agency in 2010, Wake stepped into the starting weakside linebacker role for the Dolphins.

Since then, Wake has opened all 15 games for the Dolphins this season and has been increasingly productive against the run and in coverage—all while leading the NFL with 14 sacks with one game left to play.

The Dolphins' two Pro Bowl selections in 2010 give them one more than they had a year ago, when only Long was voted onto the roster.

Safety Yeremiah Bell and placekicker Dan Carpenter also ended up going to the Pro Bowl last season as alternates for injured players that dropped out.

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played a week before the Super Bowl on Jan. 30, returning to Hawaii after one year at the site of last year's Super Bowl in Miami.


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Monday, December 27, 2010

Dolphins Winning Drive - 12/27/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work. This episode discusses the Dolphins' 34-27 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 16.




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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dolphins vs. Lions - Live Chat

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dolphins sign CB Terrail Lambert to practice squad

The Miami Dolphins have filled their open practice squad spot, signing second-year cornerback Terrail Lambert.

The Dolphins have had a practice spot open since promoting tight end before their Week 13 game against the New York Jets.

Lambert will wear No. 31 for the Dolphins, which was previously worn by cornerback Nate Ness (now No. 32) and veteran cornerback Al Harris before he was placed on injured reserve by the Dolphins on Dec. 7.


Background

A cousin of former Dolphins running back Lorenzo Booker, Lambert was born in Los Angeles and played college football at the University of Notre Dame.

Lambert played in 48 games for the Fighting Irish in his collegiate career, starting the final three years and totaling 115 tackles, half a sack, and four interceptions.

After going undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft, Lamber signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent. He was waived during final cuts on Sept. 5.

Lambert was signed to the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts in October 2009 and was re-signed to a future contract the following offseason. He recorded 19 tackles, a forced fumble, and two pass deflections in the 2010 preseason, but was once again waived during final cuts.

Signed to the St. Louis Rams' practice squad on Oct. 6, Lambert was released on Dec. 1 and was a free agent prior to joining the Dolphins.


Analysis

Lambert measures in at a pretty pedestrian 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, but it's his sub-4.4 speed that is his biggest draw as a cornerback prospect.

A moderately productive college player, Lambert has bounced around with three pro teams in nearly two full seasons without sniffing the active roster.

The Dolphins are currently pretty healthy at corner and have one of the NFL's best defenses in the last month, so the signing of Lambert has absolutely nothing to do with the present.

Lambert will work at cornerback and on special teams in practice, but he is extremely unlikely to see the active roster given there are only two weeks left in the season.

All practice squad players become free agents at season's end, so think of Lambert's signing as a two-week audition for a future contract in 2011.

Lambert has intriguing speed but isn't a great NFL prospect, so he'll have a battle just to get to training camp next year and is a long shot to make the active roster.

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


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Week 16 Power Rankings and Thursday game pick

It was certainly an interesting week of football in Week 15 with some wild plays and great endings. Among my top 10 teams from last week, the plummeting Jets righted themselves against my third-ranked Steelers, but the Falcons and Patriots continued to roll as the top two teams in the NFL.

Before I get to my new power rankings for Week 16, I'd like to say that I'm taking the Steelers over the Panthers this Thursday night in one of the lamest, most lopsided prime time match-ups this season. It's going to be ugly.

Now onto the rankings:


The Top 10

1. Atlanta Falcons (12-2; 1st) — The Falcons had no problems traveling across the country and defeating the inferior Seahawks, and there really isn't a team in the NFL they can't beat when they're at their best.

2. New England Patriots (12-2; 2nd) — The Patriots probably should have beaten an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team a little more than they did, but they came out with the W and are still the top team in the AFC.

3. Baltimore Ravens (10-4; 4th) — The Ravens made a statement with a big win over the potent Saints and are neck-and-neck with the Steelers in the AFC North.

4. New Orleans Saints (10-4; 5th) — There is no rule that says a team has to drop in the rankings when they lose, especially when they lose a close game on the road to a team ranked higher than them before that week anyway.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4; 3rd) — The Steelers hit a speed bump with a loss to the underachieving Jets, but time should tell that this was more of a fluke than anything else.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4; 6th) — They came out of the game against the Giants with a win, but there just isn't any room for them to move up right now.

7. Chicago Bears (10-4; 9th) — A week after dropping two spots, the Bears move right back up two spots with a decisive win over the Vikings in the elements.

8. New York Jets (10-4; 10th) — After weeks of unimpressive wins and a few losses, the Jets finally earned a victory over a worthy opponent in Pittsburgh. If I'm ranking teams on current performance and the prettiness of the head coach's wife's feet, the Jets probably crack the top five.

9. New York Giants (9-5; 7th) — The Giants came out dominating the Eagles early last week, but let them get back into it and ended up losing on a accidental punt to DeSean Jackson by Matt Dodge. This is still a good team, but that choke job drops them a bit.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5; 13th) — The Chiefs' return to the top 10 coincides with Matt Cassel's return from his appendectomy. The offense has rolled this year with Cassel at the helm, and it should be an interesting battle with San Diego for the division.


The Other 22


11. San Diego Chargers (8-6; 14th)
12. Indianapolis Colts (8-6; 16th)
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6; 8th)
14. Green Bay Packers (8-5; 11th)
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6; 12th)
16. Oakland Raiders (7-7; 19th)
17. Dallas Cowboys (5-9; 21st)
18. St. Louis Rams (7-7; 17th)
19. Miami Dolphins (7-7; 15th)
20. Cleveland Browns (5-9; 18th)
21. Tennessee Titans (6-8; 22nd)
22. Buffalo Bills (4-10; 26th)
23. Houston Texans (5-9; 20th)
24. Minnesota Vikings (5-9; 23rd)
25. San Francisco 49ers (5-9; 24th)
26. Washington Redskins (5-9; 25th)
27. Detroit Lions (4-10; 29th)
28. Cincinnati Bengals (3-11; 31st)
29. Seattle Seahawks (6-8; 27th)
30. Denver Broncos (3-11; 30th)
31. Arizona Cardinals (4-10; 28th)
32. Carolina Panthers (2-12; 32nd)


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Monday, December 20, 2010

Dolphins Winning Drive - 12/20/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work.

This episode discusses the Dolphins' 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.




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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dolphins vs. Bills - Live Chat

Week 15 Game Predictions

I had another solid week in Week 14, going 12-4 on my picks. I'm 1-0 to start this week thanks to the Chargers' win over the 49ers, so let's hope I can keep it going!

Last week's record: 12-4
2010 season record: 138-71 (66%)


Bengals over Browns — Cincy has been downright terrible this season, but their roster isn't as bad as their record would indicate. I say they get their third win of the season against Cleveland.

Cowboys over Redskins — Dallas has been playing much better of late, while Mike Shanahan's Redskins are shrouded in controversy and are starting Rex Grossman at quarterback this week.

Texans over Titans — A hard match-up to pick between two underachievers, but I'll take Houston in this one.

Colts over Jaguars — Jacksonville could win the division with a win this week, but I think Peyton Manning continues his momentum gained last week and keeps the Colts alive.

Chiefs over Rams — Matt Cassel clearly makes the Chiefs a different team, and his return this week should spark a win over the worst first-place team in the NFL.

Dolphins over Bills — They eked out a win over on the road against the stumbling Jets, so I definitely like their chances at home against a Bills team they've already beaten this year.

Eagles over Giants — Logic would say take the home team in such a close divisional match-up, but the Eagles have shown flashes of being the best team in the NFC this year. I'll take Philly in a close game.

Buccaneers over Lions — I'm not sure Tampa Bay is quite as good as their record and they lost a big piece of their defense in Gerald McCoy, but there's no way I can pick Detroit.

Panthers over Cardinals — It wouldn't benefit Carolina to win this game in terms of draft slot, but John Fox obviously isn't playing for that considering he probably won't be around. I think they'll run over a porous Arizona defense just enough to win this terrible match-up.

Ravens over Saints — This is a great game between two different but talented teams, so I'm just going to go with the home team.

Falcons over Seahawks — It's never easy to travel to and play on the west coast, but Seattle is terrible and the Falcons are playing great football right now.

Raiders over Broncos — I'm firmly of the belief that Tim Tebow isn't starting NFL quarterback material, and I certainly don't like his chances in his first career start for a broken Broncos team.

Steelers over Jets — New York has fallen off a cliff lately, and they face a much tougher test in Pittsburgh than they did last week.

Patriots over Packers — Green Bay couldn't manage a win over Detroit with Matt Flynn at the helm, so I certainly don't expect them to beat an elite New England team.

Bears over Vikings — The elements should make this game close, but it's hard to imagine quarterback/wide receiver Joe Webb engineering a victory against a Chicago team looking to rebound from a loss to the Patriots.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dolphins-Jets Game Observations

It wasn't pretty, but the Miami Dolphins came away from New Meadowlands Stadium with a narrow 10-6 victory over the division-rival New York Jets in Week 13.

Quarterback Chad Henne completed just five passes for 55 yards as the offense never got going, but the defense was ferocious and never let Mark Sanchez get settled.

The Dolphins' kept their playoffs hope alive with the win and are now 7-6, but they'll likely need to win out and get help from other teams to have any chance at the postseason.

Miami will face the Buffalo Bills (3-10) at Sun Life Stadium in Week 15, but until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Jets.


Offense
  •  There's no denying Chad Henne didn't have a good game. The Jets' defense played extremely well and the Dolphins were hardly ever able to move the ball. One grip I do have is with Dan Henning's constant use of the wildcat, which I feel ruins Henne's ability to get into a rhythm and lead the offense. The wildcat doesn't work anyway, and it just hinders Henne's performance. When watching the Dolphins, just remember that most NFL quarterbacks get three tries to get a first down. Henne often only gets two or one.
  • Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams compiled a solid amount of hard-fought yards out on the ground, but the overall rushing performance was not impressive. Once again, the offensive line fails to help out the backs, and it kills productivity. Williams is running better than Brown though, as Brown continues to dance way too much.
  • How can you critique the receivers at all with only five completions? You can't. I'll credit Dan Henning for getting Brandon Marshall matched up on Bart Scott early in the game, which drew a pass interference penalty and led to a touchdown.
  • Jeron Mastrud whiffed on pass protection that led to a sack, and Dedrick Epps was invisible in his NFL debut. The Dolphins are completely lacking an impactful No. 2 tight end.
  • The offensive line was more of the same—Jake Long was good, and everyone else wasn't. The interior line struggled in run blocking as usual against a tough Jets front, and Lydon Murtha was pretty bad in pass protection filling in for Vernon Carey.

Defense
  • There is no other way to say it—the Dolphins' defensive line was stellar this week. Paul Soliai, Kendall Langford and Tony McDaniel were all beasts, and Randy Starks played a great game too. They did everything they are asked to do, from controlling the line of scrimmage to putting pressure on the quarterback to stuffing the run. There is great depth here and it could be even better if Soliai and McDaniel re-sign and Jared Odrick returns in 2011.
  • Koa Misi had a good game and Quentin Moses lucked into a fumble recovery, but Cameron Wake was the story at outside linebacker once again. He played well against the run all game, and then came through with two big sacks on the Jets' final drive to seal the victory for Miami. He leads the NFL in sacks with 14.
  • Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder couldn't have been much better, combining for 15 tackles while stuffing LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene all game. Dansby also added a sack and a forced fumble, and he's just the kind of guy that seems to make a play or two a game that most other NFL linebackers don't.
  • The Dolphins' secondary had a great game as well. Vontae Davis made a beautiful play while being inteferred with constantly by Braylon Edwards. Sean Smith probably had 10 pass deflections, while Benny Sapp did a good job in the slot and Nolan Carroll got his first career interception. Smith's constant dropping of easy interceptions is concerning, but I have a feeling they will come and I'm just glad he's in position to make those kinds of plays so often. His coverage has been excellent lately.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter drilled a 47-yarder on his only field goal attempt, but the real story on special teams was Brandon Fields. In a game where field position was huge, Fields averaged 56.4 yards on 10 punts, with a long of 68 yards. It was an absolutely incredible performance and was vital to the Dolphins' win.
  • Nolan Carroll seems close to breaking one on kick returns, and I like the job he's doing. Obviously, his name was in the news this week not as a cornerback or returner, but as a flyer on the punting unit. The Jets' assistant that tripped him was blatantly wrong for doing so, and got an adequate punishment with a fine and suspension without pay. It's worth noting though, that Carroll was actually committing a penalty by running downfield out of bounds instead of returning to the field after being pushed out. That doesn't excuse the coach's behavior, but just saying. Hear more about what I thought on this controversy here.
  • Reshad Jones was actually flagged by the official for the same infraction Carroll got away with, but he more than made up for it when a few huge special teams tackles. He even got pushed in the back on one play and still made a great play on the returner.

Conclusion

That was about as ugly a win a I've seen, but I'll take it. You have to love the way the defense is playing, and they are clearly one of the best units in the NFL right now. The holes in their game are being filled not by new faces, but by improved play. Mike Nolan deserves all the credit for turning the unit around, and hopefully Miami is able to retain him beyond this season. It wouldn't surprise me if he got some head coaching interest.

On the offensive side of the ball, however, there is little to be excited about. Chad Henne isn't playing well, the Dolphins can't run the ball, and Dan Henning continues to show he's more suited for a retirement home than a coaching booth.

I think ultimately the offense will do the team in and kill the Dolphins' slim playoff hopes. They should win against Buffalo and Detroit, but they have no margin for error and are prone to losing to inferior teams. 10-6 would be great but it's unlikely with the Patriots in the finale, while 9-7 would be a solid finish worthy of some optimism in 2011.


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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dolphins Winning Drive - 12/14/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work. This episode discusses the signing of wide receiver Kevin Curtis and the placing of of offensive tackle Vernon Carey on injured reserve.

Dophins place OT Vernon Carey on injured reserve

Two days after his consecutive starts streak came to an end at 87 due to a knee injury, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey has been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Carey goes on I.R. with three games remaining in the regular season, making room for newly-signed wide receiver Kevin Curtis, which was announced yesterday.

The 18th overall pick by the Dolphins out of the University of Miami in 2004, Carey has started 92 of the 106 games in which he has played, including all 12 to begin this season.

Carey, who has played both tackle spots and even guard in his career, had not missed a start since Week 6 of the 2005 season until failing to play in last Sunday's win over the New York Jets.

Second-year player Lydon Murtha, who started in Carey's place Sunday, will likely finish out the season as the Dolphins' starting right tackle.


Analysis

For some perspective, in the last game that Carey did not start prior to this past week, Gus Frerotte and Wes Welker failed to help the Dolphins secure a victory over Brian Griese, Michael Pittman, and the rest of the 2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carey has never been entirely consistent, failing to establish himself as an elite left tackle that you hope for when you take one in the first round. Nevertheless, he's been a more-than-serviceable starter as a solid left tackle and fantastic run-blocking right tackle in the previous few seasons.

Carey, who signed a $42 million contract in the 2009 offseason, ends this season having allowed four sacks in 12 games after allowing four in 16 starts the previous year. He's had some nagging injuries the past few years, but has a big contract and is far more reliable than either of the team's guards or center, so he's a lock to start again in 2011.

While I've had my gripes with Carey in the past, losing him for the last four games of the season is tough, and inserting Lydon Murtha as the starting right tackle is a huge downgrade.

Murtha has looked overmatched during his playing time this season and is nowhere near the run blocker Carey is, which is problematic considering how weak the Dolphins' are inside already.

Personally, I'd prefer to start a combination of John Jerry and Pat McQuistan at right guard and right tackle with Murtha on the bench, but the coaching staff apparently disagrees.

Losing Carey and starting Murtha won't kill the Dolphins' chances of winning games, especially their next two against Buffalo and Detroit. But it's certainly not going to make things any easier though, and it just means the pressure on Chad Henne will be even more frequent than it has been.

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


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Week 14 Power Rankings and Thursday game pick

Not much change at the top, as all the best teams in the league continued to display their dominance. Except, of course, for the New York Jets, who look lost.

This Thursday on NFL Network, the 49ers visit the Chargers. The Niners got a huge boost from Alex Smith, but San Diego will be a much more difficult foe than Seattle. I think the Chargers win this one.

Now on to the power rankings:


The Top 10

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-2; 1st) — The Falcons are rolling through and easy stretch of the schedule, handling Carolina last week and facing Seattle in Week 15.

2. New England Patriots (11-2; 2nd) — Once again, the Patriots make a case for the top spot and only aren't there because Atlanta isn't losing either. New England is clearly as good as any team in the NFL.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3; 3rd) — Taking advantage of a Bengals team that can't buy a win, the Steelers stay atop the AFC North.

4. Baltimore Ravens (9-4; 4th) — The Ravens looked good for most of the night Monday and held on for a good win on the road in Houston.

5. New Orleans Saints (10-3; 5th) — They aren't getting as much attention with two other good teams in their division, but they are obviously one of the better teams in the NFC.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4; 9th) — Michael Vick has come down to earth a bit, but they are still playing extremely well on offense and scare anyone.

7. New York Giants (9-4; 11th) — The Vikings missing Brett Favre helped, but you can't ignore their dominance on the road after all the traveling fiasco.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5; 12th) — It's hard to believe the Jags are legit, but the wins speak for themselves.

9. Chicago Bears (9-4; 7th) — Playing in that weather isn't easy, but the Patriots didn't seem to have any problems.

10. New York Jets (9-4; 6th) — The defense was stellar last week, but the offense has to get going behind Mark Sanchez.


The Other 22

11. Green Bay Packers (8-5; 8th)
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5; 13th)
13. Kansas City (8-5; 10th)
14. San Diego Chargers (7-6; 15th)
15. Miami Dolphins (7-6; 16th)
16. Indianapolis Colts (7-6; 17th)
17. St. Louis Rams (7-6; 8th)
18. Cleveland Browns (5-8; 14th)
19. Oakland Raiders (6-7; 19th)
20. Houston Texans (5-8; 20th)
21. Dallas Cowboys (4-9; 22nd)
22. Tennessee Titans (5-8; 23rd)
23. Minnesota Vikings (5-8; 21st)
24. San Francisco 49ers (5-8; 28th)
25. Washington Redskins (5-8; 24th)
26. Buffalo Bills (3-10; 27th)
27. Seattle Seahawks (6-7; 25th)
28. Arizona Cardinals (4-9; 31st)
29. Detroit Lions (3-10; 30th)
30. Denver Broncos (3-10; 26th)
31. Cincinnati Bengals (2-11; 29th)
32. Carolina Panthers (1-12; 32nd)


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Monday, December 13, 2010

Dolphins sign veteran wide receiver Kevin Curtis

Free agent Kevin Curtis has been working toward a return to football since beating testicular cancer in November, and the Miami Dolphins have made that happen by signing the veteran wide receiver to a contract.

Reports of the deal were broken Monday evening by the twitter account of Curtis' representation. A confirmation from the Dolphins will likely come Tuesday, along with a corresponding roster move.

The Dolphins, who lost wide receiver Brian Hartline for the season to a hand injury last week, are coming off a narrow 10-6 victory over the New York Jets in Week 14 that saw the passing game total just five completions and 55 yards.

Now 7-6 and still alive in the playoff hunt, the Dolphins head home to face the Buffalo Bills (3-10) in Week 15.


Background

A JUCO All-American at Snow College, Curtis walked on at Utah State as a junior. He set numerous school records in his first season, leading the nation in receptions with 100 and totaling 1,531 yards in addition to being named the Aggies' Offensive MVP.

Curtis' performance earned him a scholarship as a senior where he racked up 74 more catches and 1,258 yards. In just two seasons, Curtis had set school records for receptions (174), receiving yards per game (126.8), receptions per game (7.9), as well as finishing second in career receiving yards (2,789).

A stellar performance at NFL Scouting Combine before the 2003 NFL Draft saw Curtis run an official 4.35 forty and score an impressive 48 of 50 on the Wonderlic–the third highest score ever on the test.

Drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round in 2003, Curtis' production grew steadily to his third pro season in which he amassed 60 receptions for 801 yards and six touchdowns.

After hitting free agency in 2007, Curtis signed a six-year, $32 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He started all 16 games in his first season with the team, leading all receivers with 77 receptions, 1,110 yards and six touchdowns.

Various injuries allowed Curtis to play in just 12 games over the next two seasons including just three in 2009, and the Eagles released Curtis the following offseason.

Curtis worked out for the Detroit Lions and New York Giants and received inquiries from numerous teams in the 2010 offseason, but he was not signed. In September, he underwent an orchiectomy to remove a cancerous testicle.

Just two months later, Curtis' agent announced he was ready to return to football.


Analysis

This is the kind of low-risk, high-reward signing I absolutely love. The Dolphins are in need of receiver help with Hartline's injury, and Curtis bringing a former starting-caliber talent to the roster.

It's hard to know what kind of shape Curtis is in after all he's been through, and lingering knee issues were a concern during his final years with the Eagles.

Curtis has always been an extremely intelligent, hard-working, and blazing fast player, so it will be interesting to see if he has anything left at age 32.

Similar to the man he will essentially be replacing, I expect Curtis won't take long to get involved in the offense and could even be ready for a role in the passing game this Sunday against Buffalo.

If he's anything like he was before this year, he'll provide the Dolphins with a good deep threat and sure-handed target for quarterback Chad Henne over these final few weeks.

I've always been a fan of Curtis for his football ability, and it's impossible to not root for the guy knowing all he's been through in the past year.

There is no certainty at this point, but in a best-case scenario of Curtis staying healthy and still having the talent he used to, Curtis could remain with the Dolphins beyond just 2010 and actually play a significant role in the passing game next season as well.

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


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Dolphins Winning Drive Two-Parter - 12/13/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work.

This episode discusses the Dolphins' performance in their 10-6 win over the New York Jets in Week 14.


This episode discusses the tripping controversy involving Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll and Jets assistant Sal Alosi.



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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets - Live Chat

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dolphins place WR Brian Hartline on injured reserve, promote TE Dedrick Epps

A hand injury suffered last week against the Cleveland Browns has ended wide receiver Brian Hartline's season a month early, as the Miami Dolphins placed Hartline on injured reserve Saturday.

Hartline, who suffered the injury blocking former Dolphins linebacker Matt Roth on a play against Cleveland, did not travel with the team to New York and had surgery on his hand this week.

Rather than promote one of their three practice squad wide receivers to take Hartline's place, the Dolphins instead chose to sign rookie tight end Dedrick Epps to the active roster.

The Dolphins are expected to get Brandon Marshall (hamstring) back against the Jets, while Epps becomes the fourth tight end on the team's active roster.


Dedrick Epps

Epps arrived at the University of Miami in 2006 as one of the top high school tight ends in the nation, and spent his first two seasons with the Hurricanes as a backup.

Starting during his junior and senior seasons alongside current Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Epps caught 22 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns as a junior, while adding 19 receptions for 247 yards and three scores during his senior campaign. He finished his career with 49 receptions, 634 yards, and six touchdowns.

After going undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, Epps signed with the San Diego Chargers. However, he lost out on active roster and practice squad spots to two former Dolphins tight ends—Randy McMichael and Kory Sperry.

Waived by San Diego during final cuts, Epps was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad in mid-September. There he remained when Jeron Mastrud was promoted to the active roster and Mickey Shuler was claimed off waivers later in the month.

Epps will wear No. 81 for the Dolphins, as he has in practice since he arrived in Miami.


Analysis

Losing Hartline is a big blow to the Dolphins' passing game, as he is the fast receiver on the Dolphins' active roster and has been one of Chad Henne's most reliable targets for much of the season.

The loss of Hartline will be softened by Brandon Marshall's return from a hamstring injury, although another setback would cause the Dolphins' receiving corps to be significantly depleted.

In Hartline's absence, expect undrafted rookie Marlon Moore to serve as the Dolphins' No. 3 receiver, with fellow undrafted rookie Roberto Wallace in the mix as well.

At tight end, it seems quite likely Epps will be active tomorrow against the Jets. While he joins the active roster as the fourth tight end behind starter Anthony Fasano and backups Jeron Mastrud and Mickey Shuler, and the Dolphins typically only dress two tight ends on game days, it would make little sense to promote Epps (and bump up his salary) just to have him inactive the next day.

Since neither Mastrud nor Shuler has shown anything as a No. 2 tight end (the pair have appeared in 10 combined games for the Dolphins and have zero total catches), there is no reason to not give Epps a shot on special teams and as Fasano's backup and see how he does.

While I don't expect Epps to do much of anything in the next month, I do expect to see him get some playing time. The Dolphins will need a boost in the passing game in Hartline's absence, but don't expect it to be from Epps.

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


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Week 14 Game Predictions

I went a solid 11-5 last week, and I'm off to a 1-0 start in Week 14 thanks to the Colts' narrow victory over the Titans. Hope to keep it rolling Sunday!

Last week's record: 11-5
2010 season record: 126-67 (65.3%)


Browns over Bills — I don't think Buffalo is quite as bad as their record, but they have the worst run defense in the NFL, which could mean another big day for Peyton Hillis.

Packers over Lions — Calvin Johnson is understandably sick of losing, but he can't turn this team into a winner all by himself. I don't see Detroit winning this one.

Vikings over Giants — The Giants are obviously the better team, but the underachieving Vikings are not without talent. I'll take them at home, especially given the Giants' troubles with travel that might not see them arrive in Minnesota until game day.


Steelers over Bengals — Another week, another loss for the Bengals. The Steelers shouldn't lose this one at home.

Buccaneers over Redskins — The Bucs lost a close one to Atlanta in Week 13, but their defense is playing better and they should fare much better against Washington.

Falcons over Panthers — If anyone has a good reason why the best team in the NFC will lose to the worst team in the NFL, I'm all ears. I can't think of any.

Jaguars over Raiders — I still have a hard time believing Jacksonville is for real, but they are rolling right now and have home field advantage against the inconsistent Raiders.

Saints over Rams — St. Louis has certainly performed above everyone's expectations, but you still have to take Drew Brees and the Saints at home.

49ers over Seahawks — I think San Francisco gets a little boost with Alex Smith returning at quarterback, while the Seahawks are just totally unimpressive without any healthy receivers.

Patriots over Bears — I wouldn't call the Bears pretenders for as well as they've played this season, but I'm still skeptical they can hang with the Patriots.

Jets over Dolphins — New York didn't do anything to impress against the Patriots last week, but I don't see them getting handled that way again and the Dolphins are not the Patriots.

Broncos over Cardinals — The Broncos have been pretty bad this season and are in the midst of a coaching change, but it's hard to imagine Cardinals rookie quarterback John Skelton beating anyone in his first NFL start.

Chargers over Chiefs — San Diego was playing well before their hiccup against Oakland, and I don't believe the Chiefs will be the same team with Brodie Croyle in for Matt Cassel (appendectomy) at quarterback.

Eagles over Cowboys — Dallas lost their biggest offensive weapon in Dez Bryant and will have a hard time topping the Cowboys despite their recent improved play.

Ravens over Texans — The Texans always have trouble being consistent, and I think Baltimore rebounds from a tough loss to the Steelers.


Discuss this article and post your own game picks on the forum here!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Week 13 Power Rankings and Thursday game pick

My Miami vacation has pushed back some features this week, but I'm finally posting Week 13 power rankings.

While I'm here, I'll also throw it out there that I like the Colts tonight over the Titans. I can't see Peyton Manning playing this bad. He's just too talented, and eventually he's going to pick this team up. The Titans just aren't scoring right now, while the Colts still are.

Now on to the power rankings:


The Top 10

1. Atlanta Falcons (10-2; last week: 1st) — The Falcons continue to roll with a big divisional win over the Buccaneers and look like the cream of the NFC crop.

2. New England Patriots (10-2; last week: 2nd) — Can I say the Patriots are 1b to the Falcons' 1a. After a dominant performance over a good Jets team, the Pats are looking as good as ever.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3; last week: 5th) — They haven't been killing teams by any stretch, but winning on the road in Baltimore was huge.

4. Baltimore Ravens (8-4; last week: 4th) — I can't fault them too much for losing to their extremely talented division foe, so I'm not going to drop them.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3; last week: 6th) — Things got a little close against the Bengals, but they pulled it out for their ninth win and are still playing good football.

6. New York Jets (9-3; last week: 3rd) — Their loss to New England was a flat-out whooping, but the Jets are too talented to let it happen twice.

7. Chicago Bears (9-3; last week: 7th) — No doubt the Bears are playing well right now, but I just like the above six teams better and thus can't move Chicago up this week.

8. Green Bay Packers (8-4; last week: 8th) — They handled the 49ers easily as they should have and are very much alive in the NFC North hunt.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4; last week: 9th) — The Eagles got back on track with a win over Houston and are scary on offense.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4; last week: 10th) — They weren't all that impressive in a 10-6 win over the Broncos, and it remains to be seen if they can survive a potential absence of Matt Cassel (appendectomy).


The Other 22
11. New York Giants (8-4; last week: 12th)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5; last week: 15th)
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5; last week; 13th)
14. Cleveland Browns (5-7; last week: 17th)
15. San Diego Chargers (6-6; last week: 11th)
16. Miami Dolphins (6-6; last week: 14th)
17. Indianapolis Colts (6-6; last week: 16th)
18. St. Louis Rams (6-6; last week: 19th)
19. Oakland Raiders (6-6; last week: 20th)
20. Houston Texans (5-7; last week: 18th)
21. Minnesota Vikings (5-7; last week: 22nd)
22. Dallas Cowboys (4-8; last week: 24th)
23. Tennessee Titans (5-7; last week: 23rd)
24. Washington Redskins (5-7; last week: 21st)
25. Seattle Seahawks (6-6; last week: 25th)
26. Denver Broncos (3-9; last week: 26th)
27. Buffalo Bills (2-10; last week: 27th)
28. San Francisco 49ers (4-8; last week: 28th)
29. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10; last week: 29th)
30. Detroit Lions (2-10; last week: 30th)
31. Arizona Cardinals (3-9; last week: 31st)
32. Carolina Panthers (1-11; last week: 32nd)


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Dolphins sign OT James Marten to practice squad

With starting right tackle Vernon Carey nursing a knee injury and questionable for this week's game against the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins have signed free agent offensive tackle James Marten to their practice squad.

The move, which officially occurred Wednesday, fills an open practice squad spot vacated when guard Ray Feinga was promoted to the active roster yesterday.

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning spoke Thursday as if Carey may very well be out against the Jets, and this move provides the Dolphins with tackle depth in their practices leading up to the game.

Lydon Murtha and rookie guard (and former college tackle) John Jerry appear to be the most likely candidates to start in Carey's place if he cannot go, with Pat McQuistan starting in Jerry's old right guard spot.


James Marten

An Indianapolis native, Marten played college football at Boston College. He began his career at right tackle before becoming a three-year starter for the Eagles, including two seasons as a left guard and his All-ACC senior campaign at left tackle.

Marten was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft, but was inactive for every game his rookie season. He was waived by the team before the 2008 regular season.

The Oakland Raiders claimed Marten off waivers from the Cowboys on Sept. 8, beating out the Chicago Bears due to waiver priority. Marten worked primarily at right tackle for the Raiders, appearing in one game as a reserve against the Buffalo Bills but otherwise being inactive.

Oakland waived Marten during final cuts in 2009, and he was then signed to the Bears' practice squad. He remained there until being promoted to the active roster on Dec. 14, although he did not appear in a game that season.

Marten failed to make the Bears' active roster in 2010 and was once again relegated to the practice squad. He remained there until his release on Dec. 7.


Analysis

Marten is the latest in a long line of former Dallas Cowboys to join the Dolphins, joining fellow Dolphins linemen Joe Berger and Pat McQuistan.

It's no surprise to see Marten land in Miami, as he was drafted by the Cowboys' staff that featured Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland in the front office and Tony Sparano as the team's offensive line coach.

Marten's addition gives the Dolphins some depth at tackle with Vernon Carey injured and John Jerry still getting reacquainted with the position. Personally, I'd prefer Jerry stay at right guard so he can continue to develop and have McQuistan play right tackle in Carey's place.

A 6-foot-8 former third-round pick, Marten joins the Dolphins with a bit more upside than your typical practice squad body. He was a versatile and highly productive lineman in college and is a natural right tackle with his size and athleticism.

Obviously, his career thus far has been a disappointment. In four pro seasons, Marten has appeared in just one game with no starts and has been limited to practice squads for most of the last two years. Not exactly what you expect in a third-round pick, to be sure.

Marten has some familiarity with the Dolphins' staff and obviously had some potential to make him such a high draft pick, but his career has been pretty uninspiring to date and he seems like a long shot to ever develop into a contributor.

If he can survive on the practice squad until season's end, he could certainly be a candidate to be re-signed in 2011 and brought back to compete for a reserve tackle spot.

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


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Dolphins-Browns Game Observations

It's taken me a while to get this article up, because I was actually on vacation in Miami, going to the game and getting engaged!

It's a little difficult to evaluate a game as well from the stands, because you don't have the advantages of replay or different camera angles.

I did pick up some insights from my time at Sun Life Stadium this past weekend though, so here they are:


Offense
  • There really aren't two ways about it—Chad Henne was terrible Sunday. His first two turnovers were extremely costly and he just did not make good decisions. He had Brian Hartline wide open for a touchdown deep, but threw way late and way short for an interception. He also had a pick into triple coverage on Davone Bess was just never should have been thrown. I'm certainly not off the Henne bandwagon for a bad game, but he's definitely not there yet.
  • The Dolphins had one of their better rushing performances of the season with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combining for 98 yards on 26 carries. Not impressive, I know, but that's how bad things have been this year.
  • Davone Bess had a nice game, though he had a curious unsportsmanlike penalty when he threw the ball at a Browns player who was twisting his leg. Brian Hartline was actually held without a catch and left with a hand injury suffered while blocking, but he could have had a touchdown on one play if Henne throws it right. Hartline put a great move on the corner and had him burned by a good margin.
  • Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore didn't really do much, and Moore showed he isn't quite ready for a big role on offense with a few drops. The Dolphins would be in serious trouble if Hartline and Marshall are out of action.
  • Anthony Fasano was another bright spot in the passing game, hauling in four passes and a touchdown. The backup tight end was nowhere to be found, as usual.
  • For the most part, the pass protection was excellent. The Browns' rushers really never to Henne and he usually had time to throw (making his struggles are the more perplexing). The lone sack came when nose tackle Shaun Rogers just abused center Joe Berger, who is looking more and more like a backup.
  • The interior line was pretty bad once again, as Berger and Richie Incognito were their usual selves and John Jerry actually got benched. I like Jerry's potential, but the other two need to go.

Defense
  • The Dolphins' defensive line did an excellent job shutting down Peyton Hillis after he'd been dominating the league for weeks. Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, and Paul Soliai all played terrifically and allowed the linebackers to make plays against the run. Phillip Merling surprisingly got some game action just six months after his Achilles' tear, despite recent reports he was overweight and not in game shape. If he can play anything close to how he has in recent years, he'll certainly add depth.
  • I thought both Cameron Wake and Koa Misi did well against the run, while Wake picked up another 1.5 sacks. Karlos Dansby and Tim Dobbins also played the run well, but significantly struggled in coverage against Benjamin Watson, who was Cleveland's only highly-productive player on offense.
  • I was pretty pleased with the way the secondary played. The only Browns receiver that did anything was Mohamed Massaquoi, who caught four passes for 81 yards. Chris Clemons allowed one of the big gains, and Sean Smith allowed the other after slipping on the field. Smith did have a great hit on Massaquoi's three-yard gain that totally upended the receiver. The other Browns' wideouts combined for 14 yards on three catches, so it was certainly a successful day for the Dolphins' corners.
  • Nolan Carroll saw extended playing time with Al Harris out, and played well. Unfortunately, he also dropped what could have been the game-winning interception on Cleveland's final drive. It's hard to fault a young guy for a positive play, but it could have been so much bigger if caught. The Dolphins' secondary must lead the NFL in dropped interceptions.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, although it was the result of Shaun Roger's barreling through the long snapper. Carpenter later hit a 60-yarder, shattering his old personal best of 54 yards set earlier this year. I was amazed he made the kick with the wind blowing so hard right to left, and I'm honestly surprised Tony Sparano even attempted it. Most NFL kickers have a range of about 60 yards at best, but it was a seriously impressive conversion.
  • Brandon Fields also had a fantastic day, averaging 42.1 yards on seven punts with a long of 61 yards and four punts downed inside the 20. The coverage team also did their job shutting down Joshua Cribbs, which was good progress to see.
  • Davone Bess had a 15-yard punt return, but was shut down on most others. Nolan Carroll had a solid 31-yard return, but only had two returns total.

Conclusion

This is a loss that really hurts, because it's one the Dolphins should have won. Their defense played great and they had plenty of chances on offense, but turnovers killed them. The Dolphins were the more talented football team in this one, and lost because of their own lack of execution.

And that really is the problem with the Dolphins, isn't it? A week after dominating the Raiders in an impressive win, the Dolphins fall flat on their face against an inferior opponent. They struggle with consistency and constantly fail to play at a high level week to week. Just when you think they are ready to join the playoff contenders, they take two steps back.

There are certainly encouraging signs from this game and this season, and I love the way the defense is playing under Mike Nolan. But this team does not play at a high level all the time, and that's why they are average in the end.

The Jets are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Patriots, but I don't think that means much for the Dolphins' chances. The Jets are the superior team and will have home field advantage in cold weather. The Dolphins might not get blown out, but I don't see them coming out on top.


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dolphins Winning Drive - 12/8/10

A daily vlog of Miami Dolphins news, discussion, and analysis on my drive home from work.

This episode discusses the placing of cornerback Al Harris on injured reserve, the promotion of guard Ray Feinga from the practice squad, and the team's practice squad moves from Wednesday.




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Dolphins place CB Al Harris on injured reserve; make practice squad moves

Just 13 months after a major knee injury ended his 2009 season with the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Al Harris has been placed on injured reserve by the Miami Dolphins.

Signed on Nov. 10 shortly after his release from the Packers' PUP list, Harris appeared in three games for the Dolphins before missing this past week's game against the Browns with a hamstring injury.
 
Harris' season ends after just three games with the Dolphins in which he recorded a total of three tackles—one each against the Titans, Bears, and Raiders.

Second-year guard Ray Feinga has been promoted from the practice squad to take Harris' place on the roster. Feinga previously had a stint on the active roster in early October between games, but was later waived and served a four-game suspension from the NFL as a free agent.

The Dolphins also released linebacker J. D. Folsom from the practice squad (who was re-signed last week) and signed wide receiver Patrick Carter to the practice squad. There remains one spot open on the practice squad.



Patrick Carter

The younger brother of former NFL wide receiver Tim Carter, former high school quarterback Patrick Carter originally attended Georgia Tech for one year before sitting out the 2005 season while transferring to Louisville.

While also a member of the Cardinals' track team, Carter played two seasons for the football program and capped off his collegiate career with 26 catches for 396 yards and five touchdowns in 2007. He was the team's fourth-most productive receiver behind three future NFL draft picks in wide receivers Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia and tight end Gary Barnidge.

Unselected in the 2009 NFL Draft, Carter signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent. He failed to catch a pass in the preseason due to a shoulder injury and was waived on Aug. 30.

Carter played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2009 preseason and caught eight passes for 88 yards, but was once against waived during final cuts. He was re-signed to the team's practice squad before being released on October.

After signing to the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad late in the 2009 season, Carter was re-signed to a future contract with the team in the 2010 offseason. He was waived in June and signed by the Denver Broncos, who waived him on Aug. 23.

Carter played for the UFL's Hartford Colonials during the 2010 regular season, going 3-5 and failing to make the playoffs with their season ending on Nov. 20.

Because Carter was signed to the practice squad and not the active roster, the Dolphins do not have the pay the UFL's transfer free, which was recently lowered from $150,000 to $25,000. He will wear No. 17 for the Dolphins.

Analysis

While Al Harris probably didn't have a significant injury, the Dolphins obviously felt they'd seen enough of him in three games to determine they could go on without him at this point in the season.

Harris saw immediate action on defense when he was signed, but he will now be replaced by intriguing rookie fifth-rounder Nolan Carroll and preseason star Nate Ness.

Feinga's promotion is not surprising either, as the team obviously likes the guy a bit given that he's been promoted once before this season and remains with the team despite a training camp car wreck, a few preseason injuries, and a four-game suspension.

With Vernon Carey ill and constantly dinged up, guard John Jerry is working at right tackle and Pat McQuistan at Jerry's old right guard spot this week in practice. Feinga will provide more guard depth for now, but it honestly would not surprise me to see him get some playing given the overall poor play by the offensive line in 2010.

Predictably, J. D. Folsom's latest practice squad stint lasted only as long as it took Channing Crowder to return to practice. Folsom was merely a practice body familiar with the defensive scheme, but has no upside as a 3-4 linebacker.

An intriguing prospect with good size (6-3, 215) and 4.4 speed, Carter has some background as a quarterback and ran track throughout his high school and college days. Of course, he has bounced around for league for three years now with no stints on an NFL active roster, so his upside is obviously limited.

Carter will provide practice depth with Brandon Marshall (hamstring) still not 100% and Brian Hartline still day-to-day after undergoing hand surgery from an injury against the Browns.

The Dolphins are significantly hurting for receivers right now, and undrafted rookies Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore really need to step it up if the offensive is going to be productive.

Second-year receiver Julius Pruitt is a strong candidate to get called up from the practice squad if the Dolphins want more receiver depth for this Sunday's game against the Jets. The Ouachita Baptist alum traveled with the team to Oakland for emergency depth, but was not activated.

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


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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week 13 Game Predictions

I'm in Miami going to the Dolphins-Browns game with my girlfriend, but I'm up at 8 a.m. just for you guys to give you my predictions for the NFL games of Week 13. Well, I'm also up because I was sick last night and went to sleep around 9.

I'm coming off a 12-4 week in Week 12 and am 1-0 already this week, so hopefully I can keep it rolling.

Last week's record: 12-4
2010 season record: 114-62 (64.8%)


Saints over Bengals — The Bengals look more like the Bearcats right now, and I don't see any way they are able to top a hot, well-rested New Orleans team in this one.

Bears over Lions — Jay Cutler has gotten into this groove, while Detroit has no quarterback or running back and their secondary is still terrible. Easy pick.

Packers over 49ers — San Francisco roughed up a bad Arizona team, but I don't see them having the same success against a Green Bay squad looking to get back on track after a tough loss in Atlanta.

Titans over Jaguars — If the Titans get back to running Chris Johnson more and get Kerry Collins back at quarterback, there's no reason they can't beat the Jaguars on their own field.

Chiefs over Broncos — Dwayne Bowe is playing on another level right now, and should help Matt Cassel exact some revenge and destroy the Broncos.

Dolphins over Browns — Coming off a big win on the West Coast, the Dolphins can win this game if they stop Peyton Hillis. No easy task, but it's really the only advantage I feel Cleveland has in this game.

Vikings over Bills — The Bills continue to lose close games to good teams, which makes it seem as if they aren't nearly as bad as their record. Still, it's hard to go against the Vikings' talent at home.

Giants over Redskins — Anything can happen in these divisional rivalries and the Giants haven't been the most consistent team in the world, but I like them a lot better than Washington.

Chargers over Raiders — San Diego is finally playing up to their talent and dominating teams, which doesn't bode well for an overachieving Raiders team without a quarterback.

Colts over Cowboys — Dallas has looked much better under Jason Garrett and nearly pulled out an upset over the Saint last week, but I think Peyton Manning puts his foot down and gets the Colts a much-needed win.

Rams over Cardinals — Arizona is just purely terrible right now, and it's no laughing matter. (Boom, roasted!) Rams win this one.

Seahawks over Panthers — This is an ugly match-up to be sure, but Carolina is the worst team in football and is traveling to the West Coast. I like Seattle at home.

Falcons over Buccaneers — This is an extremely tough game to pick with the Bucs at home, but Atlanta has the better team despite Tampa's improved play on defense lately.

Ravens over Steelers — Pittsburgh has actually looked human lately and Ben Roethlisberger may be hobbled, so Baltimore is going to throw everything at the shaky Steelers' offensive tackles. I like Baltimore at home in a great game.

Patriots over Jets — A great Monday night match-up after last week's Niners-Cardinals snore-fest, I'll take the Patriots. They are simply playing better ball right now, and should take advantage of the recent loss of Jim Leonhard.


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Miami Dolphins Alumni Update: November 2010

Here are all the pro football transactions involving former Miami Dolphins players from November 2010:
  • Nov. 2 — The Houston Texans waived defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins in 2000, Ogunleye played three seasons and led the AFC with 15 sacks on his way to a Pro Bowl selection in 2003. He was traded to the Bears in August 2004 for wide receiver Marty Booker.
  • Nov. 2 — The Seattle Seahawks waived cornerback Nate Ness. Ness spent part of last season on the practice squad and one game on the active roster, and played for the Dolphins in the 2010 preseason before being waived during final cuts.
  • Nov. 3 — The Buffalo Bills placed offensive tackle Cornell Green on injured reserve. Green spent the 2001 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following preseason.
  • Nov. 4 — The Dallas Cowboys signed cornerback Ross Weaver to the practice squad. Weaver appeared in two preseason games with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2010, recording one tackle and one pass deflection. He was waived during final cuts.
  • Nov. 4 — The Hamilton Tigert-Cats (CFL) released wide receivers Chris Williams from the practice roster. Williams signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2009, but was waived with an injury settlement on Aug. 25 after breaking his wrist during the preseason.
  • Nov. 4 — The Montreal Alouettes (CFL) promoted wide receiver Brandon London to the active roster. London spent the entire 2008 season with the Dolphins, appearing in 14 games (one start) and catching three passes for 30 yards.
  • Nov. 5 — The Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) transferred wide receiver Kelly Campbell to the injured list. Campbell was an offseason member of the Dolphins in 2006 and 2007, but did not appear in a game.
  • Nov. 5 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) promoted defensive tackle Rodrique Wright to the active roster. A seventh-round pick by the Dolphins out of Texas in 2006, Wright appeared in 13 games (nine starts) over three seasons with the team, recording 28 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
  • Nov. 6 — The Green Bay Packers activated safety Atari Bigby from the PUP list. Bigby was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in May 2005, only to be released in July.
  • Nov. 8 — The Washington Redskins signed wide receiver Taurus Johnson to the practice squad. Johnson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad and was waived during the 2010 preseason.
  • Nov. 8 — The Florida Tuskers (UFL) released wide receiver Jayson Foster. A college quarterback at Georgia Southern, Foster signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2008 but did not make the team.
  • Nov. 9 — The Arizona Cardinals released linebacker J. D. Folsom from the practice squad. A seventh-round pick by the Dolphins in 2009, Folsom appeared in two games as a rookie and recorded one tackle.
  • Nov. 9 — The Detroit Lions re-signed placekicker Dave Rayner to a contract. Rayner spent part of the 2008 offseason with the Dolphins between March and June.
  • Nov. 9 — The Tennessee Titans signed defensive tackle Marques Douglas to a contract. Douglas played for the Dolphins in the 2010 preseason and recorded before tackles, but was released prior to the regular season.
  • Nov. 11 — The Minnesota Vikings signed offensive tackle Patrick Brown to the practice squad and released offensive tackle Andrew Gardner from the practice squad. Brown spent time on the Dolphins' active roster from September to November in 2010, but did not appear in a game. Drafted by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Gardner appeared in one game as a rookie but was waived before the 2010 regular season.
  • Nov. 13 — The Kansas City Chiefs waived linebacker Charlie Anderson. Anderson spent two seasons with the Dolphins after joining the team as a free agent in 2006. He appeared in all 32 games through the 2007 season with three starts, totaling 44 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles.
  • Nov. 13 — The Toronto Argonauts transferred defensive end Ben Ishola and wide receiver James Robinson to the injured list. Ishola was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006, but waived during final cuts on Sept. 2. Robinson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being released on Nov. 4.
  • Nov. 15 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) transferred defensive tackle Rodrique Wright to the reserve list.
  • Nov. 16 — The Cincinnati Bengals signed offensive tackle Andrew Gardner to the practice squad.
  • Nov. 16 — The Cleveland Browns placed guard Billy Yates on injured reserve and signed return specialist Clifton Smith to a contract. Signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2003, Yates appeared in three games for the team as a rookie, but was waived prior to the 2004 season. Smith spent the first two games of the 2010 season as the Dolphins' return specialist, averaging 17.3 yards on kickoff returns and 4.5 yards on punt returns.
  • Nov. 16 — The New York Giants re-signed wide receiver Derek Hagan to a contract. The Dolphins' third-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Hagan recorded 53 catches, 645 yards, and three touchdowns in 2+ years with the team.
  • Nov. 17 — The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed linebacker Charlie Anderson to a contract.
  • Nov. 18 — The Kansas City Chiefs signed linebacker Eric Bakhtiari to the practice squad. Bakhtiari spent a week on the Dolphins' practice squad in November 2010.
  • Nov. 20 — The New York Jets promoted wide receiver Patrick Turner from the practice squad and signed cornerback Will Billingsley to the practice squad. A third-round pick by the Dolphins in 2009, Turner appeared in two games as a rookie and did not catch a pass. He was waived prior to the 2010 season. Billingsley spent most of the 2008 and 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  •  Nov. 20 — The Montreal Alouettes (CFL) transferred wide receiver Brandon London to the injured list.
  • Nov. 22 — The Buffalo Bills waived offensive tackle Cornell Green from injured reserve.
  • Nov. 22 — The Cincinnati Bengals placed safety Chris Crocker on injured reserve. Crocker played six games for the Dolphins in 2008 with two starts, recording 10 tackles and a pass deflection.
  • Nov. 22 — The San Diego Chargers promoted tight end Kory Sperry from the practice squad. Sperry appeared in eight games for the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in 2009, catching three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.
  • Nov. 23 — The Detroit Lions signed guard Donald Thomas to a contract. A sixth-round pick by the Dolphins in 2008, Thomas was limited to just one game after a foot injury during his rookie season. He started 12 of 16 games played in 2009, but was waived prior to the 2010 regular season.
  • Nov. 24 — The Houston Texans signed defensive end Chris McCoy to the practice squad.
  • Nov. 24 — The Minnesota Vikings promoted offensive tackle Patrick Brown from the practice squad. McCoy was a seventh-round pick by the Dolphins in 2010 and had a brief stint on the team's practice squad in November.
  • Nov. 26 — The Seattle Seahawks claimed defensive tackle Clifton Geathers off waivers from the Dolphins. Geathers spent nearly three months between the Dolphins' practice squad and active roster in 2010, appearing in one game but recording no stats.
  • Nov. 27 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) transferred defensive tackle Rodrique Wright to the injured list.  
  • Nov. 29 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) removed offensive lineman Marion Dukes from the practice roster. Dukes signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2007, but he elected to leave the team and return to school that July. The Dolphins waived him from the Reserve/Retired list in the 2008 offseason.
  • Nov. 30 — The Cleveland Browns waived return specialist Clifton Smith.


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