Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dolphins place Allen Barbre on IR, waive Tyler Donahue to get down to 80

Entering the day with 82 players on the active roster, the Miami Dolphins have made two roster moves to get down to the NFL's mandated cut down to 80 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.


Veteran offensive lineman Allen Barbre was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, while undrafted rookie guard Tyler Donahue, who was just signed on Aug. 21 after initially spending time with the Rams this summer, was placed on waivers.

The Dolphins conclude their preseason schedule Thursday when they host the Dallas Cowboys. Two days after, they will have to make their big decisions by cutting down to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday.


Analysis

It's no surprise to see either of these guys, nor is it surprising that both of Tuesday's cuts are offensive lineman. Even after the departures of Barbre and Donahue, the Dolphins have 14 offensive linemen under contract competing for what will only be eight or nine spots.

Barbre had primarily been working at left tackle behind Lydon Murtha in Jake Long's absence, although he had missed time due to injury recently and didn't play in last Saturday's game against Tampa Bay. Signed to a two-year deal just before the end of the 2010 season, Barbre's versatility and experience (28 games, seven starts in four seasons) made him a potential backup candidate. However, he has largely been a disappointment since the Packers drafted him in the fourth round in 2007 and was always a long shot to stick around in Miami.

Depending on how serious his injury is, Barbre could remain on I.R. all season before becoming a free agent in 2012. If the injury is minor, the team could release him with an injury settlement shortly, allowing him to sign elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Donahue makes it just nine days on the Dolphins' roster, which should come as no surprise given his limited physical tools and ability. He was a solid starting tackle in college at Bowling Green, but he projects at guard in the NFL and even there will have a tough time ever making it at the professional level.

Considering Donahue's lack of upside and the fact that he didn't even survive to the final round of cuts on Sept. 3, you can pretty much write him off as a practice squad candidate as well.

Barbre's departure means rookie D. J. Jones will remain a backup left tackle for the time being, although he probably won't make the final roster. Donahue leaving likely means Ray Feinga will work as the second-team right guard behind mega-disappointment John Jerry, with Matt Kopa and Garrett Chisolm (activated from the non-football injury list Monday) backing up left guard.

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


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Dolphins rookie guard Garrett Chisolm passes physical

On the active/non-football injury list since training camp began, Miami Dolphins rookie guard Garrett Chisolm passed his physical Monday and will be able to participate in practice and games moving forward.

Chisolm, who was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent after the lockout lifted in July, had not practiced with the team while he recovered from a torn ACL suffered near the end of his senior season at South Carolina.

Wearing No. 60, Chisolm will have less than a week to impress the coaches before final cuts on Sept. 3 in hopes of landing a spot on the active roster or practice squad. It is unknown if Chisolm will play in the Dolphins' preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday.

It should be noted that Chisolm's activation does not create a spot on the Dolphins' active roster, as players on the Active/NFI or Active/PUP lists count toward the active roster throughout their time on the list. The Dolphins' active roster remains at 82 players, meaning they must release two players by Tuesday's deadline.

In other news, inside linebacker Mike Rivera, who was waived/injured Saturday, has cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve. Expect him to be let go with an injury settlement in the coming days.


Analysis

I had initially expect the Dolphins to "stash" Chisolm on the Reserve/NFI list all season, but it seems Chisolm is close to or fully recovered from his torn ACL and has a chance to play as a rookie in 2011.

It's hard not to root for a guy like Chisolm, who didn't start playing Division I football until his junior season in 2009. His hard work ethic has been highly praised in the past, and he dealt with the passing of both his parents from cancer during a span of nine months last year.

Chisolm is a raw player, but he has excellent natural strength and good size for a guard at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds. He excelled during his two-year stint with the Gamecocks and certainly has the talent and potential to develop as an NFL backup at the very least.

Likely to play his college position of left guard for the Dolphins, Chisolm joins a crowded position primarily featuring Ray Feinga and Matt Kopa competing for a backup job behind starter Richie Incognito.

Because he's just now getting healthy and hasn't even practiced yet, Chisolm has to be considered a long shot to make the active roster to begin the season. More likely, he'll hope to impress the coaching staff to the point where they'll give him a spot on the eight-man practice squad.

Considering what he's had to endure to get to this point and how quickly he was able to adapt to the SEC game, I for one would like to see what he can do with some time to develop in Miami.

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


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dolphins sign safety Gerald Alexander, waive linebacker Mike Rivera

The Miami Dolphins have to make two roster moves to get down to 80 players by Tuesday's deadline, but that didn't stop them from making a roster addition with Sunday's signing of veteran safety Gerald Alexander.

The news was actually broken by Alexander himself, who tweeted the news Sunday afternoon. NFL.com and other media outlets have since reported the signing.

In addition, the Dolphins have waived/injured inside linebacker Mike Rivera. If he passes through waivers, he will revert to the team's injured reserve list, with an outright release with an injury settlement to follow.

With the swap, the Dolphins' roster remains at 82 players. NFL teams must get down to 80 players on the active roster by Tuesday afternoon.


Background

After redshirting at Boise State in 2002, Alexander played three seasons at cornerback before moving to safety as a senior in 2006. He earned All-WAC honors all four seasons, finishing his collegiate career with 161 tackles, nine interceptions, and 33 pass deflections in 51 games (38 starts).

Selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, Alexander opened all 16 games at free safety as a rookie and recorded 82 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and seven pass deflections.

Alexander was relegated to a backup role behind Daniel Bullocks in 2008, appearing in five games (one start) and recording seven tackles before suffering a fractured vertebrae in his neck and landing on injured reserve.

After the Lions traded Alexander to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for wide receiver Dennis Northcutt in June 2009, he played a significant role on defense with 15 games played (10 starts) at strong safety. He totaled 55 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions.

The Jaguars released Alexander during final cuts in 2010, but he was re-signed in late September due to injury. He started three games and recorded 16 tackles and three pass deflections before being released again on Oct. 19. The Carolina Panthers signed him to a contract in late November, but he did not record any tackles in two games with the team.

According to Alexander's twitter account, he will be learning both safety positions with the Dolphins (he's started at both spots in the NFL already) and will wear No. 40.


Analysis

The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Alexander represents a nice depth signing for the Dolphins, albeit one that is not guaranteed a roster spot. He has experience starting at both safety spots in the NFL and could be a serviceable backup in the secondary if he were to make the team.

The 27-year-old Alexander's previous track record consists mainly of struggles in a starting role, but his experience and versatility are nice to have in a backup. Tyrone Culver got dinged up in Saturday's game against Tampa Bay and offers little upside of his own, so Alexander absolutely has a chance to stick around.

Despite his experience at both safety spots, expect Alexander to work behind Yeremiah Bell at strong safety due to Culver's injury, with extreme long-shot Mark Restelli to be waived between now and final cuts.

Alexander doesn't have much time to impress the coaching staff, but the team knows he can play in the NFL. His chances really depend on Culver's health and whether or not the Dolphins feel Alexander may represent a slight upgrade off the bench.

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


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Preseason Week 3: Dolphins-Buccaneers Game Observations

Arriving with a 2-0 preseason record, the Miami Dolphins arrived in Tampa Bay this weekend to face their long-time in-state sparing partner for yet another exhibition match-up.

The Dolphins got on the board first with a beautiful 60-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by Brandon Marshall. The teams then traded field goals in the second quarter before the Buccaneers tied the game up at 10 with an Earnest Graham touchdown run before the half.

The Dolphins' first-team defense stayed on the field for much of the third quarter and shut the Buccaneers out, but Tampa Bay's defense matched them and held the Dolphins in check.

After adding a field goal in the fourth quarter to take a 13-10 lead, the Dolphins allowed a touchdown pass from Rudy Carpenter to former Dolphins practice-squadder Nathan Overbay.

The Dolphins will conclude their preseason schedule Thursday at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Buccaneers.


Offense
  • I really liked how Chad Henne played in this game, especially when you consider how horrendous his offensive line was and how he was without the benefit of a productive running game. He had a great connection with Marshall deep and did a good job finding open receivers. I'm actually becoming more concerned about other aspect of the offense than quarterback, and it'd be nice if he could have a season where the line isn't holding him back.
  • Matt Moore was a bit less sharp, but also didn't have the benefit of a running game or pass protection. He played the rest of the way after Henne, and it makes sense the Dolphins are giving their top two quarterbacks plenty of playing time after a lockout-shortened offseason.
  • Aside from a nice nine-yard run, Daniel Thomas and the Dolphins' backs had absolutely nowhere to go in this one. Reggie Bush was consistently stuffed and the Buccaneers' defense line completely dominated in this one. Larry Johnson didn't play much but looked to be in good shape on his three touches.
  • Lousaka Polite was stuffed on his lone short-yardage carry, which is something he's done so well over the past few years. Charles Clay was out with an injury, but Polite didn't take advantage and I noticed the Dolphins going without a fullback and instead motioning a tight end into the backfield multiple times. Some fans might not believe it, but I'm telling you, Polite is squarely on the roster bubble.
  • Brandon Marshall's 60-yard touchdown epitomized what makes him such a good receiver. He made a great play on the ball, did a nice job staying in bounds and cutting in at the right time, and his stiff-arm to break him for a touchdown was absolutely beastly. Anthony Fasano also had a nice game receiving, as the other starting receivers were pretty absent.
  • Marlon Moore made a few good catches, but I find it hard to put much stock into it. I still view him as the odd man out on the roster, and a few wide-open catches against the Buccaneers' backups realistically won't save him as much as Dolphins fans would think.
  • Jake Long dressed but did not play in this one, and Lydon Murtha noticeably struggled again. He was not alone, however, as essentially none of the starting offensive lineman had good games. I noted poor individual plays for every single one of them, and it's a wonder Henne was able to do as well as he did. This unit is starting to be a big concern heading into the regular season, and it's quite problematic that only two of the spots (left tackle and center) currently have youth and long-term solutions.

Defense
  • The Dolphins didn't get much of a pass rush in this one, but I did like the way Jared Odrick played. He did a good job of penetrating the offensive line and putting pressure on Josh Freeman. He actually picked his own man on one play where Cameron Wake nearly had a sack, but it was just a fluke play.
  • Aside from a few good runs, I thought the Dolphins' defensive line did a fairly nice job against the run (excluding defending the quarterback scrambling). Kendall Langford held up well at the point of attack and the team handled a powerful back like LeGarrette Blount pretty well. Ryan Baker had a nice game despite playing only in the second half, and I'm wondering if he could sneak onto the roster if the team trades or cuts Phillip Merling.
  • As I said before, the Dolphins were unable to generate much pass rush and didn't take down a Buccaneers quarterback once all game. Wake was the only guy getting consistent pressure on Freeman, but the quarterback did a nice job of moving around in the pocket and taking off when he needed to. On the positive side, Koa Misi made a few very nice plays in coverage including one deflection that should have been intercepted by the cornerback.
  • Kevin Burnett led the team with six tackles, but I thought he had a bit of a rough game. Of course, it's not his job to chase Freeman all over the field, and the Buccaneers did a pretty good job of clearing out space for Freeman to run or dump off the pass to the back.
  • The Dolphins' secondary did a nice job against the Buccaneers' receivers, but they flashed back a little to last season and failed to capitalize on what should have been interceptions to Yeremiah Bell and Vontae Davis. While solid in coverage, Sean Smith had a fairly embarrassing play at one point, getting turned around by Blount in pursuit and then completely whiffing on the punch-out attempt.
  • I didn't see anyone stand out in the free safety battle, but I just have to say that I'm growing a bit tired of Chris Clemons delivering a solid hit after a catch and run. He's physical and can lay a lick on someone, but I rarely see him back a play before the pass is completed. Reshad Jones started this one, and you have to wonder if it's worth playing the guy with more upside in Jones.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter nailed his two field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder that had plenty of room to spare. Not to be outdone, punter Brandon Fields was his usual self, averaging 51.3 yards on three punts, including a booming 69-yarder that was downed inside the 10-yard line.
  • The Dolphins didn't have any kickoff returns thanks to the NFL's ridiculous new rule, and Phillip Livas failed to stand out on six punt returns, averaging just six yards with a high of 12. Livas hasn't done anything his his punt return touchdown in the opener against Atlanta, and I have a really hard time seeing him making the team.
  • It's hard to spot the standouts on special teams, but Nolan Carroll had a nice recovery and tackle on a punt, and Jason Trusnik impressed me multiple times with two nice tackles.

Conclusions

Everyone knows the final score of a preseason game doesn't matter, but how the team (and in particular, the starters) plays does mean something, and I can't say that I'm feeling all that good about the Dolphins right now.

The starting offensive line should be significantly better once Long returns, but the rest of the unit will remain a concern and I'm very concerned about that oversized, slow and plodding right side made up of veterans Vernon Carey and Marc Colombo. I don't like the athleticism I've seen from either and I think there could be a lot of pass protection issues over there, which in turn could kill the Dolphins' offense this season.

The defense held up well enough against the run, but two things really concerned me. First were the lack of a pass rush and getting to the quarterback. Wake got some good pressure and a lot of Freeman's throws were a bit off-target because of the rush, but I'd really like to see more sacks (and thus more turnovers).

Secondly, the Dolphins' coverage of the quarterback scramble and defending dump-off passes were extremely weak. Miami didn't do a good job pursuing the ball-carriers and they gave up way too many yards to Freeman on the ground and Blount after the catch.


I still feel pretty confident about the defense as a whole unit, but they need to work out some kinks before the season and become more fundamentally sound.

As for the offense, I'm liking what I see from Henne and I feel he could get this team to the playoffs if he has a solid year and gets help, but the offensive line could really be a problem this year and they could end up getting Henne (and Tony Sparano) run out of town.


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dolphins at Buccaneers - Live Chat

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dolphin waive three players

The Dolphins don't officially have to trim down from 85 players to 80 until next Tuesday, but that didn't stop them from cutting loose a few camp bodies. The team officially announced that defensive backs K. J. Gerard and Jose Perez, as well as nose tackle Johnny Jones, have been placed on waivers.

Signed on Aug. 10 to provide defensive back depth in practice, Gerard has bounced around for a few seasons (primarily with Baltimore) and really only had a chance to make the roster if he stood out on special teams. He did total two tackles in the preseason opener against Atlanta.

Jones and Perez were both signed by the Dolphins as undrafted free agents after the lockout was lifted. Jones had a nondescript collegiate career at Marshall, while Perez was a cornerback at San Diego State following some time in the Yankees' minor-league system.

Now with 82 players, the Dolphins must make two more moves by Tuesday's cut-down deadline. The final cut down to 53 players is Sept. 3.


Analysis

The departures of Gerard and Perez give the Dolphins eight cornerbacks vying for likely five spots. Fellow undrafted rookie Vince Agnew is probably the longest shot of the bunch, with Nate Ness following him. Seventh-round rookie Jimmy Wilson, on the other hand, looks to be safe after a strong camp.

Veteran cornerback Will Allen could represent the biggest name cut in the secondary and really needs to have a strong showing in the final two preseason games to have a chance to stick around. The 33-year-old, who restructured his contract in the offseason and was expected to compete with Benny Sapp for the nickel job, hasn't played a game since October 2009 and has missed time in camp due to injury.

It's also no surprise to see Jones cut as he wasn't a very good prospect coming out of college and had no realistic shot at making the team. He had been serving as the fourth nose tackle behind Ronald Fields and Frank Kearse, who are likely competing for one spot behind starter Paul Soliai. Ryan Baker and Phillip Merling could also factor into this battle.

Having been cut even before the first trim deadline, you can pretty much count all three of these guys out for a chance at the practice squad. Teams typically keep the guys they want for the practice squad around until the very last day of cuts, so these three clearly don't interest the Dolphins all that much.

As for the next two roster moves to expect, some names I'd throw out there of guys in danger include wide receivers Julius Pruitt and Patrick Carter, tight end Brett Brackett, offensive linemen D. J. Jones and Tyler Donahue, inside linebackers David Nixon and Mike Rivera, and safety Mark Restelli.

There's also a chance rookie guard Garrett Chisolm, who has been on the Active/Non-Football Injury list since the beginning of camp as he still recovers from a torn ACL suffered in December, could be moved to the reserve form of the list, which would open up a roster spot.

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


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

53-Man Roster Prediction: Preseason Midpoint Edition

The Miami Dolphins are halfway through their four-game preseason schedule, and that means it's time to once again project the team's final 53-man roster after final cuts.

The Dolphins, who currently have 85 players on the active roster, will make their first waive of cuts down to 80 on Aug. 30, followed by the final cut down to 53 on Sept. 3.

Previous versions:

starters in italics

Quarterbacks (3): Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Kevin O'Connell
Released: Pat Devlin

Chad Henne should be able to hold off Matt Moore from the starting job, and the talk of Moore challenging him was really just some wishful fans more than it ever was a likelihood.

The only real battle here is for the third spot, and I'm to give that to O'Connell over Devlin based purely on upside, experience, and the fact that O'Connell entered the game first against Atlanta. (Neither played against the Panthers.)


Running backs (4): Daniel Thomas, Reggie Bush, Larry Johnson, Lex Hilliard
Released: Nic Grigsby

Bush has been anointed the starter by Tony Sparano as the veteran, but the reality is that while he will be a big part of the offense, Thomas is the guy that can carry the load and figures to get more carries than Bush.

With the addition of Johnson, the Dolphins now have a legitimate veteran to back up Thomas. I'm not sold he'll make the team if the Dolphins like a younger back during final cuts, but based on the current roster, I'd say LJ has to be included for now.

The move would also keep Hilliard more confined to special teams, which is a good thing considering he just isn't a starting-caliber running back.


Fullbacks (1): Charles Clay
Released: Lousaka Polite

I initially had Polite making the team as I wrote this article, but the Larry Johnson signing gives me four backs to work with and thus allows me to take a spot away from fullback.

I've said all offseason that Polite is in trouble, and I still believe it. The logic to keep him just isn't there because of his poor 2010 performance, inflated salary in the final year of his deal, and Clay's promise. The fact that Clay was mixed in with the starters last week against Carolina shows that the team wants him to contribute as a rookie.

Polite may end up surviving final cuts depending on how the Dolphins' backfield shakes out, but I think he'll be gone soon enough either after waiver claims are made, or early into the season (Boomer Grigsby style).


Wide receivers (5): Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace
Released: Patrick Carter, Phillip Livas, John Matthews, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt

Hartline is technically the starter, but we all know that Bess is the slot guy and factors in heavily into the offense. I really expect the top four, including the rookie Gates, to all be contributors on offense as Brian Daboll looks to open things up for Henne.

The real questions here are who will be the fifth receiver, and whether or not a sixth receiver is kept at all. The answer to that first question is most likely Wallace, who has the best size/upside combo of the bunch and is excellent on special teams.

A lot of people, myself included, were envisioning Livas making the roster as a sixth receiver and return specialist after his touchdown against Atlanta in the opener, but I'm not expecting that as of now. The Dolphins aren't likely to use a roster spot for a guy that doesn't contribute on offense, and Gates (a roster lock) outperformed Livas in the return game against Carolina. Livas has potential, but right now it's an uphill battle.


Tight ends (3): Anthony Fasano, Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler
Released: Brett Brackett, Dedrick Epps

Shuler is battling an injury right now and is currently in a boot, but when healthy I'd consider him the favorite of this uninspiring bunch to be the top backup to Fasano. Mastrud played heavily in the first half against Carolina and looks to be the next man up.

I'd been considering Brackett for a roster spot lately because I like his potential, but the reality is he's been invisible in the preseason thus far and I can't see him earning anything but a practice squad gig at this point.


Offensive tackles (5): Jake Long, Marc Colombo, Nate Garner, Lydon Murtha, Ray Willis
Released: Allen Barbre, D. J. Jones

Murtha struggled badly in place of Long against Carolina, but he's a versatile guy and remains the top backup tackle at both spot, so he should be safe. I'm on the fence with Willis, as he certainly has the resume to be a good backup and potential starter, but he's missed time in practice and against Carolina due to the death of his father.

I'm technically considering Garner a tackle here, but the reality is he can play basically every position on the line. That kind of versatility makes him hard to cut.


Offensive guards (3): Richie Incognito, Vernon Carey, Ray Feinga
Released: Tyler Donahue, John Jerry, Matt Kopa
Non-Football Injury: Garrett Chisolm

With Garner making the team (see above), there is really only a need to keep three pure guards. Feinga has long been a staff favorite and appears to have an edge over 2010 third-rounder Jerry, who continues to look like a major bust and is playing his way off the roster right now.

The Dolphins signed Chisolm knowing he was recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December, so I have to imagine they are stashing him on the NFI list in hopes he'll compete in camp in 2012.


Centers (1): Mike Pouncey
Released: Joe Berger

I'm up to eight lineman making the roster before I get to the center position, which is why I think Pouncey alone will make the team will former starter Berger gets released. The Dolphins have been working the versatile Garner at center in the preseason (where he played in an emergency capacity in 2009), which says to me that the team may be content with left guard Incognito and Garner backing up Pouncey in 2011.


Defensive ends (5): Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, Jared Odrick, Phillip Merling
Released: Ryan Baker, Rob Rose

Regardless of who is in italics above, the truth is the Dolphins have four starting-caliber defensive ends for two spots, so expect all of them to rotate heavily in games as they have over the past few years. The unit looks like it will continue to be the deepest on the team.

I don't consider Merling 100% safe, but I don't believe Baker has any real upside and I haven't seen anything out of Rose in a year. The Dolphins may look to find a fresh face and cut ties with Merling as he enters the last year of his rookie deal, but for now he's got the fifth spot.


Nose tackles (2): Paul Soliai, Ronald Fields
Released: Johnny Jones, Frank Kearse

I'm a bit paranoid that Fields is going to get the Marques Douglas/Charles Grant treatment as a veteran that has a good preseason but is surprisingly cut in favor of youth, but Fields is someone I've always thought would make perfect sense as Soliai's backup given his experience with Mike Nolan, so I don't see why he wouldn't make the team.

Seventh-round rookie Kearse is probably too raw to keep on the active roster right now, and it isn't necessary to keep three pure nose tackles when McDaniel or Starks can play the position in a pinch.


Outside linebackers (5): Cameron Wake, Jason Taylor, Koa Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Jason Trusnik
Released: Jonathan Freeny, Quinton Spears

Expect Misi and Taylor to rotate heavily on the strong side, but Taylor has looked good in both practice and games and may have more of a role than initially thought, considering Misi hasn't really done anything to stand out himself.

Beyond that, I'd expect Alama-Francis and Trusnik to make the team as veteran backups, considering the two undrafted rookies aren't ready and may never be. However, both vets—especially IAF—won't be entirely safe following final cuts.


Inside linebackers (4): Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, A. J. Edds, Marvin Mitchell
Released: David Nixon, Mike Rivera, Austin Spitler

Dansby and Burnett appear poised to be a stellar pair of starting inside linebackers, and Edds looks fully recovered from the torn ACL that wiped out his rookie season given his two strong preseason performances.

The battle here is for that potential fourth inside linebacker spot, which essentially boils down to a special teams job that doesn't factor on defense. I would have considered Spitler the favorite over Rivera before his ankle injury, but the recently-signed Mitchell is by far the most experienced and talented of three and is my pick right now. Of course, no one in this role is safe in-season.


Cornerbacks (5): Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Benny Sapp, Nolan Carroll, Jimmy Wilson
Released: Vince Agnew, Will Allen, K. J. Gerard, Nate Ness, Jose Perez

Allen, who restructured his contract to stay with the Dolphins in the offseason, has missed significant time in camp as well as both preseason games. As much as I'd like to have him as a veteran backup, it's looking more and more like he's not going to be able to contribute and will instead be released before the season.

That would give Sapp free reign over the nickel job, with promising youngsters Carroll and Wilson rounding out the depth chart. Wilson has had an excellent game and has looked good in games, so he's inching closer and closer to being a surprise lock as a seventh-rounder.


Safeties (4): Chris Clemons, Yeremiah Bell, Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver
Released: Mark Restelli

It looks like Clemons has the edge on Jones for the starting free safety job, but expect both to make the team and play defense in 2011. Bell, meanwhile, remains unopposed as the starting strong safety despite looking athleticism and coverage ability with age.

A CFL linebacker, Restelli has no shot to make the squad and will probably head back north after final cuts. My only real question here is whether or not Culver makes the roster considering he didn't do much in 2010 and doesn't have any upside, but I don't see the Dolphins going into the season without a true backup to Bell. (Could Jones one day take the job?)


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

The Dolphins' special teams trifecta has no camp competition and will remain a strong unit in 2011.


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:
  • RB Kory Sheets — With only three running backs kept above, there has to be another on the practice squad. Sheets' speed makes him more appealing than the undersized, unimpressive Grigsby.
  • WR Phillip Livas — Livas may get a look elsewhere for his return skills, but otherwise it'd be nice to have him back in Miami to see if he can be developed.
  • WR John Matthews — The Dolphins typically keep two practice squad receivers, and I think they'll take a closer look at Matthews over practice squad holdovers Carter and Pruitt.
  • TE Brett Brackett — Brackett hasn't stood out in the preseason, but his physical tools make him intriguing and he's worth considering for a spot here.
  • OG Matt Kopa — Guys like Barbre, Berger and Jerry are not practice-squad eligible, and Kopa has more upside than Donahue, so he's the pick for the offensive lineman on the practice squad.
  • NT Frank Kearse — He's not ready to contribute at the NFL level and isn't worth keeping in the 53 as a third nose tackle, but I imagine the Dolphins want to keep their seventh-round pick around for more development.
  • ILB Austin Spitler — The Dolphins usually stockpile inside linebackers for practice, so I could see them having at least one on the practice squad even with four active. Spitler gets the nod over Nixon and Rivera, but it's really a toss-up.
  • CB Nate Ness — Ness might not be willing to return to the practice squad and may have opportunities elsewhere (he was claimed off waivers by Seattle last year and actually started a game for them), but if he's available, he's worth bringing back over Agnew and Perez.
One thing to keep in mind is that some of my cuts, like wide receiver Marlon Moore and linemen Allen Barbre and John Jerry, are no longer eligible for the practice squad because of how many games they've played. I have crafted this practice squad solely of eligible players.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dolphins sign former Pro Bowl RB Larry Johnson

 Many of us—myself included—have wondered why the Dolphins didn't find a true backup to Daniel Thomas. Someone that could carry the load in the event the rookie suffers an injury, considering Reggie Bush is more of a role player and Lex Hilliard just isn't starter material.

But as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and Marion Barber and Jerome Harrison and every other quality back signed elsewhere, it appeared the Dolphins were content going with a seemingly thin backfield—at least until final cuts rolled around.

However, the Dolphins have added an unlikely, formerly high-profile name in the form of ex-Chiefs and Redskins running back Larry Johnson. The Dolphins have waived running back Kory Sheets to make room for Johnson on the roster, which now stands at 85 players.

Miami also reportedly worked out Johnson's former Washington teammate Clinton Portis on Monday. Reports from last week had Portis extremely out of shape for a workout with the Patriots.


Background

Johnson played his college ball at Penn State, where in 2002 he rushed for 2,000 yards on fewer carries than anyone else in NCAA history. Averaging nearly eight yards per carry, Johnson earned the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back and the Maxwell Award, given to the best player in college football.

Selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft against the wishes of head coach Dick Vermeil, Johnson played sparingly as a rookie before seeing significant action (and excelling) late in the 2004 season.

Out of Priest Holmes' shadow in 2005, Johnson went on a tear the next two seasons, topping 1,700 yards rushing in both 2005 and 2006 while combining for 37 touchdowns on the ground. Before the 2007 season, he signed a six-year, $45 million contract with $19 million guaranteed.

Johnson, who set an NFL record with 416 carries in 2006, saw his production dip significantly as he rushed for just 559 yards on a 3.5 average in eight games in 2007. He averaged a healthy 4.5 yards per carry the following season despite missing four games, but missed time due to violations of team rules.

Through the first seven games of the 2009 season, Johnson remained the Chiefs' starting running back and averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Following a series of tweets that criticized head coach Todd Haley, a Chiefs fan, and the entire gay and lesbian community, the team eventually released Johnson on Nov. 10.

Johnson soon signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in seven games primarily as a backup to Cedric Benson and rushing for 204 yards on 46 carries. He was signed to a three-year contract worth up to $12 million based on incentives with the Washington Redskins in 2010, but was released after just two games and five carries.

Aside from his on-the-field performance, Johnson has also had multiple run-ins with the law during his professional career—including charges of assaulting women—which can be read about in more detail here.

Now 31, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Johnson was reportedly in great shape earlier this offseason, but has not played in an NFL game in nearly a year and has shown signs of wear due to the volume of carries he received early in his career. He will wear Sheets' No. 23 for the Dolphins and try to compete for a backup job.


Analysis

I'm a bit conflicted on this signing, because it absolutely fills a need. Despite what Tony Sparano says, Bush is not going to be an every-down back, meaning a backup that can carry the load is needed on the roster in case of an injury to Thomas. Johnson can certainly be that guy.

My question is why the Dolphins settled for someone that hasn't shown much life in nearly three years as opposed to someone like Barber or either of the Dolphins' former veteran backs that might be able to fill in as a starter better?

Obviously, Johnson is probably getting a bottom-basement deal with some incentives, but it's not like the other veterans on the market signed big-money contracts either. It seems odd the Dolphins would opt for a less effective player to save 500 grand.

All that being said, I'm not opposed to the signing or the release of Sheets. Johnson certainly has a track record as a one-time elite NFL running back, and if he's in good physical shape he should be capable of serving as a backup and/or short-yardage back. Sheets, meanwhile, has speed but not much else and hadn't shown the ability to contribute on offense.

One thing to keep in mind for anyone getting overly excited or overly annoyed at this signing is that Johnson is by no means a lock to make the roster. He'll have less than two weeks to audition for a spot on the team, but he'll be no better than the third option in the backfield and thus is not safe from being replaced by a younger player (and one that can play special teams) once final cuts are made.

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


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dolphins activated Jake Long from PUP list, sign undrafted rookie lineman

The Miami Dolphins got a key member of their offense back at practice Saturday, as three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long passed his physical and was activated from the PUP list.

The No. 1 overall selection in 2008, Long has started all 48 possible regular season games in his stellar career, including last season despite battling a knee injury and torn labrum.

It was that knee injury that had Long on the PUP list to begin training camp in July, and while most reports about him being ready for the regular season were positive, it was difficult to not wonder if things were more serious than the team was letting on.

The Dolphins would have been comfortable installing him as the starting left tackle in the season opener with little practice or preseason time, but the fact that he's already activated practically ensures he'll be ready for the New England Patriots come Sept.

It's certainly good news for the Dolphins, as the lone weak link among the starting offensive line in Friday's game against Carolina was Long's replacement, Lydon Murtha, who committed three penalties and struggled in pass protection.

Murtha should still make the roster and back Long up at left tackle, but he'll also now have more of an opportunity to work on the right side and push current starter Marc Colombo. Considering Colombo's experience and quality play thus far, I'd expect Murtha to lose that battle and remain a backup in 2011.


Dolphins ink undrafted rookie lineman Tyler Donahue

Despite the return of Long, the Dolphins added another offensive lineman this weekend in the form of undrafted rookie Tyler Donahue. A Bowling Green alum, Donahue initially signed with the St. Louis Rams, but was waived on Aug. 6.

The initial news linking Donahue to the Dolphins was actually broken by the player himself, as he tweeted Saturday that he had a workout in Miami the following morning. A report Sunday confirmed the signing.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 298 pounds, Donahue appeared in 22 games over his first two seasons at Bowling Green. He opened all 12 games at right tackle as a junior in 2009, and began his senior year at the same spot before moving to left tackle due to injuries.

Donahue is reportedly a strong technician and has decent range, but he lacks ideal bulk and needs to get a lot stronger to handle NFL defensive lineman. He's your typical college tackle with a nice resume that projects at guard in the pros due to lack of elite physical tools.

Despite reports of him signing that call him a tackle, Donahue was listed as a guard during his brief stint with the Rams and likely projects there with the Dolphins considering the team already has seven tackles on the roster.

Most likely, Donahue will work behind Vernon Carey and John Jerry at right guard in practice and will try to get some playing time in the team's final two preseason games. However, considering his limited physical tools and late entry to the team, he's likely just trying to earn a practice squad spot so he can be developed into an NFL backup.

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


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Preseason Week 2: Dolphins-Panthers Game Observations

Although it was their second win in as many preseason games this year, the Miami Dolphins' victory over the Carolina Panthers last night was much more encouraging than their narrow win over the Falcons in the opener.

The Dolphins' first-team defense rarely saw the field, as the offensive starters moved the ball up and down against the Panthers' defense with relative ease. The Dolphins have nine plays of over 15 yards in the first half, which is impressive regardless of the opponent.

Running back Lex Hilliard punched the ball in for the Dolphins' first score, which was followed by a Dan Carpenter field goal and Daniel Thomas touchdown run as Miami took a 17-0 lead into the half.

Another Carpenter field goal pushed the lead to 20-0, and the Panthers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to save a bit of face.

Now 2-0 in the preseason, the Dolphins will visit annual preseason opponent Tampa Bay next Saturday, August 27. Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Panthers.


Offense
  • Chad Henne needed a strong performance after an ugly stat line last week and the pressure from the fans mounting, and I'd say he responded in this one. Aside from a few overthrows, Henne was on-point all day, leading the offense up the field, finding open receivers, converting long third downs, and making accurate throws. He also had a few big runs and mad some nice throws after eluding pressure. It's going to take a lot more consistency to to appease the doubters, but this should quiet the talk of Matt Moore starting for at least a week.
  • Speaking of Moore, he held his own and made a few nice throws. He had a pretty bad fumble, but he performed well and looks to be a suitable backup. Neither of the other two quarterbacks played, as the Dolphins gave their top two a half each to prepare for the season.
  • Reggie Bush was the big story of the day, racking up 48 yards rushing on eight carries and catching two passes for 33 yards in less than a half of football. He looked strong, quick and elusive and was utilized well by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. And while he did a good job of it yesterday, I still don't expect Bush to see many carries between the tackles.
  • Thomas and Hilliard also had their nice runs and fared much better with improved blocking this week. Thomas ran hard and with good leverage inside, improving as the game went on. He learned a hard lesson early in the game that you can't jump over the pile and into the end zone from the four-yard line in the NFL, but that's not a long-term concern.
  • I've said for a while that Lousaka Polite is on the roster bubble due to a number of circumstances, and while he didn't perform badly yesterday, rookie Charles Clay was impressive as well and was mixed in throughout the first half with the starters. That alone says a lot about how much of a threat Clay is to Polite's status.
  • Brandon Marshall was a target machine for the Dolphins and for the most part did a nice job. Fans probably got onto Henne for an errant throw to Marshall on a slant on third down, but from the replays it looks like Marshall stutter-stepped too much and wasn't quick enough getting off the defensive back, which he needs to do. The ball was where Marshall should have been. Davone Bess was his reliable self and did a nice job getting open, while both Brian Hartline and Clyde Gates burned guys deep only to be overthrown by Henne.
  • Square on the roster bubble, Marlon Moore had a really nice grab on a low-thrown ball by Moore, but immediately followed that up with a terrible drop on a deep ball. That's not going to help him beat out Roberto Wallace, who is the clear favorite for the No. 5 (and possible final) receiver spot.
  • Anthony Fasano had another drop, but at least this one didn't end up in the hands of a defender. Mickey Shuler, who I consider the favorite to back up Fasano this season, did not play, while Dedrick Epps and Jeron Mastrud played heavily. This situation is a mess and the waiver wire will surely be scoured after final cuts.
  • The offensive line held up pretty well aside from a few hiccups, and they were still missing Jake Long. His replacement, Lydon Murtha, committed three penalties and struggled in pass protection, but he's likely to be relegated to the bench. The interior line, including Mike Pouncey, more than held their own and did a good job blocking for the run.

Defense
  • It didn't seem like the Dolphins' defense had to play much with the offense controlling the ball in the first half, but when they did play, they certainly held their own. The defensive line did a much better job than they did in the opener and really allowed the linebackers to make plays.
  • Cameron Wake got some nice pressure on Cam Newton and Jason Taylor got in on the action as well, but there still wasn't much of a pass rush from the first-team defense. I'd really like to see more from this unit, as there is no way this team will get by during the regular season if they can't bring down the quarterback.
  • The Dolphins' starting inside linebackers both excelled as Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett racked up a team-leading four tackles each. Burnett was as advertised, showing great quickness and block-shedding ability. Top reserve A. J. Edds also had his second consecutive good game, and newly-signed Marvin Mitchell got in on the action as well.
  • There's nothing bad you can say about Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, who held the Panthers' starting receivers to 11 yards total. Of course, the opposing talent was pretty weak and they were facing a rookie quarterback, so it has to be kept in perspective.
  • It's disappointing to see Will Allen inactive due to injury once again, and the odds of him making the final roster are dwindling by the day.
  • I didn't see any progress in the free safety battle, although Chris Clemons played more early and he's likely to open the season as starter.
  • He was never going to make the team anyway, but CFL import strong safety Mark Restelli didn't help himself with a dropped interception right in his hands. Those fringe guys can't afford any negative plays.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter converted both field goal attempts in this one after missing in the season opener and looks to be on track for the season. Brandon Fields dropped two punts inside the 20, and would have had another if Roberto Wallace had been able to down it.
  • No one really stood out in the return game, but Phillip Livas was a bit outperformed by Clyde Gates. An undrafted rookie, Livas needs a big preseason the rest of the way despite his punt return touchdown in the opener, because it will be hard to convince the Dolphins to use a roster spot on a pure return specialist.

Conclusions

Everything has to be kept in perspective in this one, because it was the preseason and it was against the league's worst team in 2010 that probably hasn't improved much at all. That being said, it was still nice to see the first-team units play quality football for a half.

It was nice to see Henne have a good game, even if he did miss on a few deep balls. He's clearly the starter entering the 2011 season and reportedly had a new fire in practice in the week leading up to this game, so it'd be nice if he could turn the corner and really take control of the offense.

There's very little to complain about with the first-team defense, as they didn't allow the Panthers to do much of anything and no points were even scored until garbage time when the starters were out. The two issues I still have are the lack of big plays (no fumbles forced, no interceptions) and the lack of a pass rush. Those things won't fly in the regular season, regardless of how good the front seven may be against the run and in coverage.


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Friday, August 19, 2011

Dolphins vs. Panthers - Live Chat

Join us for our first live chat of the 2011 season tonight at 7:00pm ET as the Miami Dolphins take on the Carolina Panthers!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Patrick Cobbs joins former special teams coach in Big Easy

A long-time favorite of head coach Tony Sparano and one of the leaders in the Miami Dolphins' locker room over the past few years, free agent running back Patrick Cobbs has reportedly agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Originally signed by the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2006, Cobbs was dealt to the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the season opener and was later waived and added to the Dolphins' practice squad.

Cobbs was promoted to the Dolphins' active roster and never looked back, spending the next four-plus years as a backup running back and key special teams player in Miami. He missed 11 games with a torn ACL in 2009, but returned to be voted a team captain in 2010 and appear in all 16 contests, tying a career high with two touchdown catches.

Despite being limited physically at 5-foot-8 and lacking much skill on the offensive side of the ball, Cobbs shined at times as a third-down back and was consistently on of the team's best special teams players. His work ethic was second to none and helped earn him the respect of his teammates and  coaching staff.

Now 28, Cobbs joined a fairly crowded backfield in New Orleans that includes first-round rookie Mark Ingram, incumbent starter Pierre Thomas, free agent pickup Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory (currently on the PUP list with a Lisfranc injury). Coincidentally, the Saints dealt Reggie Bush to the Dolphins last month as Miami looked to fill out its depth chart in part due to the departure of Cobbs.

A key catalyst in the signing of Cobbs could have been the presence of Saints' assistant special teams coach John Bonamego, who worked with Cobbs in Miami from the beginning of 2008 to Bonamego's termination following Week 4 of the 2010 season. Cobbs is the second ex-Dolphins special-teamer to reunite with Bonamego in New Orleans, joining safety Jonathon Amaya from the Reggie Bush deal.

Cobbs' familiarity with Bonamego won't guarantee Cobbs a roster spot with the Saints, however, as he lacks any upside on offense and will be no higher than fourth on the depth chart. If the injuries to Ivory and Joique Bell extend into the regular season, Cobbs' chances will be greatly improved and he should have a chance to stick around in New Orleans in 2011.

As a Dolphins' fan, it's disappointing to see Cobbs go even if he was never really an impact player. He was one of the few bright spots on special teams in recent years and was always a pleasure to watch because of his high energy and top-notch effort.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dolphins add former Jags WR John Matthews

While I had initially assumed today's release of Brooks Foster was an act of the Miami Dolphins trimming their 10-man deep receiving corps, it seems the team was simply swapping out for a new face as the Dolphins have reportedly signed free agent John Matthews to a contract.

Matthews, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 13, will provide the Dolphins with another body at receiver and on special teams with three more preseason games remaining.

The signing once again gives the Dolphins 84 players on the 90-man roster, with the cut down to 75 players exactly two weeks away on Aug. 30. Final cuts to 53 players are slated for Sept. 3.


Background

A multi-sport star at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, Matthews played college football at the University of San Diego under Jim Harbaugh despite being recruited by a few Ivy League schools. Teamed with current Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson, Matthews practically re-wrote the Toreros' receiving record book.

Matthews finished his collegiate career with 195 receptions, 3,615 receiving yards, and 50 receiving touchdowns. He left holding school records such as receptions in a game, receptions in a season, receiving yards in a season, career receiving yards, and career receiving touchdowns.

Despite his impressive college résumé, Matthews (6-0, 200) went undrafted in 2009 and signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. He was waived during final cuts and spent most of his rookie season on the team's practice squad.

The Colts waived Matthews on July 20, 2010 and he was claimed by the Jaguars. After totaling 83 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason, Matthews made his NFL debut in the season opener against the Denver Broncos before being relegated to the practice squad. He was promoted back to the active roster in November and appeared in two more games.

Matthew caught one pass for 19 yards in the 2011 preseason opener against the New England Patriots, but was waived just two days later.


Analysis

It seems the Dolphins weren't quite ready to trim their receiving corps even with most of the depth chart already decided at the position, so Matthews becomes the newest member of the five-man group likely competing for one spot.

Matthews was clearly a very good college player and has the talent to compete for a roster spot in the NFL, but he lacks ideal height and has only average speed. His best chance to make an NFL roster is on special teams, where he could then work himself into a role on offense.

The issue in Miami is that he's going to have a hard time cracking the active roster. Not only is he entering the mix late into camp, but fifth-receiver favorite Roberto Wallace is a more intriguing candidate that has already proved himself on special teams.

Matthews also lacks the straight-line speed of Marlon Moore or the return skills of Phillip Livas, making it likely that he will only be a camp body for the Dolphins.

That being said, the Dolphins usually keep one or two receivers on the practice squad during the regular season, and Matthews is certainly a worthy candidate for that role if he survives until final cuts.

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


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Miami Dolphins Alumni Update: July 2011

These are all the pro football transactions involving for Miami Dolphins players in July 2011, which is a much meatier list now that the NFL is back in action:


  • July 2 — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) transferred wide receiver Chris Williams to the reserve list. 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.
  • July 2 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) transferred defensive end Ben Ishola to the reserve list. Ishola was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006, but waived during final cuts on Sept. 2.
  • July 4 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) transferred defensive end Tearrius George to the reserve list. George spent the 2009 offseason with the Dolphins before being released in August.
  • July 5 — The Virginia Destroyers (UFL) removed placekicker Matt Bryant from the Reserve/Unsigned list. Bryant went 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts and seven-for-seven on extra-point attempts in three games with the Dolphins during the 2004 season.
  • July 8 — The Kansas City Command (AFL) placed wide receiver Todd Devoe on injured reserve. Devoe spent two weeks on the Dolphins' practice squad in Sept. 2004.
  • July 13 — The Calgary Stampeders (CFL) activated offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas from the injured list. A CFL All-Star in 2009, Tsoumpas signed with the Dolphins in January but was waived in late July.
  • July 13 — The Virginia Destroyers (UFL) signed running back Jesse Chatman to the active roster. Chatman spent time with the Dolphins in both 2005 and 2007, seeing his only game action in 2007 with 14 games played (six starts) and 515 rushing yards and a touchdown.
  • July 13 —The Dallas Vigilantes (AFL) were assigned defensive lineman Rodrique Wright. 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.
  • July 15 — The Jacksonville Sharks (UFL) placed wide receiver/defensive back Scorpio Babers on reassignment. Babers spent part of the 2008 season on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  • July 16 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) activated defensive end Ben Ishola from the reserve list.
  • July 17 — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) transferred wide receiver Maurice Mann to the reserve list. Mann spent part of the 2004 season with the Dolphins, but did not appear in a game.
  • July 17 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) transferred wide receiver James Robinson to the reserve list. Robinson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being released on Nov. 4.
  • July 18 — The Omaha Nighthawks (UFL) removed offensive lineman Joe Toledo from the active roster. The Dolphins' fourth-round pick in 2006, Toledo did not appear a game in two seasons with the Dolphins.
  • July 19 — The Arizona Rattlers (AFL) signed claimed wide receiver/defensive back Scorpio Babers off reassignment.
  • July 20 — The Arizona Rattlers (AFL) placed wide receiver/defensive back Scorpio Babers on the Refused to Report list. 
  • July 24 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) transferred defensive end Ben Ishola to the reserve list.
  • July 28 — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) transferred wide receiver Maurice Mann to the injured list.
  • July 29 — The Dallas Cowboys placed linebacker Kelvin Smith on waivers. The Dolphins' seventh-round pick in 2007, Smith played in four games for the Dolphins as a rookie and spent the entire 2008 season with the team on injured reserve with a knee injury.
  • July 29 — The Jacksonville Jaguars terminated the contract of guard Justin Smiley. Signed by the Dolphins to a five-year, $25 million contract in 2008, Smiley appeared in 27 games (24 starts) for the team before being traded to the Jaguars in May 2010.
  • July 29 — The Kansas City Chiefs terminated the contract of wide receiver Chris Chambers. The Dolphins' second-round pick in 2001, Chambers spent just over six seasons with the Dolphins and was selected to one Pro Bowl before being traded to the Chargers in October 2007 for a second-round pick (eventually used on quarterback Chad Henne). Chambers left the Dolphins ranking fifth in franchise history in receptions (405), fourth in yards (5,688), and fourth in touchdowns (43).
  • July 29 — The New York Jets placed cornerback Will Billingsley on waivers. Billingsley spent most of the 2008 and 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  • July 29 — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed linebacker J. D. Folsom on waivers. A seventh-round pick by the Dolphins in 2009, Folsom appeared in two games as a rookie and recorded one tackle.
  • July 29 — The Tennessee Titans terminated the contract of defensive tackle Tony Brown due to a failed physical. Brown spent three games with the Dolphins in 2003 but did not appear in game.
  • July 29 — The Washington Redskins placed wide receiver Taurus Johnson on waivers. Johnson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad and was waived during the 2010 preseason.
  • July 30 — The Atlanta Falcons re-signed placekicker Matt Bryant to a contract.
  • July 30 — The Baltimore Ravens re-signed running back Jalen Parmele to a contract. A sixth-round pick in 2008, Parmele spent most of his rookie season between the Dolphins' practice squad and active roster before being signed to Baltimore's active roster in December.
  • July 30 — The Buffalo Bills signed quarterback Tyler Thigpen to a contract. Acquired from the Chiefs for a fifth-round pick in September 2009 following an injury to Chad Pennington, Thigpen spent two seasons with the Dolphins and appeared in six games (one start), throwing for 518 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions.
  • July 30 — The Carolina Panthers signed placekicker Olindo Mare to a contract and claimed linebacker Kelvin Smith off waivers. The Dolphins' all-time scoring leader with 1,048 points, Mare was the Dolphins' placekicker from 1997 to 2006 after joining the team as an undrafted free agent. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1999.
  • July 30 — The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed safety Gibril Wilson to to a contract. Wilson totaled 93 tackles and eight pass deflections in one season for the Dolphins after signing a five-year, $27.5 million contract in 2009. He was released in March 2010.
  • July 30 — The Cleveland Browns placed nose tackle Travis Ivey to the PUP list and re-signed offensive lineman Billy Yates to a contract. Ivey signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and was waived on Aug. 23. 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.
  • July 30 — The Denver Broncos re-signed placekicker Matt Prater to a contract. Prater spent the 2007 offseason and preseason with the Dolphins, but lost the kicking competition to Jay Feely.
  • July 30 — The Detroit Lions re-signed return specialist Stefan Logan and placekicker Dave Rayner to contracts. Undrafted out of South Dakota in 2007, Logan spent part of his rookie season on the Dolphins' practice squad. Rayner spent part of the 2008 offseason with the Dolphins between March and June.
  • July 30 — The Kansas City Chiefs re-signed cornerback Travis Daniels to a contract. The Dolphins' fourth-round pick in 2005, Daniels recorded 125 tackles and three interceptions in three seasons in Miami before being traded to the Cleveland Browns for a 2009 seventh-round pick in August 2008 (eventually used to select linebacker J. D. Folsom).
  • July 30 — The New England Patriots re-signed running back Sammy Morris to a contract. Morris spent three seasons with the Dolphins between 2004 and 2006, appearing in 41 games (14 starts) and rushing for 981 yards and eight touchdowns.
  • July 30 — The Philadelphia Eagles signed tight end Donald Lee to a contract. A fifth-round pick by the Dolphins in 2003, Lee appeared in all 32 games (15 starts) with the team over his first two seasons, catching 20 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
  • July 30 — The San Diego Chargers re-signed tight end Randy McMichael to a contract. Selected by the Dolphins in the fourth round in 2002, McMichael started all 80 games in five seasons with the team, catching 283 passes for 3,096 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was released in March 2007.
  • July 30 — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed placekicker Connor Barth to a contract. The Dolphins signed Barth during the 2009 preseason to compete with incumbent Dan Carpenter, but he failed to make the team.
  • July 31 — The Buffalo Bills claimed defensive end Lionel Dotson off waivers. A seventh-round pick in 2008, Dotson appeared in seven games over three seasons with the Dolphins, recording five tackles.
  • July 31 — The Denver Broncos terminated the contract of safety Renaldo Hill. Hill spent three seasons as the Dolphins' starting free safety between 2006 and 2008, opening 38 of 39 games played and totaling 193 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, six interceptions, and 15 pass deflections.
  • July 31 — The Jacksonville Jaguars signed punter Matt Turk to a contract. Turk served as the Dolphins' punter from 2000-2001 and 2003-2004 (spending 2002 with the Jets). During his time in Miami, he appeared in 61 games and averaged 41 yards per punt.
  • July 31 —The Minnesota Vikings re-signed defensive tackle Fred Evans and signed wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, running back Tristan Davis, and linebacker Mark Washington to contracts. A seventh-round pick by the Dolphins in 2006, Evans appeared in one game and recorded two tackles as a rookie. He was waived in June 2007 shorter after an arrest in Miami Beach that saw him charged with battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing. Aromashodu was drafted by the Dolphins in the seventh round in 2006, but did not play for the team. Davis spent time on the Dolphins' practice squad in 2009 and attended training camp with the team in 2010. Washington appeared in three games for the Dolphins in 2007, recording one tackle.
  • July 31 — The Philadelphia Eagles signed guard Evan Mathis to a contract. Mathis spent part of the 2008 season with the Dolphins, appearing in seven games as a reserve guard.
  • July 31 — The St. Louis Rams signed cornerback Al Harris to a contract. Harris appeared in three games for the Dolphins in 2010, totaling three tackles.

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Dolphins waive WR Brooks Foster

The Miami Dolphins don't have to make any cuts for another two weeks, but they have decided to trim a bloated wide receiver position and waive two-year veteran Brooks Foster, according to Ben Volin.



A fifth-round pick by the St. Louis Rams out of North Carolina in 2009, Foster spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He was waived by the Rams during the 2010 preseason.

The New York Jets claimed Foster off waivers but let him go shortly after during final cuts. He was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad on Sept. 30 of last year and remained there the rest of the season before signing a future contract in January.

The release of Foster, who was one of seven to not play in the preseason opener and was not at practice Monday, gives the Dolphins 83 players on the active 90-man roster and nine total receivers.


Analysis

With Foster being the lone healthy receiver to not play against the Falcons (excluding starter Brandon Marshall) it's no surprise to see the Dolphins thin out the receiving corps a little here.

The Dolphins now have nine receivers on the roster, with only five or maybe six sticking around for the regular season. The next receivers on the chopping block are likely Patrick Carter and Julius Pruitt, who should be considered extremely long shot to make the roster.

With the top four receivers set, those in real contention for the fifth spot are Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore, though I'd have to consider Wallace the favorite. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Wallace has nice size and good hands to go along with fantastic special teams ability.

Expect Moore to get the axe last because he just hasn't done enough to stick around. Undrafted rookie Phillip Livas, meanwhile, will be cut if the Dolphins choose to keep five receivers, or make the team as a return specialist if they choose to keep six. He certainly gave the Dolphins something to think about with that 75-yard punt return touchdown in Atlanta.

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


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Monday, August 15, 2011

Dolphins sign free agent ILB Marvin Mitchell

The Miami Dolphins added a Super Bowl champion Sunday, signing former New Orleans Saints linebacker Marvin Mitchell according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com.

The signing of Mitchell comes just two days after Dolphins' linebacker Austin Spitler was in a walking boot after suffering an ankle injury in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. The exact severity of Spitler's injury is not yet known.

It is unknown if the Dolphins made any other moves upon the addition of Mitchell, although no moves necessarily need to be made as Mitchell would give Miami 84 players on their 90-man training camp roster.

The Dolphins will have to cut down to 75 players on August 30, and eventually to 53 players on Sept. 3.


Background

After attending and playing football, basketball, track and shot put at Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Va., Mitchell played college football at Tennessee. He appeared in 40 career games for the Volunteers, serving as a team captain each of his final two seasons. As a senior, he led the team with 104 tackles and added three pass deflections and two forced fumbles.

Mitchell was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He began his rookie season on the team's practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in October, where he remained over the next three-plus seasons.

After recording 11 special teams tackles as a rookie and 15 special teams tackles in 2008, Mitchell appeared in 14 games (including two starts) in 2009 and set a new career-high with 27 tackles. He also registered a start in the Saints' Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

A restricted free agent entering the 2010 season, Mitchell was re-signed to a one-year contract on April 10. He went on to appear in 16 games for the first time in 2010, totaling 43 stops, his his first NFL sack, two forced fumbles, and two pass deflections.

Mitchell, who wore No. 50 with the Saints, will wear No. 52 with the Dolphins. The number was previously worn by longtime starting linebacker Channing Crowder, who was released on July 29 and has since announced his retirement from the NFL.


Analysis

After messing around with the likes of Mark Masterson, who was never going to make an NFL roster, it's nice to see the Dolphins are at least adding some experienced special teams competition with David Nixon last week and now Mitchell here.

Between Mitchell, Spitler, Nixon, and Mike Rivera, Mitchell has the most NFL experience and has by far the largest body of work on special teams with 55 stops over four seasons with the Saints.  He has good size (6-3, 249) for the Dolphins' scheme and even drew a couple starts in New Orleans when the team utilized some 3-4 looks.

With Spitler in a walking boot and far from a lock to make the roster when healthy, I have to think Mitchell jumps right into contention for that fourth and final inside linebacker job behind Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and A. J. Edds.

Of course, Mitchell will not be a lock to make the Dolphins' roster despite his superior experience. He already has four years of NFL experience and the regularly linebacker-needy Saints never gave him a real chance to start, so there are questions of whether or not he has an real upside on defense. Mitchell also carries with him a likely inflated salary due to being a five-year veteran, so he'll be a little more expensive to keep than any of his competitors.

Mitchell is probably the most talented option on the roster right now, but whether or not he makes the team remains to me seen. I may put my money on him at this point given the lack of intriguing competition, but guys in this position are never safe and can be replaced at any time.

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


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Preseason Week 1: Dolphins-Falcons Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins had their first post-lockout game action Friday night, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 28-23 in the preseason opener.

Two Chad Henne interceptions, coupled with 17 unanswered points by the Falcons in the first quarter, put the Dolphins in a big hole before Henne connected with Brian Hartline and Matt Moore with Roberto Wallace as the Dolphins pulled within three before the half.

The Falcons added a Matt Bryant field goal in the third quarter, but the Dolphins answered with a touchdown pass from Moore to rookie Clyde Gates to give Miami a 21-20 lead entering the final quarter.

Undrafted rookie Phillip Livas made the biggest play of the day with a 75-yard punt returned for a touchdown, and a late Falcons field goal was not enough after the Dolphins won the game.

The Dolphins will face the Carolina Panthers on Friday, August 19 in the second week of the preseason. Until then, here are my observations from the Dolphins' win over the Falcons.


Offense
  • It figures that with all the scrunity Chad Henne is under right now, his first pass of the preseason would be intercepted. Obviously, this was not his fault as it bounced off Anthony Fasano's hands. His second interception split the blame between Henne and Davone Bess, who weren't on the same page on an option route. He recovered nicely on his final drive, with a big run for a first down and a nice long touchdown pass to Brian Hartline.
  • Kevin O'Connell didn't get to throw a pass, but he did have a seriously nice run on a play that was called back. Pat Devlin didn't impress anyone either, and this battle is probably going to be won in practice.
  • Matt Moore certainly held his own as well, showing good poise and decision-making for the most part. It's important to remember that he played well into the third quarter against the Falcons' third-stringers. Fans that hate Henne won't want to hear it, but as of now I simply don't see Moore beating out Henne for the job. A bad first month in the regular season could certainly change things, however.
  • The Dolphins' running backs had nowhere to go because of poor offensive line play the entire game. Daniel Thomas had a great catch and run, but Kory Sheets and Nic Grigsby really struggled. I honestly don't see either making the team, and Grigsby just doesn't look like an NFL back.
  • Despite a bad drop, Roberto Wallace did a nice job led the team in receiving and hauled in a nice touchdown pass. Clyde Gates also looked good on his few passes, but no one really stood out otherwise. I have to imagine Wallace has the edge on the fifth receiver job, with Marlon Moore and the rest getting the axe.
  • Dedrick Epps was one of two tight ends to catch a pass, but nobody looked particularly impressive at the position and the blocking wasn't there either. This "battle" is one of the more pathetic ones on the team and I imagine the Dolphins will be scouring the waiver wire in September.
  • I have very little good to say about the offensive line. The pass protection got progressively worse as the game wore on with the backups and the run blocking was nonexistent throughout the game. I'm pretty concerned about the Dolphins' aging right side of Vernon Carey and Marc Colombo.

Defense
  • It's early, the but Dolphins' first-team defensive line got handled in a way I wouldn't have expected, allowing Falcons' running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling to walk all over them. Guys like Jared Odrick had a few individual nice plays, but overall the group didn't do its job all that well of clogging the line.
  • The first-team linebackers struggled against the run as well, and it wasn't until A. J. Edds began playing that someone stood out. Edds notched a sack on John Parker Wilson and racked up a team-high six tackles, looking fully recovered from the torn ACL that wiped out his rookie season.
  • The Dolphins' pass rush was nonexistent early on as Matt Ryan did a good job of releasing the ball. Jason Trusnik recorded a sack against the backups, and Quinton Spears had some nice pressure late on the final defensive play of the game.
  • Julio Jones made the Dolphins' secondary look silly early on, and Nate Ness and Tyrone Culver were out-muscled badly on Harry Douglas' touchdown grab. Benny Sapp didn't have a terrible game and tightened his grip on the nickel job with Will Allen missing so much practice lately. Vince Agnew had a nice pick to seal the game, but that's not really going to get him on the roster.
  • Not much movement was made on the free safety battle, with neither Chris Clemons nor Reshad Jones playing particularly well. Both guys were around the ball a lot but not close enough to make so many plays. Clemons had a vicious hit on the quarterback that knocked him out of the game, but aside from that was unspectacular.
  • Seventh-round cornerback Jimmy Wilson was probably the start of the day on defense, racking up five tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. His one negative play I saw was where he missed the ball carrier and instead took out Ikaika Alama-Francis in his pursuit, but overall Wilson's performance was encouraging and I expect him more than ever to make this team.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter missed his lone field goal attempt, but it's no cause for concern. Team MVP Brandon Fields was his usual self and did a nice job punting. Good thing, because the Dolphins will need him this season.
  • Phillip Livas stood head and shoulders about fellow returners Clyde Gates and Kory Sheets in this one, averaging 28 yards on three kickoff returns and taking a punt back 75 yards for a touchdown. The issue with Livas is that he's a diminutive 5-foot-7, so he's not yet a contributor elsewhere. He'll need to show consistently good return skills this preseason to warrant a return specialist spot on the roster.

Conclusion

It's important not to overreact in the first game of the preseason after an offseason shortened by the lockout. However, it's certainly not a good feeling that neither the first-team offense nor defense did anything that we can really be happy about. I'm sure the team kept things simple and what we saw Friday is not necessarily what we can expect in the regular season (especially on defense), but there wasn't anything encouraging from this game.

There were positive performances from young guys like A. J. Edds and Jimmy Wilson, but overall things were concerning. The offensive line in particular was bad throughout the game, and that's something that will doom this team if it doesn't get better.

Fans that want to see more of Matt Moore will have to do so in the preseason, because the reality is Henne's brief stat line from this game wasn't as bad as he played and he's been outplaying Moore in practice. Like it or not, Tony Sparano is going to sink or swim with Henne in 2011.


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