Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dolphins add running back Steve Slaton off waivers

Despite having a speedy change-of-pack back already on the roster in Reggie Bush (I guess that whole "feature back" thing didn't work out too well), the Miami Dolphins added a similar player Wednesday by claiming running back Steve Slaton off waivers from the Houston Texans.

Slaton gives the Dolphins four running backs on the active roster, joining Bush, breakout rookie Daniel Thomas, and Lex Hilliard. The team also has undrafted rookies Nic Grigsby and Richard Medlin on the practice squad.

To make room for Slaton on the roster, the Dolphins waived third-year defensive lineman Ryan Baker. The versatile lineman is not eligible for the practice squad, having appeared in nine games in 2009.


Background

Slaton played three seasons at West Virginia, breaking numerous offensive and rushing records as one of the best backs in the nation. His best season came as a sophomore in 2006, when he rushed for 1,744 yards and 17 touchdowns. By the time he declared for the 2008 NFL Draft following his junior season, Slaton had amassed 3,923 rushing yards, 805 receiving yards, and 57 offensive touchdowns.

Selected by the Texans in the third round, Slaton separated himself from running backs Ahman Green, Ryan Moats and Chris Taylor as a rookie, starting 15 of 16 contests and totaling 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground while adding 50 receptions in the passing game.

Slaton saw his production dive in 2009, however, as he fumbled seven times in 11 games and had his rushing average decrease to just 3.3 yards per carry. In 2010, he started only one of 12 games played and carried the ball just 19 times as he took a backseat the eventual NFL rushing champion, Arian Foster.

Entering the 2011 season as a forgotten member of the Texans' backfield behind Foster, Ben Tate, and Derrick Ward, Slaton rushed seven times for 20 yards and caught one pass in the team's first three contests, including one carry (for no gian) against the team's victory over the Dolphins in Week 2.

In Miami, Slaton will wear No. 23, which was worn by former first-rounder Ronnie Brown for the past six seasons. Kory Sheets wore it during training camp, while Larry Johnson most recently donned the number during the first two weeks of the regular season.


Analysis

When I saw the Texans had waived Slaton on Tuesday, I thought the Dolphins might be a possible match. It's true the team already has a similar back in Reggie Bush, but the team has always been about turning over every rock and Slaton is still a talented young player.

I don't expect Slaton to have much of a role on offense early on, and it's entirely possible he never really makes an impact before being cut loose by the Dolphins too. But it's also possible the team is able to develop him into a quality complementary back for Daniel Thomas.

While durability and ball security are concerns, there is no doubt that Slaton has the physical tools to be a productive player on offense. He has good hands in the passing game, the speed and agility to break runs outside, and even experience in carrying the load at the NFL level.

So again, while this move might mean nothing and could for all we know be a very short stint, it's also possible that the team really does have plans for Slaton. If that's the case, it could mean the team has either soured on Bush's long-term prospects in the offense, or at the very least is doubling down by the acquisition of Slaton.

As for Baker, I'm a bit surprised by his release considering he's not practice-squad eligible and I believed him to be the de facto backup at nose tackle. It's possible the team is utilizing Phillip Merling in that role, and adding outside help is always an option too.

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


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Miami Dolphins Alumni Update: August 2011

These are all the pro football transactions involving for Miami Dolphins players in August 2011:

  • August 1 — The Arizona Cardinals acquired defensive end Vonnie Holliday from the Washington Redskins in exchange for running back Tim Hightower and a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In 60 games (59 starts) with the Dolphins from 2005 to 2008, Holliday totaled 145 tackles, 17.5 sacks, one forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.
  • August 1 — The Cleveland Browns re-signed defensive tackle Derreck Robinson to a contract. Robinson played in seven games and recorded five tackles as a reserve defensive end for the Dolphins in 2007.
  • August 1 — The Oakland Raiders re-signed ERFA fullback Marcel Reece to a contract. A college wide receiver, Reece signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in April 2008, but was waived less than week later on May 5.
  • August 2 — The Cleveland Browns activated defensive tackle Travis Ivey from the PUP list. Ivey signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and was waived on Aug. 23
  • August 2 — The New Orleans Saints signed cornerback Terrail Lambert to a contract. Lambert spent time on the Dolphins' practice squad in December 2010.
  • August 3 — The Green Bay Packers signed linebacker K. C. Asiodu to a contract. Asiodu spent a week on the Dolphins' practice squad between September and October 2009.
  • August 3 — The Oakland Raiders signed guard Justin Smiley to a contract. 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.
  • August 3 — The Philadelphia Eagles signed running back Ronnie Brown to a contract and waived tight end John Nalbone. The second overall pick by the Dolphins in the 2005 NFL Draft, Brown rushed for 4,815 yards, received for 1,491 yards, and scored 40 offensive touchdowns in six seasons with the team, departing as the franchise's third all-time rusher. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008. Selected by the Dolphins in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Nalbone split time between the active roster and practice squad as a rookie and did not appear in a game. He played in two games for the Dolphins in 2010 before being waived.
  • August 4 — The Buffalo Bills claimed tight end John Nalbone off waivers.
  • August 4 — The Detroit Lions re-signed linebacker Bobby Carpenter to a contract. Carpenter spent five games (two starts) with the Dolphins to begin the 2010 season, recording 10 tackles.
  • August 4 — The Orlando Predators placed offensive lineman Julius Wilson on the other league/exempt list. Wilson signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and spent the entire season on the practice squad. He was waived in July 2008 after failing his conditioning test.
  • August 5 — The Dallas Cowboys signed safety Abram Elam to a contract. Elam spent time on the Dolphins' roster in the 2005 offseason after joining the team as an undrafted free agent.
  • August 6 — The Dallas Cowboys claimed quarterback Tom Brandstater off waivers. Brandstater was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad in Nov. 2010 after injuries to Chad Henne and Chad Pennington. He was waived by the team in Aug. 2011.
  • August 6 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders activated wide receiver James Robinson from the reserve list. Robinson spent part of the 2009 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being released on Nov. 4.
  • August 7 — The Carolina Panthers waived/injured linebacker Kelvin Smith. 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.
  • August 7 — The Houston Texans signed linebacker Tim Dobbins to a contract. Acquired in the 2010 draft-day trade that landed Ryan Mathews in San Diego and Jared Odrick in Miami, Dobbins spent the 2010 season as the Dolphins' primary backup inside linebacker. He started six of 16 contests that season, totaling 47 tackles and a sack. He was released in Aug. 2011.
  • August 7 — The Oakland Raiders 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.
  • August 8 — The Carolina Panthers placed linebacker Kelvin Smith on injured reserve.
  • August 8 — The Cincinnati Bengals activated safety Gibril Wilson from the PUP list. 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.
  • August 8 — The Detroit Lions signed defensive tackle Montavious Stanley to a contract. Stanley spent the 2010 offseason with the team and recorded three tackles in the preseason before being released during final cuts.
  • August 8 — The Tennessee Titans signed offensive lineman Pat McQuistan to a contract. Acquired from the Dallas Cowboys for a seventh-round pick just before the 2010 season, McQuistan started eight of 16 games played that season as a reserve lineman.
  • August 9 — The Baltimore Ravens signed running back Ricky Williams to a contract. Williams was initially acquired by the Dolphins from the New Orleans Saints in 2002 for four draft picks, including two first-round picks. He was selected to the Pro Bowl that season after leading the NFL in rushing with 1,853 yards. Despite a roller coaster tenure with the Dolphins that involved controversy, a surprise retirement, suspensions, and a stint in the CFL, Williams left the team ranking second all-time in franchise history with 6,436 yards and 48 touchdowns.
  • August 9 — The Oakland Raiders placed guard Justin Smiley on the reserve/retired list.
  • August 12 — The Jacksonville Jaguars signed defensive end Matt Roth to a contract. A second-round pick by Miami in 2005, Roth appeared in 65 games over five seasons with the Dolphins and recorded 140 tackles, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He was waived in Nov. 2008.
  • August 13 — The Philadelphia Eagles signed offensive lineman Joe Toledo to a contract. The Dolphins' fourth-round pick in 2006, Toledo did not appear a game in two seasons with the Dolphins.
  • August 6 — The Saskatchewan Roughriders activated linebacker Tearrius George from the reserve list. George spent the 2009 offseason with the Dolphins before being released in August.
  • August 15 — The Cleveland Browns placed offensive lineman Billy Yates on the reserve/retired list. 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.
  • August 15 — The Philadelphia Eagles waived offensive lineman Joe Toledo.
  • August 15 — The Dallas Vigilantes (AFL) placed defensive lineman Rodrique Wright on reassignment. 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.
  • August 16 — The Carolina Panthers released linebacker Kelvin Smith with an injury settlement.
  • August 16 — The New Orleans Saints signed running back Patrick Cobbs to a contract. Initially signed to the Dolphins' practice squad in 2006, Cobbs spent the better part of five seasons with the team as a key special-teamer and occasional third-down back. He totaled 171 rushing yards, 409 receiving yards and six offensive touchdowns in 51 games with the team.
  • August 16 — The Seattle Seahawks signed safety Atari Bigby to a contract. Bigby was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in May 2005, only to be released in July.
  • August 16 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) released running back Gerald Riggs, Jr. Riggs was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006 but did not play for the team.
  • August 16 — The Omaha Nighthawks (UFL) selected offensive tackle Orrin Thompson first overall and running back Lorenzo Booker 13th overall in the reallocation draft. A defensive tackle at Duke, Thompson was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and converted to the offensive line, where he spent two seasons on the practice squad. Drafted by the Dolphins in the third round in 2007, Booker rushed for 125 yards and caught 28 passes for 237 yards as a rookie. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
  • August 16 — The Las Vegas Locomotives (UFL) selected defensive end Maurice Fountain eighth overall and linebacker Danny Lansanah 12th overall in the reallocation draft. Fountain sign with the Dolphins in early August 2009, but was waived during final cuts less than a month later. Lansanah spent most of September 2009 on the Dolphins' practice squad.
  • August 17 — The Dallas Cowboys waived/injured cornerback Ross Weaver. 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.
  • August 17 — The Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) signed wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen to a contract. Grice-Mullen attended training camp with the Dolphins in 2010, but was waived during the preseason.
  • August 17 — The Las Vegas Locomotives (UFL) removed linebacker K. C. Asiodu from the active roster.
  • August 18 — The Atlanta Falcons released tight end Justin Peelle with an injury settlement. Peelle spent two seasons with the Dolphins from 2006 to 2007, starting 20 of 31 games played and catching 45 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
  • August 18 — The San Francisco 49ers signed quarterback Josh McCown to a contract. McCown was signed to a two-year contract in Feb. 2008, but was traded to the Carolina Panthers in August after Chad Pennington was signed.
  • August 19 — The Dallas Cowboys released cornerback Ross Weaver with an injury settlement.
  • August 19 — The Toronto Argonauts (CFL) activated defensive end Ben Ishola from the reserve list. Ishola was signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2006, but waived during final cuts on Sept. 2.
  • August 20 — The Seattle Seahawks re-signed defensive end Maurice Fountain to a contract.
  • August 20 — The Monteal Alouettes (CFL) re-signed wide receiver Brandon London to a contract. London spent the entire 2008 season with the Dolphins, appearing in 14 games (one start) and catching three passes for 30 yards.
  • August 22 — The Jacksonville Jaguars signed tight end Joey Haynos to a contract. Signed off the Packers' practice squad in Sept. 2008, Haynos appeared in 23 games over two seasons and caught 21 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He spent the entire 2010 season on injured reserve with a foot injury before becoming a free agent.
  • August 23 — The Cincinnati Bengals waived offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. 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.
  • August 23 — The Las Vegas Locomotives (UFL) removed defensive end Maurice Fountain from the active roster.
  • August 25 — The Buffalo Bills placed linebacker Reggie Torbor on injured reserve. Torbor played in all 32 games for the Dolphins from 2008 to 2009, starting three games and totaling 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception, four pass deflections. He was released by the Dolphins in May 2010.
  • August 26 — The Minnesota Vikings waived linebacker Mark Washington. Washington appeared in three games for the Dolphins in 2007, recording one tackle.
  • August 27 — The Carolina Panthers waived defensive tackle Louis Ellis. Ellis attended 2009 training camp with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent, but did not make the team.
  • August 27 — The Tennessee Titans signed wide receiver Kevin Curtis to a contract. Curtis spent two weeks with the Dolphins in December 2010, catching one pass for six yards.
  • August 29 — The Denver Broncos terminated the contract of cornerback Nate Jones and waived guard Shawn Murphy. Jones spent two seasons as the Dolphins' nickel corner in 2008 and 2009, totaling 77 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, three interceptions and 11 pass deflections in 32 games. The Dolphins' fourth-round pick in 2008, Murphy spent a season and a half with the Dolphins between 2008 and 2009, but did not appear in a game.
  • August 29 — The Detroit Lions terminated the contracts of placekicker Dave Rayner and defensive tackle Montavious Stanley. Rayner spent part of the 2008 offseason with the Dolphins between March and June.
  • August 29 — The Kansas City Chiefs waived/injured linebacker Eric Bakhtiari and waived wide receiver Chandler Williams. Bakhtiari spent a week on the Dolphins' practice squad in November 2010. Williams spent the 2007 season on the Dolphins' practice squad and was re-signed the following offseason, only to be waived in April.
  • August 30 — The Dallas Cowboys signed placekicker Dave Rayner to a contract.
  • August 30 — The Green Bay Packers waived/injured linebacker K. C. Asiodu.
  • August 30 — The Houston Texans signed offensive tackle Andrew Gardner.
  • August 30 — The Kansas City Chiefs placed linebacker Eric Bakhtiari on injured reserve.
  • August 30 —The Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) relased wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen and signed defensive back Tuff Harris. Harris signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Montana in 2007 and appeared in one game for the team as a rookie, although he spent most of the season on the practice squad. He was waived in April 2008.
  • August 31 — The Green bay Packers placed linebacker K. C. Asiodu on injured reserve.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Week Three Game Predictions

I actually went 15-1 on the picks I wrote about last week, but somehow in my actual Yahoo! Pick'Em league, I I had Miami selected instead of Houston like I intended. That being the case, I'm only giving myself credit as 14-2 in Week 2. Hopefully I can keep up that momentum this week, although Week 3 seems to have a number of difficult games to predict.

Last week's record: 14-2
2011 season record: 22-10 (68.8%)


Patriots over Bills — The Bills appear to be for real with two impressive offensive performances. That being said, I don't see them topping the best team in the league right now. Tom Brady should lead the Patriots to victory once again.

Bengals over 49ers — I'm not sold on the Bengals being even an average team yet, but Andy Dalton and A. J. Green have caught on quicker than expected. I'll take them at home in Cincinnati over an unimpressive Niners squad.

Dolphins over Browns — Logic says the Browns are the better team and have homefield advantage, but my gut likes Miami in this one. I don't see this veteran defense letting the team go 0-3, and I expect Chad Henne and the Dolphins offense to continue making strides.

Titans over Broncos — Matt Hasselbeck is performing better than I would have thought even though Chris Johnson hasn't even contributed much yet. That, combined with a Titans defense playing well, is why I am picking Tennessee in this one.

Lions over Vikings — It's been so long since Detroit should be an obvious favorite, and I'm still hesitating to even pick them because of past history. That being said, a lot of the pieces are coming together right now and I can't pick against them as they play a pretty unimpressive Vikings team.

Saints over Texans — In what should be a high-scoring affair between two elite offenses, I like the Saints at home given that Houston's defense has more question marks right now.

Eagles over Giants — With Michael Vick looking recovered from his concussion and ready to play in Week 3, the Eagles are an obvious choice over a Giants team overcome by injuries.

Panthers over Jaguars — I'm still not on the Cam Newton bandwagon and he certainly isn't beyond making mistakes, but he has shown the ability to pass downfield and the Jaguars' secondary is horrendous. With Jacksonville starting an even less-experienced quarterback in Blaine Gabbert, I'll take the Panthers here.

Jets over Raiders — Oakland isn't quite as terrible as I expected them to be, but I still don't give them a realistic shot against a Jets team that has a far better roster from top to bottom.

Ravens over Rams — Baltimore shocked us all after getting embarrassed by the Titans in Week 2, but they're a much better team than that. St. Louis just isn't there yet and is still battling key injuries, so I have to go with the Ravens.

Chargers over Chiefs — Perhaps no NFL team has looked worse in 2011 than the defending AFC West champions, while San Diego's offense continues to fire on all cylinders. I don't see any way Kansas City wins this one, especially now that Jamaal Charles is done for the season.

Packers over Bears — The clash between these two old rivals almost always produces a quality game, and the Bears are certainly an above average team. The defending Super Bowl champs have just been so impressive though and I really can't pick against them.

Cardinals over Seahawks — Seattle is a mess right now, plain and simple. Arizona may not be much better, but they at least have a quarterback with potential and a play-making receiver to help him. I like the Cardinals here.

Falcons over Buccaneers — This is one of the hardest games to pick, because Tampa Bay is certainly capable of holding their own against the Falcons and they usually do well against them at home. Still, I like Atlanta a little better as a team, so I'll go with them.

Steelers over Colts — Indianapolis made some slight improvements in Week 2, but they are still a bottom-feeder of a franchise without Peyton Manning. The Steelers aren't perfect, but they should still destroy the Colts.

Cowboys over Redskins — I've always been a Tony Romo fan, and you can't deny his comeback performance with broken ribs and a punctured lung last week was incredible. I expect him to be under center in Week 3 and turn in another impressive performance despite not being 100%.


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Dolphins work out seven free agents Wednesday

As always, the Miami Dolphins spent the middle part of the week working out various free agents for the purposes of updating scouting reports and filling out the Rolodex in case of injuries.

This week, the Dolphins chose to focus a few positions, bringing in running backs James Davis and Richard Medlin, nose tackles Isaako Aaitui, Sealver Siliga, and Jay Ross, and cornerbacks Roderick Hood and Fabian Washington.

It's not hard to understand why these positions were targeted. The Dolphins ended up signing Medlin to their practice squad, which is likely due to the release of Larry Johnson, the work of Lex Hilliard at fullback, and the potential for Reggie Bush to be moved around more in the offense.

Nose tackles are likely being looked at as a result of Frank Kearse signing with the Carolina Panthers on Monday. The team's seventh-round pick out of Alabama A&M had been on the Dolphins practice squad since the regular season began.

And of course cornerback Vontae Davis and Chris Clemons continue to nurse hamstring injuries while backup Nolan Carroll has struggled, which is obviously the reason the team has been looking at experienced cornerbacks.

The team is likely finished signing players for the week with the addition of Medlin to the practice squad as well as veteran cornerback Nate Jones and Igor Olshansky to the active roster, but here is some brief info on all the other players brought in by the Dolphins this week.



NT Isaako Aaitui

A Pago Pago native, Aaitui is your typical nose tackle at 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds. He spent four seasons at UNLV including the last three years as a starter, appearing in 43 games and totaling 100 tackles (16.5 for a loss), four sacks, a forced fumble, and blocked kick. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and did not attend training camp with the team.


RB James Davis

A two-time first-team All-ACC pick, Davis led Clemson in rushing each of his four seasons and departed the school ranking fourth in Tigers history with 4,309 all-purpose yards. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Browns in 2009, but appeared in only two games as a rookie before a torn labrum ended his season. Davis (5-11, 218) had four carries for the Browns in 2010 before being waived on Oct. 25. He was signed to the Redskins' practice squad and eventually promoted to the active roster, appearing in three games and rushing for 51 yards. Unhappy with his playing time during the 2011 preseason, Davis reportedly walked out on the team and was later waived.


CB Roderick Hood

Undrafted out of Auburn in 2003, Hood signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and became a key special-teamer and reserve cornerback in four seasons with the team. He appeared in 56 games with the Eagles during that span, recording 122 tackles and five interceptions. Hood signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 and spent two seasons as a starting cornerback, recording 90 tackles, six interceptions, and 36 pass deflections. After being released during the 2009 offseason, Hood spent time with the Browns and Bears but did not make either squad. He signed with the Titans mid-season and started four of six games played, intercepting three passes. A torn ACL wiped out Hood's 2010 campaign and he became a free agent after the season.


NT Jay Ross

Ross (6-3, 302) went undrafted out of East Carolina in 2010 and signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent. He was waived by the team during final cuts and later signed to the practice squad of the Green Bay Packers in October. Ross recorded two tackles in four games during the 2011 preseason, but was once again waived during final cuts.


NT Sealver Siliga

A 6-foot-2, 307-pound defensive lineman, Siliga spent three seasons at Utah, starting 21 of 37 contested played and recording 97 tackles (11 for a loss) and 2.5 sacks. He was a two-time honorable mention All-Mountain West pick before declaring for the 2011 NFL Draft following his junior season. After going undrafted, Siliga signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He appeared in four preseason games and totaled four tackles and a sack, but was waived during final cuts on Sept. 3.


CB Fabian Washington

Washington (5-11, 175) earned All-Big 12 selections all three seasons at Nebraska before declaring for the 2005 NFL Draft, where he was selected 23rd overall by the Oakland Raiders. He spent three seasons with the team, opening 28 of 45 contests and totaling 123 tackles, five interceptions, and 28 pass deflections. Washington was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in April 2008 in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. He started 15 games for the Ravens in 2008, setting a career high with 15 pass deflections. After a torn ACL cut short his 2009 campaign, Washington opened eight of 14 games in 2010 but was benched during the season in favor of Josh Wilson. The New Orleans Saints signed Washington as a free agent on July 31, but placed him on injured reserve on Sept. 1 and later released him with an injury settlement.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dolphins sign RB Richard Medlin to practice squad

The Miami Dolphins found running back Larry Johnson expendable with his release yesterday, but the team has apparently opted to keep five running backs in-house by signing undrafted free agent Richard Medlin to the practice squad.

Medlin joined fellow undrafted rookie Nic Grigsby as one of two running backs on the team's eight-man practice squad. He replaces seventh-round rookie nose tackle Frank Kearse, who was signed to the Carolina Panthers' active roster Monday.

As a member of the practice squad, Medlin will make roughly $5,700 a week. He will not be eligible to play in games but will participate in practice and team meetings. He can be signed to the Dolphins' active roster if they choose, or he can sign to another NFL team's active roster at any time just as Kearse did.

The Dolphins now have a full eight-man practice squad as well as a full 53-man roster after yesterday's additions of Nate Jones and Igor Olshansky.


Background

A Raleigh, N.C. native, Medlin walked on at Division II Fayetteville State in 2007 and earned his way into a featured role in the team's backfield. He led the Broncos in rushing three of his four seasons, amassing a total of 2,721 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground. Medlin also excelled as a returner, earning CIAA Special Teams Player of the Year honors after averaging 41.7 yards per kickoff return and taking three back for scores.

Measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Medlin was routinely clocked in the 4.6s in the 40-yard dash during pre-draft workouts. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft but was signed by the New England Patriots as a rookie free agent on Aug. 3.

Medlin faced an uphill battle to make the Patriots' roster with two drafted rookies—Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley—joining returning veterans BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. He rushed for 66 yards on 20 carries while adding 39 yards on six receptions, scoring two touchdowns in the preseason finale before being waived during final cuts on Sept. 3.

In Miami, Medlin will wear former Dolphins running back Patrick Cobbs' old No. 38. He will work at running back in practice and will also get a look on special teams, potentially as a returner and certainly in coverage.


Analysis

Medlin certainly isn't a player that is going to jump out at you on paper. He doesn't have particularly impressive measurables or physical attributes and his collegiate production at the D-II level was solid but not dominant. His return numbers are indeed impressive, but he doesn't seem to have the speed to carry that success over to the pro level.

What the Dolphins are getting in Medlin is another body at running back for practice purposes, and a much cheaper one than Larry Johnson would have been. It makes sense for the team to keep five total backs between the active roster and practice squad, considering Lex Hilliard also doubles as a fullback and Reggie Bush may be moved around more than we've seen the first two weeks of the season.

For every Arian Foster, there are a thousand running backs that don't ever succeed in the pros, and Medlin will certainly have his hands full just making an active roster. He just doesn't seem to have much upside on offensive due to his lack of physical tools.

Moving away from all the negatively and reality checks for a second, it is worth noting that Medlin is regarded as smart, mature player and an extremely hard worker. He won't be Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, but he does have the chance to be just like another former Patriots undrafted running back that wore No. 38 for the Dolphins if he can make an impact on special teams.

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


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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dolphins re-sign Nathan Jones, add Igor Olshansky

With the Miami Dolphins off to a rough start to the season at 0-2 and head coach Tony Sparano on the just about the hottest season in the NFL right now, the team has made some veteran roster additions in hopes of improving the struggling defense in the immediate future.

A familiar face returns to the secondary in the form of ex-Dolphins cornerback Nathan Jones, who has been re-signed after spending last season in Denver. The Dolphins also added former Chargers and Cowboys defensive end Igor Olshansky, who will provide depth on the defensive line.

To make room for Jones and Olshansky, the Dolphins terminated the contracts of running back Larry Johnson and tight end Dante Rosario. Both players were signed prior to Week 1 and appeared in each of the Dolphins' two games since with little impact. Rosario was limited to special teams and did not notch a tackle, while Johnson rushed for two yards on a single carry.

Finally, the Dolphins lost one of their 2011 draft picks as nose tackle Frank Kearse was signed off the practice squad to the Carolina Panthers' active roster. The seventh-rounder initially survived final cuts only to be waived a day later on Sept. 4 following waiver claims.


Nathan Jones

A former Big East Special Teams Player of the Year, Jones was selected by the Bill Parcells-led Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with the team working primarily as a backup and special-teamer, starting just one of 51 contests played and recording 78 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and two pass deflections.

Jones (5-10, 185) became an unrestricted free agent in 2008 and signed a two-year contract. He once again worked on special teams while also serving as a reserve cornerback, amassing 23 tackles, three sacks, and his first career interceptions.

Following the season-ending injury to Will Allen in 2009, Jones took on a larger role in the secondary and opened four of 16 contests. That season he set career highs in tackles (54), interceptions (2) and pass deflections (10).

Due in large part to his impressive performance in Miami, Jones landed a four-year contract with the Denver Broncos as a free agent in 2010. He played one season for the team, recording 57 tackles and three pass deflections, before a regime change saw him fall out of favor. The Broncos released him during the 2011 preseason.

Jones will wear No. 32 during his second stint in Miami. His old No. 33 is currently taken by rookie second-round running back Daniel Thomas.


Igor Olshansky

A Ukraine native, Olshansky declared for the 2004 NFL Draft following his junior season at Oregon that saw him earn second-team All-Pac-10 honors. He was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the second round (35th overall) and signed to a six-year contract that included a voidable fifth year.

In five seasons with the Chargers, Olshansky missed only three games and started 70 of the 75 contests in which he appeared. He was a key component of a routinely effective Chargers run defense, totaling 177 tackles and three forced fumbles during his time in San Diego while adding 11 sacks, an interception, and six pass deflections.

After hitting the free agent market in 2009, Olshansky signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys that included $8 million guaranteed. He started 28 of 32 games played over two seasons, recording 78 tackles and 1.5 sacks during that span while grading out as a quality run defender.

The Cowboys released Olshansky during final cuts on Sept. 3 in lieu of paying him a $3.34 million salary in 2011. He will wear No. 95 for the Dolphins, which was previously worn by retired nose tackle Jason Ferguson.


Analysis

Addressing the releases first, I find no issue with letting either Johnson or Rosario go. Johnson was a nice depth signing, but with Daniel Thomas healthy and impressive against the Texans, the roster spot was better served elsewhere. Johnson will certainly be on speed dial if injuries in the backfield arise.

Despite his experience, Rosario failed to jump Jeron Mastrud for the No. 2 tight end job behind Anthony Fasano. The team obviously liked Mastrud and developmental blocker Will Yeatman better, so Rosario obviously wasn't going to make an impact.


The real tragedy here is that Rosario is the player that was signed when promising linebacker A. J. Edds (now with the Patriots) was cut, so it's a shame to see that have happened for nothing.

I'm not always rosy when it comes to think the Dolphins do (especially lately), but I find it hard to dislike either of these signings. Obviously neither is going to single-handedly turn around the Dolphins' season and it's possible either could not even make it the entire season on the roster, but I think both moves make the team better.

Jones had his best year with the Dolphins in 2009 and brings some much needed depth. He'll join Allen in giving the Dolphins some experience and reliability in a secondary that has struggled thus far with the ineffectiveness of Nolan Carroll as well as starting corner Vontae Davis and free safety Chris Clemons nursing hamstring injuries.

If Davis is healthy enough to play in Week 3 against the Browns, I expect Jones to participate in dime packages immediately, an even bigger role of Davis cannot go. I'd say Jones is proven and experienced enough that he can be counted on to play immediately after being signed.

As for Olshansky, he provides an experienced and starting-caliber body on a defensive line that could be without Tony McDaniel (fractured hand). He doesn't offer much in the pass-rush department, but he's an excellent run-stuffer and has the talent to start at end in a 3-4 scheme.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Olshansky activate immediately either, as he is more than capable of jumping in and being an effective member of the Dolphins' line rotation in McDaniel's absence. He'll essentially be auditioning for a permanent role with the likes of Ryan Baker and Phillip Merling, with all three being candidates for release when McDaniel returns.

Obviously the Dolphins have a long way to go with an 0-2 record and the struggles the defense has had thus far are concerning. That being the case, I give credit to Sparano and Jeff Ireland here for going out and getting two experienced veterans that can provide depth and help shore up the unit's shortcomings instantly.

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


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Dolphins vs. Texans Game Observations

After two discouraging performance, the Miami Dolphins have begun the season 0-2 and are two games behind the other three teams in the division. I have to admit, I did not believe the Bills had passed the Dolphins heading into 2011, but I think there is no some cause for concern the Miami may be the worst team in the division.

Such a case would almost certainly result in some major changes for the Dolphins in the offseason. Head coach Tony Sparano is perhaps more on the hot seat than any other coach in the NFL right now, and he simply cannot afford to lose many more games if he wants to keep his job.

I'll talk more about the Miami's long-term prospects at the end, but for now, here are my observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Texans in Week 2.


Offense
  • Chad Henne's stat line was a lot uglier than it was in the opener, but I hardly see him as the major problem in this game. I think his pass protection let him down immensely and the play-calling was iffy at times as well. In all, I thought he made some good throws and also made some nice plays with his feet for the second straight week. It will certainly be interesting to see how he does this year now that we've seen two very different performances, but both with some of the same positives.
  • I never understood how down people in the national media and fantasy world had been on Daniel Thomas, and I was extremely impressed with the way he ran in his NFL debut. Aside from his lone fumble that came on a perfect helmet-on-ball hit, he ran incredibly well with great burst, balance, and instincts. Considering how unimpressive Reggie Bush has been between the tackles in two games, I think it's quite obvious that Thomas should carry the load inside if healthy.
  • They didn't have many opportunities thanks some horrendous pass protection, but I thought the Dolphins' top three receivers all did very well. Brandon Marshall used his strength to out-muscle defenders and make some nice catches and also had an incredible push into the end zone against former Dolphins first-rounder Jason Allen. Brian Hartline made an incredible toe-tapping catch on the sideline and Davone Bess had a great catch and run. Clyde Gates, on the other hand, continued to show his youth and really needs to improve his concentration and route-running.
  • A week after a pretty strong performance, Anthony Fasano was a non-factor in the passing game. He did block well though and we've gotten used to this kind of up and down production from him. The offense the way it was yesterday didn't really allow the ball to be spread around much.
  • Plain and simple, the pass protection was abysmal in this one. Jake Long gave up a sack for the second straight week, and it's fair to wonder if he's still not 100% or if missing all the practice time before the season hurt him. He's still the unit's best player by far and should be fine, but he hasn't been quite as good as we're used to seeing.
  • Marc Colombo was terrible once again, allowing Henne's arm to be hit which resulted in an interception deep in Miami territory. It's truly baffling the Dolphins did not address the right side, instead assuming Colombo would be able to handle it and Vernon Carey would just fill the void inside. More than anything else, I fear this unit is going to kill the Dolphins' offense this season.
  • One thing I will say about the offensive line that it did improve its run blocking a bit and opened up some holes for Thomas. I still wasn't overly impressed with them though, and I'd almost say Thomas did what he did without much help.

Defense
  • I thought the defensive line held up a bit better this week against a good Texans line. They got some pressure on Matt Schaub and stuffed the run pretty well early on. That being said, they still aren't playing up to their talent level and they once again appeared to be worn out long before the game was over. They won't face many lines better than this, but I'd really like to see this group be as dominant as they have been the last few years.
  • Aside from single sacks by Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor, the Dolphins once again did not get enough pressure on the quarterback. Schaub has a good line and is obviously running an elite offense, but this defense just isn't going to go if the team can't create pressure and potentially force turnovers. Taylor showed he still has his old burst and we all know what Wake is capable of, so I can't really peg the problem right now.
  • The inside linebackers looked a little better against the run this week, but the injury to Karlos Dansby and clearly hurt. Marvin Mitchell was just not good enough, and it makes me question again why A. J. Edds was let go. The group also once again struggled to cover opposing tight ends and it's something that's been an issue for years now.
  • The Dolphins' boundary corners once again were the brightest spots of the secondary, as both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith made some nice plays and didn't allow much to the Texans' top receivers. Davis' second injury in as many weeks once again killed the defense though, and that says something about the team's depth. The Dolphins simply shouldn't be in a position where Nolan Carroll is on Andre Johnson after one injury.
  • Speaking of Carroll, he looked like a goat on Johnson's long touchdown grab, but we have to realize that Reshad Jones blew the double coverage there and there's no way of knowing what would have happened on the play if Carroll's teammate had played it correctly. Jones has made a few mistakes in as many weeks and hasn't done all that well aside from his nice sack on a blitz against Schaub. I hardly think Chris Clemons is the answer, but he might be the safest guy at free safety right now.
  • Yeremiah Bell struggled in coverage and that's never been his strong suit anyway. His age and declining athleticism are clearly catching up with him. Entering the final year of his deal at age 34 next season with a $4.3 million salary, this may very well be Bell's last season in Miami.

Special Teams
  • Blocked kicks aren't always the kicker's fault, but such a chip shot really should never be blocked because it doesn't need to be a line-drive shot. Dan Carpenter certainly had a rough day yesterday and it'll be interesting to see how he rebounds.
  • I might as well copy and paste this sentence every week, because Brandon Fields is simply phenomenal. While the rest of the team might be faltering, Fields is consistently doing his job at an elite level. He downed two of his three punts inside the 20 and was able to boot the ball from deep in Miami territory to the other team's 20, negating a field position advantage for Houston. He's the team MVP right now.
  • Clyde Gates obviously has blazing speed, but that's about all I've seen on returns thus far. His balance and instincts haven't looked great thus far, but it's still early.
  • Jason Trusnik had another holding penalty in this one. He's a good coverage guy, but he can't afford to be causing these kinds of penalties.

Conclusion

To start with the good news: I thought Chad Henne did some nice things for the second straight week even though it doesn't show in the box score. I'd like to see some more shots at the middle of the field, but in general I'm happy with how he's played so far. I also like how Daniel Thomas ran and how the receivers played. On defense, I was happy with the starting corners when they were healthy.

On the other side of the coin, the offensive line continues to be a huge problem. I don't see how it can possibly be fixed this year, which leads me to believe it's going to hold the offense back and really hurt the Dolphins' chances of winning games. It's fair to wonder how this unit is constantly regressing under a head coach with experience as a line coach. How ironic it would be if the offensive line is Sparano's undoing.

The defense has its share of problems too. The coverage from the backup corners, safeties, and linebackers continues to be an issue. The defensive line will probably be solid, but the pass rush is going to once again kill the Dolphins' chances at turnovers and big plays.

While this game certainly wasn't as ugly as the season opener against New England, it wasn't all that encouraging either. The Dolphins have played two good teams so far and we should get a better idea of where they are at when the schedule starts to become more favorable.

If this team is at least average, they should beat Cleveland this week. If they don't, we could be in for a very long and bumpy ride, followed by a lot of changes in 2012.


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Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Week Two Game Predictions

The first week of the NFL season is by far the most difficult to predict, because you never quite know how a team is going to be for the coming season and there are always surprises. I got just half my picks right (apparently I did worse than my mom in her office pool), so let's hope I do better in Week 2.

Last week's record: 8-8
2011 season record: 8-8 (50%)


Bills over Raiders — Everyone knew the Bills' offense was improving, but I don't think anyone expected them to be this good this fast. The Bills could continue to roll in their home opener against an iffy 1-0 Raiders eam.

Lions over Chiefs — Kansas City was obviously not as good as their playoff berth last year may indicate, and we really saw that in their demolition at the hands of the Bills in Week 1. Calvin Johnson should be healthy enough to play and the Lions could continue to impress.

Ravens over Titans — Aside from a few big plays, the Titans' opener was very ugly and they were unable to be a Jacksonville team that had just released its starting quarterback. Baltimore surprisingly shellacked Pittsburgh in Week 1 and should have no problem here.

Browns over Colts — Cleveland obviously isn't a very good team and they lost to a Bengals squad many thought was even worse in Week 1, but I do think they'll rebound. I also can't justify picking a Colts team that just looks lost without Peyton Manning.

Buccaneers over Vikings — It's a bit of an upset with the Vikings at home, but I just don't like Donovan McNabb as a quarterback anymore. The Bucs have a lot of young talent and I think Josh Freeman gets his team to rebound in Week 2.

Saints over Bears — Chicago upset (in my view) the Falcons in the first week of the season, but I don't think they are quite that good. New Orleans is aiming for a big game after losing to the Packers in the opener.

Jets over Jaguars — New York got pretty lucky with a gift-wrapped victory over Dallas last week, but I don't buy Jacksonville as a very good team. The Jets' defense should be able to handle them pretty easily.

Steelers over Seahawks — Coming off an embarrassing loss to their biggest rival in the opener, Pittsburgh has the good fortunate of playing a pretty bad Seattle team. I don't see any way the Steelers don't even their record up here.

Redskins over Cardinals — We saw how bad Arizona's defense is last week as rookie Cam Newton tore them to shreds, and Washington has a much better team than Carolina. I like the Redskins in this on.

Packers over Panthers — Speaking of Newton, I'm not buying stock or changing my stance on him just yet. The first overall pick is in big reality check this week against the defending champs, and there is no way he'll be able to keep up with Aaron Rodgers' offense.

Cowboys over 49ers — San Francisco won their home opener against a bad Seattle team thanks in large part to the special-teams heroics of Ted Ginn Jr., but they won't always be that lucky. Dallas has the superior talent and I expect Tony Romo to rebound after a tough loss to the Jets.

Broncos over Bengals — I was shocked the Bengals were able to win in Week 1 with a rookie quarterback playing most of the game. I really don't think they've arrived yet and I expect a veteran like Kyle Orton to be able to out-duel him.

Texans over Dolphins — As good as Chad Henne looked in the season opener, he's not going to be able to win it without a running game, offensive line, or defense. I don't expect the D to be that bad again, but they are playing yet another elite offense and I can't see Miami coming out on top.

Patriots over Chargers — Easily one of the best matchups of the week, this pits two elite offenses against each other. New England had some defensive troubles of their own in Week 1, but it's hard to bet against Tom Brady and the Pats' offense right now.

Falcons over Eagles — Michael Vick is certainly going to be amped up back playing in Atlanta and there is no doubt his team has talent, but I think the Falcons rebound from their Week 1 loss and turn the tables on Vick in this one.

Giants over Rams — New York was upset by their divisional rival Redskins in Week 1, but they have superior talent to the Rams and St. Louis got pretty banged up in the opener against Philly. I like the Giants to win this one.


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dolphins work out Brian Westbrook, four other running backs

NFL teams usually spend the early days of the week working on free agents, whether it be to replace players due to injuries or simply to update information for in-house scouting reports for potential signings at a later date.

The Miami Dolphins spent this past Tuesday working out a handful of running backs, headlined by former Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook. The news was actually broken by Westbrook on Twitter, who indicated that the workout went well but that "they need some other players right now."

Joining Westbrook were free agent running backs Thomas Clayton, Julius Jones, Dimitri Nance, and Kevin Smith. Clayton and Nance were let go by their former teams during final cuts, while Jones and Smith have been on the market all offseason after their 2010 contracts expired.

Westbrook is certainly the most accomplished of the bunch, having rushed for 6,335 yards and scored 71 offensive touchdowns in his career. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Eagles before playing in San Francisco last season, and at 32 with durability issues he's having trouble landing a permanent gig.

The 27-year-old Clayton has just seven carries in three regular season games with the Browns and Patriots. The Kansas State product was originally drafted by the 49ers in 2006 and has also spent time with the Seahawks.

Jones was drafted in the second round in 2004 when Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano were all employed by the Cowboys. He has amassed just over 5,000 rushing yards in seven seasons, starting four years in Dallas and two in Seattle before splitting last season as a backup with the Seahawks and Saints.

Signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State in 2010, Nance was signed off the practice squad by the Packers in September. He went on to appear in 12 games, averaging 2.6 yards on 36 carries and earning a Super Bowl ring in the team's victory over the Steelers. He was waived during final cuts in 2011.

Selected by the Lions in the third round out of UCF in 2008, Smith spent his first two seasons as the team's starting running back. He suffered a torn ACL late in the 2009 season and appeared in six games as a reserve in 2010 before a thumb injury landed him on I.R. After rushing for 1,856 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons, Smith was non-tendered as a restricted free agent in the 2011 offseason.

While free agent workouts are typical each week of the regular season, the fact that the Dolphins focused on the running back position could mean a few things. Rookie Daniel Thomas missed the opener with a hamstring injury and is still a question mark for Week 2, while Reggie Bush was only average against the Patriots and has never been able to handle a feature role in the past.

However, none of these running backs are particularly appealing and there is no guarantee any will be signed  by the Dolphins. Westbrook and Jones should be considered no more than stopgaps at this point in their career, while Clayton and Nance don't offer much upside. At just 24, Smith offers the best combination of youth and ability, but he has durability and performance concerns.

It's possible the Dolphins could end up replacing veteran backup Larry Johnson with one of these five, and he's the only one in the team's backfield that could even possibly be cut this season. (Lex Hilliard is too valuable on special teams and has versatility at fullback.) However, none of these players is an obvious upgrade.


Donald Thomas signs with Pats

Former Miami Dolphins starting guard Donald Thomas signed with the New England Patriots on Wednesday. Thomas should help provide depth on a Patriots offensive line that lost starting center Dan Koppen to a broken ankle in the season opener and has already done with numerous other injuries.

Drafted by the Dolphins as a raw project in the sixth round out of Connecticut in 2008, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Thomas impressed in his initial training camp and won the team's starting right guard job as a rookie.

However, a foot injury in his first regular season game wiped out his rookie season and he was benched in favor of Nate Garner during the 2009 season after starting the team's first 12 contests. The Dolphins ended up severing ties with him during final cuts last year and he later signed with the Detroit Lions, though he did not appear in a game.

Still just 25, Thomas has the potential to develop into a good player if he's coached up right, but his career has been on a downward spiral since his rookie season and his lack of practice-squad eligibility may hurt his career.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dolphins re-sign Will Allen amid secondary struggles

The Miami Dolphins have filled the void left by the hasty release of cornerback Benny Sapp, re-signing veteran corner Will Allen to a one-year contract.

Sapp was released Monday after being a major culprit on Tom Brady's 517-yard passing effort against the Dolphins' defense, including allowing a 99-yard touchdown reception by former Dolphins receiver Wes Welker.

Allen is likely to be installed immediately among the team's top three cornerbacks, joining official starters Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Expect to see a whole lot of Allen this Sunday against the high-powered Houston Texans offense.

Originally a first-round pick by the New York Giants out of Syracuse in 2001, Allen spent five seasons in New York before signing a four-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. He signed a contract extension with the team in 2009.

Allen excelled in coverage for the Dolphins, intercepting seven passes and totaling 45 pass deflections over four seasons. A torn ACL during the 2009 season landed him on injured reserve, and further knee complications wiped out his 2010 campaign.

Despite renegotiating his contract down to just $1.5 million in 2011, Allen missed time in training camp and the preseason with an injury and did not appear in a game until the preseason finale. In the end, the Dolphins chose Sapp over Allen in final cuts.

While Allen returns to a prominent position in the Dolphins' secondary, one thing that appears to be changing is his jersey number. Seventh-round rookie Jimmy Wilson took Allen's No. 25 following final cuts after wearing No. 35 during the preseason. Allen is currently listed as wearing No. 38, which had previously belonged to running back Patrick Cobbs.


Analysis

My issue with this signing is not that Allen is a bad player, because he's not. In fact, Allen was an underrated cover guy during his first stint in Miami. I'll admit his age and recent injury history concern me, but if he's healthy, he's an asset to any defense he's on, including the Dolphins'.

My problem is that the Dolphins made a football decision to keep Sapp over Allen in Week 1 and I fail to see how their minds could have changed after one bad game against an elite quarterback and offense.

It wasn't about money, as both players were in the final year of their deals and Allen was actually slated to make $100,000 less than Sapp in 2011. Both players had renegotiated their contracts in the offseason, with Allen going from $5.5 million to $1.5 million and Sapp from $1.9 million to $1.6 million.

The only other reasons you'd cut Allen and keep Sapp is because you thought Sapp was better in the nickel role (debatable, probably not true) or, as I've suggested, that Allen's age and knee problems caused you to worry if he could stay healthy for an entire NFL season. It was an entirely logical concern and one that I supported when I suggested Allen would be cut.

Either way, Sapp was your guy in Week 1, but now he isn't? This is a knee-jerk move by the Dolphins after a bad game and clearly isn't based on anything else. The mere fact that Allen's No. 25 was given to a rookie before Week 1 indicates the Dolphins had no prior plans to cut Sapp and bring back Allen. Teams don't give away a veteran's number if they know he's going to be back shortly.

NFL.com's Michael Lombardi makes a lot of good points about Sapp in this column, which I highly recommend reading. As Lombardi says, "If he was good enough to make the team and get the guarantee, then how can one bad play cost him his job?"

So my issue with these roster moves is not the re-signing of Allen, per se. If healthy, he'll give the Dolphins a third player capable of starting at cornerback, and one has to imagine Davis, Smith and the rest of the Dolphins' will rebound from the ugly Monday night game.

My problem is that this organization doesn't always seem to now what it's doing, seeing as how they either made a mistake in keeping Sapp or made a mistake in cutting him. The Dolphins committed to paying Sapp anyway, so he's gone from your nickel corner for the second straight year to not even in the top five in just a few days?

As Wilson and Nolan Carroll showed us Monday night, they aren't ready to play defense in the NFL. And if Allen should go down again and the Dolphins are left with just two capable (but young) corners, I'm going to be sitting here wondering why the team intentionally thinned it's depth, got rid of a player it had to play anyway, and didn't see it coming before the season opener.

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


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dolphins release Benny Sapp after disastrous opener

Last season, Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator John Bonamego was fired by the team shortly after a disastrous special teams performance that contributed to a blowout Monday Night Football loss to the New England Patriots.

The 2011 regular season opener brings another year, another embarrassing performance against the Patrios in prime time, and another immediate casualty among those employed by the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have terminated the contract of cornerback Benny Sapp, per his agent. As a vested veteran on the roster Week 1, Sapp will receive his fully 2011 salary of $1.9 million as termination pay.

Sapp was a constant victim in quarterback Tom Brady's 517-yard performance last night, which included a 99-yard touchdown reception by Wes Welker after the Dolphins turned it over on downs in the fourth quarter.

Acquired by the Dolphins from the Minnesota Vikings before last season in exchange for wide receiver Greg Camarillo, Sapp appeared in all 16 games (six starts) and totaled 41 tackles, two interceptions, and 10 pass deflections in 2010.

The team did not immediately replace Sapp on the active roster, but The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington reports the team may be in talks with veteran Will Allen for a renuion.

Allen was let go by the Dolphins during final cuts after losing out to a roster spot against Sapp. The 33-year-old started 53 games for the Dolphins before missing most of the past two seasons with a knee injury and also missed time in training camp this year.

The Dolphins also shuffled to cornerbacks on their depth chart, releasing undrafted rookie Vince Agnew. The team has reportedly signed former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Brandon King and it's likely King will replace Agnew on the practice squad.

The 24-year-old King started 35 of 46 games at cornerback while attending Purdue. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and appeared in four regular season games before landing on injured reserve.



Analysis

I'm sure most Dolphins fans will be happy to see Sapp go after yesterday, but I don't really see much sense in this move and I fail to understand how it helps the Dolphins in 2011.

If the Dolphins kept Sapp over Allen during final cuts and through Week 1, it was because they thought he was the more reliable nickel corner, or they were unsure Allen would be able to hold up all season after constant knee issues. Has any of that changed?

It certainly wasn't the money, as Allen was set to make just $1.5 million in the last year of a renegotiated contract. Sapp will make $1.9 million from the Dolphins this season despite his release, as his presence on the roster in Week 1 guarantees his salary for the season.

So now, after one horrendous game in which the team's two starting corners battled cramps and the team's fourth cornerback Nolan Carroll looked completely unprepared for NFL action, the Dolphins have cut their nickel corner and are may bring back a guy that hasn't played a regular season game since early 2009.

Allen is still a very good cornerback when healthy, but he is not a long-term option and I'm concerned he won't be able to stay healthy given his age and the time he's missed.

If he doesn't, the Dolphins will be without either man that competed for the nickel job in the preseason, and the we could see repeat performances of last night's ugliness this season.

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


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Dolphins vs. Patriots Game Observations

I'm sick and feeling pretty awful with the flu, so I'm going to skip the long intro and recap. Here are my observations from the Miami Dolphins' 38-24 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 1.


Offense

  • There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Chad Henne was absolutely one of him. I won't say he was perfect and he certainly missed on some throws in the red zone, but for the most part, I thought he played wonderfully and gave a performance that will win a game on most days. He made good decisions most of the game, hit open receivers, avoided mistakes, and commanded the offense like we hadn't seen in three years under Dan Henning. He has clearly taken to Brian Daboll's offense and the wider responsibilities clearly suit him, which makes you wonder why the staff didn't trust him before.
  • Henne even ran the ball well, setting a single-season career high in rushing yards after one game with 59 yards. While he'll never be mistaken for a scrambler, Henne showed impressive running ability and good decision-making when it came to throwing it versus tucking it away.
  • Reggie Bush ran hard in this one and took a number of hits as his line let him down often. You can tell he really wants to show everyone he can be a feature back. I still question whether or not he can because of his injury history, but smaller and less strong backs have done it, so one would think he should be capable. The Dolphins clearly think he should, as an active Larry Johnson was nowhere to be seen on short-yardage plays. Lex Hilliard did have one nice conversion from the fullback position, which is just further evidence that Lousaka Polite was indeed dispensable.
  • In general, I was pretty pleased with the way the Dolphins' receivers played. Brandon Marshall made some outstanding catches and really showcased his size and strength. Davone Bess overcame an early drop to make some nice catches and nearly scored a touchdown, while Brian Hartline found the end zone and had a few good grabs as well. Clyde Gates looks a little less comfortable right now, which is to be expect in a rookie.
  • Anthony Fasano had a detrimental holding penalty on the game's first drive, but he more than made up for it with some nice grabs over the middle and a beautiful one-hander near the end zone. Fasano tends to go up and down and isn't an elite tight end, but he did show that he can stretch the field and get open.
  • Jake Long didn't have his best game, but he was certainly the team's best lineman on an otherwise ugly day. Mike Pouncey predictably struggled with the Patriots' elite defensive tackles, Richie Incognito drew multiple holding penalties, and Vernon Carey and Marc Colombo were downright horrendous in all aspects. I swear, Colombo played so poorly I thought he was trying to let people by him. The Dolphins probably overestimated his ability when they installed him as a starter following a down season in Dallas, and I'd much rather see someone like Nate Garner given a shot. The line was simply horrendous and this kind of play will doom Henne, Bush and the Dolphins' season if it's not fixed in a hurry.

Defense
  • The Dolphins' defensive line was supposed to be a strength, but it certainly wasn't in this one. The unit got absolutely no pressure in this one and it really helped the Patriots' passing game. Losing Tony McDaniel to injury hurt, but the team is supposed to be four starters deep at end and they just didn't get it done. Aside from Jared Odrick's lucky interception and return, there isn't anything to highlight here.
  • Aside from one Cameron Wake sack in the second quarter, the Dolphins' pass rush was nonexistent. Obviously the secondary was bad on its own, but the lack of pressure on Brady certainly didn't help. Whether it was Wake or Jason Taylor or Koa Misi, no one could get a hand on Brady. I literally couldn't believe how well Nate Solder controlled Wake for most of the game, as I expected it to be a huge advantage for the Dolphins. You certainly have to tip your cap to the rookie and hop the hard-working Wake can figure things out.
  • In all my years watching Auburn games, the occasional Cardinals game, and every Dolphins game in 2010, I have never seen Karlos Dansby play so poorly. I counted at least four missed tackled in the first half a lone, and he was consistently failing to wrap up and make the play. His body of work is such that I'm not worried yet, but it was indeed a terrible performance and one that really hurt the Dolphins early on in this game.
  • Where to start with the Dolphins' secondary? The starters Vontae Davis and Sean Smith didn't play particularly well and they consistently were out of position. Then the injuries started happening which forced Benny Sapp, Nolan Carroll, and Jimmy Wilson into bigger roles, and things just got ugly. Sapp had a terrible game and was unable to cover Wes Welker or the Patriots' tight ends with any kind of ability. Carroll had as bad a game as I've seen from an NFL corner in a long time, and he clearly isn't ready for a defensive role. I'm not crying for Will Allen to be re-signed like some are and I think a pass rush will help significantly, but the corners just have to do a better job on their own. The cramps issue is also inexcusable, considering the team was playing in their home stadium and the Patriots didn't seem to have any issues.
  • Reshad Jones didn't stand out as he replaced Chris Clemons, so expect this situation to remain fluid. Jones has more upside of the two, but he is often out of position and his coverage skills aren't where they need to be.
  • Matching up Yeremiah Bell on the Patriots' tight ends is just a disaster waiting to happen, and it certainly was again when it happened last night. Bell is what he is at age 33, and I'm suspecting this will be his last year in Miami as he could be a cap casualty in the offseason.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter made his only field goal attempt and all three extra points, so there's certainly nothing to complain about there. His kickoffs were a little disappointing considering the NFL rule change, and he failed to record a touchback in four attempts.
  • Speaking of kickoffs, I thought Clyde Gates looked a little unprepared and it was clear his speed alone wasn't going to be enough. He didn't get much help to work with aside from when his blockers committed penalties. Jason Trusnik alone was flagged twice, I believe. Davone Bess was wholly unsuccessful on punt returns, as usual.
  • Brandon Fields had another nice night and he's become extremely reliable and effective as a punter. I would have liked to have seen a little better coverage, as Julian Edelman averaged 11 yards on five returns.

Conclusion

I don't even know what to say after this one. On one hand, it was a bit of a bizarro game with the Dolphins' defense struggling and Chad Henne lighting up the box score. On the other, we saw some things we definitely expected, such as the offensive line being a problem.

I'm not all that concerned about the defense. As bad a performance as it was, they were playing an elite NFL offense and simply had a bad outing. But I trust Mike Nolan and I like the overall talent the unit has, so I expect them to use this came as motivation and I can't see a repeat performance happening.

I really liked what I saw from Henne, and even though it was just one game, it was nice to see him move the ball the way he did. There were certainly kinks that needed to be worked out, especially in the red zone. But considering how hard Henne has worked this offseason and the strides he's made in this offense to date, it at least seems possible can turn the corner this season.

The big issue is the offensive line. It's nice that Henne excelled in spite of the line's performance, but he can't be expected to do it every week and not having a running game (again due to the line) is going to make the quarterback's job much harder.

The line was supposed to be Tony Sparano's area of expertise when he arrived in Miami, but it's been a constant issue going on four seasons now. Unless he and line coach Dave DeGuglielmo can get this thing turned around in a hurry, the staff and Henne may all find themselves unemployed in January.


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Dolphins vs. Patriots - Live Chat

Join me tonight for another live chat as the Miami Dolphins host the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football in their 2011 regular season opener!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Five questions heading into MNF vs. the Patriots

It's hard to say the Dolphins have gotten worse than they were a year ago with a 7-9 record.

The defense has only gotten better, with its elite defensive line all returning, Jason Taylor and Kevin Burnett upgrading the linebacker corps, and the young, promising secondary a year more experienced.

The offense, as terrible as it was, ranked 31st in the NFL last year, so there is really nowhere to go but up. Quarterback Chad Henne has also looked promising in Brian Daboll's new offense and knows he's on his last legs in Miami.

That being said, the Dolphins are still looking up at both the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East, and Buffalo's performance in the Week 1 opener is cause for some concern in Miami as well.

The Dolphins have the talent to contend for a playoff spot, but they are in a tough division and there are far too many question marks (especially on offense) to really figure out just how this team is going to do in 2011.

We'll know a lot more tomorrow night as the Dolphins face the Patriots in their regular season opener. The Patriots are understandably seven point favorites on the road coming off a 14-2 season in 2010.

As the Dolphins try to beat the Patriots for the first time since December 2009, here are five things I'm watching in the Monday Night Football matchup.



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Dolphins extend Garner, Culver; make practice squad moves

The Miami Dolphins have locked up two key backups for the 2012 season, agreeing to contract extensions with offensive lineman Nate Garner and safety Tyrone Culver.

Both Garner and Culver were entering the final years of their deals. Culver will receiver $700,000 in 2011 and $800,000 in 2012, while Garner will earn $800,000 in 2011 and $1.4 million in 2012.

While neither player is guaranteed to make the team again next year, it's a promising sign for both that the team wanted to make an effort to at least keep them around. Culver has been a quality backup safety for the past three seasons, while Garner has emerged as the Dolphins' top backup lineman due to his versatility.

Culver is not a realistic option to ever earn a starting job, but he does provide some insurance for camp in 2012 with Yeremiah Bell entering his age 33 season and being a potential cap casualty in the offseason with a salary of $4.3 million in the final year of his deal next season.

Now 26, Garner returns from a foot injury that forced him to miss the entire 2010 campaign. He sits on the depth chart as the primary backup to Marc Colombo at right tackle, but he's worked at all five positions during his time with the team and should see significant playing time as a reserve in 2011.

It's also not out of the question that Garner could draw some starts this season, depending on how healthy Colombo and Vernon Carey remain and how well they perform. Colombo is coming off a down year in Dallas and looked shaky in the preseason, while Carey's transition to guard isn't looking all that promising either.

In other Dolphins contract news, newly signed lineman Ryan Cook received a two-year contract with base salaries of $685,000 this season and an even $1 million next year. Tight end Dante Rosario received a one-year contract worth $685,000.


Feinga, Russell added to practice squad

As expected, offensive guard Ray Feinga was re-signed to the team's practice squad after clearing waivers Saturday. He was let go two days earlier when the Dolphins re-signed running back Larry Johnson as insurance to an injured Daniel Thomas.

Feinga vastly outperformed disappointing former third-rounder John Jerry in the preseason and even worked at tackle some, but only Feinga was practice-squad eligible and the Dolphins were correct in assuming he'd clear waivers.

To make room for Feinga, the Dolphins released undrafted rookie guard Garrett Chisolm from the practice squad. The South Carolina alum spent most of the preseason on the non-football injury list after tearing his ACL during his senior season. He could be back down the line.

The team also signed second-year safety Anderson Russell to the practice squad. He takes the place of tight end Brett Brackett, who was let go with an injury settlement after breaking his hand in practice.

Measuring in at 6-feet and 205 pounds, Russell was a four-year starter at Ohio State and appeared in two games with the Redskins last season after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He was waived during final cuts on Sept. 3.

Russell provides depth for the Dolphins at safety with Chris Clemons currently nursing an injury. Second-year man Reshad Jones is expected to draw the start Monday against New England.


With Clay ailing, Dugan works out

Rookie and projected starting fullback Charles Clay is out against the Patriots with a hamstring injury, but don't expect to see Lousaka Polite back with the Dolphins to replace him.

Lex Hilliard will likely man the spot against New England on Monday, with tight ends Jeron Mastrud, Dante Rosario, or Will Yeatman helping to pick up the slack.

The Dolphins also worked out former Vikings tight end/fullback Jeff Dugan this week, although no signing appears imminent and a roster move is unlikely before tomorrow's season opener.

A seventh-round pick out of Maryland in 2004, Dugan has spent his entire seven-year career in Minnesota. He has started 22 of the 79 games in which he's played, catching 27 passes for 191 yards and three scores while rushing for 23 yards in 11 carries.

The Dolphins appear content with their stable of tight ends as of now, and the 30-year-old Dugan doesn't represent an obvious upgrade anywhere. However, he is your typical blocking H-back type at 6-foot-4 and 258 pounds, so the team may keep him in mind if further injuries occur.

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


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Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Week One Game Predictions

We were treated to a phenomenal season opener Thursday night in the Packers' win over the Saints, and that puts me at a perfect 1-0 for my game predictions this year. The season's first weekend of NFL football kicks off tomorrow, so it's time to predict the rest of the games.

Last week's record: n/a
2010 season record: 168-88 (65.6%)


Falcons over Bears — The Falcons are my projected Super Bowl champions this year (though with the way the Packers played Thursday, a repeat is in the cards). I like Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds to get off to a fast start and edge the Bears in this one.

Browns over Bengals — I'm not a huge fan of Colt McCoy as an NFL starter or even Peyton Hillis as a long-term starting running back, but the Bengals are back to square one with Andy Dalton and I don't see them being productive this year.

Chiefs over Bills — I think the Chiefs were a bit of a fluke last year, and it doesn't help that Matt Cassel is banged up and he's already lost his starting tight end for the year. I do like them to beat an overrated Bills team though.

Eagles over Rams — Sam Bradford has the Rams up and coming, but I don't think they are really ready to compete with the elite teams of the NFC. I like the Eagles in this one.

Buccaneers over Lions — Detroit is much improved over recent years, but their offensive line and secondary still scare me and we've yet to see Matthew Stafford stay healthy. The Bucs are the third-best team in a very tough division, but they are pretty good themselves and should handle the Lions.

Titans over Jaguars — David Garrard obviously wasn't the future in Jacksonville, but I think it's a big mistake to give a veteran first-team reps all preseason and camp only to cut him right before Week 1. The Titans will take advantage of this mess and ride to victory on Chris Johnson's back.

Steelers over Ravens — This remains one of the best rivalries in the game between two very good teams, but Pittsburgh always seems to have the upper edge and I don't see what Baltimore's done to change that. Steelers win this one in a close battle.

Texans over Colts — A Colts team without Peyton Manning is one you want to play. Houston has been on the cusp of winning this division for a few years, and I don't see how Indy's offense competes with the Texans'.

Cardinals over Panthers — I can't say I'm a fan of Arizona's roster, and Kevin Kolb is still very much a question mark. Carolina is still much worse though and is going to have trouble improving upon last year's 2-14 performance.

Chargers over Vikings — My predicted AFC champion, the Chargers are ready to make a run after a fluky year that saw them miss the playoffs despite having both their offense and defense rank near the top of the league. Minnesota has too many question marks entering the season.

49ers over Seahawks — Seattle was a playoff team last year and even stunned the Saints, but I'm not sold. Both teams have serious quarterback issues here, which is why I'm taking the home team.

Giants over Redskins — New York has already lost a ridiculous amount of players due to injury, but they still have a quarterback. That's one more than the Redskins do, and that should help the Giants to victory.

Jets over Cowboys — I'm big fan of Dallas (as I seem to be every year), but the Jets have built up such a good roster of players. I'll take New York at what should be a very emotional home opener.

Patriots over Dolphins — As much as I want to see Miami win, I just can't justify picking them. New England is clearly the better team, while the Dolphins have too many question marks right now to accurately judge what kind of season this will be for them.

Broncos over Raiders — Denver wised up, keeping their productive quarterback from 2010 and relegating Tim Tebow to the bench. That alone gives them an edge over a Raiders team that is still searching for it's long-term signal caller.


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