Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dolphins at Cardinals - Live Chat

Work interfered with my availability during the first half but let's talk Dolphins football for the second half of the game at Arizona!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two familiar faces return to Dolphins in flurry of roster moves

On July 28, 2011, the Miami Dolphins acquired running back Reggie Bush from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for safety Jonathon Amaya and a swap of 2012 sixth-round picks.

It's safe to say that deal was a steal for the Dolphins, as Bush topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2011 and is off to a hot start in 2012, while Amaya notched seven special teams tackles for the Saints last season and was waived during final cuts last month.

Now, the Dolphins have essentially given up even less in the deal, as Amaya has returned to the Dolphins on a free agent contract signed Tuesday. Amaya joins linebacker Mike Rivera, who was with the team for one game in 2010, as "new" faces on the roster.

To make room for Amaya and Rivera, the Dolphins waived offensive lineman Ray Feinga and safety Troy Nolan. One of the Dolphins' final cuts, Feinga was re-signed on Sept. 4 but but spent the team's first three games inactive, while Nolan was added off waivers from the Texans following final cuts. He had appeared in all three games this season on special teams, failing to record a tackle and getting hit with an illegal block penalty on the initial second half kickoff in Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Jets.

In another roster move that did not clear up a roster spot, the team released offensive lineman Artis Hicks from injured reserve with the designation of "Failure to Disclose Medical Condition." Hicks was placed on I.R. with a neck injury on Sept. 4 when Feinga was re-signed.

And finally, the Dolphins worked out defensive backs Aaron Berry and Morgan Trent today, according to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. Neither was signed and it's possible they were competing for the same roster spot that went to Amaya.


Jonathon Amaya

A Panama City native, Amaya was a second-team All-WAC selection at Nevada, where he racked up 236 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, seven interceptions and a defensive touchdown in 44 career games. He went undrafted in 2010 and signed with the Dolphins as a rookie free agent.

After beginning the regular season on the Dolphins' practice squad, Amaya was promoted to the active roster and proceeded to notch 13 special teams tackles in only 10 appearances, leading the team. He was dealt to the Saints in July 2011 in the trade that brought Reggie Bush to Miami and went on to total seven special teams tackles for New Orleans that season.

Despite totaling 12 tackles for the Saints in the 2012 preseason, Amaya was waived during final cuts. He returns to Miami having played just 63 career defensive snaps, including nine as a rookie with the Dolphins in 2010.


Mike Rivera

A Kansas native, Rivera played college football close to home with the Jayhawks. He was a three-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, closing out his collegiate career with 93 tackles, two sacks, and four forced fumbles as a senior in 2008.

After going undrafted in 2009, Rivera signed with the Chicago Bears and totaled 10 tackles during the preseason before being waived during final cuts. He was signed to the Tennessee Titans' practice squad to begin the 2009 season and remained there through the end of the year, re-signing with the team in 2010 and appeared in three preseason games before landing on injured reserve and being released before the regular season.

The Green Bay Packers signed Rivera to the practice squad in October 2010, where he remained until being signed to the Dolphins' active roster on Dec. 29. Rivera was inactive for the team's season finale and was waived by the team the following August.

Rivera joined the New England Patriots' practice squad in November 2011, finishing out the season there before being re-signed by the team in the offseason. He made the team's active roster out of training camp and appeared in the team's first two regular season games as a special-teamer, recording zero tackles. He was waived by the team on Sept. 18.


Analysis

Addressing Hicks first, I find it interesting the team released him from injured reserve and it's the first time I've ever seen anyone released for failure to disclose a medical condition. Hicks' $3 million salary for 2012 was guaranteed as he was still with the team when the regular season began, but that designation appears to indicate the Dolphins play to go after some or all of that money based on Hicks' supposed deception of his health.

Moving on, I'm not shocked to see Feinga and Nolan gone at this point. Nolan hadn't shown well on special teams yet and clearly didn't show any upside at safety in practice, making him easy to part ways with. The oft-waived Feinga is expendable again now that Jake Long appears to be fully recovered from his sprained MCL suffered in August. The team still has Will Yeatman on the 53-man roster as a practice backup for Long, though he too has yet to be active in 2012.

I'm glad to see Amaya back, as he was a stellar special teams player as a rookie and I always felt he had some developmental upside as a safety, although the Saints clearly found him pretty expendable during final cuts. Amaya will take Nolan's spot on the roster and his place in Darren Rizzi's special teams unit, meaning he should be active as early as this weekend at Arizona.

Rivers profiles strictly as a special teams player as well and isn't really a threat to anyone at the linebacker position. It's possible he could push Austin Spitler off the roster with a good showing, although I consider that unlikely. Rivera is on a week-to-week basis with the club and is no lock to dress on game days.

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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dolphins-Jets Game Observations

You could just feel this one coming. As soon as the Dolphins' showed some promise in their decisive 35-13 victory over the Raiders in Week 2, the Dolphins failed to take advantage of a weak performance by the Jets in Week 3, losing in overtime by a score of 23-20.

I'll get into my long-term thoughts a bit later, but here are my specific observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Jets...


Offense

  • As has been the case the last two weeks, I'm fairly happy with what I've seen from Ryan Tannehill. He never really looks rattled or like the game is too big for him and he seems to have a good command of the offense. This wasn't his best day and he was certainly off on some throws, with the pick-six being just a terrible decision. I didn't think the play-calling did him any favors, either. I'd really like to see the Dolphins roll him out more and let him throw more medium passes, because it seems like their either abandon the pass altogether or let him throw these long-shot deep passes when it's too late.
  • Reggie Bush picked up right where he left off in this one with 10 carries for 61 yards in the first half. He continues to show good vision and burst as a reliable starting back. Unfortunately, we suffered a bit of a scare when he suffered a knee injury just before the half. (I should say I don't blame the coaching staff for this—the Jets had two timeouts and I have no issue with running the clock out and seeing if you happen get a big gain. Bush did come out of the locker room and was running on the sideline a bit, so hopefully this is something he'll be able to return from in Week 4.
  • I've been a big defender of Daniel Thomas lately, which means I took a lot of crap from today's game. There was no excuse for his fumble and he seemed to have a far higher percentage of "nothing" carries than either Bush or Lamar Miller. I did find it interesting that the Dolphins stuck with Thomas late in the game, and I'm glad they didn't bench him entirely for his one mistake. Miller certainly showed promise though and Thomas will need to step his game up if he wants to remain Bush's primary backup.
  • Just awesome to see fullback Jorvorskie Lane score his first NFL touchdown after the road he took to the NFL. What an incredible story and hopefully he continues to develop in Miami.
  • This game was a prime example of the Dolphins' issues at wide receiver, as the team got almost no production from the group aside from Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano. After a huge day against Oakland, Brian Hartline didn't notch a reception until overtime when he made one of his patented diving/falling/toe-tapping numbers. Then you had Legedu Naanee, who was invisible in 18 offensive snaps and Anthony Armstrong, who had two huge drops that could've changed the game. This receiving corps and the play-calling is certainly not helping Tannehill do his job, which just makes the rookie quarterback's performance this season all the more impressive.
  • I thought the offensive line did a very good job in this one in all facets. They consistently opened up running lanes for Bush and the other backs, and the pass protection was spot-on as Tannehill wasn't taken down once and was hardly pressured that I recall. I'm especially happy with Mike Pouncey, who is rapidly becoming one of the NFL's best centers.


Defense

  • The Dolphins' defensive line continues to be a Jekyll and Hyde unit. One one hand, they are tremendous at stopping the run and the interior linemen are top-notch. On the other hand, this team is absolutely horrible at getting pressure on the quarterback. Either opposing passers somehow muster insane pocket awareness when they play the Dolphins, or Miami is just constantly late at getting there. Cameron Wake has played better than his numbers indicate, but it's insane that he's sack-less through three games and even without any help he's got to get to the quarterback more than he does. Combine that with the very underwhelming Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon (who actually shared a sack yesterday but really didn't play well) and the Dolphins may very well be the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL.
  • The Dolphins got a major lift with tight end Dustin Keller out of the game, making things much easier on the linebackers. Nobody from this unit really stood out to me yesterday, although Shonn Greene certainly makes it easy to look like a quality run defender solely because of how bad he is.
  • Sean Smith was beaten numerous times only to be bailed out by Mark Sanchez's ineptitude, and it's hard not to come out of this game feeling like a good quarterback would have shredded this secondary. Richard Marshall made a nice play on the early interception and was on the receiving end of some very ticky-tack penalties, but he didn't have his best game, either. Chris Clemons, too, didn't have a great game but did end up with an interception thanks to a terrible fade throw by Sanchez.


Special Teams

  • It's easy to blame Dan Carpenter for his two missed kicks, and obviously that could have changed the game significantly. But I'm not going to sit here and blame one of the team's most consistent players for messing up when the Dolphins should have won this game decisively.
  • I thought Brandon Fields did a nice job handing a low snap in the end zone and drawing contact on a play that ended up giving the Dolphins continued possession. He was backed up in his own end zone and didn't crumble with a bad snap.
  • Marcus Thigpen remains solid on kickoffs, though he needs batter blocking up front if he's going to get that average farther from 20 and closer to 30.
  • Don't ice the kicker. Just don't do it. First, statistics show a kicker is more likely to make a kick after a timeout. And secondly, only icing the kicker gets people second-guessing you if you screw it up. If you don't call a timeout and the guy makes it, oh well. But if you call a timeout and the guy misses on that null play, you look like a jackass. So don't ice the kicker.


Conclusion

For at least a half of this game, the Jets were a joke. Sanchez and Greene was terrible as usual, the defense was a shadow of its former self, their players were dropping from injuries left and right. On a crucial third down they threw an OUT ROUTE TO TIM TEBOW THAT DOINKED OFF HIS HELMET.

And that's the team Miami lost to. More than anything else, I came away from this game feeling as if the Jets constantly tried to give this game away, and Miami constantly just gave it back and failed to capitalize. The early second half turnovers killed any momentum the team had, and that was follow by terrible offensive play-calling and some bad coaching decisions.

I come away from this game happy with individuals like Tannehill, Bush and Pouncey, but this game also makes me realize just how far they have to go to be a consistent winner. We all saw what they did against Oakland in Week 2, but the reality is they can't put that performance together on a regular basis, or even in back-to-back weeks. I've said it a handful of times in the last 24 hours, but it's still true: a good team beats the Jets by 30 yesterday.

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill in their roster and most cannot be filled during the season barring a handful of breakouts. But what they can do is work on their consistency, correct the play-calling and limit coaches' mistakes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dolphins swap Ryan Baker for Andre Fluellen

As I said last week when the Miami Dolphins re-signed defensive tackle Ryan Baker, the former undrafted free agent offers a familiar body for depth purposes but essentially no upside. "I suspect Baker is on a week-to-week basis with the club and probably won't make it the entire season without being released at some point," as I put it.

It turns out Baker made it exactly one week, as the Dolphins waived Baker exactly seven days after signing him. To fill his roster spot, the team signed free agent defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, who played college football up the road at Florida State and was formerly a member of the Detroit Lions.

Fluellen likely signed a one- or two-year contract for the veteran minimum or close to it, as he too will be on a week-to-week basis with the team. He will wear Baker's No. 90 in practice and in games if he is activated.


Background

A Cartersville, Ga. native, Fluellen played high school football at the same school as former Dolphins' running back Ronnie Brown, although their time there did not overlap. He chose to attend FSU over Florida, committing to the defensive side of the ball after playing both ways as a prep player.

After totaling six tackles in 12 reserve appearances for the Seminoles as a redshirt freshman in 2004, Fluellen moved into the starting lineup and remained there his final three seasons. He played in 47 games during his collegiate career while starting 27, racking up 81 tackles (18 for a loss), five sacks and five pass deflections.

Drafted in the third round (87th overall) by the Detroit Lions in 2008, Fluellen played in eight games (two starts) as a rookie and recorded seven tackles and as pass deflection working at both tackle and end on the defensive line.

In 2009, Fluellen set personal highs that remain to this day, starting 14 games (three starts) and totaling 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He started zero of 29 games played over the last two seasons, recording just 21 tackles and a sack (in 2010).

After amassing seven tackles and a sack in the 2012 preseason, Fluellen was released during final cuts when the team opted to keep five defensive ends rather than five defensive tackles. Ineligible for the practice squad due to NFL experience, Fluellen was a free agent the first two weeks of the regular season.

Fluellen initially worked out for the Dolphins on Tuesday, Sept. 18, beating out fellow free-agent defensive tackles Remi Ayodele (brother of former Dolphins' linebacker Akin Ayodele) and Daniel Muir for a contract.


Analysis

The Dolphins obviously had seen all they needed from Baker, who as I've said before doesn't really offer any upside. The team is obviously content with seventh-round rookie Kheeston Randall as a rotational player and it appears they'd rather bring in a fresh face to observe rather than continue with Baker.

Fluellen is a capable backup with NFL experience, although he has to be considered a disappointment as a former third-round pick that hasn't started a game since 2009. He obviously didn't come close to solving the Lions' woes at the position, which is why they've invested so heavily over the past couple years with Corey Williams and draft picks Sammie Hill, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

A better pass rusher than run stuffer, Fluellen will attempt to take to defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers' tutelage well, or his time in Miami could be short. With Tony McDaniel still on the shelf with an ankle injury, Fluellen could get a chance to mix in as a reserve against the Jets and potentially earn a longer stay with the team.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dolphins-Raiders Game Observations

What a game, huh?

After a thoroughly unimpressive season opener at Houston that involved a bevvy or turnovers and lacked an offensive touchdown, the Miami Dolphins exploded in their 2012 Sun Life Stadium debut in Week 2 with a sound 35-13 victory over the helpless Oakland Raiders.

It was truly a tail of two halves in this one, as Carson Palmer surpassed 200 yards passing in the first half and the Raiders entered the third quarter with a 13-10 lead. It was all Dolphins in the second half, however, as they controlled the ball on the ground, tightened up on defense and won the field position battle.

The Dolphins are 1-1 along with the rest of the AFC East and will look to double the number in the win column in a big divisional game in Week 3 when they host the Jets. Until then, here are my thoughts and observations from the team's Week 2 win over the Raiders...


Offense

  • Ryan Tannehill certainly didn't light things up in this one, but I thought he played pretty well nonetheless. He played mistake-free football after last week's turnover-fest and did a much better job evading pressure and going through his reads. And, of course, he ended up with his first two career touchdowns (one rushing, one throwing) in an overall solid performance.
  • Reggie Bush stole the show today with a tremendous 172-yard performance on the ground while adding 25 more yards through the air. He should excellent vision and balance while turning on the jets we all know he has at just the right times. He and Lamar Miller got some great blocking today and they really took advantage. I thought the rookie too had a very good day and should earn more playing time even if Daniel Thomas (concussion) returns soon.
  • If Bush was the Dolphins' player of the game today, wide receiver Brian Hartline was easily the runner-up. Hartline shredded the Raiders' secondary on comeback after comeback to the tune of nine catches for 111 yards. He showed tremendous rapport with Tannehill despite missing the entire preseason due to injury and is emerging as the Dolphins' clear-cut best receiver, as many of us expected. I swear, the guy makes at least one fantastic diving/toe-tapping catch every week.
  • Jake Long had an uncharacteristically bad first half and was dominated by Matt Shaughnessy at times. You have to wonder if he's still a little dinged up, and if so, hopefully he's able to recover while playing. He was much better in the second half, though, and dominated in the running game.
  • The rest of the offensive line did a nice job run blocking as well, especially in the second half. Mike Pouncey is playing some great football right now and Jonathan Martin rebounded from a weak debut and weak first half (at one point I swear he was sitting down trying to block) to help the Dolphins' offense move the ball. It'd be absolutely fantastic if the offensive line could come together and develop as a unit, because it looked to be a major work-in-progress before the season.


Defense

  • Through two games, Cameron Wake has four tackles and zero sacks, but the truth is he's having a very strong season thus far. I swear Wake was held 47 times today and the referees seemed to miss all of them. The guy is a beast and unfortunately he's the team's only real pass rusher, so it's hard for him to do it alone. Still, as good as he's playing, the sacks will surely come.
  • I feel like a broken record here, but Randy Starks and Paul Soliai both had great games today. Starks is so good at getting leverage and pushing into the backfield, while Soliai has simply gotten so good at clogging the middle and making stops. I was content to let Soliai walk in the offseason with the switch to the 4-3, but I am so glad the team kept him, and on a fairly bargain deal.
  • Karlos Dansby led the team in tackles, but I thought it was a very weak showing for the Dolphins' well-paid middle linebacker. He made a few nice plays in coverage but was also exposed a few times as well. A few of his low-lights included taking a terrible angle and showing a lack of anticipation on Mike Goodson's 64-yard touchdown and whiffing on a tackle that could have resulted in a safety. (Sorry Karlos, but an actual Hall of Famer makes that play.) Combine that with a childish move in which he ripped he ball out of an official's arms after the play and I've just completely had enough of the guy.
  • The secondary had an up-and-down day, but really tightened up in the second half. This was particularly true for Sean Smith, who got beat a few times early but didn't give up much in the last two quarters. The Dolphins did lose Richard Marshall to a back injury, though, and will be awfully thin at corner if he can't go next week. I will say though that I was pleasantly surprised with how Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson held up in coverage.
  • Chris Clemons was late getting to the ball a few times and once again got dinged up. On the other hand, I thought Reshad Jones played pretty well and made a nice play on an interception for the Dolphins' first turnover of 2012.

Special Teams
  • Dan Carpenter had an easy day today, converting all five extra points and turning his only would-be field goal attempt into a nice little pooch punt.
  • Meanwhile, Brandon Fields was excellent again with four of his six punts landing inside the 20 and a long of 59 yards. If he somehow managed to poison the Raiders' Shane Lechler while he was in Miami, Fields will have a shot at being the AFC's punter in the Pro Bowl.
  • Marcus Thigpen averaged 14 yards on five punt returns, which is more than acceptable. I also felt he was a couple good blocks away from breaking one or two even longer. I found it interesting that the team seems to use Davone Bess in certain situations when the punt is deep in Miami territory, so perhaps they value his sure hands/decision-making in those situations.

Conclusion

There's certainly a lot to like about this win for the Dolphins. Mistake-free football for Tannehill along with a few nicely-engineered drives, for one thing. A tremendous running game and a huge victory for the Dolphins' offensive line against the Dolphins' defensive line. The halftime adjustments for Kevin Coyle's defense and the pure dominance of the defensive line against the run.

That being said, let's not start buying our plane tickets for the playoffs just yet. This team took advantage of a fairly weak Oakland team that doesn't much diverse talent.  The Dolphins' still gave up too many big plays in the passing game and struggled to get to the quarterback for the second straight week.

I think the Dolphins found the perfect mix of run vs. pass on offense, and that's the way they need to move the ball to take pressure off the rookie quarterback. I think the Dolphins have some talented pieces on defense but really need a handful of guys to step up for them to be great.

We've seen before the Dolphins follow a poor game with a great one, only to revert back to the bad ways the next week. The Jets game in Week 3 will be a huge test in seeing if the Dolphins can carry over and build on the success they had today. If that happens, it's quite possibly this team that struggled so much in the preseason can take advantage of a week schedule and create a solid foundation to build upon in 2013.

Dolphins vs. Raiders - Live Chat

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dolphins re-sign Ryan Baker

Left with an open roster spot following Tuesday's release of linebacker Sammy Brown, the Miami Dolphins signed a veteran to fill the vacancy. Although it's probably not the veteran many fans had been hoping for.

Rather than sign a veteran receiver or cornerback, the Dolphins have brought back defensive tackle Ryan Baker, who had spent the past three seasons with the club before being let go during final cuts on Aug. 31.

Originally undrafted out of Purdue in 2009, Baker has bounced between the practice squad and active roster with the Dolphins, appearing in 16 games (zero starts) while amassing seven tackle, a half-sack and a pass deflection.

Although Tony McDaniel is still recovering from an ankle injury, his return is curious considering his lack of upside and yesterday's return of undrafted rookie Chas Alecxih as an extra practice body at the position.

Quite simply, Baker is a familiar face with some NFL experience that is easy to cut and re-sign as much as needed because he doesn't draw mass interest from other teams.

I suspect Baker is on a week-to-week basis with the club and probably won't make it the entire season without being released at some point. He's not even a lock to be active this coming Sunday against the Raiders, as the Dolphins held up just fine in the season opener with promising seventh-rounder Kheeston Randall behind starters Randy Starks and Paul Soliai.

Check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dolphins waive Sammy Brown, make practice squad moves

The Miami Dolphins made a handful of roster moves Tuesday, including one that is sure to cause a portion of the fan base to overreact.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan, who gained national notoriety on Hard Knocks after being dubbed "7-Eleven" by Reggie Bush because because he was "always open," was released from the Dolphins' practice squad. Hogan was waived by the Dolphins during final cuts on Aug. 31 and was re-signed to the practice squad to begin the season.

The Dolphins, who already had an open spot on the practice squad with Saturday's promotion of linebacker Jonathan Freeny, signed wide receiver Brian Tyms and defensive tackle Chas Alecxih to the practice squad. Alecxih spent training camp with the Dolphins in 2012 after going undrafted out of Pittsburgh, while Tyms was signed by the San Francisco 49ers out of Florida A&M this summer.

The Dolphins also waived linebacker Sammy Brown from the active roster just 10 days after claiming him off waivers from the St. Louis Rams. Brown was inactive for the Dolphins' regular season opener against Houston on Sunday.


Chas Alecxih

Originally a walk-on at Pitt in 2007, Alecxih earned a full scholarship in 2009 while working as a reserve defensive tackle. He went on to start 13 games as a junior in 2010, recording 57 tackles (nine for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. As a senior, Alecxih again totaled 57 tackles while adding a team-high 15.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.

The 6-foot-3, 304-pound Alecxih signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in May, working as reserve defensive tackle and wearing No. 66. He totaled two tackles during the team's first two preseason games but did not see action in the third and was waived on Aug. 25 during the first wave of cuts.

Alecxih's release was documented in the fourth episode of HBO's Hard Knocks, during which general manager Jeff Ireland told Alecxih the practice squad remained a possibility.


Brian Tyms

A Fort Lauderdale native, Tyms was physically abused by both parents and spent much of his youth in group homes. He played just one season of high school football at Dillard and initially attended a community college without a football program. Tyms was turned away after attempting to walk on at Florida State and later transferred to Florida A&M, where he caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown as a junior. As a senior in 2011, Tyms ranked third on the team with 38 receptions, 538 yards and three scores.

A physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds with 4.4 speed, the very raw Tyms went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft last April and signed with the San Francisco 49ers where he was able to study under future Hall of Famer Randy Moss. He caught three passes for 32 yards in three preseason contests before being waived during the first round of cuts on Aug. 27.

Tyms' initial contact with the Dolphins' organization came on Aug. 31, when he worked out for the team along with fellow receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Donte' Stallworth.


Analysis

Hopefully he Hard Knocks hype has calmed down a bit over the last month, because there's no reason to freak out about Hogan's departure. The mere fact that he cleared waivers after final cuts and was able to be added to the practice squad shows that his perceived talent isn't quite what the show led many to believe.

Tyms is an equally intriguing prospect if not more so and will get his turn to show the Dolphins what he can do. He's a great story and it'd be nice to see him develop a pro career, but he's still very raw and is a long way from an active roster spot.

Meanwhile, it's nice to see Alecxih get an extended look because he was such a likable character on Hard Knocks, although being cut in the first wave and not getting on the practice squad until now doesn't bode well for his future. I like the guy a lot, but I question if he's got the bulk and strength to handle the NFL game.

It's a bit surprising to see Brown cut after only a week, but really the only avenue they had for taking a look at him was to claim him off waivers and they apparently saw all they needed. It's not good that Brown, who was a dominant pass rusher in college, wasn't able to beat out Freeny for a reserve strong-side linebacker and special teams spot.

For those keeping score at home, the Dolphins subtracted one from the active roster but didn't fill the spot Tuesday. Combine that with the fact the team shuffled its practice squad but kept it full today and it seems quite possible Brown's roster spot will go to a veteran, such as a wide receiver, offensive lineman or cornerback.

The Dolphins likely waited until this week to sign a veteran because having one on the Week 1 roster guarantees their salary for the entire season. Now, any veteran the team signs will be on a week-to-week basis with the clubs in terms of pay.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dolphins-Texans Game Observations

The Miami Dolphins' fan base was split entering the 2012 season opener, with many of us expecting the ugly preseason view of the team to carry over at Houston and the other have refusing to let go of their blind faith that the Dolphins would keep the game close and field a semi-competitive team this season.

As it turned out, us pessimists/realists had our concerned validated after the Dolphins unfortunately had quite an ugly performance against the Texans. The offense sputtered and turned the ball over; the defense only flashed decent play and gave up too many long gains; and special teams provided the only touchdown of the day.

Here are my detailed observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Texans yesterday...

Offense

  • Ryan Tannehill's stat line isn't too pretty, but the reality is he didn't play as badly as it indicates. He wasn't always on-target with his passes, but I thought he did a nice job of handling pressure (of which there was plenty) and only one of the interceptions was really on him. He did best when blitzed and didn't throw downfield much, so it'd be nice to see the Dolphins take the training wheels off and let him throw beyond the first-down line more.
  • Reggie Bush had a strong day on the ground and a did a nice job of finding holes, although he did have a bad fumble. I thought Daniel Thomas was looking good too until he suffered a concussion and fumbled on the same play, which I can excuse. Run blocking was one area the Dolphins' offensive line did okay at yesterday, so hopefully Thomas can return to the field sooner rather than later.
  • I found it interesting that Charles Clay played quite a bit of fullback, as it was indicated in the preseason that Clay had transitioned to a full-time tight end and fullback was Jorvorskie Lane's job. Lane is obviously the better lead blocker but perhaps the Dolphins don't fully trust him yet, or perhaps the gameplan called for a different type of player at the position.
  • The Dolphins had at least three drops on the day and the receivers didn't do much to help him. Aside from the always-reliable Davone Bess in the slot and a tremendous circus catch by Brian Hartline, the receivers struggled to get open and provide Tannehill with good targets. Tannehill didn't seem to be on-target when throwing to Legedu Naanee, but I don't know if that's a chemistry issue or just rookie ups-and-downs. Meanwhile, Anthony Armstrong had a high throw go off his hands that could have been caught, although Tannehill shares blame and needs to put it in the numbers of his wide open receiver.
  • Anthony Fasano made a tremendous bobbling catch and blocked well as always, but he wasn't a big factor in the passing game and there simply weren't enough opportunities to go around.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an appropriate term to describe the Dolphins' offensive line. I thought Jake Long and Mike Pouncey both had very good games and I was encouraged by their performances. John Jerry was so-so but did his job as a run blocker. The goats were Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, who allowed way too many pressures on Tannehill. Martin also allowed a sack and the line was responsible for two of Tannehill's interceptions by not staying engaged with the guys they were blocking and preventing them from getting their hands up.

Defense
  • The Dolphins' biggest strength on the defensive side of the ball was predictably the defensive line. Cameron Wake had a strong day with a few pressures and hits on the quarterback, and undrafted Derrick Shelby actually had two pressures in limited duty as well. But the real star here was Randy Starks, who played lights out all day and pulled more than his weight as both a run defender and pass rusher. Starks is one of the few Dolphins entering the final year of his deal that truly deserves a new contract.
  • I thought Kevin Burnett had a pretty good game and Koa Misi did well tackling, which is obviously the only thing he does well. Once again, he struggled in coverage and wasn't a factor when he rushed the passer.
  • I've been frustrated with Karlos Dansby for a while now and he absolutely drove me nuts in this one. He was terrible in coverage and celebrated like a jackass whenever he made a stop, even if it was after a good gain by the offense and the Dolphins were down big. In two years I've gone from loving the signing (especially as an Auburn fan) to counting the days until he's off the team.
  • Although the linebackers got picked on in coverage, the corners didn't really have good games either as both starts allowed more than half the passes thrown their way to be completed. Sean Smith had good coverage at times but made some perplexing turns, like on the touchdown he gave up to Andre Johnson. And can someone explain to me what Jimmy Wilson (a clear backup talent that I thought moved to safety?) was doing matched up one-on-one with Johnson? How the hell does that happen? Inexcusable.
  • I thought Chris Clemons was solid even though he was late on some plays (as uggge) but I really liked how Reshad Jones played. He played the run well with five tackles, didn't give up anything in coverage and even had a pressure on the quarterback. Joe Philbin has talked him up recently and hopefully that turns out to be well-earned.

Special Teams

  • Just another day at the office for Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields. Carpenter made his only field goal attempt and Fields dropped two of his  three punts inside the 20.
  • What a nice change it is to have a guy returning kicks and punts that is actually a threat to take it back for a touchdown! Marcus Thigpen was the lone player in Week 1 to return a punt for a touchdown and he proved even more why he earned a spot as a specialist. It's exciting to see what he can do with a full season.


Conclusion

The biased fans will point out that the game was close for a while and if it wasn't for the turnover-fest before halftime the score may have been closer, but the reality is that this game showed exactly why many of us aren't expecting much from this team in 2012 and why we're worried about so many aspects of this team.

I'm certainly not down on Tannehill, but the weapons around him are seriously weak and the offensive line doesn't even seem to be halfway reliable in pass protection. I think he'll get better, but there's simply no way he's goingto win many games with the lack of tools he's working with.

The defense has some talented players but still too many issues to be great. They still only have one pass rusher in Wake, the linebackers are average at best and the secondary is full of players that are still unproven or don't have a history of being highly-effective starters.

I expect the Dolphins to win a few games this season thanks to their easy schedule, just dumb luck and all that "any given Sunday" stuf, but expecting them to consistently take it to better opponents is probably asking too much and this weekend's ugliness was likely only the beginning.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dolphins at Texans - Live Chat

The regular season is here and once again I'm chatting live for analysis and discussion during the Miami Dolphins' regular season opener at Houston. See the chat below to join in!

Miami Dolphins 2012 Season Preview

With Hard Knocks, we got to see a behind the scenes look of the Miami Dolphins as they prepare for their 2012 season under rookie head coach Joe Philbin and with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the helm.

That being said, we didn't need any NFL Films' cameras to see the Dolphins' roster has issues right now and that could translate into a fairly ugly campaign in 2012.

Of course, while a lot of the players remain from the Dolphins' disastrous 0-7 start to the 2011 season, there are also still many pieces in place that helped the team finish 6-3. So which team will we see this season, if either?

Here is my preview of the Dolphins' 2012 roster and what I expect to see in 2012...


Offense

Scary as it is, the Dolphins' season and future rests on the shoulders of a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill that played receiver his first two years of college. That being said, I like Tannehill and I've grown more comfortable with him starting as a rookie based on his preseason play and obvious grasp of Mike Sherman's offense from their time at Texas A&M.

The issue for Tannehill is weapons, and to say he's lacking many is an understatement. The Dolphins spent the entire camp and preseason working Legedu Naanee as a starter, despite his underwhelming five-year career and ugly preseason in which he was either invisible or dropping passes. Unless the team signs a clear-cut starter after Week 1 such a Jabar Gaffney, Naanee is probably here to stay in 2012 and is likely to be a weak option for Tannehill.

Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano are the obvious safety blankets for the rookie quarterback. The slot receiver and tight end will be the guys open short and over the middle, allowing Tannehill to perhaps gain some yardage when there's nothing else there. Meanwhile, Brian Hartline is returning from a calf injury and probably has the most upside of any receiver on the team, but his early impact in 2012 remains to be seen since hasn't had much time working with Tannehill.

All this talk of the passing game (or what there will be of one) isn't complete without talking about the offensive line. You don't really worry about Jake Long even when he isn't 100%, although his injury history isn't promising when he's already suffered a sprained MCL in 2012. The line gets even less reliable as it goes right, with right guard John Jerry a wildly inconsistent starter and poor scheme fit and rookie second-rounder Jonathan Martin coming off a disastrous preseason.

As for Tannehill's running game, I expect it to be better than expected. If Reggie Bush can continue to stay healthy, he could pick up where he left off in 2011 as the NFL's only 1,000-yard rusher to average five yards per carry. I also expect second-year man Daniel Thomas to mix in more than he did last year when he was hampered by injuries. The Dolphins will certainly need both guys to step up and get the ball moving on a regular basis so that Tannehill doesn't have to do it all himself.


Defense

As we saw in the preseason, this defense can be maddening with its deficits and has only a few pieces that are totally effective and reliable. A few of those pieces are in the middle of the defensive line, where Randy Starks and Paul Soliai easily create one of the best duos in the game. Both had strong preseasons and should continue to do well clogging things up the middle.

The starting defensive line has additional reliability with Jared Odrick at one end spot and Cameron Wake at the other. Odrick is a suitable starter there despite being an interior rusher and Wake looks poised to "rebound" after a misleading 8.5-sack season in 2011. The issue here is depth, where the Dolphins have no NFL experience and may once again be looking at a situation where Wake is the only guy that can get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. As good as Wake is, he can't do it all game and not having anyone else that can apply pressure makes things harder in the guys behind them.

The Dolphins' linebacker unit should be solid with veterans Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett returning, as well as Koa Misi in a pure non-passing-rushing role. I don't know how many big plays you'll get from this bunch, but reliable tackling should be there and teams shouldn't run all over the Dolphins when you have these guys lining up behind Starks and Soliai.

The secondary is where the real issue is, and it was already an issue before the Dolphins traded their most talented corner in Vontae Davis. The team believes Sean Smith is "putting it all together" but excelling in practice has never been his issue and it remains to be seen if he can translate that to the big stage. I also think the team overestimates the abilities of other starter Richard Marshall and anointed nickel back Nolan Carroll, who both had inconsistent preseasons and are not proven in their current roles.

The Dolphins once again have Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones starting at safety, and this duo is inconsistent at best. Jones has the most upside of the two but neither have excelled in coverage to date and the deep ball is going to be a big concern in 2012 if the preseason is any indication.

Combine a shaky secondary with no depth and one-man pass rush, and the Dolphins' defense may continue to be inconsistent like it was in 2011 despite a strong starting front seven.


Special Teams

Special teams is the place where the Dolphins' roster really shines, although unfortunately that's not going to win Miami many games this season.

Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields should be extremely reliable as a placekicker/punter duo barring any totally unforeseen circumstances. If Shane Lechler didn't exist, Fields would easily be in the discussion as the best punter in the league.

The one unknown and the most interesting thing in this unit is the return game, which should finally see Bess off punt returns and a new fact at kick returns with the emergence of Marcus Thigpen. The former CFL speedster had a strong preseason and earned a roster spot as a return specialist, providing a home run threat the Dolphins haven't had since the departure of Ted Ginn, Jr. It will be interesting to see how Thigpen does with a full season to handle kicks for the Dolphins.


Conclusion

Believe it or not, there are plenty of Dolphins fans that truly believe the team will beat the Texans today in what is the first of at least 8-10 wins for Miami this season. Those fans are likely to be sorely disappointed given that a rookie quarterback with sub-par weapons is in place with a shaky defense that isn't going to shut down many teams' aerial attacks.

That's why fans of the Dolphins should temper their expectations for 2012 while simultaneously not jumping ship if the season does go badly. I'm expecting four or five wins from the team based on what I've seen and based on the glaring holes this roster has, but I'm also optimistic about the team long-term even if that happens.

The Dolphins' future is potentially bright if Tannehill can develop into the great NFL starter the team expects, while a bevvy of draft picks and cap room in the coming offseason will allow the Dolphins to really revamp their roster and add weapons for their quarterback.

I can't stress enough that fans shouldn't expect a .500 season in 2012, but I also can't stress enough that a losing season is not a reason to panic. All I want to see this year is promise from the Dolphins' younger players. I want Tannehill to show he belongs. I want Daniel Thomas to step up and show he can handle the load if Bush leaves in free agency. I want Brian Hartline and Sean Smith to show enough promise to earn new contracts. I want one or two guys to come out of nowhere and be productive pieces, as unlikely and random as that may be.

Quite simply, a bad 2012 for the Dolphins doesn't mean a bad 2013 and beyond, especially if Tannehill shows promise with a poor supporting cast. It's not always going to be fun this year and it's certainly not always going to be pretty, but look at the big picture and you'll see that it's potentially a good one.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dolphins promote Jonathan Freeny from practice squad

Jonathan Freeny's initial practice squad stint of the season was short-lived, as the Miami Dolphins have promoted the second-year linebacker to the active roster a day before the team opens up at Houston.

An undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2011, Freeny spent camp with the Dolphins as a rookie and was headed toward an arena football stint with the Chicago Rush before joining Miami's practice squad late last season.

Freeny ranked third on the team with 12 tackles this preseason and initially survived final cuts, only to be waived the following day when undrafted rookie linebacker Sammy Brown was added off waivers from the St. Louis Rams.

Now, Freeny returns to the 53-man roster in place of quarterback David Garrard, who saw his contract terminated on Wednesday when he failed to fully recover from a preseason knee injury.

Despite being booted off the active roster by Brown's arrival, I suspect Freeny will have a better shot at being active tomorrow against the Texans over Brown. Freeny has a year more of experience around the NFL game and has the added benefit of working with the Dolphins in the preseason and for Darren Rizzi on special teams.

Assuming he is active, Freeny will be wearing No. 59 for the Dolphins after donning No. 49 in practice since he first signed with the team. NFL rules state that during the regular season. linebackers may only wear numbers in the fifties or nineties.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 NFL Awards & Standings Predictions


The 2012 NFL regular season officially kicks off tonight, and with that comes my annual predictions for the NFL standings, playoffs and individual awards. As always, I'm sure I'll be horribly off-base on much of this, but it's always a fun exercise.

You can check out my my 2011 predictions here, 2010 predictions here and 2009 predictions here, which I'm sure include its share of embarrassing prognostications.


2012 Final Standings
(playoff seeds in parentheses...just like this sentence)

AFC East
1. New England Patriots (1)
2. New York Jets
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Miami Dolphins

AFC North
1. Baltimore Ravens (2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Cleveland Browns

AFC South
1. Houston Texans (3)
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West
1. Denver Broncos (4)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6)
3. San Diego Chargers
4. Oakland Raiders

Comments:
  • The Patriots are the clear-cut favorites in the AFC East, with the Jets a mess, Buffalo still not ready and the Dolphins in total rebuilding mode. I'd be shocked if any of the other three teams even flirted with a wild card berth.
  • I think Joe Flacco is ready to take the next step in his progression (and earn that next big contract), leading the Ravens to the division title. As always, Pittsburgh will be in the mix as well, while Andy Dalton and his relatively low ceiling may struggle to make a repeat playoff berth. The Browns bring up the rear and don't look anything like contenders.
  • With Peyton Manning gone, the Texans are the only team in the AFC South with a proven quarterback. That should net them the division title, while the Titans and Colts battle it out for the No. 2 spot. I'm not sold on Blaine Gabbert and think the Jaguars will have a hard time being competitive this season.
  • I'm not quite as on-board with the Chiefs as everyone else, although they do get my final wild card spot. The division title goes to Denver thanks to more reliable passing game and a defense that proved very capable down the stretch last year. The underachieving Chargers will continue to do so, while I don't think the Raiders' offensive line or defense has them ready to contend.

NFC East
1. New York Giants (3)
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Washington Redskins

NFC North
1. Green Bay Packers (1)
2. Detroit Lions (5)
3. Chicago Bears
4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
1. New Orleans Saints (2)
2. Atlanta Falcons (6)
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
1. San Francisco 49ers (4)
2. St. Louis Rams
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Arizona Cardinals

Comments:
  • The defending champion Giants get back into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but I think the Eagles and Cowboys fail to clinch a playoff spot thanks to some better competition from other divisions. The Redskins should be improved with Robert Griffin III, but this division is too tough for a rookie right now.
  • There's so much to like about the Packers and having an elite quarterback goes a long way. The Lions should continue to be competitive due in large part to their young offensive talent, while the Bears may struggle to finish better than third. I'm not sold on Christian Ponder and I don't see him getting the Vikings about .500 this season.
  • I think the Saints continue to roll despite not having their head coach for the season, while the Falcons should push for a playoff spot too thanks to an elite passing attack. Cam Newton and the Panthers will have a tough time finishing in the top two here, while the Buccaneers just aren't ready and need a huge step from Josh Freeman to be relatively competitive.
  • The 49ers' defense and sound offense should get them to the playoffs in this fairly weak division. I don't like the Seahawks as much as others and I think the Rams can surpass them if Sam Bradford stays healthy and progresses. The Cardinals' quarterback situation is a mess and is a sure recipe for a last-place finish.

2011 NFL Playoffs

Wild Card Round
Texans (3) over Chiefs (6)
Steelers (5) over Broncos (4)
Falcons (6) over Giants (3)
Lions (5) over 49ers (4)

Divisional Round
Patriots (1) over Steelers (5)
Texans (3) over Ravens (2)
Packers (1) over Falcons (6)
Lions (5) over Saints (2)

Conference Championships
Texans (3) over Patriots (1)
Packers (1) over Lions (5)

Super Bowl XLVII
Green Bay Packers 34, Houston Texans 27 — The Packers return to the Super Bowl on the shoulders of the best quarterback in the league, while the Texans finally reach the big show thanks to a dominant defense and a well-rounded offense. In a fairly high-scoring battle,

Super Bowl XLVI MVP
QB Aaron Rodgers — Who else? The best quarterback in the NFL steps up with two touchdown passes and mistake-free football to win his second championship.


Regular Season Awards

NFL MVP
QB Drew Brees, Saints — With Sean Payton gone for the entire season, Brees will put the team on his back and put up eye-popping numbers once again. It'll be even more impressive given all the Saints have gone through this year, earning Brees the MVP.

Offensive Player of the Year
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers — I expect Rodgers to once again pose elite numbers, toying with 5,000 yards and at least 40 touchdowns with single-digit interceptions.

Defensive Player of the Year
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants — JPP is a total freak and is ready to take his game to a whole new level in his third season. I expect him to surpass his 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles from a season ago.

Offensive Rookie of the Year
QB Andrew Luck, Colts — Not a risky pick, but the most obvious one. Luck is NFL-ready and should post strong numbers as a rookie even if the Colts aren't ultra-competitive yet.

Defensive Rookie of the Year
LB Luke Kuechly, Panthers — A season after having the Offensive ROY, the Panthers earn the same award on defense with Kuechly. A smart, rangy linebacker, Kuechly should reach 100 tackles as a rookie and create enough big plays (sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions) to earn this award.

Coach of the Year
Gary Kubiak, Texans — The Texans are ready to take the next step as my AFC Champion pick, and that would make Kubiak well-deserving of this award. Kubiak has built a strong offense with a stellar offensive line and running game combined with a very capable passing attack. Factor in a tremendous defense led by coordinator Wade Phillips, and Kubiak is the man here.


Discuss this article on the forum here!

Hard Knocks: Episode 5 Thoughts & Observations

The season finale of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins aired last night and did not disappoint as it covered the final week of the preseason, including the game against Dallas as well as final cut downs and beyond.

Before I express my thoughts on the season overall, here are my observations from last night's episode...

  • From the coverage of practices, we learned that it was defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui that rolled up on left tackle Jake Long and caused a sprained MCL. Obviously not Aaitui's fault though. We also learned that Chris Hogan hasn't translated his production in practices to the 1's and it was clear Sean Smith handled him with ease. Coaches said he needed to play more physical. Meanwhile, Marlon Moore was deemed easily the best special teams player of the receiving corps and that's obviously why he's still on the roster.
  • I'm absolutely appalled that Ryan Tannehill and his wife shop at IKEA. They make way too much money for that cheap crap.
  • I'm glad they finally hit on Jorvorskie Lane's interesting story. It's clear he has a ton of physical ability and combines fullback size with some running back skills. Of course, he's still not a true professional yet and Mike Sherman had to get onto him for being late to a meeting. Sherman is obviously Lane's biggest backer though and wants to see him succeed, but he knows he has to be tough on him sometimes.
  • Some thoughts from the Dallas game: what an incredible display of power by Lane on that bulldozing; fantastic forced fumble by Marlon Moore on the kickoff and a great job of Dan Carpenter to recover; interesting that Sherman referred to Roberto Wallace as someone they needed to get out of the game because they knew he wasn't going to make it. Those of us on the outside knew he was on the bubble but we had know way of knowing his fate was already sealed.
  • I wasn't a huge fan of bringing back Chad Johnson on the show, but I suppose it makes sense from a mass appeal standpoint and his story began as part of the Dolphins' season. If I were Chad's lawyer, though, I might be more careful about letting him essentially admit guilt on camera.
  • Some of the cut observations: sixth-round wide receiver B. J. Cunningham was labeled inconsistent by Jeff Ireland; Jeff Fuller looked pretty crushed by the news but as we all know he's back on the practice squad; Ireland told Clyde Gates he expected him to develop as fast as anyone but that it didn't work out; coaches indicated route-running was a huge issue for Gates and questioned whether he'd ever be a "football player"; Ireland did however say that his biggest fear is someone else developing Gates; Hogan seemed bitter when he got cut, but that quickly changed to simply being excited for the opportunity to continue his work; the team clearly wanted Aaitui on the practice squad and I thought it was interesting he didn't even seem happy about going to the Jets because he wanted to continue working in Miami.
  • As many people know, Aaitui has since been cut by the Jets with a torn ACL and torn MCL. It's a heartbreaking postscript to the story but hopefully he rehabs and comes back next season. I know I'd like it if it were with the Dolphins. Both defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers seemed really impressed by Aaitui and wanted him to stick around before cuts.
  • Based on Ireland's discussion with defensive end Jarrell Root, who was waived/injured with a leg injury suffered in the Dallas game, the Dolphins intend to give Root an injury settlement at some point. He is currently on injured reserve after clearing waivers on Sept. 2.
  • I found it interesting that Ireland and Joe Philbin discussed seeing if David Garrard could "change their minds" when he was working out for them for the first time. This indicates that the team was skeptical he would return and was planning to roll with Matt Moore as the veteran backup. As we all know, Garrard didn't end up changing their minds and was cut yesterday.
  • We also got confirmation of what we already knew in that they kept four quarterbacks to give themselves more time to see if Garrard could get healthy and if either veteran would generate any trade value. As expected, most of the speculation about any other scenario turned out to be far from reality.
  • The end montage with all the cursing and jokes was great...as ugggge.
And with that, the Dolphins' run on Hard Knocks is over. I think HBO and NFL Films did a fantastic job with the series and I personally have no regrets about the Dolphins participating. It's obvious the cameras don't interrupt the work that'd being done and there is no distraction for the team, especially considering it's long over by the time the regular season rolls around. While there aren't necessarily benefits for a team being on Hard Knocks, I hardly think there are drawbacks either and as a fan, I personally was grateful for a look behind the scenes that I never would have had otherwise.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dolphins lose Artis Hicks for season; re-sign Ray Feinga

The Miami Dolphins' already-thin offensive line got a little thinner, as the team placed guard Artis Hicks on season-ending injured reserve. Reports Tuesday indicate Hicks developed a neck injury after the preseason opener against Tampa Bay on Aug. 10.

The veteran lineman was signed to a one-year deal in March after a 10-year career that included stints with the Eagles, Vikings, Redskins and Browns. A starter of 71 games in 118 career appearances, Hicks was projected to start for the Dolphins at right guard before his preseason injury.

To replace Hicks on the roster, the Dolphins re-signed lineman Ray Feinga. The versatile Feinga, who is no longer eligible for the practice squad, was waived during final cuts on Aug. 31 and has been a free agent since.

Despite taking Hicks' spot on the 53-man roster, Feinga will likely continue to work at left tackle with Jake Long recovering from a sprained MCL. Feinga has worked at guard in the past but spent the preseason at left tackle and started in Long's absence in the preseason finale against the Cowboys.

Meanwhile at right guard, former third-rounder John Jerry projects as the starter with Nate Garner backing him up. Jerry has been on quite a ride this preseason, entering camp at over 360 pounds as a third-stringer and long shot to make the team to showing well in games and contending for the starting job even if Hicks had returned.

However, there were reports Tueday the team had reached out to veteran free agent Jake Scott. A highly-effective starter with the Titans over the past few years (as well as my No. 4 guard of the offseason), Scott fits the Dolphins' zone-blocking scheme better than Jerry while offering a better track record as well. The 31-year-old has worked out for the Dolphins twice this offseason but has remained unsigned.

The Dolphins have a spot remaining open on the active roster with Tuesday's release of quarterback David Garrard. The team opens the regular season this Sunday at Houston on Sept. 9.

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

Dolphins part ways with David Garrard

The Miami Dolphins surprised many by keeping four quarterbacks through last week's final cuts, but that's been sorted out now as the team has released veteran David Garrard. Garrard confirmed the move via Twitter, thanking fans and wishing his teammates well in the upcoming season.

No corresponding move has been announced and it remains unclear if the team will add a free agent to fill Garrard's roster spot or potential bring back one of their practice squad members.

The Dolphins' quarterback situation has been a pretty big roller coaster to follow this offseason. You had Matt Moore coming off a strong season in relief; Garrard brought in by the new regime; Ryan Tannehill drafted eighth overall in April.

In the last month, I've gone from thinking Garrard would start, Moore would back up and Tannehill would be the third-stringer sitting out a year, to thinking Moore would start and Tannehill would back up with the injured Garrard let go, to thinking Tannehill would start with Moore backing up and Garrard let go, to thinking Garrard might return and back up Tannehill while allowing the Dolphins to trade or release Moore. You follow all that?

The Dolphins likely reached this point for one or two different reasons. First, it's possible the Dolphins weren't greeted with a viable trade option for Moore after his weak preseason showing. Secondly, it's possible that Garrard, who returned to the practice field yesterday after roughly four weeks off, was deemed simply too much of an injury risk to roll with as Tannehill's backup.

What was never going to happen was the team keeping both veterans to back up Tannehill. Both Garrard and Moore are making over $2 million each this season and there is little point in paying one of them that kind of money to be a third-stringer when Devlin can handle the job at $390,000. Both veterans would have been guaranteed their entire 2012 salaries if they had been on the Week 1 roster, so this move was inevitable.

Expect Tannehill's leash to be a little long now that Moore is backing him up rather than Garrard. While Garrard was brought in by the new coaching staff and handed the starting job at the beginning of camp, the Dolphins never really seemed to like Moore, who is deemed a bad fit for the offense and wasn't given a fair shot to beat out the rookie.

That being the case, any struggles Tannehill might encounter as a rookie should be given more of a pass now because there isn't a favored veteran behind him. Rather, the Dolphins kept the younger, healthier veteran behind him that has more of a chance to generate trade value (even on the bench) by the Week 8 deadline that Garrard would have.


It's already been suggested by some that the Dolphins could part with Moore at some point this season via trade if they like Devlin in the No. 2 role, although I have a hard time seeing the team roll with only two quarterbacks and two with so little NFL experience. The former undrafted free agent got mop-up work in the preseason and has never played in a regular season game, so he remains the third-stringer for now and could even be moved to the practice squad at some point if the Dolphins need a roster spot.

Dolphins complete practice squad with one new face

With final cuts completed and many players having cleared waivers yesterday, the Miami Dolphins have formed their initial practice squad for the 2012 season.

Signed to the practice squad already are wide receivers Jeff Fuller and Chris Hogan; guard Chandler Burden; offensive tackle Andrew McDonald; linebackers Josh Kaddu and Jonathan Freeny; cornerback De'Andre Presley; and safety Anderson Russell.

Of the eight players, seven attended training camp with with the Dolphins. Burden, Fuller, Hogan McDonald and Russell were waived Friday during final cuts, while Freeny and Faddu were let go Saturday after the team added four on waiver claims.

The lone newcomer is Presley, who is a college quarterback from Appalachian State that went undrafted in 2012 and converted to corner while attending camp with the San Diego Chargers. He was waived Friday during final cuts as well.

As a reminder, players signed to the practice squad must be free agents when they sign, i.e. no "moving" players from the active roster to the practice squad. Players can sign new deals to move to the 53-man roster at any time. Practice squad players can also negotiate and sign to other teams' 53-man rosters, although those teams must keep them on the active roster for at least three weeks.


Chandler Burden

A defensive lineman that converted to offensive tackle at Kentucky, Burden went undrafted in 2012 and signed with the Titans. After being released prior to training camp, Burden signed with the Dolphins on Aug. 1 when the team waived lineman Dustin Waldron.

Burden has worked at left guard for his entire stint with the Dolphins, elevating to the second team when veteran Eric Steinbach retired a few weeks back. His upside is unclear, with his purpose right now to serve as Richie Incognito's backup during practice.


Jonathan Freeny

An undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2011, Freeny signed with the Dolphins but was waived before the regular season. He was out of the NFL entirely and even signed a deal with the AFL's Chicago Rush before joining the Dolphins' practice squad last December.

Freeny re-signed with the Dolphins in the 2012 offseason and remained at outside linebacker in the team's new 4-3 scheme, despite being a pass-rushing defensive end in college. (He had 9.5 sacks as a junior.) Freeny survived final cuts on Friday after a strong preseason, ranking third on the team with 12 tackles.

Although Freeny takes a steep pay cut with the move to the practice squad, he had a solid preseason and is probably liked by the team well enough. Depending on how impressed the team is with waiver pickup Sam Brown, Freeny could be back on the active roster at some point this season. In the mean time, he'll split time with Brown as a backup strong-side linebacker.


Jeff Fuller

Fuller had a productive career as a receiver at Texas A&M, but his struggled with drops and subsequently went undrafted. Although he caught seven passes for 55 yards in the preseason, he had his share of drops then as well and ultimately proved unready for the big stage at this time.

As a guy with a nice frame at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, some upside and a history with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at A&M, Fuller is certainly worth an extended look and has the chance for a midseason call-up.


Chris Hogan

A former lacrosse player at Penn State that played a season of football at FCS Monmouth, Hogan signed to the Dolphins' practice squad late last season and was re-signed in the offseason. He caught four passes for 34 yards this preseason, gaining nationwide notoriety on HBO's Hard Knocks after Reggie Bush dubbed him "7-Eleven" because he's always open.

The fact that Hogan was the lone receiver on the team that didn't see significant preseason action shows the Hard Knocks coverage was fairly misleading. And the fact that Hogan passed through waivers and was re-signed to the Dolphins' practice squad shows he's probably not the next Wes Welker. Regardless, he's a try-hard guy that's honing his craft and is worth keeping around for now.


Josh Kaddu

The Dolphins' fifth-round pick in 2011, Kaddu was a question mark as far as making the team because he's extremely raw and had an up-and-down preseason. In the end he'll start on the practice squad, where he'll work as a backup weak-side linebacker in practice. He could earn a promotion at some point as a rookie of the Dolphins want to protect him from leaving.


Andrew McDonald

McDonald is an interesting case because he was signed nearly two weeks after the rest of the undrafted free agents signed by the Dolphins. The Indiana alum impressed in camp and earned the backup right tackle job over Will Baker, making him an obvious keep here. I don't know if he's particularly close to a promotion, but he'll work as Jonathan Martin's backup in practice for now.


De'Andre Presley

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Presley was a dynamic playmaker at Appalachian State, working at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He served as the Mountaineers' starting quarterback as a junior, throwing for 2,631 yards and 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing for another 1,039 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Presley never had a chance of staying at quarterback in the pros and worked at cornerback with the Chargers in the preseason after going undrafted in 2012. He'll continue to hone his craft on the Dolphins' practice squad for now, although he's a pretty big project.


Anderson Russell

Undrafted out of Ohio State in 2010, Russell played in two games with the Redskins as a rookie. He spent the entire 2011 season on the Dolphins' practice squad before being re-signed in the offseason. Russell tied for the Dolphins' preseason lead with 14 tackles but was waived during final cuts. He has some special teams value which will help him earn a call-up during the season, though for now he'll work as a backup safety in practice.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dolphins awarded Anthony Armstrong, three others off waivers

The Miami Dolphins cut 22 players from the roster yesterday to get down to a total of 53, but everyone knew the roster would undergo further changes once the team had its shot at players exposed to waivers.

The Dolphins announced the acquisition of four players off waivers Saturday—most notablly wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, who spent the 2008 season on the team's practice squad. As you probably know, Armstrong went on to establish himself as a capable deep threat with the Washington Redskins in 2010, though injuries and a numbers crunch saw him waived during Friday's cuts.

In addition to Armstrong, the Dolphins also landed undrafted rookie linebacker Sammy Brown from the Rams, safety Troy Nolan from the Texans and cornerback R. J. Stanford from the Panthers off waivers.

To make room for the four new faces, the team terminated the contracts of safety Tyrone Culver and running back Steve Slaton while waiving linebackers Jonathan Freeny and Josh Kaddu. Slaton was rumored to be headed to the Redskins in a trade for Armstrong yesterday, although that deal never materialized.

The Dolphins are back to 53 players after today's moves and should be formulating their practice squad today and tomorrow from their own cuts and perhaps a few from other teams. Rookie offensive tackle Andrew McDonald has already confirmed he is returning to the practice squad via Twitter.


Anthony Armstrong

A two-time Lone Star Conference selection at West Texas A&M, Armstrong went undrafted in 2005. He spent 2006 with the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League and the following season with the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League. (Coincidentally, Dolphins fullback Jorvorskie Lane played for the same Roughnecks franchise in 2010.)

Armstrong initially signed with the Dolphins in July 2008 and spent the entire season on the team's practice squad. He attended training camp with the team in 2009 before being waived during final cuts. He spent most of the regular season on the Redskins' practice squad.

In 2010, Armstrong not only made the Redskins' roster but emerged as their best deep threat, catching 44 passes for 871 yards (a 19.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. He started just two of 14 contests last season, however, catching seven passes for 103 yards and two scores.

A shoulder injury limited Armstrong during training camp in 2012 and was waived despite the Redskins despite the fact that the team kept seven other receivers. The 29-year-old is officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds and is due $540,000 in 2012 before hitting restricted free agency in the offseason.


Sammy Brown

Brown played basketball only as a high school junior before hitting the gridiron as a senior. He attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons before transferring to the University of Houston in 2010.

Starting 11 of 12 games played as a junior, Brown made an immediate impact for the Cougars as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, racking up 76 tackles (20 for a loss), 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.  As a senior, he racked up an incredible 93 tackles (30 for a loss), 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Despite his impressive collegiate production, the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Brown was projected as a Day 3 draft pick and ended up going undrafted due in part to concerns about his motor and effort. He signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent and recorded two tackles in four preseason appearances.


Troy Nolan

After two seasons as College of the Canyons, Nolan transferred to Arizona State in 2007. He started 25 games in his two-year career and served as team captain as a senior in 2008, racking up 128 tackles, 10 interceptions and 13 pass deflections. He scored an incredible five defensive touchdowns, including four interception returns and a fumble return.

A seventh-round pick by the Texans in 2009, Nolan suffered a wrist injury in the preseason and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. He appeared in a 16 games (three starts) in 2010, totaling 49 tackles, three interceptions and five pass deflections. Last year, he played in 14 games (three starts) and racked up 35 tackles and four pass deflections.

Nolan, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, is due $540,000 after taking a pay cut from $1.308 with the Texans this offseason. He will be an unrestricted free agent if he gains a fourth accrued season (six or more games on the active roster) with the Dolphins.


R. J. Stanford

A California native, Stanford played in 52 games over four seasons at the University of Utah, including 22 starts. A three-year teammate of current Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, Stanford finished his collegiate career with 125 tackles, four sacks, an interception, 12 passes deflections and three fumble recoveries.

Stanford was selected 223rd overall in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Panthers. He spent the first 14 weeks of his rookie season on the team's practice squad before moving up to the active roster for the final three weeks.

Last season, Stanford worked primarily on special teams in 13 appearances (no starts), recording 13 tackles, an interception returned 53 yards and a pass deflection. He is set to make $540,000 in 2012 and will be an exclusive-rights free agent in the offseason.


Analysis

First on the players released: fifth-round linebacker Kaddu joins sixth-round wide receiver B. J. Cunningham as the two Dolphins' 2012 draft picks to not make the roster. (Cunningham was claimed off waivers by the Eagles.) Kaddu is an athletics but raw specimen that would likely find his way back to the practice squad if he clears waivers. It's hard to imagine two outside linebackers on the Dolphins' practice squad, so Freeny might only be asked back if Kaddu gets poached by another team.

It's no surprise to see the veterans Slaton and Culver go, either. Slaton is certainly expendable given the Dolphins' deep running back position and he loses a roster spot to Marcus Thigpen, who can also play slot receiver and appears to be the team's return specialist. Culver was the senior member of the safety unit, but 29-year-old had peaked and gives way to a younger prospect in Nolan.

Of the Dolphins' new additions, Armstrong is obviously the biggest name and is one fans should be familiar with from his time in Miami in 2008-09. He's not going to solve the Dolphins' receiver woes, but he does add a vertical dimension the Dolphins lack and his single-season total of 871 yards in 2010 is a better mark than any receiver on the roster has ever accomplished. I suspect he'll work into four-man sets right away with room to move up.

It's telling that the Dolphins would rather put Brown on the 53-man roster than their own fifth-round linebacker at this point. Brown had a stellar collegiate career and can certainly get to the passer, so perhaps they are hoping to find a breakout player. That being said, Brown won't see the field on defense barring a stellar showing in practice and at most is ticketed for special teams in the near future.

Stanford and Nolan add depth to a shaky secondary that was left extra thin following final cuts with only three corners under contract. Stanford steps in as the fourth corner, although he's no guarantee to stick around long-term after the Dolphins worked out a handful of veteran corners on Thursday. Veterans see their salaries guaranteed if they are on the Week 1 roster, so the team could way until after the Texans game to sign one and that could put Stanford's spot in jeopardy.

Nolan was a media favorite in Houston and has some experience on defense, making him a solid fill-in if Chris Clemons were to go down. It seems unlikely he ever becomes a highly-productive starter, but at worst he should be a special teams ace and top backup on defense.

The Dolphins likely aren't finished making moves before their Sept. 9 season opener. In particular, the team is sure to move at least one of their four quarterbacks and Matt Moore is apparently on the trade block.

Stay tuned all this week for coverage and analysis of all the Dolphins' moves leading up to the regular season!