Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dolphins waive Anthony Armstrong

When Anthony Armstrong caught 44 passes for 871 yards with the Washington Redskins in 2010, it looked like the Miami Dolphins had missed out on a gem. After all, Armstrong spent all of 2008 on the Dolphins' practice squad before being waived the following year.

The Dolphins got a second chance to feel Armstrong's impact when they claimed the 29-year-old off waivers this September. However, Armstrong was unable to make much of an impact in his second stint in Miami, catching just three passes in five games before his release on Tuesday.

Armstrong caught one pass in the season opener against Houston and two more in Week 3 against the Raiders, but he was also credited with five drops and was inactive in Week 8's victory over the Jets, giving way to the recently-signed veteran receiver Jabar Gaffney. (Gaffney nearly tripled Armstrong's season yardage output of 12 with one 30-yard reception this past weekend.)

It's a disappointing end to Armstrong's brief second go-round with the Dolphins, as he was expected to at least fill a much-needed role as a situational deep threat. That being said, the Dolphins are sitting fairly comfortably at 4-3, despite a rookie quarterback at the helm for nearly the entire season.

Ryan Tannehill, whose status for Week 9 remains uncertain with a left knee bone bruise and deep thigh bruise, has shown impressive chemistry with underrated receiver Brian Hartline and always-reliable slot man Davone Bess.

As for Armstrong's replacement, the team didn't make a corresponding move Tuesday but will likely do so Wednesday. I wouldn't necessarily expect the addition of another wide receiver, such as Jeff Fuller or Brian Tyms from the practice squad. The Dolphins are pretty set right now with the four guys they are dressing on game days, and rookie Rishard Matthews is already on the 53-man roster as a fifth receiver who is inactive each Sunday. (Though they could always bring back Legedu Naanee...just kidding.)

I also wouldn't expect a quarterback addition to the active roster regardless of the severity of Tannehill's injury, as the Dolphins have been dressing just two of their three all season and a Tannehill absence would just mean Pat Devlin dressing for the game behind Matt Moore.

More likely, the Dolphins will sign someone at another position where guys are banged up right now, such as the defensive line, linebacker corps or secondary. Or, they'll add another body to Darren Rizzi's shining special teams unit.

Stay tuned Wednesday as I'll have coverage of the Dolphins' corresponding move.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dolphins vs. Jets - Live Chat

With the ALCS over, I now have Sundays free and thus will continue doing live chats during Dolphins games! Join me this afternoon starting at 12:30pm ET for a live chat during today's game against the New York Jets!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dolphins sign H-back Dominique Jones to practice squad

Entering a week of practice following their bye, the Miami Dolphins made some minor changes to the practice squad by releasing linebacker Joe Holland and signing H-back Dominique Jones.

Jones joins the Dolphins' practice squad after spending training camp and the beginning of the regular season with the Indianapolis Colts, which was preceded by stints in several minor football leagues.

Holland was signed to the practice squad last week (which I was unable to cover thanks to my day job covering the ALCS for TBS). He was an undrafted rookie out of Purdue that had previously spent time with the San Francisco 49ers.


Background

A San Diego, Calif. native, Jones played college football at Division II Shepherd University, where he earned second-team all-conference and third-team All-American honors as a senior with 34 receptions, 403 yards and nine touchdowns.

After going undrafted in 2011, Jones signed and played or the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.

In 2012, he led the Indoor Football League's Reading Express with 39 receptions for 349 yards and seven touchdowns before signing with the Indianapolis Colts on May 1.

Jones caught three passes for 66 yards in the preseason, including an impressive, tackle-breaking 42-yard score you can see here. He made the team out of training camp, catching one pass for eight yards in his NFL debut and playing in the team's first four games before being waived on Oct. 8. He spent another week on the team's practice squad before being released.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jones played 33 offensive snaps for the Colts over his four games. He also played special teams during two of those games, recording zero tackles while being penalized for a fasemask in Week 3 against the Jaguars.


Analysis

It's still unclear what position Jones will play in Miami, as he played tight end in college and in the UFL and IFL, but was listed as a fullback with the Colts. It's not uncommon to see college tight ends lacking elite athleticism move to more of a fullback/H-back role at the pro level.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Jones obviously does boast some receiving skills and it's fairly impressive he was able to make the Colts' roster out of camp and even see some action on offense given how off the radar he was when he went undrafted.

That being said, Jones isn't close to making the Dolphins' active roster and will be on a tryout basis in Miami as he looks to impress on special teams and on offense in practice. He's not a threat to fellow former IFL-er Jorvorskie Lane at fullback, nor is he likely to supplant Charles Clay or Jeron Mastrud at tight end. (He's probably no worse than Michael Egnew, but as we all know he's clearly received a one-year pass as a third-round pick.)

The Dolphins have been rotating their practice squad players quite a bit over the last month and there is no guarantee Jones makes it beyond this week.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dolphins promote De'Andre Presley from practice squad

The Miami Dolphins entered Wednesday with two open roster spots, having released three the day prior while signing only one in wide receiver Jabar Gaffney.

With cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Richard Marshall missing practice time with injuries this week, the Dolphins chose to beef up their secondary depth by filling one of those spots with practice squad cornerback De'Andre Presley.

The Dolphins also signed cornerback Julian Posey to the practice squad to replace Presley while adding yet another healthy body to the position with Carroll and Marshall hurt.

Finally, linebacker Mike Rivera cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve Wednesday after being waived/injured the day before. Expect Rivera to be released outright in the near future.

The Dolphins currently have 52 players on their active roster, with one open spot remaining.

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 went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft and signed with the San Diego Chargers, where he fully converted to defensive back. Despite racking up 13 tackles, an interception and two pass deflections in the preseason, Presley was waived during final cuts and signed to the Dolphins' initial practice squad.

As he has done in practice since joining the Dolphins, Presley will don No. 21 if he is active this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The number was previously worn by the departed Vontae Davis.


Julian Posey

Posey played college football at Ohio University, where he started at cornerback for the Bobcats as a senior in 2010 and amassed 46 tackles, 12 pass deflections and an interception. He went undrafted in 2011 and spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad of the New York Jets.

After re-signing with the Jets in the 2012 offseason, Posey appeared in all four preseason games (starting one) and totaled 12 tackles. He was waived during final cuts and subsequently worked out for the Cincinnati Bengals, though he was not signed.


Analysis

At this point, it's impossible to tell if Presley has shown any real promise in practice or if he is needed simply as a healthy and familiar body at the position. Nolan Carroll (Achilles') and Richard Marshall (back) are both iffy for Sunday's game, so Presley could be pressed into action sooner than expected.

Presley is certainly a tremendous athlete and is a bit of an intriguing prospect, but odds are he isn't ready for a role on defense yet and will probably work primarily on special teams if he dresses this week. Cornerback R. J. Stanford, who was claimed off waivers from the Panthers after final cuts, would be the first man up to replace either Carroll or Marshall.

Stanford, who was a seventh-round pick by Carolina in 2010 and has played in 12 games last season, has not yet seen a defensive snap in a game with the Dolphins and has just two special teams tackles to his credit.

As for Posey, it's safe to say that he's merely here because the Dolphins need practice depth, and his status with the team is day-to-day unless he really shines in that capacity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dolphins sign Jabar Gaffney; cut Legedu Naanee, two others

Miami Dolphins fans were already calling for wideout Legedu Naanee to go after a horrible preseason and three catch-less games to start the regular season. When his first catch of the season late in the team's Week 4 contest against Arizona resulted in an inexcusable and provoked fumble, that was indeed the last straw.

In what is sure to be general manager Jeff Ireland's most popular move in weeks, the team officially parted ways with Naanee on Tuesday while bringing in veteran wideout Jabar Gaffney to replace him on what is almost certainly a one-year deal.

Gaffney initially worked out for the Dolphins on Sept. 3 after being released by the New England Patriots during the preseason. He also worked out for the Oakland Raiders about a month ago, though he remained unsigned until now as he recovered from a lingering hamstring injury.

The Dolphins cleared two additional roster spots on Tuesday, terminating the contract of defensive tackle Andre Fluellen and waiving linebacker Mike Rivera with the injured designation for the second time in his career. Rivera will revert to injured reserve if he clears waivers, which is exactly what happened when the Dolphins waived him injured in August 2011.

Fluellen appeared in two games for the Dolphins after signing on Sept. 18, playing 14 defensive snap and recording zero tackles. Rivera, who was added on Sept. 25, dressed for Sunday's loss to the Cardinals but did not show up on the stat sheet.

The Dolphins will enter Wednesday with 51 players on their active 53-man roster, meaning a couple additions are certainly forthcoming.


Background

A San Antonio native who played high school football in Jacksonville, Gaffney redshirted as a true freshman at Florida in 1999. He made an immediate impact once on the field for the Gators, earning first-team All-SEC honors and first-team All-American honors in both 2000 and 2001.

Gaffney left Florida after his redshirt sophomore season, entering the 2002 NFL Draft where he was selected in the second round by the Houston Texans. His four-year stint with the Texans was marred by inconsistency, as he appeared in all 64 possible games but failed to top 632 receiving yards or two touchdowns in any season.

After signing with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent in 2006, Gaffney was released before the start of the season. He joined the Patriots in what would end up being a three-year stint, working as a rotational receiver and topping out with five touchdowns in 2007.

Gaffney headed to Denver in 2009, spending two seasons with the Broncos and setting career highs in receiving yards both seasons with 732 yards in 2009 and 875 yards in 2010. He played for the Washington Redskins in 2011, setting or tying personal bests across the board with 15 starts, 68 receptions, 947 yards and five touchdowns.

After a brief return to New England prior to the 2012 season, Gaffney was released on Aug. 27.


Analysis

In all honesty, I'm more excited about the release of Naanee than I am the signing of Gaffney. Naanee was such a disappointment from Day 1, working with the starters for all of camp only to drop everything thrown his way in the preseason to barely getting on the field once the real games began. And of course, the fumble against Arizona was inexcusable and it was certainly time for him to go.

Gaffney isn't a No. 1 receiver that's going to revolutionize the Dolphins' passing game and I honestly can't imagine him ever gaining a bigger role than Brian Hartline or Davone Bess. He's a solid piece to the puzzle and has a chance to unseat the unproductive Anthony Armstrong as the team's third receiver, but there's no guarantee Gaffney makes a real impact or even lasts the whole season with the team.

In a best-case scenario, Gaffney would be able to at least earn that No. 3 job and catch 3-5 passes per game as another reliable target for the Dolphins' rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. You certainly can't get any less productive than Naanee was and Gaffney's track record is much better, so there's nothing to dislike about the move.

The departures of Fluellen and Rivera don't come as surprises either, as neither guy was a lock to stick around long-term. Fluellen's release either means Tony McDaniel (knee) is ready to return or the team saw enough of Fluellen and wanted to bring in a different player to look at there.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dolphins-Cardinals Game Observations

Another week, another heartbreaking loss for the Miami Dolphins.

Just like Week's 3's game against the Jets, Week 4's matchup with Arizona featured a Dolphins team that outplayed its opponent only to fall in overtime.

It's crazy to think that in a game where Ryan Tannehill set a franchise rookie record with 431 passing yards, Brian Hartline broke Chris Chambers' single-game mark with 253 receiving yards, and Cameron Wake set a personal best with four sacks, the Dolphins ended up losing.

While the Dolphins could easily be 3-1 with just a few less turnovers and some timely "finishing" of games, they sit at 1-3 and at the bottom of the AFC East a quarter into the season.

The Dolphins will remain on the road in Week 5 as they travel to Cincinnati to face the 3-1 Bengals. Until then, here are my thought on their tough Week 4 loss to the Cardinals.


Offense
  • It's hard to be anything but ecstatic with the way Ryan Tannehill played yesterday. He finally got a chance to air it out and he certainly didn't disappoint. He had a few bad throws, including one that should have been intercepted but it the ground in the defender's hands, but his actual interceptions were really the result of a receiver slipping and some blitz-pickup issues. I absolutely loved his command of the offense yesterday and although the team is 1-3, this is exactly the kind of optimism I wanted to get out of his play this season.
  • Surprisingly, the Dolphins' running game didn't get going as much as it has the past few weeks, taking a backseat to the passing attack. The good news is that Reggie Bush looked solid and came out of the game healthy, so I'd expect him to resume a bigger load going forward.
  • I thought Jorvorskie Lane had a great game all-around, not only with his touchdown but also as a lead blocker. Quite a find for the Dolphins.
  • I've always been a big Brian Hartline fan, but a performance like this is still stunning. Hartline did a great job yesterday and seems to have an incredible rapport with Tannehill despite missing the whole preseason. He and Tannehill did a great job taking advantage of the weaker points of Arizona's secondary. Although his slip and fall that resulted in an interception was unfortunate, that kind of thing happens and it doesn't take away from the good things he did. Then you throw in the always-reliable Davone Bess, and it's clear to see why Tannehill targets these two so often.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Legedu Naanee has gone from a non-contributing ghost to a game-killer. He spent the first three games playing sparingly on offense and not catching a pass, only to hook up with Tannehill on a deep ball late in the game yesterday and fumble it with no contact. I know the guy is guaranteed his $700,000 salary, but I can't stand the fact that he's still in Miami and they might as well move on now.
  • The offensive line continues to be solid, although it needs to handle blitzers well. I also thought Jake Long had a pretty rough first half and he's still not playing at the elite level to which we've become accustomed. I would hope that this is because he may not be 100 percent, but it's certainly something to watch going forward. I continue to be very pleased with how Mike Pouncey is playing and he looks more and more like a great center everyday.

Defense
  • As one would expect given the Dolphins' quality defensive line and the Cardinals' offensive line woes, Miami dominated this game upfront. Cameron Wake continued to get held on a regular basis, but that didn't stop him from getting four sacks after being shut out the past three games. The team overall did a very nice job stuffing the run and  getting consistent pressure on Kevin Kolb.
  • The linebackers had a pretty solid game as well, and had a fairly easy time given the lack of Arizona's running game and receiving threats in the middle of the field. Karlos Dansby needs to shut his mouth, but he at least made some plays in this one and actually got one of the Dolphins' many sacks.
  • It's hard to find much to complain about in Sean Smith's performance this week. He did allow the game-tying touchdown late, but he was matched up on Larry Fitzgerald all day and basically shut him down from any big plays. Not only that, but he made two very nice plays on interceptions and tackled well. I can't say I was nearly as happy with how Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll played, especially considering the constant pressure Kolb had to deal with. 

Special Teams

  • Another missed kick for Dan Carpenter has fans up in arms, but I'm not ready to move on. We're still looking at a small sample here and Carpenter has been reliable for years, so I see no reason to let him go with his salary guaranteed for the season. Now if he continues to struggle, I certainly look to go younger and cheaper next year, but moving on yet is a little quick.
  • Brandon Fields had another strong day, aided by Patrick Peterson consistently doing stupid things like bobbling punts and fair-catching the ball at the three-yard line.


Conclusion

It's unfortunate to think how easily the Dolphins could be 3-1 or 2-2 right now, but sitting where we are was not unexpected given the Dolphins' holes. At the very least, it is nice to see guys like Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline, Mike Pouncey, Cameron Wake and Sean Smith playing well, as that's really all we could hope for going into the 2012 season.

The Dolphins did a lot of good things in this game, including but not limited to a strong passing attack, a good pass rush and sound tackling, which are all things the team had been lacking in previous weeks.

There are still roster holes and there is still work to be done, however. The Dolphins have to avoid untimely turnovers, they have to get more consistent in all facets and head coach Joe Philbin absolutely has to avoid crucial coaching mistakes.