Wheels falling off.

Philbin

Three games. That is all. Three games into the season and the wheels seem to be coming off these Miami Dolphins.

If you talked to fans that is what they would tell you. It only took two games to erase the excitement of the opening game victory over the New England Patriots. Two games.

Fingers being pointed, blame being placed. Not so much within the team but surely from the outside. By the media. By the fans.

There are so many issues right now it is hard to really say where the blame actually lies. So many moving parts. Every man in that locker room has to look at himself and ask is he doing his job. It is a hard question to ask.

Looking from the outside where do you start?

There is no consistency. One moment the defense seems dominant, the next they give up a 21-yard run for a touchdown. Offensive drives ended by a bad throw or a drop or an inexplicable play call. The special teams units are an adventure, great plays followed by disaster. If it was one unit failing that would be one thing, it is everything.

We have seen enough good from the players on the team to know that they can get the job done. So that brings us to coaching.

After the offensive struggles last season the Dolphins moved on from offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, hiring Bill Lazor to take his place. At the time the question was: Was Mike Sherman responsible for offensive struggles or was it Joe Philbin?

After three games do we have an answer? This is a team that has not looked well prepared the last two weeks. It looks for all the world like the wheels are starting to fall off. Ultimately the head coach is responsible.

This week in the media it looked as if Joe Philbin was trying to play games. Every coach has his own way of dealing with the media. Refusing to answer a direct question and creating questions about the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game may not have been the best course of action. This was a unneccasary distraction for a team preparing to head to London for a suddenly important game.

These situations often go one of two ways: Either the team comes together, turns the corner and plays to their ability or the coach simply loses the team altogether.

Categories: Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Miami Dolphins Week Two Review

The Dolphins came back to earth very quickly. After an emotional home opener against the New England Patriots, Miami traveled to Buffalo where they promptly dropped the ball.

It is easy to assign blame for the 29-10 loss. Special teams were far from special. The defense gave up chunks of yardage. On offense they simply could not find a rhythm. Any one of those reasons would do for why they performed so poorly. There is of course another reason. Emotion and Intensity. Buffalo had it, Miami did not.

It is understandable that the Bills had emotion on their side. The sale of the team had been finalized keeping the team in the Buffalo area, Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly attended the game cancer free and if that was not enough the Bills honored beloved recently passed owner Ralph Wilson during their home opener. They came out of the locker room with all the emotion and intensity in the world, Miami simply never matched that intensity.

On paper the Dolphins have the better team, that only matters if you are playing the game on paper. Under Joe Philbin the team has struggled against teams playing with emotion. It happened last season against the New York Jets. The best way to combat that is to put together a solid drive from the get go. The offense did not cooperate for most of the first half, by the time the offense woke up it was too late.

As far as the actual on field issues the fixes are not that difficult. Both the special teams and the defense will be helped dramatically when Koa Misi returns from injury and Jason Trunsik can return to special teams where he belongs. While he did an admirable job filling in as a starter at linebacker, his absence on special teams was glaring. As far as the offense they need to regain the confidence they lost against Buffalo. Usually this is where I say “run the damn ball!”. While the ground game is essential it is the passing game that needs the boost. Starting the game with easy completions should let quarterback Ryan Tannehill get in a nice rhythm, something that was missing against Buffalo.

The sky did not fall last Sunday. The season is not over. Time to get serious and put in work.

Categories: Buffalo Bills, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Ryan Tannehill | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Week 2: The Great White North, The Buffalo Bills

mblogo

Last week was a great win. The Miami Dolphins did everything in their power to give the game to the Patriots in the first half. Three turnovers by the Dolphins turned into 20 quick and easy points for Tom Brady and the Patriots. On top of that the entire starting linebacking corps was out with injuries by the end of the first half. Then came the second half. The entire team stepped up and absolutely dominated. The defense only allowed three, count them three first downs. The offense shoved the ball down their throats. It was a domination. It was not perfect but it was a good start.

That was last week. It was wonderful. Now forget it. It is over. It is in the past. Time to move on.

The game against Buffalo that is what is important now. I felt great about our chances against New England, with Buffalo I have concerns. It all comes down to how the Dolphins play.

Did they learn anything from last season?

One of the big problems we had as a team last year was playing to our opponents level. If they were great like the Patriots the team stepped up to their level. Unfortunately that also meant underperforming against teams we should have dominated. On paper the Dolphins are a better team than the Bills, they were last year too. Last year the Bills beat the Dolphins twice. So the question is do we play to their level or play to our level, our ability and dominate like last week?

As far as the game. It is not about our passing game or our running game. It is not about the Bills receivers or even E.J. Manuel their second year quarter back. The game will be decided by the play of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Buffalo Bills running backs killed Miami last year. If our defense cannot tackle them, cannot contain them the game is over before it starts. That is my one and only concern. Stop Jackson and Spiller, everything else will take care of itself.

Not too tall a task.

Time for these Miami Dolphins to prove last week was not just a great win. Time for last week to simply be the beginning of something special.

Categories: Buffalo Bills, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Return of College Football Saturday

Certain events herald in the different season for some of us. Regardless of the actual start date, the last day of school always told me that summer was here. In the same way the first college football Saturday let me know that fall was here.

These are my thoughts on the beginning of the College Football season.

My day started in Dublin with the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF. There is nothing so special as getting to watch Football before I head into my day job. As far as the game itself by the fourth quarter we really had a game. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg looked good, he is one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the game today. On the UCF side on the other hand, they still need to find the replacement for Blake Bortles. Starter Pete DiNovo looked lost, in his first start he played timid as if he was afraid to make a mistake. Justin Holman performed much better giving the Knights a spark and nearly leading them to a comeback victory, just coming up a little short. Honestly I do not believe either player will be the long-term starter for UCF. Whether that player is on campus or not remains to be seen.

As I watched the games throughout this first weekend I could not help but think: College Football really could use a preseason. Not a full multi-game preseason, just one game. Let the players hit someone in a different uniform just a little before the games really count. As it is now we had some sloppy games along with horrible mismatches. Teams could schedule the cupcakes for the preseason game and actually strengthen the regular season schedules. Just a thought.

Now is the time when I piss off Florida State fans…

I do not know that Jameis Winston is that great a quarterback. It is not that he is a bad quarterback, he is very good. I simply think that he is, how do I put this. I think Winston is Chad Pennington. Good, solid, efficient. That is all. He has been blessed with an incredible supporting cast. Rashad Greene is a perfect example of this. Greene can turn a two-yard pass into a fifty yard touchdown with ease, as he did last night. When judging Winston consider is he making the plays or is it what he has to work with. While he has an embarrassment of riches right now when he moves onto the NFL things may be a little different.

I know it is ridiculously early but I have chosen my front-runner the Heisman race already. Todd Gurley of the Georgia Bulldogs ran for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on only fifteen carries. Add to that his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and he had a very nice night. Yes it was one game, but it was one very impressive game. Gurley is not a flash in the pan either. He has shown this kind of ability before for Georgia. If he can remain healthy he may break the streak of no running backs going in the first round of the NFL draft.

It was a great first Saturday. Let us hope it is just the appetizer for a fantastic season of football for all of us.

Categories: Blake Bortles, College Football, Football, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyone Loves the Backup Quarterback.

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

There are times when I think the fans are the ones who need to be drug tested.

This is one of those times. Over this past weekend I have heard fans suggesting that the Miami Dolphins start Matt Moore over Ryan Tannehill. This was after Moore gifted the Dallas Cowboys with a pick-six during their preseason game Saturday night, against the backups no less. I can understand getting excited by Moore moving the offense down the field, he is an excellent backup quarterback. I even understand the frustration of Tannehill having difficulty connecting on the long ball with Mike Wallace(perhaps the receiver should receive some of the blame). But start Moore over Tannehill? I do not see it.

Do these fans remember the last time Matt Moore played during the regular season?

I will remind you. Moore took over for an injured Tannehill during the 2nd half of the Buffalo Bills game. He manage to complete 2 out of 6 passes, worse still he completed the same number of passes to the Bills. Two completions and two interceptions. It was a bad day for Moore. Not that he cannot do better, he has, but with that memory is that who you want replacing a very promising young quarterback?

Fans love the backup quarterback.

Last season I had a friend of mine suggest that Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions should be benched for his backup Shaun Hill. Matt Stafford who has thrown for over 17,000 yards and over a hundred touchdowns should be benched for Shaun Hill.

It seems ridiculous. But it is understandable. Every fan wants that elite quarterback, they want Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. The problem is there are only so many of those going around.

It is not that Matt Moore or Shaun Hill are not starting quality quarterbacks, they would easily start for the Houston Texans or Oakland Raiders this season. It is that in those situations, behind Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford, they understand their role as the backup. While Moore and Hill have tremendous ability, Tannehill and Stafford have that extra something that puts their ceiling just a little higher.

Enjoy your backups, cheer for them when the time does come for them to come into the game. Just try to have some perspective. Understand there is a reason they are the backup and the other guy is the starter.

 

Categories: Football, Matt Moore, Matt Stafford, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Preseason, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Johnny Clipboard

jmbh

It has been announced that Brian Hoyer will start week one for the Cleveland Browns.

Johnny Football will start his career as Johnny Clipboard. While some national media may try to paint this as a mistake it makes perfect sense. This is not about the partying, it is not about the middle finger on Monday Night Football. This is not even about ill-advised photo with Justin Bieber (really what were you thinking?). It is all about the fact that Hoyer is simply better at this point.

Johnny Manziel is shiny. As a quarterback he creates something out of nothing, no one is disputing that. That is not the problem. The improvisation is a rare trait, something that simply cannot be coached up. The concern with Manziel are the parts of the game that can be coached up.

While he had a wonderful college career, he did struggle at times. Most significantly against LSU and Missouri last season. The connection: They forced him to play from the pocket. He seemed lost, the great player we had seen was missing. Creating is great but if you cannot play from the pocket you will be in trouble.

Players are better, faster in the NFL. This is the top one percent of the top one percent of football players on the planet. What worked in college may not work here. If he cannot learn to play from the pocket he may not make that jump. Relying solely on his scrambling ability could get him killed at this level.

So it is Johnny Clipboard to begin. If he can get out of his own way and learn while he is on the sideline he may be ok.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Football, Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel, NFL | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Secondary

Michael Thomas

This is the last in my series looking at the position groups as we enter into preseason.

The secondary went through several changes in the offseason. Gone from the team are safety Chris Clemons along with cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll. Taking their place are veterans Louis Delmas at safety and Cortland Finnegan at corner. There is no doubt about the talent of Delmas and Finnegan, rather can the players stay healthy.

Rather than go player by player this time I chose to look at what we know and what we don’t.

What we know:

Not a lot. We know Brent Grimes will excel at one corner position. He is one of the best in the game right now. Reshad Jones will miss the first four weeks of the season due to a suspension forcing the team to improvise at the safety position. Louis Delmas should be a solid ball hawking safety on the other side, question is will he make more plays that he gives up as the last line of defense.

What we do not know:

Will Cortland Finnegan regain his former pro bowl form, he has looked good so far in training camp so that is a plus. Who is the third corner? Last years draft picks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor look to have the first shot at the job. Jimmy Wilson seems likely to take Jones’ spot at safety, what happens when Jones is back from suspension?

Michael Thomas brings energy and enthusiasm to the secondary, will he find a home here in Miami? I believe he can be a star if given the chance. Either at safety or corner just get the man on the field.

Draft pick Walk Aikens looks promising, but I see a safety more than a corner in him.

When I look at our secondary there is a lot to like, but so many questions. The talent is there. Just put it together.

 

 

Categories: Football, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ray Rice Conversation

thMYBZ3R0O

There are some columns I try not to write, some subjects I try to avoid. Often it is a simple case of asking if I am the person who should be talking about this subject. Then again sometimes an issue keeps gnawing at you and you realize that like it or not it is time to bleed at your keyboard.

The entire Ray Rice situation is one such issue. I will not go into detail about the case here. Surely you can find it written about at length elsewhere across the net. Simply put due to an incident with his fiancé (now his wife) in Atlantic City, Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May. This last week the NFL chose to suspend Rice for two games along with a fine. While a TMZ video shows Rice with his seemingly unconscious wife leaving an elevator, no one knows for sure what took place in that elevator.

Many across the nation have blasted the NFL for not taking a harder stance against Rice. There have been cries that the league showed that it does not care about domestic violence, that it does not care about women.

If they truly feel that way then where is the outrage against the court of law?

If they feel that Rice only got a slap on the wrist from the NFL then what did the criminal justice system give him?

Something on the video from the elevator convinced the justice system and the NFL to decide as they did. Frankly, thinking anything else is simply judging by facts not in evidence.

That is what I feel about the Ray Rice case. However, that is not where the story ends. Domestic violence is a terrible plague on our society. This case raises the voices of outrage over this subject. The only problem is that it is not creating a discussion as much as a lecture. Everything is fine if you agree with everyone else. Do not even think of offering up a different opinion though.

Domestic violence is not simply a man physically or emotionally abusing a woman. It goes the other way as well.

I know. I have experienced it first hand. While some may scoff at the suggestion of men suffering from abuse at the hands of their wives and girlfriends it does happen. Often times it simply is brushed under the rug. Pride is many men’s greatest sin.

What man wants to admit the woman he loves is hurting him?

Who would believe him?

A conversation about domestic violence cannot, should not only cover part of the story.

I have said over and over again: It is never ok for a man to lay his hands on the women in his life. We should be there to protect them not endanger them.

At the same time, women it is not ok for you to assault the men in your lives either.

None of this excuses whatever happened in that elevator. It just highlights that this issue is not as simple or one-sided as some may want to make it.

This issue deserves better.

We all deserve better.

 

Categories: Domestic Violence, Football, Journalism, NFL, ray rice | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Linebackers

koa jordantripp

The linebacker position was an issue last season that needed addressing. I wrote about it leading up to the draft. It can be found here.

It was a frustrating situation. Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler were brought in to inject youth and speed to the linebacking corps. They were expected to improve an already solid front seven. They did not.

How bad were the results? During the second half of the Tampa Bay game I suggested that one of them should be cut. Not by the end of the season, not after the game. I wanted them cut right there on the field, take their playbook and make them walk home. If nothing else that would have sent a message.

Ok. Maybe that would have been a little extreme. However, improvement must happen this offseason. As a group we need to see better angles, quicker recognition and more consistent effort. Can last years starters step up their game or is it time for the next man to step up?

Koa Misi: Misi was one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins at the linebacker position last season. He was consistently solid playing the strongside outside linebacker position. This year the five-year veteran takes on a new challenge-middle linebacker. His athleticism and motor should serve him well in the middle. The question will be is this a solution or merely a Band-Aid to the linebacking woes.

Dannell Ellerbee: When he came over from the Baltimore Ravens Ellerbee was expected to excel at middle linebacker. After all he had filled in for future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis during the Ravens Super Bowl run. Seemed like a no brainer. Did not work out that way. Perhaps the change from a 3-4 to the 4-3 slowed his progress. This season Ellerbee is expected to lineup on the strongside, which it is felt is a more natural position for him.

Philip Wheeler: If anyone is on a short leash this season it is Philip Wheeler. Watching him last season I saw so many bad angles and even worse at times I saw a lack of effort getting to the ball carrier. While the other two starters have switched positions, I expect Wheeler to have competition for his starting job. He may be better in a pass rushing specialist role than as a full time starter.

Jelani Jenkins: The second year player out of the University of Florida took some time to adjust to the NFL. When he finally did he started taking some snaps away from Wheeler. If he continues to progress and more importantly impress he may have an outside shot at taking the starting job. While still a little raw I see tremendous upside to Jenkins.

Jason Trunsik: Trunsik has been the break in case of emergency linebacker for the last few seasons. He is a good, solid backup at all three positions. While good I feel he simply does not have the upside necessary. Sadly someone else taking his spot may be the surest sign of progress for the position overall.

Jordan Tripp: The fifth round pick out of Montana is intriguing. He has the skills to play at all three linebacker positions. During OTAs it seemed they were training him at all positions. Whether this is to take advantage of his versatility or to simply find where he fits best remains to be seen. From my own personal scouting I see him as a future middle linebacker. Until he finds his way into the starting lineup he should find a home on special teams, where he should excel.

What little I have seen and heard so far about the linebackers has been promising. I simply hope they can step up and put the memories of 2013 far in the past.

 

 

Categories: Football, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Jimmy V week.

I did not know Jim Valvano.
I never saw him play, never saw him coach. When he was cutting down the nets after winning the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament I was only 12 years old. I was unaware of Jim Valvano’s entire existence until this:

It is odd going from being unaware of someone to feeling a great admiration for that same someone in the span of mere minutes. That is what Jim Valvano gave us.

Sports is life. It is more important than the simple games we play and enjoy. Sometimes it can bring people together in a fellowship, a brotherhood that would not exist otherwise.

The “Jimmy V” speech is outstanding. It is inspiring. You do not need to even like sports to be touched by the words he said that night. The thoughts he shared that night transcend the sporting world.

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s one heck of a day.”

It is an amazing day. Here was a man dying of cancer(he would pass less than a month later) urging those in attendance to live their lives to the fullest. That night he would form the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research to help others. And he has helped so many others. Not only those helped by the foundation, but those inspired by his shining example.

It inspires me every day of my life. Every time I watch that speech is like watching it for the first time. Chills go down my spine and I feel like I could run through any wall. I feel I could do anything. Time is a gift, there is only so much that we each have. So live your life.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

To donate: 1-800-4-JIMMYV

Categories: College Basketball, ESPYs, inspirational, Journalism, Speeches, sports | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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