Miami Dolphins: Free Agency Targets

Officially the NFL free agency period begins Tuesday at 4pm. That does not mean we cannot look ahead.

I already wrote about Ndamukong Suh here. Suh clearly was the biggest target of this offseason not just for the Dolphins but for free agency overall. It has been widely reported that he will sign with Miami.

So what is next?

These are my targets, not necessarily the Miami Dolphins targets. No inside information. Simply thoughts on what would work for me.

Dan Williams, DT: Yes apparently Ndamukong Suh is coming. Why would you need another defensive lineman? Because you still need a nose. At 6’2 and 327lbs Williams can eat up space, allowing the linebackers to make plays in the running game. A.J. Francis may be able to man this spot but an extra body is always welcome.

Mason Foster, ILB: Speaking of linebackers. Foster could help shore up the middle linebacker position freeing Koa Misi to move back outside where he belongs. Anyone who follows me knows I am very high on Erik Kendricks from UCLA in the draft so this would be a luxury signing.

Patrick Robinson, CB: I have heard that Robinson will sign with the Dolphins, http://www.phinmaniacs.com/news/cornerback-patrick-robinson-expected-to-sign-with-the-miami-dolphins. It makes sense. Someone needs to lineup across from Brent Grimes. Robinson would most likely compete with Jamar Taylor for the starting position.

Clint Boling, G: The 25-yr old former Cincinnati Bengals would go a long way to shore up the guard position which has been an albatross for years. Signing Boling would set four of the five starting positions across the offensive line, no reason not to take a shot.

Andre Johnson, WR: The 33-yr old receiver is going to be a popular target. Would he come home to Miami(he played for the U in college) or is he looking for a more sure shot at the playoffs? His presence would be invaluable for the young receivers in Miami and he should easily fill the number one position for at least a couple of years.

Andre Holmes, WR: At 6’4 and 210lbs Holmes would give the Dolphins some much-needed size at the wide receiver position. He is a restricted free agent so the Oakland Raiders can match any offer but there is no draft pick compensation to worry about. This would be one of the smaller signings that end up looking big when the games actually matter.

There are many other moves that could be made in the coming weeks. There is no crystal ball. Should be a fun time.

Four o’clock Tuesday cannot get here soon enough.

 

 

Categories: Football, Free Agency, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Miami Dolphins and a man named Suh.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Hunting season is almost here. The NFL Free Agency season opens Tuesday at 4pm.

Like most years there is one marquee player grabbing most of the attention. This year that player is Ndamukong Suh. He is the white whale this offseason. Franchises will put it all on the line to sign him.

Suh is the $100-million dollar man this week. The San Diego Chargers just threw their name in the ring, joining the Oakland Raiders, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears, his former team the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins seem to be the frontrunners. They are going big-game hunting again. This is not the first time they have gone after the biggest name during the offseason. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Mike Wallace all come to mind.  While they have had some success the Dolphins have also been used to drive up the price on free agents who never intended to sign with the storied franchise.

Suh is absolutely worth the money. He is clearly the second best defensive lineman in the league-sorry but J.J. Watt is still number one. Talent has never been a question. Watching him at Nebraska in college it was clear he was a man among boys. Even his occasional on-field penalties should not give any team pause. Still the price tag is daunting.

$17 million a year. That is what we are talking about on the low-end. That is elite-quarterback money. That is Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady money. It is scary. For that money you can sign two or three very good players, maybe even pro bowl players. For that kind of money you have to be sure or it can cripple a franchise.

Miami has the money. Question is do they pull the trigger?

This week I considered what to do with the defensive tackle position with or without Suh. I came up with three ideas I like.

Scenario #1:

Sign Ndamukong Suh and Jared Odrick. Bring Odrick home. He has been the best interior defensive lineman for the Dolphins for the last few season. Pairing him with Suh would solidify the middle for years to come.

Scenario #2:

Sign Suh and Dan Williams, the free agent nose tackle from the Arizona Cardinals. At 6’2 and 327 lbs, Williams can eat up space in the middle while Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon terrorize opposing offenses.

Scenario #3:

Sign Odrick and Williams. Yes they miss out on the shiny signing of Suh. That is ok. The defensive line is still strengthened and you have a chunk of cap space available to address other needs.

Categories: AFC East, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Free Agency, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Greater than Great

From the Great Pumpkin to Alexander the Great to the Great One(Jackie Gleason-look him up you will thank me) as a society we obsess about greatness.

It is never more prevalent than in the sports world. The greatest slugger or a great center or in the NFL great quarterbacks.

Enter Tom Brady. In a fourteen years career he has thrown 392 regular season touchdowns and compiled a career passing rating of 96. Brady is the definition of a great quarterback. This most recent Super Bowl win was his fourth tying Joe Montana for the most ever.

This is where the problem comes in. Some feel the need to anoint him as the greatest quarterback ever.

Great is not enough? He has to be the greatest?

The first problem with this is simple: Super Bowl championships are not a quarterback statistic. It may seem like it when listening to the national media but there are actually 52 other players on those teams. Fifty-two other players along with a number of coaches, trainers and other men(and women) who all work together to led any given team to victory. The quarterback is only one part of the equation, not the entire equation.

The other problem is that naming any quarterback the greatest ever simply diminishes so many other incredible players. To say Tom Brady is greater than Joe Montana or Dan Marino or Bobby Layne only serves to disrespect all of them. It is purely subjective. There is no way to fairly compare playing in the different eras, just as it is difficult to judge who is the greatest quarterback today. While some may claim Brady others will champion Peyton Manning and personally I would pound the table for Aaron Rodgers.

Tom Brady is no greater today than he was the day before the Super Bowl. He is a great quarterback. Twenty years from now he will still be a great quarterback.

That should be enough.

Categories: Aaron Rodgers, Football, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, Quarterbacks, Tom Brady | Tags: | 1 Comment

Championship Sunday

ccham

After this Sunday there is one more game. The one that everyone is striving for. The Super Bowl. Players dream their entire lives of paying in the big one. But today. Today is when the legends are made. Today is the money round.

The Drive. The Catch. Those did not happen on Super Bowl Sunday. They happened in the Conference Championships.

The Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers are up first in Seattle. The Seahawks are fierce at home, the ’12th man’ not a small reason why. Few believe the Packers with a limping Aaron Rodgers have much of a chance. Then again, Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL today.

That is not the reason I believe the Packers will pull it out, no the Pack will win because of Eddie Lacy. I watch Lacy run and I do not see Eddie Lacy, I see ‘Sweetness’. Something about the way he moves and spins and throws himself into the end zone simply makes me think of the great Walter Payton. It is the presence of Eddie Lacy that will let Rodgers be Rodgers and lead his team to victory.
Green Bay 27-20

In the evening we have Andrew Luck versus Tom Brady. Some seem to want to connect this game to the Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots rivalry of the past. It simply does not fit. That was Peyton Manning against Brady, two titans facing off. The teams are different, the showdown is different. Now it is the a question of the changing of the guard. Andrew Luck is the future, clearly. The question is if the future is now?

Luck has been special during this years playoffs and he will need to be special again to upset the Patriots. The more important factor is the Colts defense. Last week they played phenomenal against the Denver Broncos and Mister Manning. Can they do it again? If they can prevent yards after catch today they can limit the Patriots offense. Outside of Rob Gronkowski there is not one receiver on the Patriots that should concern the Colts deep, but stopping Gronk is a tall order.
Indianapolis 37-31

No one can predict what will happen today. If they say they can they are liars.

Time to sit back and enjoy.

Categories: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Denver Broncos, Eddie Lacy, Football, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, playoffs, Quarterbacks, Seattle Seahawks, Tom Brady | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins: Top Three Needs for 2015

This is a special time of year in the NFL. Some are fortunate enough to compete in the playoffs hoping all the hard work might pay off in a Super Bowl berth. Others find themselves at the other end of the spectrum searching for a new head coach to hopefully steer the ship away from the rocks. Every one else? Well now is a time for them to take stock. Take a look at what worked and what did not. It is time to make difficult decisions as they begin the journey through the 2015 offseason.

I started taking a look at what need the Miami Dolphins might need way back in November. While some things have changed since then the basic premise is the same.

I do not feel that the Dolphins are that far off the pace. Injuries and quality depth hurt Miami as much as anything on the field, just like any other team. To an extent the Dolphins could go BPA(Best Player Available) when the draft rolls around. I have however targeted three spots.

1. Linebacker:

The Dolphins have two good promising starting linebackers in Koa Misi and Jelanie Jenkins. The problem is they are also saddled with Philip Wheeler and Dannelle Ellerbee who have drastically underperformed. The good news is that Wheeler and Ellerbee will most likely not be here next season. The bad news…who takes their spot?

Second year players Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain could possibly fill that third linebacker spot still leaving us with the question of depth.

Two players I do like are Erik Kendricks (UCLA) in the early round and Mike Hull(Penn St) in the later rounds.

Kendricks is an active versatile player who could easily be penciled in at middle linebacker from day one. Hull is a gritty, lunch-pail kind of player. While his measurables may not be as shiny he will outwork everyone.

2. Offensive Line:

Last season the Dolphins addressed their offensive line problems signing free agent Branden Albert and drafting rookie Ja’Wuan James. That seemed to help dramatically. When Albert went down with an injury it was clear more work is needed.

With James and Albert manning the tackle positions and Mike Pouncey expected to resume his career at center now it is time to find depth and possibly a guard or two.

Brandon Scherff(Iowa) would be a tempting first round pick. He could possibly man one of the tackle spots but he may be even better inside at guard. Another option Erik Fisher(Oregon).

3. Secondary:

Notice I said secondary. Not safety, not cornerback. My feeling is either or both may be a need. Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan could both be back or neither leaving more questions than answers. The simple fact is we need someone solid across from Brent Grimes and we do not know if Jamar Taylor can do the job. On the other hand while Delmas was good before his injury he does have an injury history.

There are a number of talented young players on the roster to look at for help: Michael Thomas, Walt Aikens, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis. Even if everyone contributes we will still need some secondary help.

Two safeties I like are Cody Prewitt(Ole Miss) and Gerod Holliman(Louisville). Both have good size and ball skills. They could allow Reshad Jones greater freedom to freelance and be the playmaker we have seen in the past.

As far as corner Trae Waynes(Michigan St) is a no brainer. I also like Kevin Johnson(Wake Forest). Both have the size we are frankly missing at corner to go along with excellent coverage skills.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Draft season is not quite upon us. As it gets closer players do begin to separate themselves. Just a little taste of what we could be in store for.

 

Categories: AFC East, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died Sunday morning at age 49. My condolences to his family and friends.

It is hard. As we move on in life people are taken from us. Whether a family member, a friend or simply someone who we grew up with. Sometimes it is someone who seemed ever-present in our lives, someone like Stuart Scott.

The first time a celebrities death truly hit me was with Johnny Carson. Ended every single day with him for longer than I care to remember. He was the uncle who made you laugh. Much the same recently when we lost Robin Williams. But the hits keep coming.

I first saw Stuart Scott on the local news here in Orlando, he worked for WESH the NBC station here in Orlando before moving onto ESPN. We grew up with his catchphrases: “Booyah…” and “cooler than the other side of the pillow” became part of the national lexicon. Through Scott sportscasters are often as known by their catchphrases as for their work.

When I saw Scott’s speech at this years ESPY award show I was at once proud and saddened.

I was proud seeing a strong man fighting cancer and staying positive. So many fight this dreaded disease and it is absolutely a fight. Those like Stuart Scott and Jim Valvano who fight the fight and live their lives gives me hope for so many others.

I was saddened because, because I knew this day was coming. This day comes far to soon for each and every one of us.

We will miss you Stuart Scott.

Categories: ESPN, sports, Stuart Scott | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eventful Sunday

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Al Diaz/Miami Herald

“Here’s a Christmas present. You don’t have to ask me anymore. He has one year left on contract and is coming back.”

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross to reporters regarding head coach Joe Philbin. The announcement that the head coach would return was only the last item of an eventful Sunday for the hometown team.

Earlier in the day the Dolphins were officially knocked out of the playoffs when the Pittsburgh Steelers held off the Kansas City Chiefs 20-12. By that point a playoff berth was little more than a pipedream. The disappointing performances over the last month truly sealed the Dolphins fate before the Steelers put the last nails in the coffin.

While everything else was going on the team managed to have an exciting game with the Minnesota Vikings. A blocked punt for a safety won the game for the Dolphins 37-35, not that they did not try to give the game away. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had an excellent game throwing for 396 yds and 4 touchdowns. After bringing the team back to a 28-20 lead Tannehill watched as the Vikings marched right down the field to tie it up. Worse still, a fumble by Jarvis Landry gave Minnesota the ball at Miami’s five yard line which quickly became a lead. Tannehill once again tied the score with a minute left. Rookie Terrance Fede won the game with a timely punt block for a safety with only 41 seconds left.

The game was symptomatic of the entire season. Good plays followed by bad. At times they looked among the best of the league, other times they looked horrible. The sixty-minute game still eludes them.

The arrow is still pointing up. While some were calling for change knowing the status of the coaching staff can only be good moving forward. Now the team and the fan base can look to the future together without wondering who was steering the course.

Categories: AFC East, Football, Head Coaches, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grass Is Not Always Greener

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Time flies.

A month ago the Miami Dolphins were looking towards the playoffs, now fans are calling for head coach Joe Philbin’s head. Forget about waiting for a body to be cold, the body is not even dead yet. Things move fast in the NFL(Not For Long).

The reasons to move on from Philbin are there. Not enough progress year to year. Team going into games seemingly unprepared. The team coming out of the half of pseudo-playoff games totally flat. That is at least in part on the coaching staff. Then you have playcalling decisions that are questionable to say the least. Yes the offensive coordinator calls the plays but these are the same issues we had with Mike Sherman so it is fair to ask if it is a Philbin issue.

Joe Philbin often comes off as a mail man. The lack of passion can be frustrating. Being even keeled worked for Tony Dungy but Philbin is no Tony Dungy.

Naturally the talk comes to making a move. Changing coaches(again) is not without risk. This Dolphins team has talent, they are headed in the right direction. Many believe they are close, a few tweaks and they could be very good. At times this season they have shown how good they could be.

The question is what changes with a new head coach. Most likely a new coach will not simply make a few tweaks but sweeping changes.

There are two ways coaches handle new teams: Some adjust their schemes to fit the players they have to get the most out of them. Most new coaches would rather simply replace the players with ones to fit their schemes. The first way could lead to a quick turnaround. The second, well, that can but a franchise back years.

Many fans are hoping for Jim Harbaugh. He is a great coach but he may not be what the Dolphins need. The best case scenario may be a John Gruden following Tony Dungy scenario. That may be a pipe dream.

If, and it is still an if, Philbin is fired things will change. Do not fool yourself into believing that they will automatically change for the better.

The grass is not always greener.

 

Categories: AFC East, Head Coaches, Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens: Five Things

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

When the Miami Dolphins came out to a 10-0 lead against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday I felt pretty good, that feeling did not last. Of course I felt good the defense had stuffed the Ravens offense for three straight drives, the offense seemed to be able to move the ball on Baltimore’s defense as well. All seemed well.

It was not.

The cracks began to show and you saw what followed. The Ravens dominated the rest of the way, outscoring the Dolphins 28-3.

So here are Five Things.

1. The season is not over, it just feels like it is. Mathematically the Dolphins still have a shot at the playoffs, a shot. Most likely they need to win out, which means beating New England in Foxboro.  They will need a lot of help. A lot of teams need to lose at least once in the next three games. I hate depending on other teams. They should have just taken care of business themselves.

2. Defense: Where did the run defense go to? Once upon a time the Dolphins boasted a top-ten run defense, not anymore. Getting pushed off the line of scrimmage, bad angles, missed tackles just plain bad. They have given up over-650 yards in the last three games. That makes things even easier for upper echelon quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, what will it do against Tom Brady.

3. Injuries: These are players that left the field at some point Sunday- Jared Odrick, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Samson Satele, Charles Clay and Louis Delmas. Add those names to Branden Albert, Knowshon Moreno, Dannelle Ellerbee, Michael Thomas, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor and Courtland Finnegan. The team is looking like a mash unit. The loss of Branden Albert hurt the offensive line badly but the secondary may have been hit the worst.  Delmas may be gone for the season and only Finnegan looks to return anytime soon to help. RJ Stanford was one of our starting corners this week, let that sink in.

4. Mike Wallace. Many fans are upset about the lack of shots deep by the offense. Wallace should be a weapon deep but watching the game it does not look like Ryan Tannehill has the time to even attempt a deep pass let alone complete one. The bigger concern is the occasional lack of effort by Wallace. Commentators claim that Tannehill missed a touchdown pass to Wallace in the second half. That simply did not happen. The ball was right where you want it away from the defender towards the pylon, the receiver has to make that play. If Wallace had tried to get to the ball and could not that would be one thing, he gave up on the play. Gave up. Unacceptable.

5. Coach Joe Philbin has been criticized for a lack of emotion. He is so even-keeled sometimes you wonder if he has a pulse. The problem is when he does not seem to get the team ready to play. Watching the second half I found myself wondering if the team knew how important this game was. That is on the coach. Yes there are three games left and a slim chance to make the playoffs still exists but this game mattered. It would be nice if the coach understood that.

Yes there are other things to complain about. Bad calls from the officials: two questionable ineligible man down field calls and the reversal of a game changing fumble. The team inexplicably giving up on the run in the second half. But that is nitpicking. The team got beat down. We all saw it. Only one question:

What happens next?

On to New England.

Categories: AFC East, Baltimore Ravens, Football, Miami Dolphins, Mike Wallace, NFL, Ryan Tannehill, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just One

Jim Rassol/Sun-Sentinel

Jim Rassol/Sun-Sentinel

Just one.

Just one play changes a win to a loss. One throw, one catch. One stop.

Single plays throughout the course of a sixty-minute, sometimes longer, game mean all the difference. These plays separate pretender from contender. These plays build a champion.

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins just needed one play from their defense. They needed one stop that is all. One field goal instead of a touchdown. Just one more tackle, one pass batted down, one sack. Any of these would have gotten the job done.

That did not happen. If it had this would be a much different column.

Going into the Denver game defense was not the concern. No one worried if the defense would do their job. This was a top-5 defense, they had gotten it done all season long.

The question was if the offense and more importantly quarterback Ryan Tannehill would do their part. They did and then some. Tannehill went shot for shot with Peyton Manning going 26 of 36 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. The offense scored 36 points, the fourth time this season the team had scored over thirty points.

36 points should have been enough for the Dolphins defense to win two games. Not this time.

The defensive line, a strength of this team all season long, rarely pressured Manning. He would go on to throw for 257 yards and 4 touchdowns, three of them to wide receiver Demaryuis Thomas. Even worse they allowed the Broncos to run over them for 201 yards. There were receivers running free throughout the secondary and runners fighting for extra yards.

All the Dolphins needed even after all of that was one stop. Just one.

The offense had put in its work. The defense simple was not up to the task this day. One stop would have given them a chance.

These are the growing pains of a good team getting better. This team has shown that it belongs on the field with the best. Now they need to show that they can beat them, consistently.

 

Categories: Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Peyton Manning, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill, sports | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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