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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Harrington (updated)

The Dolphins are certain they are going to get Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington to be their backup -- one way or another.

But the Detroit Lions aren't so sure. They're thinking of trading their former starting quarterback to either Cleveland or Kansas City today. And if Harrington balks at the deal, as he has said he would, it could get ugly.

The Dolphins have been almost certain they would get Harrington because they have a two-year deal in place with him. Harrington must agree to redo his deal with any team he's traded to.

The Dolphins were so confident they would get Harrington that they made no efforts to go after Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst and Alabama's Brodie Croyle during Saturday's draft.

"No disrespect to either player, but we're going in a different direction for that position," coach Nick Saban said.

Harrington is that direction.

The problem remains that Detroit President Matt Millen continues to hold Harrington hostage, hoping someone will give up a fourth or fifth round pick in today's draft for the player. The Dolphins have offered a sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft for Harrington.

And here's the update: I have it on very good authority the Dolphins are going to play hardball with Detroit. They may not give up anything for Harrington and simply wait until June to get him.

Dolphins coach Nick Saban believes giving up a draft pick -- any pick -- for Harrington isn't worth it based on the fact he will be released in June. So what if the Dolphins don't get Harrington until then.

Harrington is smart enough to learn the Dolphins offense between June and September.

Anyway, the Lions are being stubborn and last week even tried to convince Harrington going to Cleveland would be to his greater benefit than going to Miami. But Harrington didn't change his opinion.

So today comes the collision as the Browns either pull the trigger (not likely) on Harrington, or the Dolphins improve their offer (also not happening), or the Lions back down (count on this one).

Oh by the way, don't be surprised if Miami takes a rookie QB late in the draft anyway.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jason Allen speaks

What follows is the entire transcript of the Jason Allen conference call with the media today following his selection by the Dolphins in the first round.


On whether he knew the Dolphins had a lot of interest in him prior to the draft) – “I really didn’t know. I just knew Coach Saban and I had a great relationship together. I worked out for him and I think the workout went really well. I kind of thought it was going to be a toss up.”

(On which teams he thought might draft him) – “Possibly Baltimore…Minnesota or somewhere between picks 13-18.”

(On his relationship with Saban) – “Coach Saban recruited me out of high school. He was the only coach that recruited me to play in the secondary. Everyone else recruited me as an athlete, but he saw the potential in me when I was playing high school football.”

(On why he didn’t choose LSU) – “There were rumors out there that he was going to go to the NFL. I wanted to be with Coach Saban for four years. Hopefully we can be together in Miami throughout his whole career.”

(On his hip injury) – “I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to go. I’ll be ready to go in mini camp. I’m excited to go to. The hip is not an issue. If we had to go today, I’d be ready to go today. I look forward to getting down to Miami and winning a Super Bowl.”

(On if he is a corner or safety) – “Both. Wherever Coach Saban wants to play me, that’s where I’m going to go play this year. Whether it be corner or safety in nickel and dime.”

(On if he played “center field” style safety in college) – “I played quite a bit. I went back in forth. Sometimes I played corner or deep safety out in the middle of the field or sometimes I played up to stop the run. I’ve played a lot of both.”

(On whether he came down to Miami for a workout) – “No, they came to Tennessee to work me out.”

(On if Coach Saban visited his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala. when he recruited him in high school) – “Yes he did. I remember how professional he was. He came in and told me, ‘Jason, I want you to be my safety.’ He was the only coach who recruited me to be a defensive back. Back then, he saw the potential in me at the position.”

(On if it was hard to say no to Coach Saban and not attend LSU) – “It was really hard. There were rumors going around that Coach Saban was going back to the NFL and I wanted him to be around for four years. He’s a defensive back guru and he’s the type of coach that is going to coach the defensive backs every day. I felt he could be one of the coaches that could make me an elite college football player. I just took a little different route going back to the University of Tennessee. But now I’m back in a situation where I’m blessed in Miami I can see Coach Saban every day and he can develop me into an elite NFL defensive back.”

(On the Dolphins plans to try him at different positions in the secondary) – “That’s the perfect scenario for me. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing, moving all over the secondary.”

(On when he moved from running back to defensive back) – “Once I got to Tennessee I knew I was either going to be a wide receiver or defensive back. I was going back-n-forth every day. One day I’d be with the wide outs the next day I’d be with the defensive backs. I was recruited inside between the wide receivers and defensive backs and finally I decided to go with the defensive backs.”

(On whether it was hard to let go of playing running back) – “We’ll never know. I tell the guys at Tennessee all the time, you don’t want to see me run the football, because I can do some damage. I think that helps contribute to my tackling skills, playing the running back position in high school and thinking like a running back would think while I’m playing the safety position.”

(On whether he wanted to play cornerback his senior year) – “Yeah, one of the reasons why I went back to school was because I wanted to prove that I was the best defensive player in the country and the most versatile secondary player. One thing that unique about me is that I’ve played the corner position at a high level. I’ve played the safety position at a high level. A lot of guys are capable of playing both positions in college, but didn’t get to play as much as I did at both positions.”

(On how tempting it was to turn pro after his junior year) – “It was definitely tempting mostly because I had already graduated. I felt like I needed another year of experience so when I came out of school I could compete for a starting job.”

(On how excited his parents are) – “My parents are very excited and it’s just great to have my family and friends here with me.”

(On where he is) – “I’m in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with my family. It’s a gathering of family of friends and my people who have been with me through my career. I guess about 150 people. On my Dad’s side of the family he has 11 siblings and of course I have a bunch of nieces and nephews and cousins here. I have six siblings, so you can imagine the group we have here. We got a hotel and got this big room for family and friends and food served for our guest.”

(On how he felt when he got the phone call that the Dolphins drafted him) – “My heart just fell to the floor. It felt like you got a ton of wait off my back. It was tough for me because I didn’t know how teams felt about me with my hip injury and where I’m going to be at. I was determined to come back better than ever. Coach Saban and Mr. Mueller, they believed in me and I appreciate them believing in me and the type of talent I have and the determination I have to come back.”

(On what are his parents names) – “Cynthia and Edward.”

(On if any of the positions he played are more fun) – “I think once you got to college, it’s just like playing backyard football. I was making tackles from the corner position, making tackles from the safety positions. My junior year I led the SEC in tackles from the safety position and prior to my injury I was leading my team in tackles from the corner position.”

(On whether he plans to participate in the mini camp next week) – “You better believe it. I’m looking forward to it.”

Calling all 'experts'

Sometime around 4 p.m. today the Dolphins will either make their 2006 first round pick or trade down for the chance to add picks, and thereby, extra players to their roster.

NFL sources are telling me the team is hoping BIGTIME for a trade down because Nick Saban has apparently identified a handful of players who could be available as many as 10 picks after No. 16 that he would be happy picking.

Unfortunately, Miami's trade fate is tied to some other team's desire to move up that will materialize only if certain players those teams are targeting (Jay Cutler for example) drop.

Having said all that, it'll be tough for Miami to get a deal done. We will see today how aggressive Saban is when he's on the clock -- my sense is he'll be very aggressive.

So who will Miami pick? I predicted Santonio Holmes is The Herald today and here's why:

The Dolphins have targeted the front 7 -- people that rush and affect the quarterback's comfort -- as their priority. They LOVE Kamerion Wimbley of FSU, they LIKE Manny Lawson of North Carolina State, they LIKE Bobby Carpenter of Ohio State. But Cleveland, Baltimore and Philadelphia also like some of those those players. So it's possible at least one of those guys -- probably Wimbley -- will be gone when Miami picks.

If he's there, I think the Dolphins will take Wimbley. I just don't think he'll be there.

I believe Miami's next greatest need should be cornerback and there should be a run on CBs where the Dolphins pick. Kelly Jennings, Antonio Cromartie, Tye Hill will start coming off the board anywhere from No. 11 to No. 28.

The Dolphins like Cromartie and Jennings. Hill, who I love, is apparently too small for Nick Saban's tastes -- go figure size being something he regards negatively.

Having said that, NFL sources are telling me the Dolphins aren't prioritizing the CBs as highly
as I think they should. It's probably their third priority.

It could be a smokescreen but those sources are telling me Miami's second most important priority is wide receiver. In my humble estimation, that will leave the Dolphins looking at another weapon for Daunte Culpepper -- especially in a week he lost the chance to have Ricky Williams in the same backfield. Soooo.

Which of the two receivers -- Chad Jackson or Santonio Holmes -- will the Dolphins take? Both could be available if Denver trades for Javon Walker before their pick at No. 15. If the Broncos don't consummate that trade before their pick, they may well take either player, and more likely Jackson.

That would leave Holmes for the Dolphins. I hope it doesn't happen that way because I think the team would get more immediate impact from a rush end/linebacker. We'll have to see.

Meanwhile, I'm sure all of you think I'm absolutely wrong on everything here, so feel free to correct, chastise and otherwise ridicule me with some responses. At some point, though, come strong with a draft pick prediction and your reasons for that pick.

You have until about 4 p.m.

Oh, and another thing: The CFL is dog pooh.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh Canada? Say it won't happen, Ricky

Ricky Williams is a saga magnet. Even when he's just hanging out -- at home or in his favorite tent in the Australian outback -- weird, whacky things seem to worm their way into his life.

Remember that bug bite while Williams was living in a tent? It caused a leg to swell so violently, Williams thought he was going to die alone in the outback?

Well, the latest freako drama the erstwhile Dolphins running back must now deal with is this story that he might play in the CFL. That's the has-been and never-was league up north that plays on the extra-wide, extra-long field with the funky motion rules.

Seems the Toronto Argonauts got this wild hair idea that Ricky Williams might be a fit for them, you know, now that he won't be playing NFL football the next 12 months or so.

Hey, why not? They figure they'll give Williams a chance to stay in shape while he's preparing for his 2007 NFL return and he can earn about $100,000 extra Canadian dollars in the process. Williams didn't come up with the idea, and as of Thursday night, hadn't heard about it.

But the strange stuff just chases him as if it were a tackler.

Anyway, the Dolphins are privately not too thrilled by the idea. On Wednesday, they told The Herald that there was no way Williams could play in Canada. Then on Thursday they pulled back from that because, woops, there really is a chance it can happen if Williams pursues the matter.

Leigh Steinberg, who is Williams' agent, confirms the Argos called to show interest but says he hasn't talked to Ricky and will advise his client to pretty much do whatever the Dolphins say. If the team says OK, then he can think about it.

If Miami says forget it, Williams will be advised to forget it because he doesn't want to breach his contract and jeopardize his 2007 return.

So if I'm the Dolphins, I say forget it.

The only way this team can get some value out of Williams in the future is if he returns intact and ready to play for Miami. Even if he never actually steps foot on the field for the Dolphins again, at least he'll have some (thismuch) trade value.

But if Williams blows out a knee while playing on bad CFL artificial fields, how does that help Miami? If he comes back worn out after carrying a CFL team on his back, how does that help Miami?

I realize Williams has financial obligations and isn't getting paid during his NFL mandated suspension. But how is $100 large going to help him long-term?

It just seems too bizarre. And it just seems so Ricky Williams.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The trade down scenario

OK, here's the math lesson for today: The Dolphins have six draft picks with three of those coming in the seventh round. The Dolphins also have needs at WR, OLB, RB, S, DT and possibly CB.

You have seven picks and seven significant needs. The math simply does not favor the Dolphins hitting on every pick to fill all the needs.

The answer? Get more picks OR have fewer needs.

Having fewer needs is out of the question right now, and in fact, that list increased two days ago when Ricky Williams lost his appeal and will serve a minimum one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

So the Dolphins must get more picks and the only way to do that Saturday and Sunday is to trade down. Already the team has been involved in conversations feeling out other teams about trade-down scenarios (see my story in Thursday's Miami Herald) so the potential is there.

Unfortunately, Miami needs trade partners that are casting lustful eyes at particular players for those trades to happen while the team is on the clock.

That being the case, Dolphins fans should pray Jay Cutler sinks like lead Saturday because he is probably the most valuable commodity that could be available when Miami picks and there will be teams behind the Dolphins vying to trade up and get him.

If Cutler goes before the No. 16 pick (which I personally believe he will), Miami's chances of getting a trade-down scenario with teams like the Jets, Carolina and Chicago still exist, but are not quite as clear cut.

If the Dolphins luck out and find a victim, I mean a trade partner, you can expect them to get at least a fourth-round selection out of any move, and as high as a second round pick if their retreat is to the end of the first round.

So here's your homework: Tell me what players of value (other than Cutler) may still be available when Miami picks and match those players to a team behind Miami -- likely one with multiple picks in some later round -- that has a desperate need for that spot or player.

I'll check back throughout the day Thursday and tell you what the trade value chart says Miami can expect in return for the possible exchange.

You're on the clock!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The fallout from Ricky's suspension

The Dolphins should be thankful the NFL announced Ricky Williams' suspension when it did -- four days before the draft -- because it allows the team to make alternate plans in the coming days.

Simply, the Dolphins now need to draft a running back at some point during the selection process Saturday and Sunday. I'm sure you're thinking the team already did that last year when it took Ronnie Brown.

But Nick Saban has viewed the RB position as one requiring TWO outstanding players, rather than just one, throughout his career.

Saban believes you wear down opponents with fresh multiple backs and that has proven out at LSU and last year with Miami. If you look at what Pittsburgh did last year with Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker and what Kansas City was able to do with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, its clear that a two-pronged RB attack is a great weapon.

More of a problem is that, under new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the Dolphins intended to run the ball more than last year. Last year the Dolphins passed the ball approximately 100 times more than they ran but they were expected to even that out more this year.

Now that plan to bring balance to the Miami offense may have to be adjusted.

The Dolphins have lost one of the best offensive players -- perhaps their best offensive player -- and now they have to replace him.

Saban suggested during the NFL annual meetings in March and again last week that Sammy Morris could fill that job. And I've got land in the Everglades I'd like to sell you.

Morris is a good special teams player and a serviceable third down back when pressed, but look at his 2004 production in case you think he can be THE guy behind THE guy.

Morris gained 523 yards in a season filled with nagging ankle and rib injuries. He missed eight starts and three games overall.

The Dolphins also have Travis Minor, but the truth is Minor failed to impress when he was given the opportunity in 2004 and last year was limited to only five carries for 17 yards.

Not to diminish these guys, but they are fine role players and special teamers, not second-tier backs in an offense that uses two backs extensively.

So the Dolphins must add RB to their list of draft-day needs because this Williams suspension not only means he's gone for a year, but given Williams' unpredictable mindset, could mean he's gone permanently.

So who will be available when Miami picks, especially in the later rounds?

The name that glows in neon is Joseph Addai, who Saban coached at LSU and who has outstanding 4.4 speed. Addai has size and speed but for some reason isn't considered a first-round pick. People say he runs upright but he looked pretty good to me as he plowed through the University of Miami defense in the Peach Bowl.

And isn't running upright also what they said about Deuce McAllister before he became a fine NFL running back?

Remember that good running backs can be had in almost any round -- the Denver Broncos have proven that for years. So I see no great need to get a RB in the first round.

But sometime in the draft? Absolutely.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Cutler available at 16?

My former colleague at ESPN, John Clayton, is reporting that Jay Cutler's stock is dropping such that he will be available when the Dolphins pick at No. 16.

While I don't know who Clayton's sources are, I can vouch for the fact the guy works the phones like crazy and has good connections. So I believe the possibility of Cutler dropping to Miami is real.

If the Vanderbilt product gets past the Cardinals at No. 10 (they like Ernie Sims) and the Rams at No. 11 (they need defensive help), it truly is possible you will see Cutler on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock.

That will lead to a very interesting moment because Nick Saban will then have to show his true hand. He will either take Cutler and, in so doing, tell the world he doesn't have great confidence that Daunte Culpepper is Miami's quarterback of the future.

Or he'll pass on Cutler and that will show us that the coach was simply putting out one of his patented smoke screens when he said last week that having Culpepper and even adding Joey Harrington, "does not preclude" the Dolphins from picking another QB.

So you are the Miami GM: If Cutler, who has perhaps the strongest arm in the draft, is on the board when Miami picks, should Saban pull the trigger or walk away?

I say walk away, baby, this is no time to give birth to future quarterback controversies. This is no time to strengthen the BENCH!

This is a time to improve the team with a starting OLB, CB, or S.

Get me an OLB, please

It's obvious the Dolphins need an outside linebacker out of this draft after LaVar "Freelance" Arrington has picked the Giants in free agency and there won't really be anyone else out there worth much respect until the round of June veteran cuts.

So the Dolphins will almost certainly draft an outside linebacker, although not necessarily in the first round.

The argument for taking an OLB in the first round is that a pretty solid one may be available. I know A.J. Hawk will be gone and so will my favorite Chad Greenway (who knows, maybe the Dolphins get lucky and he slips to them). But there are some mid-round candidates that show promise.

And, really, the NFL is filled with outside linebackers that came into the league in the middle rounds and turned into starters -- I remind you Channing Crowder played some at outside linebacker last year although he's better suited for the ILB spot.

Anyway, guys like Alabama's Demeco Ryans (good production) and Stanford's Jon Alston (excellent 4.58 speed) may be available when the Dolphins pick in the third round and possibly beyond. One guy I would stay away from is Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter.

Carpenter tests out like a stud and has the pedigree of having played for a bigtime school and coming from an NFL family -- his dad was former NFLer Rob Carpenter. But all that ability and legacy simply doesn't translate on the field, I don't know why.

Anyway, Miami's need at the position is clear. If the season started today, the Dolphins would put either Donnie Spragan or Dedrick Hodge in the starting lineup. Neither has proven to be a pass-rush threat in the past and both are probably better suited for duty as experienced backups.

In fact, if the Dolphins don't find a capable starting caliber player at this spot in the draft, I would make the case they have taken a step back in the position from a year ago.

I would even advocate they revisit the idea of signing Junior Seau for one more season. I know Seau has been injured most of the last two seasons and is pushing 76 years old now.

Bit I think he would be agreeable to signing a one-year minimum salary deal and he is still better than either Spragan or Hodge.

Anyway, I want to know who the draftnerds would suggest the Dolphins draft. I might even pass along the suggestions to the Dolphins if you can make a logical case for someone in particular.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Arrington agrees with Giants (Updated)

LaVar Arrington and the Giants have agreed to a seven-year contract worth approximately $49 million. He ain't going to play for the Dolphins, folks.

The Dolphins weren't even second in this outside linebacker derby as the Green Bay Packers Saturday morning made one last push to land the former Pro Bowl player. The Dolphins did not improve their $5 million per year offer, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The new boil for this pot left on the back burner showed the desire by Arrington not to get victimized by the coming draft.

Arrington hastened a deal before next Saturday's draft because he was worried a thin market would practically disappear if teams addressed their needs with draftees. That would have ended his chances of getting a big payday.

Arrington originally wanted $54 million over 7 years with approximately $12 million in guarantees.

The Dolphins were contacted by Arrington's agent, Kevin Poston, the past two days and asked to make their best offer. The same courtesy was granted the Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Overall, it means the Dolphins will take a stronger look at OLB in the draft next week. So what do you think? Did the Dolphins make a mistake by not bidding higher for Arrington?

The ENTIRE Saban Q&A

OK, without further ado, here is Nick Saban's entire talk from Thursday's press conference. You guys obviously want it and I am here to serve. By the way, Saban has cut down on the "relative to" references lately.

After you've stolen about 30 minutes of your company's time reading this, tell me your opinions. I'll give you my take in a future blog.

(On if he looks at the history of the 16th pick to gauge what types of players are typically chosen by then) – “I think that typically quarterbacks are going to go early. They usually get picked a lit ahead because it’s a position that’s critical to success and it’s been proven over time, relative to this league and being successful over time. I think big people that can affect the quarterback and people that can cover are all people that historically get picked earlier in the draft. There is obviously some guys this year that we think will do that. I think sometimes inside linebackers, for example, don’t get picked as high. Some people have that philosophy, some people don’t. It’s something you have to kind of evaluate, but typically people that can score touchdowns or create big plays, whether they affect the quarterback on defense or make the plays down the field, are guys that have a little bit more impact if someone is available to pick at that particular position.”

(On how he developed his evaluation system) – “Basically it’s very similar to the way we did it in Houston, but more specifically to this system is the way we did it in Cleveland. I learned most of it from Bill (Belichick) who probably learned it form Bill Parcells and the way they did it in New York. We’ve tweaked it to satisfy the criteria of what we think is important, but systematically it’s very similar.”

(On how difficult it is to evaluate players from non-Division I schools) – “I think level of competition is always something you take into consideration. I think that sometimes that works for you and sometimes that works against you. I can think of a time when I was actually in Cleveland and went to Alabama to work out Antonio Langham, who we end up picking the ninth pick in the draft, but the same day I flew to New Orleans and worked out Aeneas Williams, who played at Southern. I really liked Aeneas Williams. Both guys were a little bit speed deficient for their position, but Aeneas Williams never made it as high on our board because of the level of competition that he played against. Yet, I guess you could make a case that he had a much more successful pro career than the guy that we ended up picking. It was just a little easier to us to bring clarity to that because you saw the guy at Alabama covering probably five wide receivers in the SEC who were No. 1 picks or playing in the league. It’s not always correct to do that, I guess is what I am trying to say. It doesn’t always work that way, but when you evaluate players playing against the same level of competition that they’ll play against at the next level it makes it a little easier to feel comfortable that the guy is going to be able to bring his skill set to this level and have some success.”

(On if it was coincidence that the Dolphins took all major-school players in last year’s draft) – “I would think so. We try to do a good job with all levels of guys in terms of what we look at and how we evaluate them.”

(On how much it is easier to evaluate a player on or off the field who has played or grew up locally) – “I think that’s one of the things that really important from a scouting staff standpoint. When you have good scouts who are established, who have credibility in certain areas, I think that, regardless of the area, they can get good information because of the contacts that they develop over time with their history of dealing with those same schools. I do think that that is a factor in getting good information from coaches, trainers, weight coaches, whatever, to find out a lot about a guy because we have limited opportunities to interview, talk to, really get to know players to make, in some cases, a pretty significant investment in the future of our team as well as in them, in their development.”

(On how much the success of players like Santana Moss and Steve Smith has affected how he looks at the receiver position in terms of height) – “I think that every guy has to be evaluated separately and none of these criteria are like negative killers to any player. In other words, it may affect him in the category that he’s in as a player. I think a better way to look at it would be if you have a guy that meets all the size criteria, all the speed criteria, has the same production, the same athleticism – and this is an inexact science so for me to make these statements is a little bit far-fetched almost because personnel evaluation is not an exact science – but you try to come up with a set of criteria that minimizes your opportunities to make mistakes. If you have a guy who was clean in all those areas and it was all the same and one guy met all the size criteria and another guy didn’t, even though that guy could have the same amount of success, would you choose the guy that meets all the criteria or the guy who was deficient in one area? That area doesn’t have to be short, it could be character, it could be mental in terms of ability to learn and adapt, which could affect the guy’s development and how quickly he would be able to play. It could be speed, it could be athleticism, it could be a lot of things.”

(On if Ricky Williams’ status affects the draft strategy) – “We tried to put ourselves in a position that that wouldn’t be a factor for us right now.”

(On if there is any word from the NFL regarding Ricky Williams) – “No.”

(On if he enjoys the challenge of trying to perfect the evaluation and draft process) – “I do enjoy it. I enjoy the input that we get from all the people in the organization who are involved in personnel evaluation, all the people who gather information relative to character, attitude, every issue, which involves coaching staff, personnel people, Stu (Weinstein, Team Security Investigator), just about everyone involved in personnel, the medical staff, all make a contribution to putting all that together and then trying to make a decision. Again, it’s not exact, a decision on – just like durability. The guy has been hurt a lot, his history says he’s been hurt a lot. Maybe he won’t be a durable player. How does that affect where you pick him in the draft, relative to his ability. Because if he’s hurt, he’s not playing. I do enjoy it, but I think I understand that it is not an exact science, but we do try to establish criteria that minimizes our opportunities to make mistakes.”

(On if he is comfortable that he has a plan in place right now to resolve the backup quarterback situation) – “I’m comfortable if we can get it resolved.”

(On if he will look toward the draft to help resolve that) – “Absolutely. I think absolutely. We have a situation where we would like to get someone to be our backup quarterback. The priority would be that that guy might have a few skins on the wall in terms his experience relative to playing in the National Football League, but certainly a young player who had a tremendous amount of potential who we felt good about that would create value for the organization, especially down the road, would certainly, in some ways, be just as good a way to solve the problem.”

(On if Joey Harrington’s public statement Wednesday helps or hurts the Dolphins if they are trying to acquire him) – “First of all, the player in question is under contract with another team so I would rather not comment about that particular situation. Certainly we have some things to do to get that to happen and we would be pleased if we could make it happen.”

(On even the Dolphins acquire Joey Harrington, if he would take a quarterback if he was the highest guy on his board) – “It would not preclude us from eliminating the guy in the draft – anyone.”

(On if he would take a player rated highly despite having an adequate number of players at that position, running back for example) – “I don’t think it usually comes down to one particular guy. It certainly could, especially if that guy was way up the board and all of sudden he’s way up the board ahead of a lot of people. I think that that’s a difficult situation to be in. More realistically what happens is you have three or four guys that are rated very close in the same category.”

(On how common it is now to unearth players that nobody has ever heard about with all of the technology that is available) – “I think it’s more difficult, maybe than it’s ever been. I think with the technology of information, the attention that is given to the draft, it’s probably a little more difficult to find a guy who no one has heard of, and all of a sudden ends up becoming a phenomenal player and everybody says, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ I think it’s possible, but I think it’s a little less probable than maybe it was 20 years ago.”

(On if he ever scouted a player and wondered why nobody else was scouting him) – “Orlando Brown was a free agent from a small school – South Carolina State. I didn’t do it. Pat Hill was assistant offensive line coach and pro personnel and Bill (Belichick) sent him to all the small schools to see if there was a size-speed guy who had potential at the position. Orlando Brown became a pretty good player. I can’t remember if he made the team or was on the practice squad for a year, but he eventually became a very good player. But he met all the position criteria for what we were looking for in an offensive tackle. For whatever reasons – level of competition, I don’t know the specifics I can’t remember them all – the guy was a little overlooked and turned out to be a pretty good player.”

(On how many guys he’s personally looked at this year and how much time he has spent on looking at tapes) – “The number of guys would probably be at least 200, maybe approaching 300. What I try to do is guys who have been ranked a certain level and above I try to look at all of those guys. That’s initially how I try to go about it. I do it by position. I have a laptop, which our video people here do a phenomenal job of putting things together on that, keeping it current, keeping it updated and adding workouts. If Florida State had a workout last week that ends up on there. I can pull it up and look at it and watch those particular players, even though they may not have been on there two weeks ago when I looked at those particular players at that time. Then, as we go through a particular position, we get all the input and information on guys if we have discrepancies. Maybe the scouts have a guy rated a little higher or lower and the coaches have a guy rated a little different higher or lower, or maybe one scout thinks one thing and somebody else thinks something else. What you’re trying to do is get to a consensus. In situations like that, if I hadn’t looked at that particular player - and in some cases Randy (Mueller) does the same thing – we would go back and look at the player. And it’s not out of the question for us to put the player up on the board and have everybody look at him at the same time. Everybody tries to learn why this guy is or isn’t what we’re looking for or how he meets a specific position criteria that could be beneficial to him impacting our team.”

(On if he has a greater conviction about watching guys at certain positions) — “Not really. I look at them all. I also listen. I think we have a lot of qualified people who have a lot of knowledge and experience. I think it’s very important to listen to everyone’s opinion and sometimes you can be a little bit too high or too low on a guy for a particular reason. I think those are the kinds of things that I try to be very objective about. I’m from West Virginia. So if there’s a guy from Glenville State College I don’t want to rate him higher because he grew up in Fairmont where I grew up just because I want a guy from West Virginia on our team. I think the big picture is a lot more important than that. You try to be objective and not allow some of those things – outside influences – that really don’t factor into a guy’s success or lack of success to ever be a factor in making a choice or decision about a guy.”

(On how the final grade on a player is ultimately determined) – “Everybody who looks at a player grades the player. Then through the culmination of all that information, reading everyone’s assessment, everybody writes a report taking all the things into consideration. These things change. If a guy ran a 4.8 at the Combine and all of a sudden he runs a 4.6 at two or three workouts, maybe your position changes on a guy because you had questions about his speed and now all of a sudden that clears up. So you can clean a guy up in that area and now maybe you rate him a little bit better.”

(On with all of the information and misinformation put out by people around the league, if he’s cognizant of it all and how he filters through it) – “I think there is a fair amount of deception out there right now. Deception is probably a bad word, because I don’t think anybody would intentionally do that. I think that in trying to not give away maybe what their intentions are, they feel like they want to give some information but maybe not specific enough information that anybody could be at a an advantage or disadvantage on what they might or might not do. Therefore, how we would view all that information would be with some skepticism and would count first on our evaluation of guys on the board, how we view them and how they can help our team and try to put them in the correct order for us and have the discipline to stay with that rather than get affected by things that are happening outside and being able to verify in any way, shape or form, certain types of information.”

(On how uncommon it is for a school to have string of 11 straight years of having a player selected in the first round, like the University of Miami has) – “First of all, it says a lot about their program and their ability to attract some really high caliber football players who have had a lot of success in their program, which is a compliment to their coaching staff. I also think that it’s a compliment to the high school coaches for the kind of football that we have in this area and who have had a significant part in developing some of these guys, getting them involved early on and helping their development process so that they have an opportunity to go to college and be involved in a successful program like Miami has. I think that’s very impressive.”

(On what he thinks about the depth of the quarterback position in the draft, beyond Leinart, Young and Cutler) – “I think that quarterback is probably one of the most difficult positions - based on history, not based on my ability or inability or our inabilities our abilities – historically relative to the number of guys who get picked in the first round, the number of guys who end up being successful players and the number of guys who don’t pan out quite as well as what their draft status might have indicated that they might. I think it kind of proves that quarterback is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate, whether a guy is going to have future success.
I personally think that’s contributed systematically to how you can develop quarterbacks in the NFL. We don’t get ahead 40-6 where you can put a guy in the second half and try to get him ready to be next year’s quarterback. There are a lot of close games. Other than the preseason, the way we have to practice there, are not an inordinate amount of reps that you can split reps between the first guy and the second guy and try to actually develop a guy. I think sometimes maybe some of these guys at that position, because of expectation, are put into situations before they’re ready to have success that affects their confidence and their ability to develop. So it’s not only about the evaluation in the draft, it’s also about how a guy gets developed at that position relative to our system, which is no one’s particular fault, but that’s just the way it is. There are several guys who are interesting and there always seems to be a few guys who end up on the other end of that, who get drafted – whether it’s a Tom Brady or whoever it might be – later on who turn out to be exceptionally good players relative to their draft status.”

(On how difficult it is to evaluate college basketball players who enter the NFL and if he would be hesitant to draft a player who has never played college football) – “Not necessarily. I think that at some point in time in the draft if a guy has some of the criteria that you’re looking for at a particular position, especially if you can verify the history and maybe even look at the guy as a high school player as part of the evaluation. I think if you know him that is even more helpful. Antonio Gates being a guy who we recruited at Michigan State, we saw him as a high school player, had him in our camp and thought he was the best football player in the state of Michigan. He comes in and doesn’t make it academically. He goes to junior college and plays basketball and ends up playing basketball at Kent State. It’s no surprise to me that the guy is a good player in the NFL. Could I say when he was 15 years old in our camp that he was going to be what he is today? No, but it’s not a surprise to me. But that’s knowing the guy. It’s more difficult sometimes to know a guy that’s playing at George Mason or wherever, who you don’t have that same history with and it’s more difficult to get that information and it is a little bit of a leap of faith or projection to know whether that guy is going to turn out. But always at some point in the draft, relative to what’s available, maybe it is time to take a little bit of a risk in terms of what a guy’s potential might be.”

(On how objectively you can evaluate a player when there is a lot said about him in the media) – “You can’t really be affected by that kind of stuff. You have to be objective and you have to do your own analysis. I don’t read that stuff. My take on that is we would like to give you as much information as possible without affecting our competitive advantage. I think it’s important for our fans to know what’s happening and I think you guys providing the information you is certainly a service to our fans and the interest in our league and I think that is very very important. But at the same time I don’t think that we need to get affected by whatever thinks because how can we verify where their information came from? I just got into it with the scouts upstairs that all of a sudden I’ve got this thing form the combine of what every guy ran the 40 in and it’s electronically timed. I’m looking at a guy and we have a different time on him than what he ran in Indy. They say, ‘well this is our time.’ I say, ‘you mean we’re sitting in peanut heaven timing a guy in the 40 and we don’t trust the electronic timer, but we think that we can time him better from 200 yards away?’ So if we don’t trust the electronic time – and you know what their answer was? ‘They even start that with a button.’ Everybody wants to get their own information so they can make their own decisions because you don’t want to make decisions on this information and if you can’t verify it, it’s difficult to put much stock into it.”

You guys are really hardcore fans. A tip of the cap to you.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nick Saban's opening remarks today

OK, my beloved bloggerheads, what follows is the complete transcript of Nick Saban's opening remarks during a pre-draft Press Conference this morning. Here you can get a feel for the coach's double-talk.

Anyway, I have the entire transcript, including the questions and answer period, available if you folks want it. If you're hungry for the info, drop me a line at the end of this post and if there's enough people who want it, I'll put it up tomorrow.

(Opening Remarks) – “How’s everybody today? Good I hope. I think that when you get involved in the draft you certainly don’t want to stray too far away from what the goals and objectives you establish for your team and obviously we’re working to bring together the most dangerous, relentless group of competitive football players that we can. We never will ever stray away from that, whether it’s free agency, draft and how we evaluate football players for the draft.

“ESPN, as everyone probably knows and has heard is – you know this is a time when nobody really ever really kind of tells the truth about what they plan to do. I thought it was comical that even two brothers don’t tell each other the truth that are on two different teams about what they might do in the draft. Some people might consider that deception. I certainly would never deceive you in anything that I told you, so rather than deceive you I would just rather not tell you certain things. I hope you can understand that relative to the competitive advantage or disadvantage that we could create by what information gets out or doesn’t get out.
“The process that we’re trying to go through right now and we’re in fact in draft meetings with some of our scouts and some of our coaches and Randy (Mueller), myself, to try to evaluate the players as best we can, first of all by position based on the position criteria that we establish and then secondly, to look at those rankings by position. I would say that’s a vertical ranking from best to worst at their position, top to bottom. Then I think we look at the board horizontally to say how does this corner match up with this offensive tackle and I think that’s why a category grading system is probably advantageous in terms of how we try to place the players so that we can keep a certain level of performers in the same category which makes it a little bit easier to do the horizontal evaluation.

“There are a lot of good football players out there. I think that the important thing for us is that we establish criteria for what we’re looking for in a player. Not only in what kind of football player he is, but what his size and speed are to play his position relative to NFL standards and durability that’s been established through history based on that position as well as the guy’s character and intelligence and attitude to kind of be the best performer that he’s capable of being and that’s sometimes based on his history of what he’s done to this point.

“When we had our last roundtable I kind of told you guys or tried to explain this to you and what I thought I’d do today is, I know you can’t read this (holds up list) but at least philosophically you can get the idea. Here are the position criteria that are established for each position. This is the summary of the entire system of how we evaluate so that every position on this, it says the criteria, the most important things that we look for at that particular position. On this side you would have a size-speed ranking for those particular players and then this would be the categories of the rating system starting at, I told you it’s a nine-point system, which it is, but normally we start it at 8.0 and probably go down to about 4.0 in terms of how we evaluate guys. In this evaluation and numbering system that puts guys in categories relative to all three criteria that I establish for you and that’s how we try to evaluate and place the players of what we’d like to have.

“I know that you’re interested in what our priorities would be in this particular draft. As I stated to you before, at the end of the season you always make a list of maybe, 6,8,10 things that you want to try to accomplish in the offseason from a personnel standpoint to try to improve your team. As many of those musts that we can solve, obviously, that’s the one thing that would help us improve our team. Some of those things we’ve been able to address in free agency. Some of those things are things that we’d like to be able to address in the draft. But let me qualify that by saying that I think value is really important to the organization overall. I think if you get position specific sometimes you can reach out of the category. Take a lesser player to try to satisfy a need and I think long term that is not philosophically what we would like to do. We’re always hopeful that we’ll be able to pick a player when it’s our time to pick that would solve a need, but also be the best player available. And if it comes down to value I think we have to put value first because, long term in the organization, having the best player is obviously going to be the best thing for us. It may establish other options that can create value for your team down the road. So from a priority standpoint and a philosophy standpoint, that’s kind of how we try to go about what we would do.

“I’ve talked to you a little bit about some of the priority things that we talked about before without being specific. You know we were able to bring in an offensive lineman. We were able to bring in a fullback, a wide receiver, quarterback, were kind of the four things on offense that we were looking for. You can kind of put two and two together and know what’s been solved to some degree. Defensively, front seven people, big people, especially those that can affect the quarterback are always a top priority and even though we address some needs in the secondary, I still think that’s not an area that we wouldn’t look to continue to upgrade in the draft if we had the opportunity to do it. So that’s kind of what our priorities have been. That doesn’t specifically say what we would do in this particular draft because when you’re picking where we are at 16, you really don’t know what’s going to be available.

There’s going to be quite a few players picked before we pick and we have to do a good job of making sure we’ve evaluated all the players ahead and behind where we might pick. I think the strategy of the draft is, you’d like to put yourself in a position if you have a flexibility to do it to take a particular player that you’d like to get. Obviously, if you have multiple draft picks that gives you a little bit more flexibility in being able to do that. That’s not a luxury that we have right now organizationally in this particular draft. We used our second-round pick to get a quarterback that we’re very happy with. We took a guy, as a fifth-round pick last year in the supplemental draft, which we were pleased with the progress that he made last year and the contribution he made to the team as a defensive lineman and we ended up getting another backup quarterback with the sixth-round pick We also picked up a couple of seventh-round picks for some guys that we were able to get something for a year ago. So that’s our situation in the draft. I’m sure you’re very aware of it. I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have about it with the idea that I’m not going to deceive you in any way, shape or form and I would rather not give you information that could be a competitive disadvantage to us.”

I can't believe you guys got through this. I can't believe I got through it and I was there. Anyway, if you want the question and answer period, let me know.

The case for a QB (updated)

Nick Saban just addressed the media about the Dolphins draft and he answered this question from me: If you get Joey Harrington, would you still be willing to draft a quarterback even in the first round to add vaule to the team?

"That would not preclude us from taking a guy in the draft," Saban said.

So be warned Dolphins nation. If a quarterback is the highest player on Miami's board in any round, the team will take that guy regardless of the glut at the position.

That's significant because, by draft day, the Dolphins may have four quarterbacks in the fold -- starter Daunte Culpepper, backup Joey Harrington, third-stringer Cleo Lemon and NFL Europe player Brock Berlin.

That, in some eyes, would erase the need to draft a quarterback. Obviously not in Saban's eyes.

Saban is on this "value" kick which means he's going to use this draft to add the most value to the team as possible. Notice I didn't say add the most players at a need position or the most best-athletes available.

Just most value.

And that's where a QB draft pick comes in. I know it is all conjecture, but say, for the sake of this exercize one of the three first-round QBs is available when Miami picks. The Dolphins don't NEED a rookie QB who won't play at all in 2006.

But the reasons Saban would want one is that he provides great insurance for the future.
And that player also is valuable even if he's not an instant contributor. How?

Even if the Dolphins have a roster filled with talented QBs, the league-wide need at the position is so high that someone eventually will give high compensation for Miami's young QB.

Remember we're talking about an NFL in which the Packers are begging 58-year-old Brett Favre not to retire and guys like Jamie Martin, Aaron Brooks and Vinny Testaverde continue to get recycled.

The Green Bay Packers sort of pioneered the idea of stockpiling QBs and eventually got value picks for Brooks and Mark Brunell and, sadly for the Dolphins, it is how the Philadelphia Eagles got a second-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

This offseason, several teams approached the Atlanta Falcons about backup Matt Schaub. You know what the initial asking price for this former third-round selection was? Multiple first-round picks.

Saban would love the chance to get that kind of return on an investment. He conceded to me at the annual meetings last month that the dividend is lower when the initial expense for a player is a first-round pick. But remember how Jimmy Johnson turned picking Steve Walsh in the first round turned into two first round picks?

It's the value of QBs, my friends.

So if the impossible happens and Matt Leinart or Vince Young or Jay Cutler fall to the Dolphins, the team would take them. Failing that, I believe the team will try to take a QB in one of the later rounds.

Local stud Omar Jacobs will likely be gone in the second round, but Alabama's Brodie Croyle, Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst, UCLA's Drew Olson, Montana State's Travis Lulay and Barrick Nealy of Texas State could be available from from the third round forward.

I think Whitehurst has all the tools to be a fine NFL quarterback and don't really understand why he's not considered a low first-round guy. Maybe one of you draftniks can explain it to me.

Finally, for all the naysayers who believe the Dolphins would never draft another QB because it would mean them keeping four on the active roster, I remind you what the New England Patriots did six years ago.

They took this kid from Michigan almost as an afterthought and actually kept him on the roster as the fourth QB when everyone else was keeping only three QBs.

Less than two years later, the kid named Tom Brady took the team to the first of three Super Bowl victories. Do you think Nick Saban took notice that's how his good friend Bill Belichick hit the Super Bowl ring jackpot?

I think he did.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The case for a CB

Jimmy Johnson once told me there are three positions that you absolutely look at when selecting a player early in the draft: Quarterback, defensive end, and cornerback.

Remember that two of JJ's best early draft picks were Sam Madison and Pat Surtain, both in the second round. So say what you will about him not knowing offensive talent, but Jimmy had a keen eye for defense.

Let's hope Randy Mueller and Nick Saban have that kind of success drafting a cornerback because Miami needs help in that area. Last season, the Dolphins were 20th in the NFL against the pass. And unlike some pass stats that are deceptive, Miami opponents were not always behind and piling up passing stats as they tried to catch up.

So the Dolphins were legitimately bad at defending the pass in 2006.

That's why three of the four starters who opened the year as starters in the secondary -- Sam Madison, Lance Schulters and Tebucky Jones -- are off the roster now.

The Dolphins added Will Allen, Andre' Goodman, and Renaldo Hill in free agency and all have played corner at some point, although Hill will likely start out at safety. Travis Daniels is about to start his second season after a successful rookie year. And the Dolphins are also going to get Will Poole and unproven Shirdonya Mitchell back from injury.

That's a pretty crowded stable, right?

OK, so what does Miami really have? Allen is a guy the Giants didn't want anymore after Santana Moss abused him last year (Hey, Giants, where was the over-the-top help?). Goodman is considered a good nickel corner but not a guy you want as a starter. And Hill simply would be out of position at corner, which is why Nick Saban intends to try him at safety.

Daniels was fine last year and should continue to improve, but unlike many rookies who make great leaps from their first to second years, Daniels may not bridge such a huge gap because his familiarity with Saban's defense last year helped him avoid mistakes most rookies make. What you got out of Daniels last year was a truer sense of the player he will be in the future compared to most rookies that must learn a system their first year.

I'd be most excited about Poole and Mitchell because both were considered to have great potential. The Dolphins added Mitchell last year knowing he wouldn't play because Saban thought he might have been a second or third-round pick had he not shredded his knee.

Poole showed glimpses of being a good cornerback in the 2004 training camp and at times during that, his rookie season, before blowing out a knee prior to last season.

And while both players have promise, I remind you returning from knee surgery is toughest on a CB and neither performed consistently in the NFL before their injuries.

So, in my mind, the Dolphins have a lot of question marks and no exclamation points at CB.

That's OK because the CB crops is supposedly deep this year. Virginia Tech's Jimmy Williams, Ohio State's Ashton Youboty and (my favorite) Tye Hill of Clemson are all first-round players with, perhaps one of them slipping past the first 12 picks.

I'm not even going to get into which players are projected second rounders because, zzzzz, the Dolphins don't have a pick then.

Third rounders and beyond? Maybe FSU's Antonio Cromartie will slip because of his 2005 left knee injury, maybe Charles Gordon of Kansas will be available despite his good size and good speed. I love Cedric Griffin of Texas because he's 6-feet tall, plays faster than his 4.5 timing, and obviously knows how to win.

Miami's Devin Hester? I don't even consider him a cornerback. In fact, I don't know what I consider him if not a project position player who will return punts and kicks. Kelly Jennings is a better pick if you're looking for a true corner.

Of course this is all subjective, based on what I've been told by people I've spoken with. Disagree? Have a different take? I want to know because I will take your opinions to the experts and see what they say.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The case for a WR

I know what you're going to say ... The Dolphins have Chris Chambers coming off a Pro Bowl, Marty Booker had a good season last season and Wes Welker had his most productive season catching the ball with 29 receptions as the No. 3

Here's my opinion: That is a good stable of receivers for a 9-7 team. For a team that is trying to do as Chris Chambers said and host the Super Bowl, not so great.

Chambers is indeed a surging force in this offense. I look for him to benefit tremendously from the addition of Daunte Culpepper and I sense in him a greater willingness to step out as a leader and performer on offense. If he were a stock, he'd be offering dividends.

But after that there is a lot of uncertainty.

First I thought it was a big mistake to lose Bryan Gilmore. He was relatively cheap to keep on the team (He went to SF for $585,000 this season) and he was a tough competitor with the rare combination of upside and experience.

Marty Booker is a good player -- perhaps the only good starter Rick Spielman brought to Miami -- but he'll be 30 years old this year and is on a financial time clock that is ticking. Booker is signed through the 2008 season, but his salary that year is $4.3 million which is quite expensive for a No. 2 receiver. That means the Dolphins have only this year and next with Booker under a more reasonable salary even as he continues to age.

Finally, Welker is pound-for-pound the toughest player on the Dolphins. If he were a dog he'd be a pitbull. But he is what he is -- a good No. 3 receiver and special teams specialist. He's not the future at the position.

That means the Dolphins need help, especially when you consider that they have invested sooo much on getting Daunte Culpepper. The biggest mistake a team can make is to have a great quarterback and foofs at WR.

You simply do not hire a gunslinger and not give him ammunition. Jimmy Johnson did that in the late 90s and he wasted Dan Marino's final few seasons as a result.

So you need to give Culpepper enough instruments to make beautiful music. I'm not saying the Dolphins MUST take a receiver in the first round, but I could understand it if they do, and failing that, I expect they'll take one in later rounds.


I don't know but I do know who it won't be: Ohio State's Santonio Holmes and Florida's Chad Jackson will be so outta here by No. 16, it won't be funny.

But Miami's Sinorice Moss will probably still be hanging around, if for no other reason than he's 5-8 and 185 pounds. Wisonsin's Brandon Williams, Notre Dame's Maurice Stovall, Pittsburgh's Greg Lee and Arizona State's Derek Hagan will also be available, although it's unlikely they are first-round type players.

One guy I LOVE for his later-round potential is Todd Watkins of BYU. He's almost as fast as Moss, he likes to block which is rare, and he's 6-2 1/2. Yes, the guy needs polish, but that's the reason he's not going in the first round.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The case for a DT

Good Morning Dolphins nation. I trust everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend and is eager and excited about this new work week ... OK, I'll settle for everyone having had a good weekend.

As promised, I will spend the next few days explaining why the Dolphins have needs at certain positions. Let's take care of the defensive tackle position today.

At first glance, the Dolphins seem loaded at DT. They have starter Keith Traylor, veteran backup Jeff Zgnonina, and youngsters Manny Wright and Kevin Vickerson on the roster. But it's clear the team knows it has a need at the position based on it bringing two DTs in for visits during free agency so far.

The reason is Traylor will be 37 years old by the season-opener and coming off a season in which he played very well, but had a knee injury that held him back. He missed one game when his right knee locked up just before the game and missed two more games recovering from surgery to that knee. To believe a 300-plus-pounder can continue to play indefinitely is ridiculous so the Dolphins need to find tomorrow's DT today.

That's where Wright and Vickerson come in, right?

I don't know about that. At the end of the day, Vickerson is a seventh-round pick who has not played a down in the NFL. Yeah, he could turn into a latter day Michael Carter (49ers in the 80s) but he could also be the most recent coming of Davern Williams (2004 draft) or Ernest Grant (2000 draft). We just don't know, and neither do the Dolphins.

Wright? Are you kidding me? He has done nothing to suggest to anyone he's the future. He gained only five pounds this offseason, which is encouraging because he had weight issues last year. But he seems better suited to being a DT in a 4-3 than a nose tackle in a 3-4. In the 3-4 the Dolphins need a guy who will cause a stalemate with the center and sometimes even require a double-team.

That's not Manny Wright at the point of attack. He's more a guy that relies on quickness than sheer strength. And I'm not sure he likes the idea of offensive linemen coming at him from every side as a NT.

Zgnonina, meanwhile, is a good complement at the position, but if he's your fulltime starter, you are not a great defensive line and not the strength of the team as Kevin Carter suggested earlier in this blog.

So that's the thinking. Who is likely to be available at No. 16?

Unfortunately, Oregon's Haloti Ngata will be gone in the top 10, while Michigan's Gabe Watson and Rodrigue Wright of Texas could go soon after that. That leaves LSU's Claude Wroten and FSU's Broderick Bunkley as the most likely candidates available where Miami picks.

I'm not saying the Dolphins will take either of those guys, but both Wroten and Bunkley are classic one-gap tackles and Nick Saban is extremely familiar with Wroten, having recruited and coached him at LSU.

Are both players a reach at No. 16? Probably. But neither will be available in the third round when the Dolphins pick next after making their pick in the first round.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bring on the draft

The Miami Herald's draft coverage will kick off Sunday with me doing a story on the No. 16 pick -- it's potential for boon and bust and what the Dolphins are likely to do with the pick.

Tune in.

But for the purposes of this blog, we're going to spend the next few days taking an in-depth look at the Dolphins positions of need and I'll list the reasons they have the need.

For the record, the Dolphins need a cornerback, a defensive tackle, an outside linebacker, a wide receiver, maybe some OL help, and for the sake of adding value to the team, a young quarterback of tomorrow.

By the way, if Ricky Williams doesn't get off on his appeal for his fourth positive drug test, the Dolphins also need a running back.

That Miami doesn't have one OUTSTANDING must-have need speaks to the fact the team could likely operate and succeed with the roster as is. I guess that's the reason some folks think Miami is a Super Bowl contender.

But, in my opinion, it does the opposite. The Dolphins are not a Super Bowl contender today.

If the team can stand improvement in so many areas, it is logical to believe the team needs a lot of improvement. Teams that need a lot of improvement are simply not Super Bowl contenders.

Disagree? Voice your opinion.

I will cover the specific position needs starting on Monday. Meanwhile, have a great Resurrection Sunday.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Donnie Edwards to the Dolphins?

Hey, the San Diego Chargers are shopping Donnie Edwards to every NFL team not in their own division. He is a linebacker.

The Dolphins are an NFL team not in the AFC West and they need a linebacker.


The rumors about Miami going after Donnie Edwards will soon take root.

But they will not bear fruit. Edwards has more tackles than anyone not named Zach Thomas the last seven seasons. He is a steady player.

But he is 33 years old now and apparently declining. He is also something of a locker room question mark, never shy about complaining about how much (or little, in his mind) he's getting paid. He signed a four-year contract in 2002 for $18.75 million and has asked for a raise each of the last three seasons.

Not good.

That contract, in part, is a reason he may not be traded because a team would have to absorb a $3.5 million cap hit. Sure, Edwards could agree to renegotiate the deal, but that would mean giving him a big signing bonus and signing him to a multi-year extension to bring the cap hit down.

Where's the logic in that? The Dolphins already took on an aging San Diego linebacker a few years ago and that didn't exactly pay off, did it?

Oh, and there's another potential snag in getting Edwards: The Chargers aren't giving him away. They want a mid-round draft pick and the Dolphins simply don't have a fifth or sixth round pick to give away.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The reasons Gus isn't in Miami

It would have been so convenient if Gus Frerotte had decided that backing up Daunte Culpepper was something he could do.

He has, after all, done it before in Minnesota and when the Dolphins brought Culpepper to Miami, it would have meant Frerotte assumed the same role with an opportunity to play in Culpepper's absence.

That absence, by the way, is almost assured at some point this season because knee injuries such as Culpepper's take a full two years to heal. So even if Culpepper is ready for the opener, he may well experience swelling or some sort of setback that will force him to the bench at some point in 2006.

So Gus would've been a perfect fit. Except Gus acted kind of like his Disney football-playing namesake Gus the mule. He showed his stubborn side and that's the reason he's in St. Louis today.

At least that's the picture you get of Gus from Nick Saban who implied Thursday that Frerotte made something of an emotional, rather than a logical, financial decision when he left.

"He would have gotten as much or more here than where he went," Saban said. "His number to be a backup quarterback was exorbitant for any team to have to assume. We offered him at least as good or better deal than what he got where he went. It was his choice to go there. It was a little more difficult for him to come back because he had been the starter here.

"It was our plan to bring him back and get him to come back.''

Daunte's preseason availability

During his roundtable meeting with the media a few minutes ago, coach Nick Saban seemed a little disturbed by reports that quarterback Daunte Culpepper either will or will not be ready for the start of the season.

He also wasn't thrilled when asked about Culpepper's availability during the preseason.

"I don't know," Saban said. "He doesn't know. Nobody knows. It's our hope and our goal that he'll be able to play in the preseason, but it's not something anyone can predict."

The coordinators at last

The Dolphins have a policy of not allowing assistant coaches to speak with the media, except for rare occasions. Today was a rare occasion.

Got to meet both defensive coordinator Dom Capers and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey today and here's a quickie rundown of what they said:

Mularkey, who will be running the offense previously installed by Scott Linehan, said he is now, "completely comfortable," with the scheme and the terminology of the system.

In fact, as potential draft picks and unrestricted free agents have visited, Mularkey said he's been able to go through last season's tapes and explain to those players what the calls where and what the team is trying to accomplish, where the mistakes happened and what the philosophy is on that play.

Capers, formerly the Houston Texans head coach, said he was impressed by Miami's use of both the 3-4 and 4-3 defense last year and said we should expect to see more of that this year.

Capers said that running both schemes causes problems for opposing offenses because very few teams do that. By the way, that is exaclty what he did when he was the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator before he got the Texans head coaching job.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nick Saban's talk Thursday

Nick Saban occasionally has sitdown conversations with the media and he has scheduled one for Thursday morning. I will be there representing The Miami Herald.

I have an agenda of questions I need answered, but if you have questions you think the coach should answer, let's hear them.

Post your questions on this blog and I will do my best to slip them in and report the answers back to you.

The view on LaVar Arrington

It would be great if the Dolphins were to land LaVar Arrington. He's a proven NFL linebacker and has a lot of upside in his game because of his strength and quickness and, mostly, his aggressiveness.

But there's a reason no team has stepped out and offered Arrington the nearly $7 million per year he's asking.

During his days with the Redskins he simply had trouble adjusting to different requests coaches made of him. He was great as a freelancer. But within a disciplined scheme on a specific play, he would not always be in the right place.

I talked to excellent Sports Illustrated writer Peter King about Arrington at the owner's meetings last month and he told me his Redskins source, which is a good friend on the coaching staff, related that the team hated to see Arrington go. But that his inability to play within the guidelines of the defense often times cost the team big plays -- more big plays than what Arrington made while he was freelancing.

I cannot vouch for that because I don't watch film of the Redskins and didn't see any of their games in person. But there has to be something to that because Arrington was benched for much of last season even while the team was winning a bunch of games in a row to make the playoffs. That tells me the team didn't exactly collapse without him.

The source also told King, and he relayed to me, that there was no animosity between Arrington and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Williams apparently thought highly of Arrington's physical skills, but didn't play him as early as he could have because, again, Arrington was freelancing.

Having said all that, I still think Arrington would be a fine addition and I would trust Nick Saban to coach him up well enough to where the freelancing wouldn't be a problem.

Objectively, Arrington seems well worth a $6 million bonus and a $5 million a year salary. But I would never invest a $12 million signing bonus and an average of $7 million a year on the guy -- and that's pretty much what he's asking.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ricky's new look

I was surprised when I heard that Ricky Williams had shaven his beard in advance of his appeals of a positive drug test.

Mind you, Ricky definitely looks better clean shaven. But this sounded something like what attorneys do when they clean up their clients so the jury and judge will identify with them. Kinda like putting a loose-fitting tent on Pamela Anderson so her curves won't offend.

Well, I never thought Ricky would go for it, but he did. I'm sure he'll have some philosophical reason for shaving -- other than, "hey I just wanted the NFL guys to think I'm a guy with a clean image." But the truth is when he was asked several times last year why he wore that scruffy look he went into some explanation about how he wanted to focus on his inward look rather than his outward appearance.

It made sense at the time. Sort of.

At least I accepted it because, hey, the guy's got a right to his opinion and philosophy. But now that he backed off of that, especially with the timing being what it is, I wonder if all of Ricky's philosophical reasons for doing unorthodox things are simply a cover for just doing unorthodox things for their own sake.

Ricky, by the way, reminds me of a Bible verse that talks about people who spend their lives seeking knowledge but ignore The Truth.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Culpepper interview

You know that newspapers have space limititations they must deal with and The Miami Herald is no different in that respect. That's why sometimes quotes get shortened, mostly by editors (yes, I dislike that) and sometimes I can't deliver all the news I have.

Well, there's no space crunch on this blog and so I'm going to stretch out and fill the space. For that reason, I can bring you complete interviews that would never make print in the paper.

What follows is the first of those many interviews. Here is the ENTIRE interview Daunte Culpepper did with the media today:

(On how his rehab is going) – “It’s going good. I am getting a little bit better everyday just working hard. Right now I’m really on the grind. Things are looking good though. The knee is getting better everyday.”

(On what types of exercises he is doing) ­– “Right now I’m doing mostly running straight ahead, not a lot of cutting, and just mainly strengthening exercises – squats, leg extensions, leg curls, things like that. Doing many exercises on the field as well to get the strengthening in my legs.”

(On if he expects to be under center on opening day) – “Well, me personally, that’s my goal, but there really is no timeline on when I am going to be 100 percent or ready to play. Me personally, that’s my personal goal, but I still have a good picture of the whole thing and I’m real good with reality and I know that an injury like this, it’s tough to come back from that quick. That’s my goal right now and I am going to continue to work that way.”

(On how many preseason games he thinks he needs to play in order to be ready for the regular season) – “I would love to be in every preseason game if possible. I’ve never really been hurt. I’ve never been in that situation. Normally I have always played in every preseason game, but with an injury like this, we are going to be smart about it.”

(On if he will be able to develop chemistry with teammates if he doesn’t play in the preseason) – “I am really not concerned. I want to be ready for the preseason. If not, I am going to get a lot of work with the guys before the preseason even starts. As far as open field competition, it might be a little different, but I am going to get a lot of work between now and when that time comes.”

(On if he expects to have the same mobility as before his injury) – “Dr. (James) Andrews did my surgery. He said to me jokingly, and also seriously, that if he had done the surgery 100 times, he didn’t think he could have done it any better. That’s all I really needed to here. I am going to go at this thing full force. I am going to play the way I have always played with the same tenacity and the same eagerness to make plays and get it done either way, running or throwing. Whatever it takes.”

(On Kelly Campbell) – “Kelly Campbell is an extremely fast player. He makes a lot of big plays. He’s very enthusiastic and just loves the game of football. I like to play with guys that have a knack for the big plays and he is one of those guys. I am just glad to be able to hopefully link up with him again.”

(On having made mistakes trying to do too much in the past) –“Some people are saying that and some of that might be true. I have always been a guy that liked to, in a sense, if something needed to be made up here or there, I am always the one who tries to step up and make it happen. Sometimes that can hurt you. What coach (Jason) Garrett has always been talking with me about since the first day we met, just always do what you have to do. Just do your job. Don’t try to do anybody else’s job. That’s the mentality that I am trying to keep. I don’t have to do too much, just do what I normally do.”

(On the transition to the Dolphins) – “Like I have said before, I look at right now, or the even the past year, it pretty much is halftime of my career. Now, me being here and having a fresh start, this is starting the second half of my career. I feel great about it. I absolutely feel great. I have great support around me here and everybody is very optimistic and very enthusiastic about it.”

(On how bad he wanted to get out of Minnesota) – “It wasn’t that I wanted to get out, it’s just I think for both sides, it was good for me to move on – good for the Vikings too. That’s the way it happened and I’m happy right now. I’m happy with the opportunity I have here.”

(On if the transition is easier because Scott Linehan was the Dolphins offensive coordinator last year) – “That helps. It helps to come into a quarterback-coach meeting and a lot of the terms that they already used last year are the same terms that I used my last four years in Minnesota. That helps a lot. It gives me confidence to know that I’m not just stepping out there blind. I pretty much got my feet wet with a lot of the terminology.”

(On what Charlie Baggett brings to the situation) – “Coach Baggett is a great coach. He has a lot of years under his belt coaching. I was lucky enough to be coached by him in Minnesota and I am very excited to be back with him with him on the coaching staff. I am very familiar with him and his style and what he expects out of players. He’s a great coach. I can say a lot of great things about him. I am just happy to be working with him again.”

(On what specifically he likes about Baggett) – “Just his experience. His experience he brings to the game, to what he brings to the receivers. He really likes to get the work ethic out of receivers. He talks about the small things, doing the small things right. That’s what, in turn, makes the big things look easy.

(On what he things of the Dolphins skill players like Randy McMichael, Chris Chambers, Marty Booker) – “I feel absolutely great with the guys here. I haven’t had a chance to play with them in a game situation, but as far as working right now, working to get better, all those guys are guys that are leaders on the team and expect to go out and be good, be good players and do what it takes to win. That’s what I like about the overall idea about everybody out there. We are working hard everyday to get better.”

(On the reaction he has received from teammates) – “I think some of the guys are kind of feeling me out, which is normal, but most of the guys are genuinely happy and excited. ‘Hey we’re glad you’re here and let’s work to get better.”

(On if he thinks the Dolphins got a steal in the trade) – “I really don’t’ look at it that way. I look at it as an opportunity for me. People are going to make their own assumptions about what they want to, but, me personally, I feel good about the situation I’m in.”

(On if feels the weight of expectations on him) – “To be honest with you, I don’t think anybody can put any pressure or expectations on me than I put on myself. That’s how I look at that and that’s how I deal with it. Ever since I was a kid, I always expected to go out and be the best I could be and perform at a very, very high level. Hopefully, we can just carry that enthusiasm over to victory. That’s really what it’s all about – winning games.”

(On if he is recognized in the community) – “I just got here. I haven’t been out in the community that much besides to stop and get gas or something. Somebody might say ‘hey man, good luck this year. We’re glad you’re here.’ People are welcoming me back to Florida. It’s pretty exciting, but like I said, nobody, I don’t think, can put any more expectations on us more than we should put on ourselves. We expect to go out and play at a very high level.”

(On public scrutiny) – “That comes with the territory. I have been going through that since high school. That’s nothing new. That’s part of being a quarterback. That’s part of being a professional athlete. You have to deal with the good and the bad.”

(On if he pays attention to the media) – “I do sometimes. Whenever it’s convenient. I am not a guy who runs to look at the paper everyday. If certain messages need to be sent to me, I’m pretty sure they’ll get to me.”

(On why he has chosen to represent himself) – “That kind of goes all the way back basically to the Pro Bowl in 2004. I sat down and looked at my whole situation – faith, family, football, finances and future, not in that order – that’s pretty much hot I categorized everything and it got to, with football, I looked at my whole situation, I felt more comfortable with just me controlling everything. Just me. Even though when you have an agent, they pretty much just go in and get the deal done for you or whatever, I feel like I don’t want a middle guy right there, or right now, in my life, in my career. I feel like I have been in it a while and I understand. If I need advice, I’ll go to the top people in the whatever category I need advice in and get the advice I need and make my own decisions.”

(On if he asked for help during the negotiation process) “Oh yeah. I got help. I definitely got help. I didn’t feel like it was too much to handle. It’s my business. Anybody who is willing to handle their own business should never feel that way.”

(On Brad Childress’ comments about him and the Vikings being on the Dolphins’ schedule) – “People say what they want to say and people are going to make their own opinions, but people who know me know the type of guy I am and know what I am made of. As far as the Vikings on our schedule, that’s just another game on the schedule. I am going to take it one week at a time. Every game, that’s the most important game, that next game. When that time comes, when we play the Vikes, I am going to take it just like I do every other week.”

(On wanting to prove something in that game) – “I just want to win the game.”

(On if his rehab is going on at the Dolphins Training Facility) – “It has transitioned here. I am going here every day.”

(On if he really thinks there are not external pressures on him) – “Like I say, I have always been a guy that looks at the situation and – I am going to try to just, in a sense, carry my water and do my part. I am going to be a leader and do what it takes to lead by example, things like that and keep moving forward. That’s my main goal right now, keep moving forward, gain the respect of all my teammates. There were a lot of things said, a lot of things that might have hurt, but until they get to know me and see me, that’s how I hope that they would make their assumptions about me – from what they see and how I work with them and how we go forward.”

(On if anyone has had a conversation with him about what they have seen) – “No, most of the guys know a lot of the stuff that they hear is mainly not true. I think that, for the most part, that guys are getting to know me. The guys are getting to know me and I am getting to know them. Everything is meshing very well right now.”

(On if has met Vince Young) – “I met him today. I don’t know him personally, but as a player, he’s a great player. He’s worked very hard to get where he is, obviously, and I wish him the best of luck. That’s what I told him today, ‘best of luck in everything you do.’ I know I’ll be seeing him and just keep doing what you do.”

(On if Young is similar to him in size) – “He’s a guy about 6-5, about 220-225. He’s a great specimen. He looks good. I had a pretty good conversation with him today. I think he is on his way.”

(On why he changed his jersey to No. 8) – “Mainly because everybody down here in Florida knew me as No. 8. I just kind of wanted to get back to my roots here in Florida and move on. Everything in Minnesota, just leaving it up there and starting over and starting over fresh.”

(On how difficult it is for a new quarterback to become a leader) – “The thing is, I’m not a guy that is going to be blurbing my mouth and saying different things in the locker room. If something needs to be said, I’ll say it, but I’m the type of guy who tries to lead by example. I’m am going to try to be one of the first guys at every drill, one of the first guys in the meeting rooms, stuff like that just to let guys know what it takes to be a winner and what it takes to be the best that you can be.”

(On his impressions of Nick Saban and Saban’s banking on him as his quarterback) – “I’m very excited about that. I’m glad that he feels that I’m the guy for the job. I totally accept it. Coach Saban is a guy that looks me straight in the eyes and looks every player straight in the eyes and just tells them what he expects out of them. He’s a very straight-forward type guy. The bottom line is winning and that’s what he wants to do. He’s willing to do what it takes to win and what I think all the players have to fall in line and follow that. I am willing to that.”

(On his next big goal in rehab) – “Right now, I am still pretty much on the ground just strengthening my legs. We have mini-camp in May. Hopefully, I’ll be moving up a little more. The training staff has a plan of where we’re going. I am actually going to meet with Dr. Andrews this week and he’ll have his plan and what he thinks. Things are looking good. I am not going to predict, rush myself or be unsmart about anything about it. I know it’s a very sensitive injury. Only a couple people have ever had it and come back from it. I am just glad to be making the progress that I am making. Hopefully it continues.”

(On if he has talked to anyone who has had a similar injury, like Willis McGahee) – “I haven’t talked to him, but I did some research on it. He can back and he’s doing fine right now. It took him a little time, but he’s a different position. He’s a running back, I’m a quarterback. I don’t take the type of abuse that most running backs do so hopefully we can maneuver around that kind of stuff and get me back 100 percent.”

(On what the days were like before his trade) – “It’s like this, all I could do is worry about the things I could control. All I was doing was rehabbing my leg and keeping my head to the grindstone. I really wasn’t worried about it as a player that much. Me, representing myself, I had to do what I had to do – have certain conversations with certain people. I’m just glad it all worked out the way it did and everything is the way it is now.”

(On if he feels vindicated that the charges against him were dropped or if he is worried he might be charged again) – “Everybody can do what they want to do up there, but I felt like I went through the process. From the beginning I said that I was innocent and I’m glad saw it that way after he saw all the evidence and I’m moving forward. They can do what they want to do. I don’t care.”

(On how he felt the charges affected his reputation) – I would rather not say. That’s neither here nor there. That’s all behind me now. I’m here now looking forward and I’m glad to be here in Miami.

(On his fumbling) – “That’s part of football, but you have to look at fumbles and lost fumbles. Check my fumbles and check how many I’ve lost. I might have fumbled here and there, but I am going to do whatever I can to get on it. I try to do what I can not to fumble it too. That happens in football. I don’t worry about it. I play the game, try to play as smart as I can as a player and make plays.”

(On what he can do to work on fumbling) – “Just be real cognizant of the ball when you are about to get hit and protecting the ball a little bit more.”

(On if he feels like he has to do anything to defend his name) – “I feel like I am just going to be myself. I am not going to sit here and worry about somebody thinks this or thinks that. If anybody really wants to know, they can just ask me or ask my teammates that I played with, or ask somebody who really knows me what type of person I am. They’ll know it. I am not going to worry about anything that was said. Everybody has got to be careful.”

(On if he sees enough talent around him to succeed) – “I think that with the players we have right now, we have a great opportunity to a good football team, even to be a great football team. Not just with the players, but with the coaching staff we have in place. I think everything’s in first. Everybody needs to file in line and get to work. I am very excited about what we can do right not, not two or three years later.”

(On how the offensive firepower in Miami compares to Minnesota’s) – “I played with some great offensive players in Minnesota too. I was lucky to play with some great, great players there and I feel just as lucky now with the type of players we have here. The same caliber players, guys that are very special at what they do. I just thank God to be in the position I’m in. It was great in Minnesota to play with those guys and I think it will even be greater here.”

(On Mike Mularkey) – “Coach Mularkey is a guy who has been in the business a lot time. He has a lot of experience. He knows offense. He has been a head coach, but he knows offenses. In my meetings with him thus far, he’s kind of learning this offense too, but he put some of his things in and he seems to be pretty sharp, very sharp.”

(On if he would compare Chris Chambers to Randy Moss) – “To compare to him to Randy Moss – I wouldn’t say you can’t compare him, they’re both great players if you want to compare them like that. Both have different styles. Both are very fast, and both are playmakers. When you factor that in, I felt great playing with Randy and I feel great playing with Chris. He’s a great player and he’s shown that. I’m pretty sure, with his work ethic that I’ve seen, he’s going to continue to show it.”

(On if he has spent time with anyone off the field) – “Not much. Most of my dealings with everybody have been here because we get here early, about 7:00 and we don’t get out until about 11:30-12:00. We get some hours in everyday get the camaraderie, messing with the guys, seeing what type of guy he is, what type of guy he is. It’s kind of like feeling your way around on your first day of school.”

(On if feels the legacy of Dolphins quarterbacks like Bob Griese and Dan Marino) – “I understand that there has been a very high level of play at quarterback. With that understanding, they didn’t just step out there and make it happen. It was every day being here early in the morning and leaving late – getting ready, preparation. I do understand that and I am willing to do that so I can continue that high level of quarterback play that is expected here.”

(On his draft day) – “It was one of the happiest days of my life. To have a life-long dream of being a professional athletes and pro football player, then to be drafted, it was a very special day to me. I am glad it happened. I am glad for my experiences I had up there, but I am extremely happy about the situation here now and this opportunity that I have and I am looking forward to great things.

The charitable side

Just spent a couple of minutes talking with Seth Levit, who runs the Jason Taylor Foundation for the Dolphins defensive end.

The talk was pretty educational because I have, for a long time, been under the mistaken impression that athletes such as Taylor, or Dan Marino or Jim Kelly lend their names to various foundations because it brings a tax benefit.

Sure, they're doing something charitable, but they're getting a tax break out of it, too. Well, that is absolutely not the case, according to Seth.

He tells me that Taylor's foundation and all the others are 501c3 organizations and that the athletes that lend their names to them do it, basically because they have a desire to give back to those not as priviledged as them.


Some guys may do it to get a little more attention than they ordinarily would, but mostly, the intent is pure. That makes me appreciate guys like Chris Chambers, Taylor, Dan Marino, Don Shula and others more because they've made big bucks in their professions and use their names to help kids and the sickly, primarily, have somewhat better lives than they otherwise would.

Kudos, gentlemen.

The Dolphins greatest strength?

Kevin Carter, who is among the most thoughtful and articulate of players I have ever encountered, said something that just blew me away a few minutes ago.

He said there's no reason Miami's defensive line, "shouldn't be the strength," of the team. He can make a very good point because probably the best player on the team, Jason Taylor, plays on the defensive line.

But think about this.

The Dolphins are a team where the quarterback is Pro Bowl player Daunte Culpepper.

The Dolphins are a team where Ronnie Brown, the second overall pick in last year's draft, and Ricky Williams, a stud in his own right, are the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs.

The Dolphins receiver corps has Pro Bowl player Chris Chambers and former Pro Bowl player Marty Booker.

So how is it that the defensive line is the strength of the team? The argument can surely be made, but it's not a slam-dunk -- especially when you consider coach Nick Saban has worried out loud that the group needs to add youth and there are quite a few questions at the nose tackle/defensive tackle spot.

What do you think?

On Will Allen

The first player the Dolphins brought in for a media interview today was recently acquired cornerback Will Allen.

Allen seemed very guarded during his press conference, maybe an outgrowth from the time he spent with the Giants and dealing with the New York media. Being gunshy is not a good trait for a cornerback so I hope that demeanor doesn't translate to the field.

Allen admitted he has, "big shoes to fill," when he was added to the team to fill the void left by Sam Madison's departure. Allen also laughed when I asked if he saw it ironic that he is replacing Madison in Miami and Madison is replacing him in New York.

That twist to this scenario will almost certainly lead to comparisons between the two players this year. Allen admitted it would. And it will because I'll keep track on how each is doing and compare that.

My opinion is the Dolphins upgraded at the position.

Although Allen isn't a huge playmaker, he's consistent and the attention Nick Saban pays to DBs will help him. He's also three years younger than Sam and may have his best seasons ahead of him. Sam, who was much better than Allen when he was in his prime, simply isn't in his prime anymore. His best seasons are behind him so the Dolphins seem to have made a wise decision.

We'll just have to see.