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Monday, July 31, 2006

What have we learned so far?

Three days into training camp and already some interesting facts are coming to light:

1. Will Poole, who was slated to be the starter before he tore up his knee prior to last season, is well behind the other corners, and specifically Travis Daniels, in terms of technique and understanding. He may be more talented to some degree, in that he's more physical. But if he is to challenge for a starting job this year, the technique lightbulb must burst on in the coming weeks. Yes he was around all of last year and went to meetings and alike. But there's nothing like practicing it on the field.

2. Same for Shirdonya Mitchell. He's regained his speed, but it's not about that. He is effectively a rookie trying to learn how to play the position as the coaches want him to do it.

3. Joey Harrington is thinking rather than reacting and that will be addressed as he gets some -- I hope lots -- of playing time in the preseason. The system is new to him so he has to unlearn all the stuff he knew at Detroit and get acclimated with the Miami stuff. The big difference is the Miami stuff is simpler, believe it or not. In Miami, he has a progression of reads and he must follow that progression. In Detroit's west-coast offense, which by the way was the ancient version of Bill Walsh's offense under Mariucci, the receivers weren't always in the same place because their reads determined where they ended up. That is the reason Harrington did better before Mariucci than after the coach took over.

4. I've seen Daunte Culpepper take off running down the field five or six times this camp when he finds no receivers open. He also chased a defensive back down the sideline when his pass was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. I think that's a good sign.

5. I still think Jason Allen's deal will get done fairly soon. Maybe by the end of this week.

6. Dan Wilkinson is still on the radar, but as each day passes, the idea of having him come in becomes less attractive to Nick Saban. Several reasons for that: His delaying tactics mean he doesn't "want it" enough and it also means he's not going to be in the best of shape.

7. Been watching L.J Shelton and Damion McIntosh in pass rush drills and, really, Shelton doesn't look any better to me than McIntosh. Let's see if the upgrade shows up in the preseason games.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Some morning practice notes

Nick Saban said he didn't want players in the team's new $9 million, air conditioned bubble for about 10 days because, in part, he didn't want them getting soft.

Well, it was more like 10 minutes.

That's how long it took the entire team to file into the bubble as a torrential downpour and lightning washed out the work on the practice field.

Fans aren't allowed inside. But I am. So here's what I saw:

Daunte Culpepper looked good, but he admitted he's not 100 percent yet. "85-90 percent," he said after practice. He's not quite explosive on drop-backs yet, but what more can you ask of a guy who had major knee surgery only nine months ago.

Joey Harrington struggled -- throwing an interception to Zach Thomas, and fumbling a couple of snaps from scrimmage.

And Derek Hagan looks like the real thing, folks. If he practices the rest of camp like he did this morning, he's the Dolphins No. 3 receiver. Of course, no one was getting hit despite the practice being in pads.

First round draft pick Jason Allen was not at practice, by the way, because he is now the team's only unsigned player after Rodrique Wright signed in the morning.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Don't worry about Jason Allen ... yet

My phone rang around 8:45 tonight with an 818 area code I didn't recognize on the caller ID. It was Mitch Frankel.

He is Jason Allen's agent and I knew immediately something was up.

Frankel, you see, has not returned phone calls in nearly two weeks since negotiations with the Dolphins began in earnest. Not that he's a bad guy, not that he doesn't want me, and you by extension, to know what's going on.

He just likes to do his business in private and announce the results when all is finished. Oh, yeah, and the Dolphins have begged, cajoled, pleaded and threatened him into not returning reporters' phone calls.

But I digress.

The point of the call was to let me, and again you by extension, know that negotiations with the team are not going well. Frankel said Allen likely would not not be in camp when players report Friday and likely wouldn't be there Saturday for the first practice.

So I wrote the story for The Herald and it will appear on tomorrow's front page. It will sound ominous as you sip your morning java. But take heart.

It's not a huge deal yet. First round picks miss training camp days, people. It happens everywhere and it happens plenty in Miami.

So what?

Is one practice going to keep Jason Allen on the bench? Is five? No way.

The pressure to get him signed will last until Bunkley signs in Philadelphia and Tye Hill signs in St. Louis. Those two were drafted just ahead of Allen. If those guys get five year deals, so will Allen. If they get six year deals, so will Allen.

The length of the deal is what is holding up all those deals, including Allen's.

I predict it takes no longer than two weeks.

And then it will get done and Allen will report. And before the preseason is over, he will be the Dolphins starting strong safety.

So relax and don't spill the coffee in the morning.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Won't say I told you so but ...

Ricky Williams has a broken arm today and is out indefinitely from the Toronto Argonauts lineup after suffering the injury over the weekend.

This was exactly what the Dolphins feared when they reluctantly allowed Williams to pursue a CFL contract while he served his NFL-mandated suspension.

Despite being against this idea from the start, I see there is a silver lining in this situation. It's an arm, for gosh sakes -- not a knee or an ankle, which are a lot more important to running backs.

It is possible that Williams will not play another down for the Argos this season. And that's great for Miami because that means he won't risk another more serious injury. Meanwhile this injury is rarely the kind of thing that derails a RB longterm.

That means Williams should come back to the Dolphins healed in 2007. Almost as important, Williams will continue collecting a paycheck from the Argos, which is the reason he's in the CFL to begin with. And he'll be in a semi-controlled football environment while he rehabilitates the break -- again, a plus for Miami because he's not being chased by some weird malaria bug or something in an Australian outback tent.

So while the injury is unfortunate and we all wish Williams a speedy recovery, I believe the Dolphins would rather he not recover TOO fast.

Only fast enough to have Williams avoid further contact in the CFL and be ready for the 2007 NFL season.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The fallout from the Taylor divorce

Jason Taylor and his wife Katina are apparently getting a divorce and ordinarily that would be none of our business because it's a personal matter.

But unfortunately for the Taylors, the dynamic of this sad situation is that Katina Taylor happens to be Zach Thomas' sister. And Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor are not only teammates and stalwarts on Miami's defense, but they've been good friends as well.

The friendship is so close that Zach actually introduced Jason to Katina. In fact, he practically pushed these two good people together.

"The most awkward thing is looking at him and knowing they're related," Taylor said told The Herald in 1999. "[Zach] clearly got the short end of the beauty stick in the family. At first, it was strange. You kind of watch yourself if women come up and talk to you when you're around him, wondering what he might think, but we've all gotten used to it.

"We all hang out a lot together now. He introduced her to me after a game last season, you know? I knew she was fine right away, and he was all for it. He was the one who kept calling me and hooking her up with me. I had no intention of having a girlfriend, but when something that cool comes along you don't let it go."

They are apparently letting go now that Katina filed for a dissolution of marriage in Broward County court and requested custody of the three kids, the marital home, and alimony.

But the greater issue for Dolphins fans is how that will affect the lockerroom and onfield relationship between Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas.

Let there be no doubt that Thomas loves his teammate. But his family bond is unquestionable also. That was apparent when Zach, in talking about his sister and future brother-in-law, once told me:

"I want them to be together, I think it's great. The family loves Jason. But I told Jason if he was going to go there, make sure you don't hurt her. Don't mess with her mind, you know? If things don't work out, that happens. But if he does something to hurt her or mess her over, that I told him not to do."

Then Thomas paused and put it all in perspective:

"Because blood is thicker than water, you know?"

The question now is two-fold. Will Zach perceive that Jason messed with his sister's head? And if so, will team chemistry be affected?

I believe, whatever happens, Taylor and Thomas will be professional and not give a public grimmace to their private pain. But will that, in fact, be what is in their hearts?

Can't be as certain of that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Aromashodu agrees to terms

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, the last of Miami's six rookie draft picks, has agreed to a four-year contract, sources are telling me.

Details of the deal are not yet available.

The deal is expected to be signed by the end of this week and it will be part of a run of deals the Dolphins are about to make as they prepare for the start of training camp next week.

Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, stung by the late signing of first-round pick Ronnie Brown last year, has said he wants all the rookies signed by the start of camp this year.

Here's betting there won't be a three-week holdout this year as there was last year.

Back in business

OK my peoples, vacation is over.

Training camp is only days away now and I'm back at work so check back on this blog daily for opinion, analysis, news, and just plain interesting fun -- all of which you guys will certainly be welcome to comment about.

Just an update. My cohort Jason Cole, who covered the Dolphins with me since 1992, has taken a job elsewhere so he won't be on the beat this year. The Herald is endeavoring to hire another Dolphins writer to team with me soon.

Therefore Ask Jason is no more. So if you have questions about the Dolphins, this is the venue ( at least for now) to do it.