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Monday, October 30, 2006

Some quick fixes to Miami's problems

I don't know everything. You guys tell me that all the time.

But just watching the Dolphins it is clear there are some problems Miami has been having that can be solved, like, immediately.

They don't require another draft, they don't require a firing of any coaches. They do require some conviction. And since I have that, here's my list of things the Dolphins can do right now to help this team.

1. Move Chris Chambers around more. Their leading receiver is Wes Welker because he's in the slot and other teams are scheming to not let Chambers beat them. Well, adjust to the adjustment. Put Chambers in motion, use him in the slot so he matches up with the other team's second or third best CB instead of the best. Move him around so you take the defense out of its comfort zone. Scott Linehan did this last year and that's when Chambers got hot in the second half of the season. Yet it has not been done this year.

2. Bench Travares Tillman. The guy is solid in run support and makes the right calls most of the time. He's also usually in position to make plays on receivers in coverage. Problem is he NEVER makes the play. If there's a jump ball to be had, he'll lose the jump. If there's an interception that flies into his hands, he'll let it go through his grasp -- as he did for a TD against Green Bay. Play Yeremiah Bell at SS instead, I say.

(Tuesday update: The Dolphins finally did this Monday and I reported it in today's paper.)

3. Give the ball more to Ronnie Brown. He has been underused the first half of the season so make up for it in the second half. Press the issue and give him the ball 25-30 times a game. I don't know if Brown is one of those guys that gets stronger as the game wears on ... because he never gets the ball enough to prove it one way or another. By the way, Larry Johnson got 39 carries for KC on Sunday. I'm not saying give the ball to Brown 39 times, but the 17 or so times Miami is averaging are too few.

Those are three quickie fixes that can be used right now. I'm sure you guys have others. What are they?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Have they earned the time off?

It is Friday and Dolphins players are off today.

They are also off Saturday.

They are also off Sunday.

My question is why? This team is 1-6 and on the bye week the players have gotten four days off, considering they were off last Tuesday as well.

I'm not a hater here. I think it's great the players are getting time with their families or a chance to fly back to their alma maters and have some fun. But I think they would be just as well served working Friday and having the weekend off.

Players like Jason Allen would benefit from one extra day of practice at the free safety position he's desperately needs to learn. The receivers that have proven they are quite inconsistent at catching the football could certainly use some extra work. And who is to argue the offensive line wouldn't benefit from a few more reps?

Maybe it's just my blue-collar work ethic, but I don't get it.

Instead of balancing bye week with four days of football and three days off, the Dolphins are breaking it down with three days of football and four days off.

So the team won't be back together until Monday. And then they get next Tuesday off as well.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Game day against the Packers

If you read my story in today's Herald, you know the Dolphins will use their no-huddle, two-minute drill early against the Packers, likely from the first series.

Thank you, God!

The Dolphins definitely need to do something, anything, to start faster than they have the last six games. Look for that today and tell me what you think about it.

I only found one player who didn't like the idea of the no-huddle during the week of reporting I did for the story -- Darian Barnes. It's his opinion that you cannot do a two-minute drill the entire game and after you stop, you still have to find a way to have urgency and momentum in your base offense.

It also isn't to his liking that the fullback is not on the field in the no-huddle so Barnes isn't a fan.

Finally, there is one interesting move by the Dolphins as they set up their inactive players today.

Daunte Culpepper is inactive, meaning he cannot play. The third quarterback today is Marcus Vick.

The other inactives are Travis Daniels, Keith Adams, Fred Evans, Joe Berger, Tim Massaquoi and Kevin Vickerson.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Offensive coordinator firings

You all know by know that the Ravens fired Jim Fassel as their offensive coordinator while the Cardinals fired Keith Rowen as their offensive coordinator.

Fassel was fired because the Ravens were only averaging 18.3 points per game.

Rowen was fired for bad play-calling -- as in sending Egderrin James into a stone wall many times instead of letting Matt Leinart, who was having a great game, throw more times.

Well the Dolphins are averaging only 13 points per game. And, yup, there's been some super questionable play-calling this year from Mike Mularkey.

So would you fire him now?

Please don't just give me a response off reflex. If you think he should be fired, you better come with a better replacement short-term.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jets gameday is here

First the news: The Dolphins today are moving L.J. Shelton from starting left tackle to starting right guard. Damion McIntosh is moving from right guard to starting left tackle.

The shuffle is evidence how horrible the right guard position has been for Miami this year.

Meanwhile, it is truly a beautiful day at the Meadowlands. Cool, sunny, perfect day for football, and I want to suggest you pay attention to a couple of issues as this game between Miami and the Jets unfolds.

The Jets are 28th in the NFL at stopping the run so this would be a perfect day for Ronnie Brown to finally have a monster game. I'm talking 140 yards or so, considering the Jets have yielded at least 147 yards rushing in each of their last four games.

Also, the Jets are poor starters for some reason. They have not scored a first-quarter point all season. We'll see if the Dolphins can extend that streak against them today.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if Joey Harrington improves off last week's performance. He must. It's good he was more decisive than Daunte Culpepper and more moblie than Culpepper and all that other stuff you've already heard about. But he did throw two interceptions and no touchdowns last week.

So let's see if he can avoid the big turnover and actually get the team in the end zone today.

One more thing: The Culpepper bashing was all over the Sunday morning pregame shows. The CBS show did a film study on how Culpepper was holding the football too long. Duh.

The Fox show had Terry Bradshaw taking this swipe at Culpepper: "I never was a Culpepper fan because I thought Randy Moss made him the great quarterback that he was in Minnesota. Without Moss, Culpepper is a just a good quarterback."

So let me know what you think of the game as it happens, at halftime, and of course, afterward.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Truth or consequences

Sometimes football coaches lie, I mean, stretch the truth a little bit.

Nick Saban is a football coach.

Sometimes he, er, stretches the truth.

That's how I see his statement about his 2006 draft class not being a big disappointment. Yes, there is some disappointment that only Derek Hagan is contributing, he admitted, but not a huge disappointment.

Sure Nick. And I can run the 40 in 4.3

Saban said the rookies are not a disappointment because he has veterans playing ahead of them that are doing very well and he's not trying to bench.

Are you kidding me?

This team is 1-4. Saban should be aching to bench somebody because if you've got a 1-4 team and you're happy with the way folks are playing, something is definitely wrong.

You telling me that the Dolphins are not disappointed first-round pick Jason Allen can't earn his way onto a defensive snap? Even one?

Saban said that doesn't disappoint him because he's not looking to bench either starting safety now. That's interesting because league sources are indicating that the Dolphins have made cursory contact with safety Troy Vincent, recently released by the Bills, to gauge his desire to return to Miami.

Saban said on his radio show Thursday night that Vincent was not on the radar from a "business standpoint," which translates to salary cap reasons. Well, we'll see in the next couple of weeks if Saban indeed has no interest in Vincent.

We'll see if the coach was, shall we say, stretching the truth.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The latest on the QB situation

Nick Saban just spoke and basically confirmed my report about his exchange with Daunte Culpepper in practice last Friday.

More importantly, he said Joey Harrington will be the starter against the Jets Sunday and that Culpepper will be placed on a program to improve his, "explosion."

Until that explosion returns, until Culpepper has free lateral movement to get out of the pocket, or at least move in the pocket, Harrington will likely be the starter.

Good news? Only time will tell.

So you guys think the Dolphins have upgraded at QB now?

Oh, back to that heated exchange Culpepper and Saban had in practice Friday. This is what Saban said about that report in The Herald today.

"First of all, let me say this: I confront players on the field all the time," he said. "There’s not a player that’s been here that’s been disrespectful to me. Daunte was never disrespectful to me.

"If I confronted him on the field I think that’s family business. I really do. And I don’t think that’s anybody else’s business. I think that’s what coaches and players do. I have done that to other players so it’s not an issue. And this is not an issue. It’s not an issue to me. It’s not an issue for him. We talked about it. It’s not an issue."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quarterback controversy?

As you probably have read on The Herald website, Joey Harrington is starting today's game against the Patriots.

Daunte Culpepper will be the third quarterback. Cleo Lemon will be the backup.

This is what I'm being told about how the Dolphins will handle this budding quarterback controversy.

1. If Harrington stinks today, there's no controversy.

2. If Harrington plays out of his mind against the Patriots, coach Nick Saban will say that is the reason the team got him, but that the job still belongs to Culpepper when he's healthy.

3. The club will admit it might have made a mistake in not going to Harrington earlier. Remember that Culpepper got hurt (brusied shoulder) against Buffalo Sept. 17 and still played the last two weeks.

That is the game plan, but remember that Miami hasn't been so great executing game plans this year.

My question to you: Do the Dolphins have a quarterback controversy on their hands if Harrington plays well?

And would you give the job back to Culpepper when he's healthy?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Time to fix the foundation

For years I have been talking, writing, blogging about the importance of building a football team from the foundation up.

I learned this in my first year covering the team from Don Shula. He sat with me after the 1990 draft and explained that no matter how many talented playmakers a team has, it cannot win without a solid offensive and defensive line.

That was the year, by the way, the Dolphins picked Richmond Webb in the first round of the draft and plucked Keith Sims out of the second round. Shula was the guy who put lines together that included Hall of Famers Larry Little, Jim Langer, and probable Hall of Famer Bob Kuechenberg.

He also won a game or two in the NFL. So if Don Shula was saying it, I bought into it.

The trouble is, since Shula's departure, no other Miami coach has bought in.

Sure the Jimmy Johnson through Nick Saban era have been marked by upgrades to the defensive line, but the offensive line is the orphan of the team. No high round draft picks, no quality free agents, nothing.

Now the Dolphins are paying the price for their mistakes -- 21 sacks this year. Yikes!

Consider for a moment the decisions involving offensive line the team made this year:

They waived Damion McIntosh and didn't re-sign Stockar McDougle because they didn't think either was worth the money on the salary cap.

They ignored Seth McKinney the early part of free agency because they had no intention of signing him.

They brought in perennial Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae who wanted to sign here but decided he was too expensive.

They brought in castoff tackle L.J. Shelton and signed him because he wasn't too expensive. Except they gave Shelton about the same money the Titans gave Mawae.

Then they decided the free agent market had dried up at OL and went begging to re-sign McKinney.

Then they re-signed McIntosh at minimum salary.

Then they turned McKinney into a guard. Now they've turned McIntosh into a guard. And all that moving around still gives the Dolphins a humongous hole.


You guessed it ... at right guard.

Let's face it, there seems to be no plan. This team needs a major league left tackle and an outstanding right guard. Jeno James and Rex Hadnot are passable but not stars, while Vernon Carey has been really pretty solid.

The bottom line is the Dolphins are getting what they deserve now along the line of scrimmage. They're getting what they paid for on the cheap.

And they're not a very good team because their foundation on offense -- the line -- is not solid.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

McIntosh moving to guard

The Dolphins have moved Damion McIntosh from tackle to guard and he will start and get extensive playing time at the position today against the Houston Texans.

The move which has been in the works the entire week is meant to relieve the pressure teams have been putting on quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He has been sacked 15 times this year, tied for most in the NFL.

Jacox, a journeyman who took over the starting spot when Bennie Anderson went down with a triceps injury earlier this season, has struggled. He has yielded a minimum of three sacks in the last two weeks.

Jacox is nonetheless expected to be ready to platoon with McIntosh if the former tackle struggles at the new position or needs a breather.

Watch for the Dolphins to also make a greater use of the shotgun formation and use the play-action pass a lot less. This is also meant to help Culpepper avoid sacks.

Finally, as reported earlier this week in The Herald, Travis Daniels is making his first start of the season at cornerback.

Watch for the changes during the game and let me if you think they're working.