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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The future of the Dolphins offense

When Randy Mueller did his evaluation of the Dolphins offense after last season he saw a plodding, slow, ineffective unit that had to rely on either a defensive mistake or a 12-play drive to score points.

What he wants to see is a quick-strike unit that has speed on the outside and strength up the middle.

"We don't want to play electric football anymore," Mueller told me today, "where, you know the game, you line up all the guys and they sort of try to push the pile. We need to get away from that."

So what does that mean?

It means the Dolphins will try to continue the trend today to add speed.

It means any player that is good but not fast or quick is expendable. That is why Marty Booker is on the trade block if anyone wants him (not even a call for him so far, by the way.)

That is the reason the Dolphins are needing a quarterback that is assured of being able to slide in the pocket -- that is not Culpepper in the Dolphins' eyes -- so he can buy time to get the ball deep.

By the way, the Dolphins haven't really talked to the Chiefs in two days about Trent Green but are still optimistic Green can be acquired today if Carl Peterson comes to his senses. If it doesn't happen today, the Dolphins seem willing to wait until Green is simply released.

And the speed issue, the quick-play issue is the biggest reason the Dolphins took Ted Ginn Jr. in the first round yesterday. Yes, he's skinny, he probably isn't a threat across the middle and may have trouble getting off the line against press coverage. But he's lightning about to strike on the outside.

"I think I'm a big-play guy," Ginn Jr. told me a couple of minutes ago. "I'm here to stop that stuff about those 15- 16-play drives."

Your thoughts?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

QB in the second round make you feel better?

So I asked John Beck straight out: Do you think you're better than Brady Quinn?

"I'm not going to get into that," he said just a few minutes ago. "As a quarterback you want to be confident but a comparison right now is something I don't want to get into."


I'm afraid that for the next few years the names John Beck and Brady Quinn will be tied in the minds of Dolphins fans as inexorably as Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper were last year, as surely as Larry Shannon and Randy Moss were years ago in a similar situation.

The fact is the Dolphins made their choice Saturday and, God bless them, I hope it works. The team obviously thought Ted Ginn Jr. will be a better player than Brady Quinn and that's the direction it went in the first round.

But, knowing that quarterbacks would be around in the second round, the Dolphins also made the calculated decision that having Ginn and Beck would be better than having Quinn and some other receiver.

So why not compare the careers of Ginn and Quinn? Well, those parallels will surely be drawn, too. But the fact is the Dolphins had a plan today of getting the QB in the second round instead of in the first -- a plan that surprised everyone except the Dolphins.

And so we will see if that decision -- the decision to take Beck later and not Quinn earlier -- will pan out.

By the way, this is not a situation that we'll have to wait three or four years to unfold. By next season, we will see if Miami's moves today were wise. By then, Beck should be the starting QB in Miami as Quinn should be in Cleveland.

We'll see.

Reasons to hate Ginn over Quinn

I'm sure there is a minority out there that thinks selecting Ted Ginn Jr. over Brady Quinn is the right move. Randy Mueller is in that minority. Cam Cameron is in that minority.

I am not in that minority.

Here are the reasons I don't like the pick:

Because Ginn might be a 1,000-yard receiver some day, but he'll NEVER be a 3,000-yard quarterback.

Because Ginn is only at 85 percent right now, still recovering from a foot injury he sustained at the BCS Championship game against Florida.

Because Ginn is not an accomplished route-runner.

Because Ginn has the feel of a guy that might have been available five or six picks later.

Because Ginn's 178 pounds doesn't assure him of being a durable NFL player.

Because I have a hard time believing Ginn was really the higher rated player.

Because Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis thinks Brady Quinn will be right up there in the same conversation with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning some day.

Because, best case scenario, Ginn becomes tomorrow's Santana Moss while Quinn might be Joe Montana.

Your thoughts?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dolphins closer to getting Green

The inevitable, inexorable deal that will bring Trent Green to the Dolphins is closer to being done now because the Kansas City Chiefs today lowered their trade demands for the quarterback.

The Chiefs had been asking a second-round pick for Green but now that demand is down to a fourth-round pick.

Although it doesn't mean the Dolphins will necessarily yield a fourth-round selection for Green, this news signals a desire by KC president Carl Peterson to get the deal done by Sunday -- when the fourth round starts the festivities.

The Dolphins had been offering a seventh round pick for Green and likely would even yield a sixth rounder for him.

My prediction: Green is with the Dolphins by Monday if Carl Peterson realizes his lack of leverage. Otherwise he'll be with Miami by July.

What do you think?

Here's the deal on draft eve

It is draft eve and you should now be stocked up on food, beverages and a map outlining the route to get you to and from a bathroom quickly. You are ready to watch eight hours of draft coverage.

But do you know what is likely to happen?

Well, that's why you are here. This is what is likely to happen Saturday for the Miami Dolphins:

MOST LIKELY PICK AT No. 9: Offensive tackle Levi Brown. It's not sexy but the Dolphins realize (I think) that you need a foundation for the offense and that position is a HUGE need. There's an argument out there that OL coach Hudson Houck can make good players out of low draft picks so don't waste one this high. Well, have you thought about what Houck can do with a high pick? He should be able to turn them into a monster! This move also allows Miami to possibly let Anthony Alabi get some snaps at right tackle and left guard, thus improving the depth along a line that is paper thin on talent.

MOST LIKELY TRADE: I think the Chiefs realize that if they don't get something for Trent Green now, they may not get anything at all. Next year is a long time to wait for a conditional pick so I think wiser heads will prevail and the two sides finally agree on a deal. I do know this: The Dolphins aren't giving up a second round pick.

MOST LIKELY SCENARIO FOR GETTING BRADY QUINN: The Dolphins desperately want Quinn. They want him enough to give up picks in the second round to get him. So if Quinn falls past Cleveland at No. 3, the Dolphins will be on the phones trying to get up to Arizona at No. 5 and Washington at No. 6 to get Quinn. This is fact. By the way, this scenario still happens if Washington and Chicago swap linebacker Lance Briggs for the No. 6 pick. The Dolphins will simply try to make the trade with the Bears.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: I do not think the Dolphins will get Quinn. The latest news about Adrian Peterson having re-injured his collarbone in the Fiesta Bowl will force the Browns to take Quinn instead of Peterson, I believe.)

MOST LIKELY SECOND ROUND SCENARIO: If the Dolphins can't get Quinn by making a trade in the first round, they know they have to pick up a quarterback soon thereafter, if possible. Everyone says three will be available in the second round when Miami picks but I have my doubts about that because Oakland, Detroit and Chicago could go shopping for QBs in the second round and all are ahead of Miami. Look for the Dolphins to try and trade up to get their targetted player. The guy the Dolphins like most out of BYU's John Beck, Michigan State's Drew Stanton and Stanford's Trent Edwards is (drum roll here) Beck. Edwards is second.

MOST LIKELY SECOND ROUND SCENARIO NOT INVOLVING A QB: The Dolphins need receivers and there is actually a thought among some draftniks that Ted Ginn Jr. will slip to the second round. I know you Ginnheads are going nuts now, but the fact is he's not the most polished receiver, not the biggest, and doesn't have the best hands. He is simply one of the fastest, but there are even questions about that as the speed has been affected by his slow-healing foot injury. So he could be around at the top of the second round and I wouldn't be shocked if the Dolphins move up to get him if he's there.

DARKHORSE PICKS: I'm told the Dolphins like Brett Ratliff, the Utah quarterback, and might take a chance on him the second day ... The team likes East Carolina QB James Pinkney as a all-purpose kind of player, sort of a runner, receiver, quarterback kind of guy. I believe Slash is the term the Steelers coined for such a player.

MIAMI'S BIGGEST SECRET: That would be Walter Thomas, a 370-pound defensive tackle from Northwest Mississippi Community College. He played only two games there after being recruited but not qualifying academically at places like Oklahoma State. Anyway, the guy runs a 4.9, can dunk, bench presses 475 pounds, can do standing back flips and cartwheels. Apparently he can also dominate the line of scrimmage. He's 21 and he's had legal issues (conspiracy to commit robbery), but he is such a physical freak that a handful of teams have visited with him. One of those teams is your Miami Dolphins.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Culpepper emails me statement about status

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper sent me an emailed statement about his status earlier today. I will be writing about it in tomorrow's Miami Herald, but here is the statement in full for you now, my loyal bloggerheads:

From Daunte Culpepper:

"There has been a lot of speculation about my status with the Dolphins so I thought it best to weigh in on the matter. Since I am a player/agent and there are discussions about my career taking place, I expect to be included in those discussions sooner rather than later. As it pertains to being traded or released I don’t get to make that call so I will await the Dolphins decision. I am sure that they will do what is in the best interest of the team. While those decisions are being made, I am continuing to do everything I can to prepare to play at the level of expectations of the Dolphins (if they keep me), the NFL fans and most importantly myself. Until this week it never entered my mind that I wouldn’t be the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins this coming season.

"I have been frustrated since last year about the way that my injury and rehab have been portrayed. I want to take this opportunity to clear things up. When my initial injury happened with the Vikings I was told to expect a 12-18 month process of healing from the time of surgery which was in November 2005. The Dolphins were told the same thing. When I was cleared to practice and play ahead of schedule that meant that my ligaments were stable. However, I was not 100% by anyone’s evaluation in terms of mobility. During the Buffalo game of 2006, while being tackled, I injured my knee cap which had nothing to do with my three ligaments. Even though it was somewhat painful, I wanted to continue playing since my knee was continuing to get stronger. Coach Saban felt that "I could not protect myself” so he sat me down. I disagreed but submitted to his plan. I remember saying then that "everything that is good for you doesn’t always feel good to you". I hated not being allowed to play but in hindsight it was the best decision for my health.

"As I continued to rehab during the 2006 season the pain under my knee cap did not go away. I visited my surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who gave me good news and bad news. The good news was that my initial three surgically repaired ligaments were progressing very well. The bad news was that I would need a scope procedure to fix the knee cap pain. The thought was that since I was in the midst of healing and not expected to play I might as well get it fixed. Dr. Andrews let me know that it would be 4-6 months of healing. In comparison to the major surgery to fix three ligaments this procedure was considered to be “minor”.

"Last month I was encouraged about my progress as I was doing extremely well. I had spent three months working 5 days a week on my own and with the Dolphins training staff. My surgeon asked me not to push the process. Specifically, I have been told to begin to ease into things after May 1st. This is the plan based on Dr. Andrews’s timeframe. I must say based on how I feel, I am right on schedule. It may not meet the timeframe of some peoples expectations, and if not I understand. I just won’t let those expectations cause me to make the same mistake again. I plan on playing at a high level for a lot longer in this league, so I want to do what is necessary to get healthy and stay healthy. "

Wow. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dolfans should root for Oakland to take Johnson

Got a call from a friend who works at ESPN last night -- a prominent on-air personality, by the way -- and he was telling me that the through its various NFL sources, there is a thinking at the World Wide Leader that the Raiders first-round pick will be Calvin Johnson.

Not JaMarcus Russell.

The sources say the Raiders are not convinced Russell, for all his considerable talents and extraordinary potential, is a good fit as a west coast offense quarterback. They also contend that that Johnson is simply rated higher on the Oakland board than Russell and that the team can always use their first pick of the second round to get a quarterback like Stanford's Trent Edwards or BYU's John Beck.

So how does that affect the Dolphins, you ask?

Are you kidding me, I respond. It would be great news for Miami.

If Russell doesn't go first, it is possible he'll go third to Cleveland. That means Brady Quinn, who might have otherwise ended up in Cleveland if Russell is taken first, could be within trading distance for the Dolphins when the Redskins are on the clock at No. 6

The Redskins are said to value LaRon Landry but are looking for trade partners to drop a couple or three spots because they think they can get the LSU safety later in the first round. The Dolphins would need to get that high to get ahead of No. 7 Minnesota, which would scoop up Quinn if he's on the board when they pick.

The difference between No. 6 and No. 9 overall in draft value charts is about 300 points, so that is what the Dolphins would have to give Washington in this scenario.

It may be coincidental but Miami's second pick in the second round (60th overall), which it got from the New England Patriots in the Wes Welker trade, comes with a value of about 300 points.

So what do you think? Are you now rooting for the Raiders to pass on Russell? And would you give up a second-round pick (the 60th overall selection) to move up to No. 6 and get Brady Quinn?

God, I love this draft intrigue!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Doesn't look like Amobi is the pick

A lot of the mock drafts that definitely beg mocking have slated Louisville manchild defensive tackle Amobi Okoye as Miami's pick if the Dolphins can't trade out of the No. 9 spot.

He very well may be there when Miami is picking and his potential is much greater than, say, Levi Brown, the offensive tackle from Penn State that will also be available. But I just don't see Okoye as a Dolphins priority for several reasons.

First of all, Okoye is a smallish defensive tackle. He is perfect for a 4-3 system where he would be a young Warren Sapp-type addition. The problem is the Dolphins don't run a 4-3 system and their critical factors for that position call for more of a nose tackle type of player.

Secondly, I'm told the Dolphins talked to Okoye at the combine, but he didn't visit the team's facility and neither Randy Mueller nor Cam Cameron were present at his personal workouts. That tells me Okoye is on the radar, but he's not the target of Miami's focus.

Finally, it should be remembered that Atlanta picks at No. 8 now. The Falcons want to improve their pass rush. The Falcons are coached by Bobby Petrino. Who did Petrino coach at Louisville?

Amobi Okoye.

But it says here even if Petrino passes and Okoye is there, the Dolphins don't take him.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Does Adrian Peterson drop to the Dolphins?

The latest scuttlebutt from the misdirection mongers in the NFL is that Oklahoma star running back Adrian Peterson is dropping, dropping, dropping like Enron stock.

Four years ago, some scouts were saying Peterson could make the jump from high school to the NFL. Then he went out and rushed for 4,000some yards at Oklahoma and only last month all the draft gurus had this gifted player rated among the top 5 in this coming draft.

But today there is talk that Peterson's stock has plummeted. Suddenly the same folks that ripped Brady Quinn for getting too much credit as a system-quarterback at Notre Dame are ripping Peterson for being a system-running back at Oklahoma.

I don't make this stuff up, folks. I don't have that vivid an imagination.

So all of a sudden scouts and a couple of GMs are saying that Peterson might drop past Cleveland at No. 3 and be available for Miami at No. 9. Their reasoning for such a fall is that the Houston Texans are no longer at the No. 8 spot to catch a freefalling Peterson from reaching Miami.

Yes, the Texans need a running back but four weeks ago they swapped spots with Atlanta in the Matt Schaub trade. Houston is now at No. 10 while Atlanta is at No. 8.

And with Washington (Clinton Portis), Arizona (Edgerrin James), Tampa Bay (Cadillac Williams), and Detroit (Kevin Jones) apparently not in the market for a franchise running back, the chances of Peterson falling to the Dolphins is considered real should Cleveland pass on him.

The only team that would be seriously tempted to take Peterson before Miami, assuming Cleveland passes, is Minnesota. They've got Chester Taylor and Mewelde Moore, both of whom averaged over 4 yards a carry last year. But there is no certainty they'll go in that direction.

This, however, is certain: If Peterson is there, the Dolphins take him, assuming someone like Brady Quinn or JaMarcus Russell are already off the board.

Think that's crazy, considering the Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown two years ago and are likely to get Ricky Williams back this season? Maybe it is.

But I've been told the Dolphins are not going to fall into the trap of counting on Ricky Williams ever again. They'll love it if he's back this year, they'll love it if he's a solid citizen, they'll love it if he succeeds. But they don't want to depend on the guy.

They depended on him in 2004 and he failed them.

They depended on him for 2006 and he failed them.

Morever, the guy is approaching 30 years old and has missed two of the last three seasons. So there is no guarantee he's the 2001-2002 Ricky Williams everyone remembers.

So what do you think? How would Adrian Peterson suit the Dolphins?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Just don't see Culpepper as a Dolphin

This should not have come as a surprise to me but it did today when I suddenly realized Daunte Culpepper doesn't have much of a future as the Dolphins quarterback anymore.

It is Friday afternoon and the last couple of days of talking to people both in private and group settings has led me to that conclusion so I am sharing what I am piecing together for you.

As you already know, Culpepper is still not healthy and today made no guarantees he would be healthy anytime soon. He was told when he had his last surgery Nov. 30 it would take "four to six months" before he was completely recovered.

We are past the four month stage and Culpepper, it could be argued, has seen a setback because as late as three weeks ago he was running and then started suffering soreness in the knee. His doctor shut him down from the running and did not clear him for the current Miami minicamp.

Beyond that hazy picture of Culpepper's health, I am seeing new coach Cam Cameron distancing himself from Culpepper. It's not so much what he says about Culpepper, but rather what he doesn't say.

Not only has Cameron never said he thinks Culpepper will be healthy, he has not said Culpepper is Miami's quarterback even if he is healthy.

Instead Cameron has told owner Wayne Huizenga he's excited about the prospect of adding Trent Green. He has said Cleo Lemon will get a chance to compete for a starting job. He has said things that simply point me away from Culpepper being his guy.

Green is not a Dolphins player today but I think it will eventually happen. I know this because Green wants to be in Miami so much, he's already agreed to parameters of a contract with the Dolphins. And he's not negotiating with any other team, which is a necessary step if he were to be with any other team.

Trent Green seems headed to Miami one way or another and you should ask yourself, why? Is he so eager to come as a backup? I don't think so. I have to assume he's been led to believe he'll be the starter. And that leaves no room for Culpepper.

Another thing: I've been asking about Culpepper's cap status and have gotten the strange silent treatment from the team. Seems like the subject is taboo when typically the Dolphins are quite cooperative with such things for the sake of maintaining accuracy in the press.

But for some strange reason, phone calls and emails aren't returned when this is the subject.

Finally there is this: Even if Culpepper were healthy, there is a big question whether he's the type of quarterback Cameron would want running his offense. Culpepper, at his best. held the ball until the last possible moment, scanning the field, reading, trying to find an open receiver, always knowing he could run away from pressure if the weather in the pocket got too hot.

Cameron wants a more disciplined approach to quarterbacking. He wants a guy that can study the defense BEFORE the game even begins and knows what he's likely to see BEFORE it ever happens. That is simply not Culpepper's style. He ain't a bookworm quarterback, he's a make-things-happen-on-the-run quarterback.

And those are the reasons I don't think Daunte Culpepper will be the Dolphins quarterback.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Jones may be headed to the Rams

Dolphins punter Donnie Jones, a restricted free agent, has agreed to an offer sheet with the St. Louis Rams that runs five years and is worth $5.585 million.

The offer sheet is scheduled to be signed Friday, accordinng to agent Drew Rosenhaus, meaning the Dolphins have seven days to match the offer or lose their punter of the last two seasons. Jones will not participate in Miami's mini-camp that opens Friday.

"I can't speak for them so I don't know what they're going to do," Rosenhaus said of the Dolphins choice of matching the offer or losing Jones. "But I don't think they'll match based on the fact we've had no significant contract talks with them over the last couple of weeks."

Rosenhaus said the offer sheet does not include any type of poison pill. It does pay Jones a $1.175 million signing bonus with base salaries of $510,000 in 2007, $700,000 in 2008, $1 million in 2009 $1.1 million in 2010 and $1.1 million in 2011.

Rosenhaus, who also represents restricted free agent Yeremiah Bell, said the safety has signed an injury waiver and will participate in Miami's three-day camp.

Dolphins need to address offense on draft day

My first year covering the Dolphins, which was 1990, Don Shula told me before the draft that the Dolphins had a star quarterback on the team but he needed to help Marino maintain that status by protecting him.

"Everyone knows we need offensive line help,'' Shula said then.

So Shula drafted two offensive linemen with his first two picks of that draft, started both of them every game in the preseason and both had fine runs with the Dolphins for years to come. The two guys were Richmond Webb and Keith Sims.

So what is the lesson?

Sometimes it pays to know where your team is weak and address, indeed, attack that problem. And that brings us to today's Dolphins.

I've been hearing some troubling whispers where the Dolphins have defensive standouts like DT Amobi Okoye, S LaRon Landry, DT Alan Branch, and CB Leon Hall in their sights as possible first round picks. All of those guys may be available around the time the Dolphins are on the clock with the No. 9 overall pick.


Has anyone seen the Dolphins play lately? They do not score enough points to win. It's been like that for about half-a-dozen seasons, which through no coincidence, is about the time the Dolphins have been out of the playoffs.

So here's an idea: Pick to improve the offense.

Ted Ginn Jr. is probably a bit of a reach at No. 9 because the kid has health questions troubling him this offseason. But the reason he has those issues is because he's been slow to recover from a foot sprain he suffered after he was mobbed by teammates when he returned a kick 93 yards for a TD against Florida in the national title game.

He's a reach at No. 9 as a pure receiver but Ginn also returns kicks which add to his value -- think Devin Hester of the Bears. And when was the last time the Dolphins had a return man that scared anyone?

There's also Penn State LT Levi Brown out there as a possibility. After all the Dolphins don't have a starting LT today so why not fill that significant need with a significant investment of a first-round pick. Personally, I'm tired of Miami filling in the most important positions (QB, LT, CB, DT) with other teams' castoffs.

So that would be a good fit if Miami has a conviction about Brown. And there's always Brady Quinn should he begin to drop on draft day. The Dolphins LOVE Quinn, but I have said and will repeat he will not be available when Miami picks at No. 9.

But suppose he's there at No. 5 or 6? Maybe the Dolphins can move up ahead of Minnesota and score a coup. But that is a stretch as I don't see Cleveland being stupid enough to let Quinn go.

By the way, if the Dolphins do not land Quinn in the first round, I'm told they will likely have Michigan State QB Drew Stanton on their radar in the second round.

That's a good thing because the guy plays on offense.