Miami Dolphins: 2017 NFL Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft has arrived.

The Draft is my favorite spring sporting even.

Better than the NBA playoffs? Have you met me? Absolutely and it is not close.

The Miami Dolphins pick at 22. They may actually be in position to actually pick BPA(best player available). While they have multiple positions of needs they do have stopgap players at those positions.

It is a wonderful situation to find a team in. it is also maddening. Very rarely do you have a true BPA. Each teams set their own boards and try as they might they are still influenced by needs. one teams BPA may not be another. that makes it so hard to predict who they will take.

Almost any position could be in play. OJ Howard(Alabama) at tight end, Buddy Baker(Washington) at safety, TJ Watt(Wisconsin), Rueben Foster(Alabama), Jaraad Davis(Florida) or Haason Reddick(Temple) at linebacker are all possibilities. You could even see running backs Christian McCaffery(Stanford), Dalvin Cook(FSU) or speedy wide receiver John Ross(Washington).

Of course for me I lean towards two names-if they are there. Forrest Lamp(W. Kentucky) at guard or Derrick Barnett(Tennessee) who is a beast coming off the edge.

Many do not see Lamp as a sexy pick in the first round. When you think of what Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi could do with Lamp blocking next to last years number one pick, Laremy Tunsil, it starts looking awfully sexy.

What about Barnett?

Think the next in a line of great pass rushers. Watching him I see shades of Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor.

Will he reach such heights? I do not know but I would love to find out.

In a few short hours we will see who the Dolphins pick. So many choices. So many directions.

The future is bright.


NFL Draft: Prototypes and More

Less than a month from now 32 NFL teams will put the final touches on their draft plans and set up the war rooms for the 2017 NFL Draft. In the coming weeks numerous mock drafts and related stories will be written. Football fans will be bombarded with analysis and scouting terms, my favorite remains hands like feet.  Some will insist that teams look for prototype players or that they need to get bigger and faster.

Those last few have always bothered me. I do not believe a ‘prototype’ player exists. While some well regarded coaches have lived by the mantra of prototypes for each position(looking at you Bill Parcells) it does not track in the long run. First off each team, each system needs different players based on how they use them. So a firm prototype is short sighted. Now if you want players that look the part a prototype is great but at the end of the day you need players. To find those players you need to see them on the field not simply the measurements.

Then you have the notion of getting bigger and faster. Everyone wants bigger, stronger and faster. Unfortunately you rarely find all three in the same player. To get bigger and stronger you usually have to sacrifice some speed and vice versa. That is when you come back to finding players who show they can do it on the field. Then you use all the facts and figures gathered at the combine to try to maximize the attributes the team desires.

Jerry Rice was never the biggest or fastest wide receiver but he is widely regarded as the best wide receiver to ever play the game. Tom Brady has dominated the quarterback position for over a decade, no one would have imagined that looking at him in the combine. Nothing is ever as simple as a prototype or measurements. You take those and add them to the film study you have done on each player. After that interviews and team needs narrow it all down to a very inexact science.

It is nearly impossible to speculate on what each team might do. But we still try.

That is where the fun comes in.


Miami Dolphins: Linebacker Shuffling

The Super Bowl is in the rearview.

One season over another just begun.

Teams have started making cuts and positioning themselves for free agency which officially begins March 9th.

This is the time of year that teams suddenly look quite a bit different. Good teams try to shore up their problem areas before the NFL Draft comes around to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to welcome young college players.

The Miami Dolphins have already started by cutting Mario Williams and Earl Mitchell. They are also exploring the possibility of trading tackle Brandon Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The major problem area for this Dolphins roster is at linebacker. First year middle linebacker Kiko Alonso was a pleasant surprise.  The rest of the linebacking corps struggled through injury and inexperience. Veterans Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins remain big question marks of whether they will be even on the team come training camp. There is a strong possibility that the team will add two(if not more) new linebackers through free agency and the draft.

That makes very good sense.

What does not make sense is the notion of replacing Alonso in the middle and moving him to outside linebacker.

Yes there is the chance that you find a gem in the middle and Kiko slides outside with no issues whatsoever. Only problem is-

Zach Thomas is not walking through that door.

Moves like this rarely go off like clockwork.

Do I need to remind you of the attempt to move Koa Misi to middle linebacker a few years ago?

Not only did the move not solve the middle linebacker issues but it also significantly weakened the play on the outside.

Alonso is solid in the middle. In his first year with the team. He may be even better in year two.

Spend your time(and money) finding players to play on the outside. Which is much easier than finding a great mike linebacker.

If it works do not fix it.


Super Thoughts

The day is finally here. After months and months of work, sweat and tears thirty-two teams have become two. Tonight in Houston, Texas the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XI.

I was not even sure I would write this column. Leading up to the game nothing was coming. Then I started hearing the national media talking about the game. And fans talking. Shortly after the juices started flowing.

The national narrative is Patriots, Patriots, Patriots. I just do not see it.

While the Patriots have the number one scoring defense, the Falcons have the number one overall offense.

Many will point to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s experience in the big game. But experience is not everything.

I look at recent history, especially the playoffs.

While everyone focuses on the Falcons offense their defense is nothing to sneeze at. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers was playing over his head the last two months. No one was playing quarterback any better than Rodgers. Not Brady. Not Matt Ryan. No one.

And the Falcons shut him down winning 44-21. It was the third quarter before the Packers scored their first points after being down 31-0.

At the same time when the Patriots played the Houston Texans the week before they struggled. Tom Brady looked decidedly mortal. If the Texans had any semblance of an offense that day they would have advanced instead of the Pats.

While Belichick is known for taking your best player away Matt Ryan threw touchdown passes to thirteen different players this season. The Patriots cannot possibly take away that much offense.

The game will be fun and competitive but I do expect the Falcons to come out fast and never look back.

Game On.



Miami Dolphins: 1%


For the first time since 2008 the Miami Dolphins are headed to the playoffs. After a 1-4 start rookie head coach Adam Gase has willed an injury plagued team to the post-season.

There should be nothing but joy in South Beach…Right?

Not quite. There is unrest in Dolphins nation. For all the challenges and obstacles this team has overcome the disrespect is real.

Often franchises will try to create the notion that it is ‘us vs them’ to motivate the team and their fans. It is an effective motivational tool. In the Dolphins case they do not need to create anything. Nation media seems to enjoy slapping them in the face. For some reason there are those who seek to invalidate the achievements of this season.

There is the NFL Power Index which in the final edition ranked the Denver Broncos ahead of the Dolphins even though the Dolphins made the postseason as a wild card ahead of the Broncos. Miami did not make the playoffs as the best team of a bad division(yes I’m looking at you Texans), they had to fight and claw ahead of the Broncos among other teams to make the postseason.  They had to sweep division rivals Buffalo and New York-teams who had owned Miami in recent years. They had to overcome injuries to Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins and most recently the loss of franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill to finish 10-6.

Critics will say that the Dolphins only beat one winning team on their way to the playoffs(Pittsburgh). The fact is you play the games in front of you. The 1-4 start hurts that is undeniable. That said the six game winning streak should not be discounted no matter who it came against.

Six games that started with the dismantling of Sundays opponent the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15. They followed that with a game against the Buffalo Bills who were coming off a four game winning streak. A Bills team that the Dolphins had struggled against in recent years. Some of the wins were impressive in others they simply survived. At the end of the day how you win is less important than the final score.

And so here we are in playoffs once again and Espn’s Football Power Index says that Miami has a 1% chance, one percent. Actually that is not true. That is a lie, a fabrication. They give the Dolphins a .2% chance of reaching the Super Bowl.

They have written them off so much so that several times this week when talking about the playoff teams they leave the Dolphins out of the conversation entirely. Earlier this week ESPN could not even be bothered to create a graphic for the team when talking about teams chances in the AFC.

Respect has to be earned. You would think with all that the Dolphins have overcome they would get just a little respect. Apparently there is yet another hurdle for this team to clear. And if they win today the media will surely write them off again.


I think I will take this one percent over the other 99.



Miami Dolphins: The Good, The Bad

Sometimes the games are ugly. Sloppy. Throw in pouring rain and you the game between the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals.

Somehow the Dolphins eeked out-and-out 26-23 win but it was not without cost(more on that later). As always there is the good and the bad.

The Good:

One name-Mike Hull. As soon as it was announced that he was starting for the injured Kiko Alonso I was in.

As those that know me will say…I love Mike Hull. While he is only 6′ and 230 lbs he makes up for it with great, great football instincts. Those were on display early on as he grabbed an early interception on a tipped pass from Carson Palmer. Throughout the game you could see him around the ball with regularity.

Hull was not perfect. Some of his drops into coverage were stiff and he bit on a few play fakes but that is understandable considering this was his first extended playing time of his career. With more experience these things can be cleaned up. His passion is undeniable.

Now I am not suggesting starting Hull over a healthy Kiko Alonso. That would be foolish. I would however find ways to get both Alonso and Hull on the field at the same time. Not to disparage Neville Hewitt or Spenser Paysinger, both solid players, however neither have the instincts shown again and again by our inside linebackers. Such a move could help our overall linebacking play tremendously.

The Bad:

After 77 games Ryan Tannehill went down to injury. The ironman finally fell. Tannehill was hurt on a low hit(some felt a dirty hit) by Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

Initially the worst was feared. Sunday night many on the team and in the media suspected he may have suffered a season ending ACL tear. Tests have shown it to be a ACL sprain. While that may seem like splitting hairs it is the difference between surgery and not.

So the Dolphins turn to back up Matt Moore to lead the push towards the playoffs. There is a (slim)chance that Tannehill could return to the field for the season ending game against the New England Patriots or the playoffs.

Personally the only way I play him again this season is if a playoff berth is on the line or in said playoffs.

Simply dodging the ACL tear-bullet should be a sigh of relief for Dolphins fans and especially one Ryan Tannehill.




Miami Dolphins: Clean It Up

Five games.

Five wins.

The year was 2008 last time the Miami Dolphins won five straight games. That was also the last time the Dolphins reached the playoffs.

Will they find a way to return to the postseason this year?

Not so fast. There is still a lot of work to do. So many things to clean up. Penalties, defensive breakdowns…all the little things.

While the win last Sunday in Los Angeles was great it was also frustrating. The Rams defense held our offense in check for fifty-five minutes, while our defense just barely contained Todd Hurley and rookie quarterback Jared Goff. The most frustrating play could have broken the game open much earlier.

After Kiko Alonso force and the recovered a fumble(Kiko continues to impress) the offense tried to strike quickly. Going for a deep passing touchdown after a turnover is what you always hope for. It is an aggressive move which pays great dividends when successful.

When Successful…

It was not. Ryan Tannehill launch a beautiful deep ball towards Devante Parker in the left front corner of the end zone just like it was drawn up.  All Parker needed to do was time his jump and put his 6’3 frame to work. Touchdown right? Wrong. Parker jumped a step or two early and the ball flew just out of reach to be intercepted by Rams safety Maurice Alexander.

The timing was off by just this much…

My first reaction to the play was: “Seriously!?”.  A combination of frustration and disbelief. It was born not of anger because of the turn over but of shock. I had seen this movie before. We all had.

A nearly identical play Tannehill to Parker for a missed touchdown turned interception…that is how the week two game against the New England Patriots ended. Thankfully this time the Dolphins managed to recover to claim victory from the jaws of defeat. Even so this is something that needs to be cleaned up.

A play like that can be such a weapon if they can just get it right. Timing takes time. And repetition. And more repetition.

Get it right and the offense can be explosive. You have a threat to score at any time. It makes the entire offense better. More room for Jay Ajayi to run(as if he does not create enough on his own), more opportunities for Jarvis Landry to exert his will on the defense. It can build confidence on both sides of the ball. It opens up so many possibilities.

So clean it up…and see what transpires.