Saturday, August 27, 2016

Miami Dolphins Starting to Release Players

The Dolphins have to trim their roster to 75 players by Tuesday August 30th at 4pm and the first round of cuts is taking place this afternoon. We will update this list throughout the day so keep coming back for updates.

LB - Akil Blount
C/G Ruben Carter
WR A.J. Cruz
LS Ryan DiSalvo
WR Matt Hazel
TE Gabe Hughes
K Marshall Koehn

CB Al Louis-Jean
G Vinston Painter
WR Brandon Shippen

CB Brandon Harris

Belief in Tanne-Gase

It's a marathon, not a sprint for a successful NFL season.  Luck and health all play into who holds the trophy in February and I would submit that we appear to be lucky at the moment with the hiring of Adam Gase and the coaching staff. As well as appearing to be lucky with personnel management decisions.

First, focusing on Thursday night, we can finally breathe a bit easier knowing that the offensive will not be the lowest producing and highest sack yielding unit in the history of the game.  We learned that (qualifying that pre season W-L record is meaningless) it has the potential to be the SUCCESSFUL version of the fast breaking West Coast style unit we have been expecting around here for years.  Coach Gase appeared to be in control of calling the game and knew what he wanted to do and Ryan Tannehill seemed to feel confident and in control. He was accurate, fast (running),  respected, and organized (unlike in the Giants game and to a lesser extent vs Dallas.)  The Offensive Line appeared to be improved and in synch as well. I can foresee a strong future with Steen anchoring us for many years to come. Hopefully injury prone and finesse Mike Pouncey's days could be numbered at  center.  Dont get me wrong I love the guy, but we have been losers with him at  center and wont cry to develop a younger and stronger HOG for the future. 

Continuing on the offense, I think the cameo by Foster only solidified the front office faith in signing him to a low risk and cheap deal.  It is plainly obvious in his limited action that he is the number one RB on the team and he is obviously confident in his ability as a successful veteran. He knows where he needs to be and is just a natural at the position. Foster will prove to be a phenomenal pass catching safety valve out of the one back set and Tannehill can throw to him all day long and watch for serious YAC and TD's!

Love Jay Ajai and want him to be great, but Foster is the man of the moment.  If that works out for us, watch out!  Could be season defining situation and the front office will appear to have made a genius decision, no matter what Lamar Miller does this season.  They saved a ton of money and have the naturally better (albeit more worn) player. Again, this would be filed under the luck and health headlines.

 Back to Gase, assuming all continues on the up arrow and the kid appears to have "IT" (passion, drive, enjoyment of his job, no fear) we will be lucky if it all continues and he remains steadfast and true to himself in the face of the many adversity's sure to arise over the coming six months (yes I said six, not four.)  We are lucky to have Tannehill behind center and I cannot think of many teams (maybe ten, that would not swap their starter for ours at this point).  The receivers still leave him with less than 100 percent success though. Devante Parker had a drop, Cameron Jordan has had multiple drops, even Jarvis Landry had a drop. These guys need to ball out to make it all work.

As far as the defense, it appears to be a longer term project at the moment as we have yet to see Xavien Howard be available, and the defensive line has to be brought along slowly.  However, after watching the Miko Grimes debacle last night and Jamar Taylor in Cleveland, I feel no worse off with enduring the growing pains of my younger, larger studs, than having ridden another year of Miko and Mediocre.  Jamar Taylor was never going to be the answer as well as he was a marginal to bad player.  Again, if we get lucky here and things work out in our favor for a change the front office again will look like geniuses.

As far as the linebackers it was good to see good Koa Misi play well. I'm not crazy about the guy as he is far from a playmaker but we need a big year from him.  I think Kiko Alonso is settling in and I  still like Neville Hewitt and Mike Hull. We will be ok at linebacker as long as the defensive line performs to expectation. I love the depth along the defensive line with Warmsley settling in and playing well. I'm excited for the future of this team and realistically, not expecting anything other than a complete turnaround in team psychology, philosophy, and respect this year knowing and feeling that better times are just around the corner.

Today's prediction for the season from me is 2nd place in the AFC EAST and 9-7.  After a 1-3 start we begin to gel by mid season and finish a strong 8-4 and have a shot at the second wild card spot and could be a real threat to get to the conference championship game.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

2016 Season Prediction

Here it is.  The dreadful season prediction.  I spoke many times on the podcast about how I feel about preseason predictions.  At this point, I feel it is now time.  For those of you who are squeamish, you may want to stop reading now (I am only kidding).

I truly feel this season may not be as bad as many of the national outlets are predicting.  Before I get into each game, with a brief summary and score prediction, here are some of the reasons I feel confident in improvement this year:

1.  Adam Gase:  He has a fire that hasn't been shown here since the beginning of the Tony Sparano era (really just 2008 season).  Gase is confident in his ability to get the most out of his players, particularly the QB, which leads me to..

2.  Ryan Tannehill has best season yet:  I will take the bashing from any of you, but does anybody else see something different in him?  He has more command at the line of scrimmage, his footwork is steadily improving AND he is in sync with his WR.  If I had to drop a way too early prediction, Tannehill goes for:  4,350 yards, 32 TDs and 14 INT.  Passer rating and completion percentage will take care of itself, if these numbers hold true.

3.  Defensive front 4 will have 45 sacks this season:  I know, we haven't seen it yet, but I truly feel good about Wake/Williams/Suh/Mitchell or Phillips as major disruptors.  My worry is the guys behind them that cannot tackle.  I hope it shores up before Seattle.

Now that I got that out of the way, here is my season predictions:

Week 1-  @ Seattle - OUCH, not the place you really wanted the season to start.  Seattle record at home since 2012 is a whopping 27-5 (.843).  This is asking a lot for a young football team with a new coach : Seattle 27  Miami 17  (0-1)

Week 2- @ New England- Thanks NFL, second week in a row to a very tough place to play, at a stadium that Dolphins haven't won in, since 2008 (Wildcat game).  Jimmy Garappolo starts, but Miami takes advantage of good weather and no Brady.  I feel an upset here: 
Miami 27   New England 24   (1-1)

Week 3- vs Browns- Welcome to Hard Rock Stadium!  Miami opens their home schedule with a Browns team looking for an identity under Hue Jackson.  Dolphins put up points and take it at their newly finished $500 million dollar stadium:
Miami 30   Browns 21    (2-1)

Week 4- @ Cincinnati- Thursday night prime time game.  The last time these two met, we had a Wake off.  But with a healthy Andy Dalton and AJ Green, the Dolphins may meet their match, even though they  have won the last 2 games against the Bengals
Cincinnati 24   Miami 20  (2-2)

Week 5- vs Tennessee- Miami absolutely obliterated the Titans on their home field last year.  Mariota has another year of experience and the team added pretty good depth.  This is going to be a lot closer than last years game:
Miami 20   Tennessee 17  (3-2)

Week 6- vs Pittsburgh-  I have teetered on this game since looking at the schedule.  Steelers defense and OL are glaring weakness, but they have Big Ben, the best WR in the league in Antonio Brown, and Le'veon Bell will be in, this smells like trouble:
Pittsburgh 34  Miami 28  (3-3)

Week 7- vs Buffalo-  Ah.. the dreaded Buffalo Bills  They have quite frankly, mentally own the Miami Dolphins as of late.  Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins put a whoopin on this team last year.  If healthy, the Bills should be able to put points up, but injuries on defense could mean they didn't put up enough in this game:
Miami 24   Buffalo 20  (4-3)

Week 8- Bye Week (sit back and relax this week friends)

Week 9- vs New York Jets- The Jets, like the Bills, put a hurting on the Dolphins last year.  Their defensive unit is strong.  I am still unsure of what to make of their offense with Fitzpatrick, does he continue to play well for the Jets?  Time will tell, but a last second field goal costs the Dolphins and important victory
NYJ 23  Miami 21   (4-4)

Week 10- @ San Diego-  We all remember this embarrassing game last season?  With another season in the balance in beautiful SD, Miami takes advantage of not so home field advantage to avenge last years loss:
Miami 27   SD 20  (5-4)

Week 11- @ LA Rams-  Football is back in LA.  The hard knocks featured team this year has a beast at RB in Todd Gurley and quite possibly the best front four on defense in the league.  Can Ryan Tannehill out play any of the Rams 3 QBs, the answer is yes:
Miami 17   LA 13  (6-4)

Week 12- vs San Francisco-  Chip Kelly brings the niners across country for a 1pm start time.  With uncertainty all around that franchise, the Dolphins bring home their 3rd victory in a row:
Miami 27  SF  21   (7-4)

Week 13- @ Baltimore-  This team has given Miami fits.  Just can't seem to find a win against these guys since the infamous 2007 win.  IF Flacco is healthy, I give the nod to Baltimore.  They just seem to find a way to win games against Miami.  And being a cold winter day, it doesn't bode well:
Baltimore 21   Miami 17  (7-5)

Week 14- vs Arizona-  Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson on offense.  Patrick Peterson and Honey badger on defense.  This is a tough one to get at home:
Arizona 28  Miami 20   (7-6)

Week 15- @ NYJ-  Primetime Saturday night game a week before Christmas.  Miami finds rhythm and finds an upset on the road.  We will likely thank Arian Foster for this grind-it-out victory on the road:
Miami 20   NYJ 17   (8-6)

Week 16- @ Buffalo- The house of horrors for Miami.  I personally travel to see this game every year and every year I leave disappointed.  I don't believe I will feel much different:
Buffalo 28   Miami 14  (8-7)

Week 17- vs New England-  Remember earlier I have Miami beating the Patriots on the road?  Do you also remember just above this comment about the house of horrors?  Tom Brady should be playing and he is 0-3 vs the Dolphins on the road in the last 3 seasons.  Let's make it 0-4 and secure a winning season for the first time since 2008:
Miami 28  NE 27  (9-7)

Yes I have high optimism, yes, I have them sweeping the Patriots.  Am I wrong?  Probably.  Is this record unrealistic?  We will see.  But be rest assured, this team will be a different group to watch offensively, if the defense plays up to par, 9-7 is not a stretch.  It is a realistic possibility.  Ryan Tannehill keeps his job as QB of this franchise and Adam Gase is off to a great start. 



Preseason Game 3: Atlanta Falcons @ Miami Dolphins

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Camping World Stadium- Orlando, FL
Kickoff 8:00PM

Announcers:  Mike Tirico and Chris Collinsworth

We have reached the pinnacle of the preseason.  Week 3.  This game is a tune up game for the starters and one of the final chances to make an impression.  While many will not focus on this game, I, for one will be very intrigued.  This is technically a home game (Hard Rock Stadium is not 100% ready for this game, but will be on September 1st vs Titans).  There are many things to watch for in tonight's game, so let's get you primed with things to watch for:

1)  Starting offense getting off to a fast start- we have witnessed slow starts in both weeks on offense.  The Giants started off leading 10-0, Cowboys 14-0.  The Falcons have arguably the best WR in the league in Julio Jones and he will be tough to handle.  I expect the Dolphins to start as they did last week (3-5 yard play on first down) to ease into the game and get the offense going.  A first down is critical tonight, points on their opening drive is critical tonight as well.  The defense playing from behind last week didn't look good.  In fact, it looked like the same defense as last season.  The offense needs to put up more points than the defense allows.  NFL 101.

2)  Starting defense needs to make stops/plays- in the first two weeks, the starting defensive unit has not been very good.  They have given up over 300 yards rushing in the first two preseason games.  If you cannot stop the run, you will not be very good.  I get it, vanilla schemes, not prepared for opponent, but tackling doesn't need schemes, it is technique.  This unit lacks that.  If the guys can wrap up their tackles, the defense will indeed get off the field.  Force the issue tonight, make plays and we may get a glimpse of what this defense really can do.  But it starts with the basics.

3)  Laremy Tunsil- I will be the first to admit, I wasn't thrilled when the pick was announced.  Over time, I liked the move more.  Now, I LOVE IT.  Tunsil has played 90 snaps in the preseason, more than any other player on the team.  He struggled at Guard throughout camp and was second team until a promotion last week, which FINALLY bumped Dallas Thomas off the starting unit.  From those 90 snaps, Tunsil has not given up a SINGLE QB PRESSURE.  Tannehill was upright last week, and he had a clean pocket, albeit for 2 plays.  Watch for Tunsil to continue to develop.

4)  Linebackers-  This has been a sore subject for me on the podcast weekly.  The starting unit of Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi just flat out hasn't worked in either preseason game.  they cannot get off their blocks and they cannot tackle.  These 3 need to step it up.  Their play is vital for the wide 9 defense to work, and it will not work if the play of these guys doesn't get going.  A whiff tonight so to speak may lead to changes, as cuts are on the horizon this week.  Let's see how this unit works tonight and if a week of tackling drills helped.

I am looking forward to the prime time game tonight.  Miami needs to show the NFL, the fan base and a national audience that this is a team that can be on the rise.  Tackling opposing players and putting up points with the first unit is a great way to start. 

Make sure you look for me on Periscope at halftime and after the game for brief analysis and opinion of how things went down this evening.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The New & Improved Offensive Line Won't be an Issue in 2016

What I saw in the preseason game vs Dallas last week was that the Dolphins offensive line will be heads and shoulders better this upcoming year than it was last year. Now, assuming Mike Pouncey doesn't miss more than just one regular season game and no other starter suffers a season ending injury, what we saw last week was an offensive line unit that kept defenders off Ryan Tannehill and gave him time to throw. (I am also assuming that Jermon Bushrod wins the starting RG spot as I think he showed more promise at guard in 2 quarters than Turner and Thomas have showed in 2+ years)

Yes its just the preseason but it was clear as day that when Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner were replaced with Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod guess what, Ryan Tannehill had a clean pocket to make throws. And make throws he did leading two touchdown drives and third touchdown drive would have happened if Jordan Cameron didn't drop an easy very catch-able ball.

Laremy Tunsil
The Dolphins fixed their guard problem on the offensive line by removing them totally and starting 4 offensive tackles around a center. Guard problem solved, we don't play no guards. Who needs stinkin guards?!

Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil, Jermon Bushrod, and JuWuan James...4 offensive tackles, 2 pro bowlers, 3 guys who were picked in Round 1 of the NFL draft. Those 4 next to a pro bowl center and Ryan Tannehill will have all day to throw in 2016. Offensive Tackles are pass blockers first and foremost and the Dolphins have 4 elite (yes I said elite) pass blockers with that group.

Now, the downside here is the run blocking might be utter garbage. Not one of those 4 are known for their run blocking and two of which (Tunsil and Bushrod) are trying to run block from a new position they are just learning. But there are ways around this problem and I will give some examples.

1) The Dolphins must utilize their "12 Personnel" formation on offense a lot this year. They must get Dion  Simms who is a beast of a run blocker on the field with Jordan Cameron at the same time with a two tight end-one RB set. Adding two more blockers on the offensive line but eligible receivers as well will prevent teams from loading up with 8 or 9 in the box since the two tight ends have to be accounted for in the passing game. This will make it easier for the poor run blocking offensive line to block and create space for the running back.

2) Sub in Billy Turner for Bushrod on obvious running downs. Yes the Dolphins want to play fast and huddle as little as possible, but when you have a 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 2 and you want to just ram it in there and run it up the gut, sub in Turner for a few plays. Yes it sounds too obvious, and its telegraphing, but sometimes you just need to keep it simple.  Turner's issues aren't with run blocking it's just that he can't be trusted in the passing game and he has gotten Tannehill killed one too many times.

Jermon Bushrod
With all of this said, I am fine with this offensive line heading into 2016 because they will give Tannehill time to pass the ball. If you give Tannehill time with this group of WR's I think the Fins will score points and lots of them this year. The NFL is an offensive league and even above that its a Pass-Happy league. Pass blocking is first and foremost for any offensive line unit. If you can keep your quarterback upright and un-touched so he can get the ball in the hands of fast and dangerous WR's, you will in this league and win consistently.

If this offensive line unit can't run block at a high level, I can live with it and as I stated there are ways around that. Through creative personal groupings and play calling. You can't hide poor pass blocking, but you can hide poor run blocking on the offensive line.

So sleep well Dolphins fans heading into the 2016 season. The offensive line unit looks to be fixed. Spend your time worrying about other matters with this roster. Like how the cornerback position is a mess and how we all hope Tony Lippet graduated and got a degree from Michigan St so he has something to fall back on.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Random Thoughts

21 days....but who is counting?  Pouncey is a setback to the gelling of the Offensive line, but hopefully Steen can step in until Pouncey recovers.

-I for one am realistic about the results of this season as there is too much youth both in talent and coaching to realistically expect great things.

-I am on board, though, with the fact that another good draft featuring defense next April will put us in position of consistent contention in years 2017 and beyond.

-I must go on record as a #17 supporter and I think there are many teams who would be happy to have him instead of who they might be trotting out opening day.

-I think improvement is in the air and growth inevitable for the young O, particularly the WR's, it might be a long season and I expect them to come together more toward the middle of the season than out of the gate.

-Many thanks to Mike Oliva for his invitation to participate and his patience in helping get me squared away as a millennial techie I am not....looking forward to Thursday night.

Have a Great Monday!

Takeaways After Preseason Game 2

Takeaway number 1 and most important for Dolphins fans: I thought Ryan Tannehill was outstanding before being removed. All I wanted to see, other than him staying healthy of course, was for him to make good solid throws in different circumstances and situations. He made 4 throws that stood out to me. Obviously the roll out bomb to Stills was a fantastic sign, the first down throw on 3rd and 8 to Parker while getting drilled in the chin was a great throw, the first touchdown throw to Stills was a bullet on a well run play, and the fade route for the second touchdown to Stills could not have been placed any better.

That was all I needed to see. 4 dimes. Not to mention the pinpoint perfect slant he threw to Jordan Cameron who dropped it in the endzone. He came out healthy and confident. Great game for Ryan.

Takeaway number 2 was on the receivers and TE. Kenny Stills looked great, and appears to be headed for a much bigger role in this offense under Gase. Cameron's drop was the only memorable play he had the whole half, which is not a good sign. The TE clearly need to be more involved (if they're talented enough to do so, which is a problem in and of itself).

Takeaway number 3 was the OL; Throughout the first quarter and into quarter 2, Jermon Bushrod and Laremy Tunsil were the Guards with the starters and they pass blocked exceptionally well as a unit. Great to see Tannehill have time to step into throws and look comfortable. The run blocking was tremendously suspect, the run plays were slow to develop and Ajayi and Foster couldn't really show much. Not quite sure why Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas then got their shot with the rest of the starters instead of the second team.
Pouncey's injury is obviously a devastating blow to a unit that needed maximum stability. We can only hope he's able to give it a go for the opener which is 20 days away.

Finally, I don't have to say the defense was terrible. Anyone watching saw that. I'm not overly concerned YET, because I think three potential starters were missing in Wake, Mitchell, and possibly Xavien Howard. The LB situation got no clearer, the missed tackles were scary bad, and Mario Williams was a no show. I'm just hoping the intensity and the complexity of the defense goes way up when Week 1 rolls around.