Monday, June 24, 2013

My take: What to watch now through training camp

With the Miami Heat completing the road to they're second consecutive championship, the next big thing to look for now is the growth of the 2nd best pro team in Miami, FL (that isn't saying much), your Miami Dolphins. With the OTA's done, the one person we should keep an eye on is Free Agent Fullback Vonta Leach. Leach, the Pro Bowl FB recently cut by the Baltimore Ravens, would be a significant contributor to the Miami Dolphins offense not only by being an additional threat to the running game, but by expediting the continuing growth of second year players running back Lamar Miller and tackle Jonathan Martin. Martin, now the starting Left Tackle, has big shoes to fill in replacing our former LT Jake Long and covering Ryan Tannehill's blind side. His addition would be huge and is worth keeping an eye on where he lands. When training camp begins, the one thing to look at is current Dolphins WR Armon Binns, who looked sharp through OTA's and had a solid second half last season after being claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. It is interesting to see if his OTA production reflects during training camp, preseason, and most importantly, the regular season.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Meet Lamar Miller, The Miami Dolphins' Running Back

When the Miami Dolphins selected Lamar Miller in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, many thought it was only a matter of time before he became the starting running back. 

At the University of Miami, Miller redshirted his first season in 2009. He played 11 games 2010 in with one star and rushed for 646 yards on 108 carries with six touchdowns. Miller became the Hurricanes’ starting running back in 2011 as he rushed for 1272 yards and nine touchdowns. Miller became the first Miami running back since Willis McGahee in 2002 to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

In Miller's first season in the NFL, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry on only 51 attempts. It appears Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a lot of confident in Miller. 

On NFL Network's "NFL Total Access,” Tannehill stated without hesitation that Miller, who is is taking a majority of the snaps with the Dolphins' first team in the OTAs, is well ahead of 2011 second-rounder Daniel Thomas and rookie from Florida Mike Gillislee. 

"He's (Lamar Miller) doing a great job this offseason, really has a great handle on the offense and he's doing a great job protecting.

Miller should benefit the most from the signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace. Teams will be so focused on not letting Wallace get behind the secondary and defenses won't respect the run as much. 

Dolphins also signed receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller. So the game plan of opposing teams will be how to slow down the passing attack of the Dolphins. 

This should open up opportunities for Miller to have a 1,000 yard season and a few touchdowns.  

Find Antwan Staley @blackredsoxfan on Twitter

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Despite the clouds, optimism rolls forward...

Fins up from SC where there is currently rain in my beer. My second favorite sport is baseball, and rain is bad for baseball.  I guess it’s time to push through the things I can’t control today.  Things like the weather, and the nearby idiots. You know who does that well? Stephen Ross.  Stephen Ross can’t control the drought in public funding caused by fearful politicians and the Miami Marlins.  Has any player, coach, or owner ever had a more negative effect on the Dolphins than the Marlins? I hate the Marlins.  From 1993-2011 they made one of the most beautiful playing surfaces in the NFL look awful.  It is true that the Dolphins have had trouble separating themselves from the Marlins.  Perhaps it is because Wayne Huizenga owned both clubs, I could not tell you. I will tell you that the Marlins are not “In it to win it” and they are a parasite in South Florida.  Tell me again how Jeffrey Loria is qualified to lead a MLB franchise and Mark Cuban was denied? 
So let me swing back to what matters.  The Miami Today News has reported the Dolphins are currently in the process of eliminating seats in Sun Life Stadium.  These changes have to occur to eliminate the possibility of future blackouts.  I love that; you cannot keep your fan base without television.  Yet, how will this process take place? I have visions of the Jaguar’s hideous stadium in my head.  A few years ago the Jaguars covered two entire sections of their upper deck with a huge tarp.  The tarp looked like a massive version of my truck bed cover with a Jags logo on it.  I’m glad I don’t pull for the Jags. 
With fewer seats in Pro Players Stadium you can expect ticket prices to rise.  I am fine with it; consider it the price of progress or better yet, the price of winning.   According to the team 2012 team marketing report the average ticket price to a Dolphins game is $ 71.14.  This is well below the NFL average of $ 78.38.  If you’re wondering the Jets average $ 117.94 and New England weighs in at $ 117.84.
Ross has said that if Sun Life Stadium is to be renovated it must include a marriage of public and private funds.  I don’t think Ross will move the Dolphins; the lack of public funding won’t last forever.  The hangover created by the Miami Marlins will eventually end.  When it does end the standard will only be higher as Minnesota, Buffalo, and Atlanta will all soon receive public funding to build or renovate their stadiums. 
It will be interesting to see the creative ways Ross attempts to maximize shareholder value moving forward.  Some forecast an increase in strategic private partnerships in the future.  The Miami Hurricanes already play their home games at Sun Life Stadium, and Ross recently said that the failed L.A. stadium proposal would have required two tenants to be successful.  I would welcome a joint ownership venture with the University of Miami.  Even if the Hurricanes played baseball at the new venue it would not be a problem for the Dolphins because college baseball wraps up in June.  The New Times Broward Palm Beach has noted Sun Life stadium will host a soccer event called the International Champions Cup.  The tournament is expected to include top teams from around the globe, and at least one MLS team.  Given the demographics of South Florida one can expect the International Champions Cup to be successful.  Ross is a business man who will get the most out of his assets, regardless of external circumstances.  Hopefully a winner on the field will make the process as easy as it should be.  Ross will keep the Dolphins operating in the green column, and we will be around when Jeffrey Loria needs help moving.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Ireland Next?

Two weeks ago, with little fanfare, the Dolphins announced several promotions within the Personnel Department.  General Manager Jeff Ireland named Anthony Hunt Director of Pro Scouting, Joe Schoen Assistant Director of College Scouting, Adam Engroff National Scout, and Cody Rager West Coast Area Scout.  All well deserved promotions. So it got me to thinking - Is Jeff Ireland’s contract extension up next?

I realize to many fans, I am jumping the gun. I also realize to some I am speaking pure blasphemy.  However, it is the most logical step for Steve Ross and the organization.  I only grade Ireland from when he actually took over the team, when Bill Parcells stepped away in September 2010. Before that he was GM in name only, did not have final say and had an imposing figure over top of him. He was saddled with a head coach in Tony Sparano that he did not want and a Parcells player blueprint that many feel cannot work in today’s NFL.  Ireland took over a team that was moving in the wrong direction, but has gotten that ship turned around. The “FIreland” crowd loves to point to player mistakes or unfortunate comments, but there are plenty of positives on Ireland’s resume that warrant a contract extension.

The hiring of Joe Philbin as Head Coach.  Philbin appears to be the right man for the job. Philbin was Ireland and Ross’s HC choice, a first for both of them. Philbin has quickly gained respect around the NFL, helping Ireland’s image and reputation.  Though early, all signs point to Ryan Tannehill being the franchise quarterback the organization has sorely missed.  Many of the “experts” called Tannehill a reach last year at #8 in the draft, and have since changed their tune.  Ireland had an insane free agency period this year. The team got faster and younger and still has cap space. Miami was no longer a place that free agents shunned, it became the place to play – Ireland helped orchestrate that. On draft day, Ireland stole the third pick in the draft from the Oakland Raiders, and snatched Dion Jordan out of Chip Kelly’s and the Philadelphia Eagles hands.  There have been earlier moves and non-moves that time have proven Ireland correct as well.  Ireland’s first draft he selected Mike Pouncey. Pouncey should have been a Pro Bowler last year and has quickly become the best center in the AFC.  Ireland did not panic and trade for Kyle Orton, nor was he willing to overpay for Matt Flynn.  Both were originally labeled as Ireland failures by the media, however both “non” moves proved to be the correct moves.

Ireland is on a hot streak right now and that is no accident. He has had a direct hand in reshaping the Dolphins image. Yes there have been some growing pains, but that is to be expected in any job, GM is no exception.  Ireland has the team moving in the right direction. The right Head Coach, a young franchise QB and an athletic team with stardom potential surrounding them.  They have a good coaching staff and an experienced personnel department all locked up.  The stadium issue is behind them.  Why wait for the season?  The season would need to be a total catastrophe for Ross to want to blow it all up and start over – and that’s what a new GM usually means. Ross should let the NFL know Ireland is his guy. The organization’s best move would be to get Ireland’s extension done next.

Carl C. Crowley

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vonta Leach visiting the Dolphins

Coming off three straight ALL PRO (that's not pro bowl, that's ALL PRO) seasons the Ravens cut Vonta Leach because they couldn't come to terms on a reduced contract. Multiple outlets are reporting that Leach is making his first visit to Miami on Wednesday to meet with the Dolphins. Leach has a history with Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

If the Dolphins can sign Leach this would be a huge upgrade to the Dolphins running game. Leach is an outstanding player and a proven winner on the field.

Dolphins sign 3rd round pick CB Will Davis

The Miami Dolphins signed 3rd round draft pick CB Will Davis to a 4 year deal on Monday. During OTA's Davis has been working with the 1st team defense on a consistent basis and is expected to compete for a starting CB job in training camp.

Monday, June 10, 2013

BREAKING: Tebow signs with Patriots

Roger Simmons of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the New England Patriots have signed QB Tim Tebow and is expected to join the team for tomorrow’s minicamp. My first reaction is, wow. Do the Patriots have a secret wildcat offense they haven't told anyone about? Because I could have sworn they already had a viable young QB by the name of Ryan Mallett to backup Tom Brady. I'll say this, with Tim Tebow's arm and New England's traditional offense; it should make for an interesting combination.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Six Time Executive of The Year Bill Polian Breaks Down The Dolphins.

Bill Polian knows what championship teams look like.  He built six that went to Super Bowl, including the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts.  The six time executive of the year has now moved on to the media side of things where he works as an analyst on both ESPN and SiriusXM NFL Radio.  During a show Thursday night on SiriusXM, Polian gave his “State of the Franchise” address for the Dolphins.
Miami has been one of the busiest places the past few months, and I’m not even including South Beach and “The LeBrons” run to a third straight NBA Finals.  When free agency began the Dolphins brought in a number of high profile players including Mike Wallace and Dannelle Ellerbe.  They put together a draft day trade that helped them land arguably one of the top defensive talents available in Dion Jordan.  There was even that failed attempt to try and get a new stadium built in South Florida, but hey least the Marlins are getting about a 100 fans a night right?

Now as the season approaches what does Polian think of the Dolphins?  They’re close.  Polian stated “This team is poised to be a contender to the Patriots in the AFC East, but it will take some time for the offense to click with all the new additions.”  This is a belief that I have echoed with all off-season.  No matter how good the team looks in on paper and in OTA workouts it will all be tested once the Dolphins take the field week one in Cleveland.  One of those new additions to the offense will be TE Dustin Keller who after five seasons with the Jets, Keller hopes to be a big contributor in the Dolphins up tempo west coast offense, and Polian thinks he can.  “If Keller can stay healthy he’s going to have a big year and Miami will use him better then the Jets did.” 

No matter how many new offensive weapons are in the fold it still all comes back to the right arm of Ryan Tannehill.  I like more and more what I’m seeing from the second year quarterback out of Texas A&M.  He’s taking control of this team and being the leader that a quarterback should be, and while RG3, Luck & Russell Wilson stole the spotlight last year it was Tannehill who may have been the most impressive.  “People forget that he played just as good as the other three, and did so with much less talent,” Polian said.  Still there will be a growing process with Tannehill and the new additions will take time to gel and remember the Dolphins have a tough 5 game stretch to start the year.  Polian also stated that defenses will now be more prepared for Tannehill then they were during his rookie season, which will test him and his preparation. 
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball it’s safe to say that the front seven has managed to get younger and faster.  Adding Ellerbe, Jordan, & Phillip Wheeler make the Dolphins a more athletic defense and Polian agrees, “I think Dion Jordan really adds something to the defense & I’m high on Wheeler who seems to be just hitting his stride.”  Remember it was Polian who drafted Wheeler back in 2008 while in Indianapolis, so if anyone knows his ceiling, it’s Polian.  I think he’s sometimes a forgotten addition to this team, but there is nothing that you can ignore about a tackling machine that racked up 109 last year while playing for a bad defense in Oakland.

What seems to also be forgotten this off-season is how this coaching staff will try and turn all these new faces into a winning team.  It takes a special group of coaches to take a bunch of stars and turn them into a winning team.  Sure having a more top notch talent then your opponent can create an advantage, but managing that talent is a skill.  “I think this is one of the best coaching staffs in the league, they are right up there with the Packers and Andy Reid’s staff,” Polian said.  That’s high praise from a man who has worked with guys like Marv Levy and Tony Dungy.  While Polian believes that the secondary is one of the weaker parts of this team he also believes that this coaching staff can hide a lot of those deficiencies.   “This staff got the best out of that secondary last year and now they have better players,” Polian said.

Billy Dowling

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why the Miami Dolphins will be competitive in the AFC in 2013.

The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East ever since 2001-2012. During that span, they have won the division ever year but twice (2002 and 2008). They again will be the strong favorite to win the division, but the Miami Dolphins have done a lot to close the gap in the division.

20120916_jrc_su8_162The Dolphins have spent $204million in new contracts this offseason with $91million of that is guaranteed to 14 players. While the Dolphins lost Jake Long and Reggie Bush in the off-season, they have surrounded second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill with an abundance of weapons.

They re-signed Brian Hartline, who was their best receiver in 2012. They also signed Mike Wallace, who was the best receiver in free agency, receiver Brandon Gibson and former Jets tight-end Dustin Keller

Last season, Tannehill didn't have many open receivers and the Dolphins didn't have threat to stretch the field. Now the Dolphins have one of the fastest receivers in football and a fast tight-end as a security blanket. They will be able to move Hartline around and create matchup problems for the defense. I expect Head Coach Joe Philbin and Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman to have this offense resembling the Green Bay Packers.

Second-year running back Lamar Miller is the favorite to replace Bush, who's now playing for the Detroit Lions. Miller had 51 carries, with a yards average of 4.9 per carry, which was better than Bush (4.6) and second string Daniel Thomas (3.6) last season. The Dolphins ranked 17th in the league last season, averaging 112.6 yards on the ground per game and Miller has shown he can carry the load. He carried the ball 227 times his last season at the University of Miami. He's a much more traditional ball carrier than Bush and more of what Philbin is looking for. 

The Dolphins finished 7-9 last season and was carried by their defense a lot in games. They’ve improved on that side on that ball as well.

The Fins signed Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler and traded up to number three in the 2013 to draft pass rusher Dion Jordan. With Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady in the division, you have to find people to get pressure on him from players other than Cameron Wake. With Wake and Dion Jordan rushing the passer, this will free up the line for Jared Odrick and Randy Starks.
The draft pick I really liked was the Dolphins fourth round pick, Jelani Jenkins. Since his freshman season at Florida, he has started 23 of 26 games and had 153 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, four sacks, two interceptions and recovered and forced a fumble. Jenkins did struggle with various injuries with the Gators in 2012, but when he played at Florida, he was an impact player

The free agency move that isn't getting the attention as it should be is the signing of cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes might have been injured the entire 2012 season, but if he's healthy he could be a welcome addition to the Dolphins. In 2010, Grimes recorded 87 tackles and 5 interceptions to make his first Pro Bowl. 

 Tom Brady and the Patriots have dominate the NFL as they've made  five Super Bowls appearances since 2001 and appeared in eight AFC Championships. So it won't be easy for the Dolphins to win the division, but it's possible.

The Patriots could be on the decline especially with questions with their receiver core and in the secondary. The Dolphins finally has a quarterback they have trust in, a good set of skilled players and a good young defense that is the best in the AFC East. 
I'm not saying the Dolphins will win the AFC East, but I believe they will make life tough on the Patriots winning the division with ease. There's no reason why the Dolphins shouldn't win 10 games in 2013. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Jonathan Martin Is Back at Left Tackle

The Miami Dolphins were expected to sign or draft a big name tackle to replace Jake Long, but it never happened. That's because the team has confidence in their 2012 draft pick Jonathan Martin and he's switching back to his natural position at left tackle.

The Dolphins signed former Atlanta Falcons Tyson Clabo to be the teams' right tackle. That move allows Martin to move to the is 
natural position on the left side 

Martin started and played impressively at left tackle at Stanford. He was a two-time first team all-conference selection and he started 37 out of 39 games during his career at the left tackle. Martin helped anchor an offensive line that protected former Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck  over a three-year span from 2009-11. He started 11 of 13 at left tackle as a freshman. Martin was an honorable mention his freshman year and as a sophomore was a first team All-American by

Martin struggled in his transition to right tackle in 2012. He gave up nearly nine sacks in 16 games last season. When Martin replaced the injured Jake Long, he looked much more at ease at left tackle.  

With the confidence of teammates Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and Ryan Tannehill, I expect Martin to excel at left tackle. He was one of the best in college at that position, and there's no reason why he can't be one of the best in the NFL

You can find Antwan on Twitter on @blackredsoxfan