- What are the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs?
- What are the keys for Miami against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday?
- Will Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace have a strong homecoming in Pittsburgh?
- What is the future of cornerback and pending free agent Brent Grimes in Miami?
- Can quarterback Ryan Tannehill carry the Dolphins in the final four games?
Thanks for all the great questions. Check the chat transcript here to find out my answers on these topics and more.
We will have another Dolphins chat next Thursday. Until then, feel free to send me any questions via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
ESPN.com’s Dolphins page this week ran a poll to predict the team’s final record. Miami is currently 6-6 and fighting for the final wild card in the AFC. The Dolphins most likely will have to finish 9-7 or better to have a chance.
About 58 percent of those who voted think Miami will go 3-1 the rest of the way. That was by far the highest total.
The Dolphins have a huge game coming up Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7). Miami will then host the New England Patriots (9-3), visit the Buffalo Bills (4-8) and welcome the New York Jets (5-7) in the regular-season finale.
The toughest opponent on the schedule is clearly the Patriots. New England beat Miami 27-17 in Foxborough, Mass., earlier this season. The Dolphins, who will be underdogs, will try to split the season series when they meet on Dec. 15.
I think the biggest key is Sunday’s game. The Steelers are not a great team, but winning in Pittsburgh is never easy. In fact, Miami has not won in Pittsburgh since 1990. The Dolphins have a lot of bad history going against them.
But if Miami can somehow find a way to end that losing streak in Pittsburgh, it could set the table for a nice December run. Three wins may be enough to get the Dolphins in. I’m skeptical, but it appears many fans expect it to happen.
We can discuss whether the Dolphins will make the postseason, Sunday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers and anything else you want to discuss.
Here is the link. Don’t miss the South Beach party.
Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin met Thursday in Los Angeles with NFL special investigator Ted Wells for a second round of questioning about the team's bullying scandal, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.
Martin initially met with Ted Wells in New York City on Nov. 15 to present his case for harassment and bullying charges against teammate Richie Incognito. Wells also spent a week at the Dolphins' training facility, interviewing every player and coach as well as several team executives.
The source says Wells was to meet with Martin on Thursday to present his findings from those interviews. The league is in its final stages of investigating and is expected to finish its report in the next few weeks.
In addition, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Wells also is expected to conduct a second round of interviews with Dolphins players in Miami next week. According to the source, one of those interviews will be with Incognito, who has been suspended by the team. The purpose of the second round of interviews, the source said, is so Wells can clarify some things.
Wells' report is likely to be submitted to commissioner Roger Goodell's office in a week to 10 days. An official in the league office indicated the timetable may be longer.
The Dolphins put Martin, who left the team abruptly in late October, on the non-football injury list Nov. 30, ending his season. The Dolphins have extended Incognito's suspension to six weeks -- until Dec. 16 -- but with pay until the league announces its findings.
Information from ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown have been among the most productive players at their positions this year. Yet, few talk about this pair on a national level.
But that shouldn’t take away from Sunday’s quality matchup of talented players. Grimes has been one of the most consistent corners in the AFC, and Brown is leading the NFL with 85 receptions entering Week 14.
“He’s a great player,” Grimes said of the matchup with Brown. “They try to get him the ball in a variety of ways, whether it be a screen or just get him the ball. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he presents a lot of problems because he is [also] a punt returner. He can make a lot of people miss and break some tackles.”
Grimes has done a good job this year of shutting down top receivers on the opposing team. Grimes did a number on Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts. All of these aforementioned receivers were held below 70 yards.
But Brown presents a unique challenge. He has been very consistent and caught at least five receptions in every game this year.
“He’s very good yards after the catch. He’s a guy that you [have] to get 11 hats to the ball,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We are going to have to tackle well, wrap up and accelerate our feet on contact. He’s got some of those instincts as a receiver that are impressive to watch on film. Obviously he is a very good ball-catcher. He catches the ball with his hands. He’s going to be a handful for us.”
The winner of the Grimes-Brown matchup could go a long way toward determining the outcome of Sunday’s game. Look for Miami to put its best corner on Pittsburgh’s best receiver for much of the game.
One player who has a chance to make an impact this weekend is Miami kick returner Marcus Thigpen. He has 864 total return yards this season. Miami and Pittsburgh could be a close game, and special teams could make a difference.
James Walker: Marcus, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 this week for getting in the way of Baltimore Ravens returner Jacoby Jones. As Miami’s kick returner, how would you have handled that situation?
Marcus Thigpen: I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t seen it. I don’t know. That’s a tough situation right there. I wouldn’t even know what to do if I was in that situation. I would try my hardest not to pay attention to it and just try to keep straight. That’s unfortunate that it happened. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation.
Walker: You’ve run long kickoffs and punts back before. What do you look for while you’re running?
Thigpen: When you first break that first wave, you start looking to where everybody is to see where guys pursue. Then, you start to look at the Jumbotron to see where guys are coming from and try to veer off either way. Then, you just run as fast as you can.
Walker: How do you know if an opponent is 1 yard behind you, 5 yards behind you, etc.?
Thigpen: You can see it on the Jumbotron. You can feel it. You can hear it from the fans. The fans kind of tell you, too. If you hear them getting louder, you feel ‘OK, he must be getting closer or I’m pulling away. It’s gotta to be something.’ But you can hear footsteps, too. You can hear dudes breathing on you and coming up on you. It’s a combination of things.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post chronicles the Dolphins’ past difficulties in trying to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
- Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is stealing the spotlight from Pro Bowl defensive end and teammate Cameron Wake.
- The Associated Press writes that Vernon’s emergence makes Miami’s defense stronger.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes that the Dolphins may be without starting guard John Jerry, who has a concussion.
WHETHER USED TO promote sports or justify the police state, the predominant black male image in America is one of anger and aggression. In the right time, emotion sells as passion (a Ray Lewis pregame speech, a Kevin Garnett guttural roar-and-dunk), and glistening muscles sell as dedication and athletic-gene perfection (see Dwight Howard). But in the wrong time -- when a black man is walking down the street, wearing a hoodie or a suit; or when Dez Bryant is yelling on the sidelines -- the muscles become frightening, the passion transforms into anger and the same images used to glorify and monetize the black athlete end up justifying belief of his danger.
Even with a Harvard-educated black man occupying the White House, the conception of black masculinity still revolves around the primal, not the intellectual. The first skill any African-American man learns in navigating the white world is how to make white people comfortable. He must be nonthreatening. Before he can profit from the snarl, he must first soften them with a smile. These tactics predate Matt Barnes' tweeting of the N-word; they predate the NFL, Jay Z and the Civil War.
Yet no matter the tactic, no matter how powerful or savvy a black man might be, manipulation of his image remains a shadow currency. LeBron James was the first black male to gain the cover of Vogue, in 2008. His portrayal conjured images of King Kong -- it was him roaring at the camera with a white woman, Gisele Bundchen, in his arms.
PITTSBURGH -- A change in offensive coordinators may have contributed to a drop in production for Mike Wallace a season after he made the Pro Bowl.
But the former Steelers wide receiver said he has no hard feelings toward Todd Haley even though Wallace said he was "kind of" underused in his final season in Pittsburgh.
Wallace returns to Pittsburgh on Sunday for the first time since signing a five-year, $60 million with the Dolphins last March.
"I'm fine with the organization," Wallace said. "I love those guys to death. It's all love."
That apparently includes Haley even though Wallace had just 64 catches for 836 yards in their only season together. Wallace averaged just over 1,200 receiving yards in two previous seasons with Bruce Arians as the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
Wallace said a number of circumstances led to a reduced role for him in the Steelers' offense after Haley replaced Arians, including his skipping most of preseason practice in 2012 because of his contract situation.
"It was coach's first year and I wasn't in training camp so he got a chance to see other guys and the things they were able to do throughout training. For me it was just looking at tape and then coming in and playing so I think it was a little bit of a challenge for him being able to use me," said Wallace, who has caught 56 passes for 743 yards and three touchdowns. "With BA (Arians) it was more vertical I think than with coach Haley and obviously that was my strength. I think coach Haley is a great offensive coordinator though in his own right. It's just a different game plan."
A couple bad games from Tannehill could end Miami's season.
"I gotta play well," Tannehill admitted after Wednesday's practice. "I think that's no different from any other week. It's crunch time in the season so I gotta play well."
Tannehill had arguably his best game of the season this past Sunday against the New York Jets. He threw for 331 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had a 94.2 passer rating in a crucial 23-3 victory that kept Miami's playoff hopes alive.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin likes the way Tannehill is developing.
"He's clearly playing better," Philbin said of Tannehill. "You can look [at it] on a piece of paper and say he's playing better. I think overall, he has more command of the offense, his decision-making has improved and this is an important game for everybody."
Tannehill appears to be warming up the past two weeks. He posted back-to-back 300-yard games for the first time in his career against the Jets and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively. Tannehill may have a chance to make it three consecutive weeks of 300 yards against the Steelers' aging secondary that has allowed its share of big passing plays this year.
Tannehill, who played college at Texas A&M before joining Miami, may have to play in poor weather conditions. Tannehill said he's never played in a snow game before, and Pittsburgh's forecast may call for inclement weather.
"If it's snowing, I've heard it's not too bad," Tannehill said. "It's actually nice to play in it. From the guys just in the locker room talking, Matt [Moore] played in the snow a few times. He said it's nice. It doesn't affect the ball."
Here are some other notes from Wednesday's practice:
- The Dolphins had three players who didn't practice Wednesday. Starting guard John Jerry (concussion), rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor (hamstring) and running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) did not participate.
- Tannehill also showed up on the injury report with a right thumb injury. But he had full participation in practice.
- Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) was limited in practice and is trying to make it back on the field. Patterson missed the past two games with a groin injury.