Vacation time in Miami

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
It's been non-stop football in this space since the Miami Dolphins started training camp in late July of 2013. Since, I've covered a 3-0 start, a high-profile bullying scandal, a late-season collapse and subsequent firings and hirings.

This week is a good time to take a well-deserved break. I will be away from's Dolphins page and taking vacation until April 28. I provided material in the blog to check out next week and others will provide reaction on the team, when necessary.

Thanks for being loyal readers, Dolphins fans. See you soon.
A big decision is looming early next month for the Miami Dolphins -- and it has nothing to do with the NFL draft.

The Dolphins must decide whether to pick up Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey's fifth-year option by May 3. The option will extend Pouncey’s rookie contract into the 2015 season, as oppose to allowing Pouncey to become a free agent next March.

Teams around the league this week have picked up fifth-year options from players drafted in 2011, which was the first year of the rookie wage scale in the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, offensive tackle Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith all have had their contracts extended by one year in the past two days.

So what is the holdup with the Dolphins? Their decision with Pouncey isn't as easy as it appears on the surface. There are several issues behind the scenes that must be cleared up over the next two weeks.

On the field, Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center and one of the top three players on the Dolphins' roster. He was a terrific first-round pick for Miami in 2011 and, in terms of talent, a potential building block on Miami’s much-maligned offensive line. Similar to Houston's decision with Watt, it would be a no-brainer to extend Pouncey’s contract another year, especially at the affordable price of less than $3 million for 2015.

But Pouncey's involvement in the Dolphins' high-profile bullying scandal has created issues. Also, Pouncey needs to be medically evaluated and cleared by the NFL before he plays football again. And Pouncey could be facing a suspension by the league to start the season. The Dolphins are doing their due diligence to allow the process to play out before making a decision.

With all that said, the Dolphins most likely will pick up Pouncey’s fifty-year option in the next two weeks. The Dolphins have been adamant in their support for Pouncey this offseason.

With Richie Incognito out of the picture, Miami believes Pouncey will make better choices and not be influenced in the wrong way. The Dolphins also expect Pouncey to learn from his mistakes and take a better leadership role in 2014 and beyond. This will be a big season for Pouncey to prove he is dependable off the field.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Friday from around the Web:
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel wonders if the Dolphins can get a difference-maker in the first round.
Morning take: Miami certainly needs to hit big in new general manager Dennis Hickey’s first draft. The Dolphins have talent on their roster, but they need more playmakers to build a playoff contender.
  • The Dolphins' website takes a look at former Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Morning take: This is a dream scenario for Miami. Lewan would be a great get for the Dolphins at No. 19, but do not expect him to fall that far.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post takes a look back at the Dolphins’ 2012 draft.
Morning take: The Dolphins took quarterback Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall two years ago, and the jury is still out. This will be a huge third year to determine his long-term future in Miami.
  • Cody Strahm of Rant Sports says do not rule out UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr as a possibility.
Morning take: It would be surprising if Barr made it to No. 19. Candidates such as offensive tackle Zack Martin and linebacker C.J. Mosley are more likely targets in the first round.
Everyone in South Florida is aware that the Miami Dolphins need offensive linemen. All you have to do is re-watch the tape of games from last season where quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked a franchise-high 58 times.

But what is Miami's second-largest need? That answer isn't as clear.

After polling thousands of Dolphins fans this week, linebacker got more than half the votes as the position that needs improvement outside of the offensive line. Miami's starters -- Koa Misi, Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe -- all received sizable contract extensions but underachieved in 2013. The Dolphins were ranked 24th against the run.

The Dolphins interestingly took a look at linebacker D'Qwell Jackson this offseason when he became a free agent. That was the first sign Miami was looking for an upgrade. It will be surprising if the Dolphins take a linebacker high in this draft.

Safety, tight end and cornerback were all distant runners-up in this poll.
The NFL draft is just a few weeks away and anticipation is growing for teams around the league. The Miami Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick and still have some well-defined needs.

Most projections have the Dolphins drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. It is currently the team's biggest need. But in ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft, he did not go in that direction for the Dolphins.

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The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets continued their intense, AFC East rivalry last season. Both teams split two meetings and finished with identical 8-8 records.

These are the two teams most project will compete to push the dominant New England Patriots for the top spot in the division. But the Jets made a significant move on Wednesday, adding former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson to their offense. Johnson joins receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Michael Vick as three free agents looking to add a dynamic offense to the defensive-oriented Jets.

With Johnson now in the fold, are the Jets a clear No. 2 in the AFC East? Should Dolphins fans be worried?

We asked Miami fans on Twitter to weigh in on the new-look Jets with “CJ2K.” The reaction was mixed.

Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Alain Poupart of the Dolphins team site catches up with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino to get his thoughts on Ryan Tannehill.
Morning take: Marino has always spoken highly of Tannehill. But no one can deny this is a huge third year for Miami’s quarterback. Tannehill is 15-17 in two seasons and must improve.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports former University of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris is on the Dolphins' radar.
Morning take: Morris played in the Dolphins' backyard. Therefore, Miami should have good intel. However, Morris never lived up to the hype in college and is probably a late-round pick.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes first-year general manager Dennis Hickey presents a fresh set of eyes.
Morning take: Sometimes it’s good to have a new general manager who doesn’t have ties to struggling and underachieving players. That makes it easier to make necessary changes.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes former Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin is the consensus in mock drafts.
Morning take: Martin would be a nice fit for Miami’s biggest need: the offensive line. However, there is a chance Martin will not be available at No. 19.
The NFL draft is coming up in a few weeks and all the talk with the Miami Dolphins is focused on the offensive line. But Miami cannot draft an offensive lineman with all seven picks. The Dolphins also will look to fill other needs.

That leads to our latest poll question: What is Miami’s second-largest need heading into the draft?


Besides offensive line, what is the Dolphins' next-biggest need?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,462)

The Dolphins (8-8) collapsed down to the stretch and missed the playoffs for the fifth-consecutive season. Miami needs quality depth and impact players at more positions in order to get over the hump.

Do the Dolphins need another linebacker? Starters Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler all received long-term extensions last year. Yet, this group was a major disappointment as Miami finished 24th in stopping the run. Would a player like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley make a difference?

Or does Miami need more help at safety? Reshad Jones is coming off a down year and free-agent pickup Louis Delmas is injury-prone. Should the Dolphins use their No. 19 overall pick to for safety insurance?

What about other positions such as cornerback and tight end? The Dolphins have quality veterans at those positions, such as Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and tight end Charles Clay. But these are positions where it’s always beneficial to have as many talented players as possible.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on Miami’s second biggest need. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
The Miami Dolphins selected the highest-rated defensive player in the draft last year in defensive end Dion Jordan. Miami and former general manager Jeff Ireland made a bold move to trade up nine spots with the Oakland Raiders to get the former Oregon star at No. 3 overall.

But Jordan’s first year was not what the Dolphins expected. Jordan finished with just 26 tackles and two sacks.

So how does Jordan -- last year's top defensive prospect -- rank with this year’s top defensive player: Jadaveon Clowney?’s Dolphins blog asked resident scout Matt Williamson this week about the Jordan-Clowney comparison.

According to Williamson, Clowney ranks ahead of Jordan coming out of college.

“If Jordan came out this year, he wouldn’t be the third overall pick,” Williamson explained. “Jordan is not Clowney. There was a really weak draft at the top [last year].”

Many consider the 2014 draft to be one of the deepest in years due to the record amount of juniors who declared this year. Jordan also left after his junior season but proved to be a raw prospect. Miami’s coaching didn’t quite know how to use the freakish athlete. They made him a backup defensive end to use on third down and he also became a key member of special teams.

Jordan did not appear to be an ideal fit for Miami’s 4-3 defense last season. Miami’s coaches were nervous about playing him against the run on first and second down. Jordan must add strength to his thin frame in order to be an every-down player. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said recently at the NFL owners meetings that they plan to get Jordan on the field more in 2014.

“For him to survive in a pretty base 4-3, Jordan needs to be Von Miller and not Jared Allen,” Williamson explained. “Miller plays off the line of scrimmage a fair amount. They drop him in coverage a lot and he rushes the passer on third down. Maybe that’s who Jordan should be.”

NFL Nation Buzz: Miami Dolphins

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
video Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker says Miami’s addition of running back Knowshon Moreno isn’t necessarily a bad thing for incumbent starter Lamar Miller.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Wednesday from around the web: Morning take: Fair or not, 2014 could be a make-or-break year for Tannehill. Not many quarterbacks get four years in the NFL to prove they are the long-term solution.
  • Andy Cohen of the Dolphins team site takes a look at general manager Dennis Hickey's use of technology.
Morning take: Football will still come down to running, blocking, tackling, etc. But any use of advance technology could provide a slight advantage.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel doesn't believe tight end is a position of need for the Dolphins.
Morning take: Miami has a proven starter in Charles Clay, but the depth behind Clay isn't strong. This shouldn't be a position to address in the first round.
  • Cody Straham of Rant Sports writes the Dolphins could look at receivers early in the draft.
Morning take: The Dolphins are not expected to take a receiver in the first round, but anything is possible beyond that. It's easier to stick to best available player after the first round.
This is the time of year I like to call silly season in the NFL. There will be plenty of information -- and misinformation -- out there about what teams are looking for in the draft.

Sometimes teams send out smokescreens, while other teams don’t let out any information. But rarely do teams publicly explain their upcoming plans for the draft before it takes place.

With that said, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey did an interview Tuesday on the Joe Rose Show on WQAM in Miami. Like many pre-draft media sessions, Hickey didn’t reveal where the Dolphins were headed in the draft.

But here were several interesting nuggets from the interview:

(On drafting an offensive lineman in the first round)

Dennis Hickey: You work according to best player available. There’s always variables when it comes to the draft, whether it’s the player evaluation part and there’s always the medical aspect. Then there’s evaluating the character and the makeup of the player. There’s so many variables. But we feel like it’s a good draft and we’re excited about it. We continue every day to try to build the best 53-man roster and of course the offensive line is part of that.

(On using new technology in the drafting process)

DH: As technology has progressed, we always want to stay ahead of the curve. Not for technology sake necessarily, but to be more efficient, to go back to the tape. It’s always going to be about going back to the tape. But if we can look at different ways of grouping players and looking at technology for advances, we’re definitely going to use that.

(On second-year defensive end Dion Jordan)

DH: He's a very talented player and this is a big offseason for him. Last year with his shoulder he didn't have an opportunity to have a full offseason. That's so important. ... We’re excited about Dion going forward and having a great offseason and looking for big things from him.
Jamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis AP Photo, Getty ImagesJamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis made a minimal impact as rookies.
Most of the attention over the next three weeks will be focused on the 2014 NFL draft, as each team tries to shape its present and future by identifying the right college players to fill needs.

But for the Miami Dolphins, success or failure this season will depend more on the development of the 2013 draft class. Few teams got less production from their rookies last year than Miami. Only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks had fewer snaps from first-year players -- and those teams, which competed in Super Bowl XLVIII, were stacked with established veterans.

The Dolphins, who faltered down the stretch and finished 8-8, did not have that luxury.

It's time for Miami's second-year players to come of age during an important time for many within the organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is entering an important third year after going 15-17 his first two seasons, and there could be a lot of change next year if the Dolphins aren't successful.

Most of Miami's top picks -- including defensive end Dion Jordan, offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis -- basically had red-shirt seasons in 2013, thanks to injuries, inconsistency and lack of confidence from the coaching staff. That lack of production was one reason why the Dolphins failed to get to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

"They got less than anybody in the league out of their draft class, and they had high picks. That's a huge issue," NFL scout Matt Williamson said. "But if that group, the corners and especially Jordan, can play up to what Miami thought they were and what most people thought they were, the Dolphins could rebound."

"We have a lot of hope for the draft class from last year," Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings in late March. "A lot of them have been back early, working. You want to see development throughout the course of an individual player's career, but I think all of you guys would agree you usually see a significant jump between Year 1 and Year 2. These are guys we thought highly of a year ago when we drafted them.

"They had some injury issues that kind of curtailed their development in Year 1. So I'm excited about working with them, developing them and seeing them progress here this season."

The 2013 draft class was one point of contention last year between Miami's coaching staff and the front office. Philbin didn't feel his rookies were ready to take on larger roles. Jeff Ireland, then the Dolphins' general manager, believed in the talent of his draft picks and felt they were not being used properly. Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, was perhaps the biggest example.

Due to offseason shoulder surgery, Jordan missed time in training camp and the preseason. He never found his footing in the regular season and he fell behind veteran defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby.

Williamson described Jordan as "a ridiculous athlete." He has immense potential but spent most of the season as the third or fourth defensive end and on special teams. He was involved in 321 snaps and had a disappointing 26 tackles and two sacks.

There have also been offseason trade rumors involving Jordan, which Philbin has denied. Miami's head coach expects Jordan to have a larger role in 2014.

"We feel like with a full offseason, with more time devoted to his fundamentals, he will have a better grasp of the position he's playing," Philbin said. "We do want to do a better job with the numbers, rotating him in. ... We want to get him more snaps on first and second down. "

The Dolphins also are counting on young corners Taylor and Davis, who were drafted in the second and third round, respectively. Both had injury setbacks last season and played a combined 104 snaps.

Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes will occupy one starting job, and Taylor and Davis will compete with veteran free-agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan for the other spot. Finnegan, a former Pro Bowl corner, is the favorite to start due to experience. But Philbin is not going in with any preconceived notions.

"I want to see the best player, whoever can help us win football games," Philbin explained. "Whoever performs the best should be the starting corner."

Miami got most of its rookie production last year from unlikely sources. Fifth-round kicker Caleb Sturgis proved to be the Dolphins' best rookie acquisition last season. He beat out longtime Miami kicker Dan Carpenter in training camp and led the Dolphins with 111 points.

The Dolphins also had decent production from undrafted rookie guard Sam Brenner, who made four starts and played 274 snaps. Brenner stepped up following the suspension of guard Richie Incognito in Miami's high-profile bullying scandal.

Brenner's production highlighted the fact that Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick, was too green to step in and be productive. Thomas was rotated between guard and tackle in training camp and never got comfortable in either position. Thomas must find a home at this season in order to provide quality depth.

In fact, it will be vital for Miami's entire 2013 draft class to find roles and contribute next season. The Dolphins used nine draft picks last year, and most have yet to make an impact.

"The Dolphins have a young quarterback [Ryan Tannehill], so they need to build a real core for the long term," Williamson said. "They need last year's draft and this upcoming come to build around Tannehill. They don't need to live for today. A strong core is more important than winning it all this year, although that philosophy can get you fired in Miami if you're 6-10."
The Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat share the same fan base in South Florida. Over the past few years, agony from football season -- the Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 -- is usually washed away during basketball season, as the Heat have won back-to-back championships and three straight Eastern Conference titles.

But what is the annual cost for players on both teams? How much money is invested in big stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the Heat and Mike Wallace, Cameron Wake and Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins?

ESPN The Magazine did an interesting piece Tuesday on money spent to run the world’s best sports franchises.

Here is a side-by-side comparison:


Only $10 million separated the Heat and Dolphins in terms of player spending. But it’s important to remember the Dolphins pay 52 players on their active roster annually, while the Heat have just 12 players.

Still, the Heat got much more bang for their buck as they try to go for three-straight NBA championships. The Heat consistently packs American Airlines Arena and is the hottest ticket in town. Meanwhile, the Dolphins struggle with attendance annually at Sun Life Stadium.

It proves the biggest remedy for sports fans is winning.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Tuesday from around the Web:
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald takes a look at the history of the Dolphins' "prove it" contracts.
Morning take: The Dolphins have had some hits (Brent Grimes) and some misses (Dustin Keller) with one-year contracts. This year's group includes cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas.
  • Brian Coyle of the Dolphins team site profiles quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who is the younger brother of Aaron Rodgers.
Morning take: Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin had success with the older Rodgers. Jordan Rodgers will push Pat Devlin for the No. 3 quarterback job in training camp.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes three college receivers visited the Dolphins.
Morning take: We reported Monday that USC's receiver Marqise Lee is in town for a visit. Miami is certainly examining receivers in this draft.
  • The Sun Sentinel takes a look at the No. 19 overall picks over the years.
Morning take: History doesn't mean much to the Dolphins this year. The key is to draft the right player the their spot to fit their needs.