Saturday, July 30, 2016

Dolphins Reporters: Enough with the Poison

    I was preparing to add a comment to the MadPhinsFan's excellent and timely piece about Adam Gase's response to the pessimism of the local press corps.  I found my rant getting lengthy, so I decided to post here instead.

    For years, I have been logging on to read about my Dolphins, full of hope and curiosity, only to have the seeds of doubt repeatedly planted in my mind.  The special victim of these doubts has been Ryan Tannehill, whose statistics in no way reflect the gloom and doom articles that follow his performances each season.  But the culture of negativity is far broader than that directed at Tannehill- it greets every draft pick after an uncertain first year, every free agent after a flat game or two.

    Every coach knows that a culture of pessimism is pure poison for his players.  But I have become a believer that these noxious environments are equally destructive for fan bases.  I feel pessimism creep into the crowd at Dolphins games after the first moment of adversity.  I move away from other fans at the sports bar when I feel their negativity winding up.  I can't look at the threads of texts sent my way, despair creeping in when the team falls to 1-2.  I wonder, how much of this "culture" originates in journalists who make dark predictions and then secretly wait for the first sign that the wheels are falling off?

    We Dolphins fans deserve better.  A new era is starting for our club.  Let's be on board, as positive as the man at the helm, awaiting real change with open hearts and minds.  Props to you, MadPhinsFan, for calling out for better coverage.  Props to Coach for doing the same.

    I know you reporters are reading this, even though you won't leave a comment and will slink away in the night.  I know it the same way you know Tannehill reads your coverage of him.  The only difference here is that if you've read this article carefully and take it to heart, you will become better at your job.  If RT reads your coverage, you have only made his work harder.

   So I say to you reporters:  we are building something great.  Get on board the positivity.  If you can't, follow Philbin to his new post in scenic Indiana.  There will be plenty to hate on there- you will be spoiled for choice.  If you are staying with us, lose the poison.

Jay Lopez

Adam Gase calls out Omar Kelly & Chris Perkins

     Near the end of the second day coaches post practice interview question and answer session, Coach Gase after being asked leading question after leading question about the quarterbacks (Tannehill's) accuracy in red zone drills finally alluded he was tired of the negativity.  He said he was pleased with the play of his quarterbacks.  You could almost read Coach Gase's mind:  "You idiots haven't a clue.   Quit asking me stupid questions."   His exact words were, "they're doing better than how negative you want to be about it.  They're doing good."

    Coach Philbin would have never put the press in their place.  I love Coach Gase.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jordan Cameron's Value Set to Skyrocket


    There is nothing to like about a 35 reception, 385 yard, 3 touchdown performance in 2015.  Jordan Cameron and the Dolphins disliked those numbers enough to shave a reported 1.5 million dollars off of his 2016 contract.  But what if there was reason to believe that those numbers were about to improve dramatically?

     In 2012, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen were the two primary tight ends for newly anointed OC Adam Gase's Denver offense.  They posted a combined stat line of 97 receptions, 1099 yards, and 7 touchdowns.  The following year, Julius Thomas was added to the group and results for the Denver TE group predictably improved to 101/1064/14.

    Of course, these numbers were largely posted by Peyton Manning.  It is therefore instructive to take a look at what Gase did with Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears offense in 2015.  The Bears TE tandem of Martellus Bennet and Zach Miller posted an 87/878/8 line.

    All of this bodes well for Cameron, who should get the lion's share of Miami's tight end production this year.  A line of 60/650/5 seems reasonable, which would make Cameron a steal for fantasy owners and, more importantly, something like the offensive contributor Miami was hoping for when Cameron was signed prior to last season.  It seems feasible that Cameron can literally double his production in the upcoming season.  If he does so, opposing Defensive Coordinators will have fewer bodies to commit to the pass rush and to containing Jarvis Landry.  Such an increase in production would also go a long way to helping the Dolphins offense embody Gase's philosophy of keeping down and distance manageable and sustaining long, productive drives.

    I hope you have a nose for the football, Mr Cameron.  The opportunities in this system are going to be present.

Jay Lopez

The orange bowl

As the new stadium progresses along at whatever rate, I wanted to share something about the site of the dolphins former home, the orange bowl.

You may not be aware of it, but the Marlins ballpark is built on the site and pays tribute to the venerable old stadium.

The owner commissioned an artist to add the letters "Miami orange bowl" (as in "the city of Miami welcomes you to the orange bowl") to a plaza on the east side.

The concept was to make it look like they fell off during demolition, so they are scattered at various angles and depths.

Inside, there's a wall that pays tribute to the old stadium with a historical perspective, and a fair number of pictures.

And then there's also the orientation of the stadium. Home plate is on the west side and left/center field is on the east where the open end zone once was. So the view through the window is similar to the old open end zone. (I had trouble finding a picture where the contrast works, my thanks to infinity and beyond photography https://www.flickr.com/people/infinity-and-beyond/)

Also, one of the streets is named orange bowl way, where the aforementioned plaza is.

Cool right?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cornerbacks and Cornerstones

    Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison:  when our Miami Dolphins assembled this duo, something happened to my adolescent sports brain.  For the first time as a fan, I felt like I could see into the architecture a coaching staff can bring to a franchise.  The message was clear:  "We will cover aggressively, persistently, and often without help.  This will leave the rest of your team outnumbered, overmatched, and punished by our playmakers at the other defensive positions."  I sat down on Sundays and watched something like a plan unfold; I felt like I was wearing a headset.

    During the Joe Philbin era my headset was never switched on- it was as though I was a visiting coach at "the Razor" and the Patriots were jamming my frequency.  Simply put, I never felt like I understood what our "leadership" was trying to build.  Drafts seemed reactive, not proactive.  For example, we threw away picks to move up for Dion Jordan because the Patriots had tight ends we couldn't cover.  Chasing Belichick's current roster instead of building our own was never going to work.  By the time we got done snapping photos in aqua hats, the Patriots roster, and therefore game plan, were already evolved into some new form that our "Brain Trust" couldn't seem to anticipate.
This is because the Patriots were building something of their own; they were dictating; we were furiously taking notes.

As the Adam Gase era begins, I want to feel my headset click back on.  That is, I want to see a blueprint and feel like we are creating our team, our building, and letting the rest of the league cope with us.  I am so far encouraged.  Signing Arian Foster to a prove-it deal is the kind of common sense move that all of us were waiting for, the kind of common sense move that Philbin never seemed to get off his riding lawnmower long enough to make (can anyone say "Evan Mathis?")  Watching the draft this year, I saw Miami make one move because they had to (Tunsil fell too far and offered too much to be passed on) and then a series of moves because we were building something.

We drafted mobil backs, speed players, and courage and hands for the middle of the field.  We traded for a smart linebacker with game-changing potential.  And we added what our Defensive Coordinator most covets, the piece that makes his other pieces fit: two big, physical corners who can jam at the line of scrimmage and give the defensive line time to have fun playing football.

Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard (may he speedily return) may not be our final answers at corner.  But they demonstrate that we know who we are in this regime.  We are big on the edges, we are physical, and we don't plan on covering you all afternoon because we are going to get your quarterback dirty. Are Maxwell and Howard Surtain and Madison?  That is not my contention, nor is it likely to be true.  But is this coaching staff one that has a plan, and at last seems willing to trust themselves and forget what the other guy is doing?  If so, we may not just have found two useful cornerbacks.  We may have found a staff that knows something about laying cornerstones.

Jay Lopez

  


Dolphins "The Audible"

Miami Dolphins Launch The Audible

Continuation of Expanded Digital Content Strategy Offering Behind-the-Scenes Access, Multiple Platforms

 

Miami – The Miami Dolphins on Friday, July 29 will debut "The Audible," a 30-minute produced show live streamed on Dolphins.com, the Dolphins app, Facebook Live and Periscope. The show continues the organization's strategy to deliver more compelling content to fans in ways in which they like to consume it as well as giving the fans a voice through interactive access.

 

Miami Dolphins alum Kim Bokamper will host "The Audible," featuring unique perspectives on the team with long-form conversations, interviews and social media interaction where fans will have the ability to ask questions and take part in the discussion. The program will air across multiple platforms on MondayWednesday and Friday at 4:30 p.m. each week during training camp presenting Dolphins content in real time, with new guests every show. 

 

"The Audible" joins a portfolio of Dolphins programming unveiled this spring, including "Dolphins Daily," "Dolphins Live" and "Madison Avenue."   

 

—DOLPHINS—

Tannehill has all the tools. Finally has the Head Coach.

    Frankly, it is time to stop naysaying our quarterback.   I don't want to hear Omar Kelley and Chris Perkins refer to Ryan as a lemon, a used car.  The disrespect these talking heads have for our quality QB makes me want to boycott them.  The problem with that idea is they are pretty good camp reporters.  It is just they are idiots when it comes to evaluating QB talent.  All QBs need to work on things ALL OF THEM.  Tannehill  keeps getting better no matter what obstacles are thrown at him, 3 head coaches, 3 offensive coordinators, more than 12 different starting offensive lines - most of them bad, and virtually no depth on either side of the ball.

     NOW, it appears we have health and depth across the O-Line.  Our receiving corps looks better than most with an excellent cross-section of skills.  And, most importantly Ryan now has a coach and a scheme that will further his development.  Personally, I would be completely surprised if the Dolphins offense averages less than 26 points per game for the entire 2016 regular season.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Difficult decisions ahead

Adam Gase and his entire staff will face early trials that may determine the short term success or failure of the franchise and of their careers. Gase’s track record of offensive success is well documented, but he has never had to juggle head coaching responsibilities while calling the plays and working with his quarterbacks. With training camp only a few days away, Gase will begin to face those difficult personnel decisions. Is he going to trust his own eyes? It is hard to choose an undrafted rookie over an experienced veteran. Is he ready for those decisions? Talent management is integral to team building, and the mistakes you make are likely to revisit you from the opposing sideline.  The players that are released will reveal a great deal about our new coach. We will also learn whether or not all positions are really open for competition. Real competition brings out the best in players, but through player comments, we will learn quickly if this is simply rhetoric or if it is "real". When the season arrives, we will learn even more. We have heard about this attacking defense. Attacking defenses are great, but they also tend to give up big plays. From a personnel standpoint, this whole defense has been built on pressure and press coverage. When the team gives up big plays, will Gase stick to the plan? To attempt to reverse course would be disastrous. There is a common theme and that is that Gase will need to remain bold and daring when things go well and when things go poorly. He will need to maintain the course and have the conviction of his own beliefs and his own knowledge base.  One common element that we see from Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, and Bill Parcells is that they never coach from fear. They have confidence in themselves and in their players and they have little concern for what others might say about them.  When Sean Payton was headed to the Super Bowl in 2009, his former mentor Bill Parcells offered him this advice, “You are going to have to have guts to win this game. You can’t coach scared in big games. You’ve got to try to win.” The Saints went on to onside kick to open the second half and to take home the Lombardi Trophy. I hope Adam Gase fits that mold as well.  Early indicators are positive, but the pressure and difficult decisions are about to begin. 

Questions Still Surround the Dolphins Defense

The Dolphins worked to hard this off season to solidify the offense for new Head Coach Adam Gase, and QB Ryan Tannehill. Giving them everything they need to be successful in the coming season. They used 6 of their 8 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft on that side of the ball, and also signed several free agent linemen to add quality depth and experience to their struggling Offensive Line, and a veteran running back to provide experience and leadership to their young corps of runners.

They also made several moves on defense, But was it enough? Most of the moves made were needed to make up for their free agent losses. Starting DE Olivier Vernon was signed to a ridiculous contract by the Giants, and primary backup, Derrick Shelby was lost to the Atlanta Falcons. In a preemptive move, the Dolphins signed Free Agent Mario Williams to offset Vernon's presumed loss, while also signing Andre Branch and Jason Jones to compete for the primary and reserve roles at DE. They also added up-and-coming Isa Abdul-Quddus to take over at the Free Safety spot.

In what I thought was a great move, the Dolphins traded down 5 spots in the first round to acquire CB Byron Maxwell and MLB Kiko Alonzo.

This move brings in a CB, 1 year removed from being a difference maker in his defense, and puts him back into a system that plays to his strengths. This move offsets the loss of Brent Grimes, who played at a Pro-Bowl level for Miami. Was this an addition.....does this improve our defense?

It also brought in a young, fast, instinctive, play making MLB in Alonzo, that is now fully recovered and healthy after suffering a severe knee injury two years ago. But will he regain the form and production of his rookie season in Buffalo? Will he become the leader and play maker Vance Joseph envisions?

These were important defensive moves for Miami. Necessary in fact. But there are still more questions surrounding this Dolphins Defense;

Will Cameron Wake be a three-down player for this defense, or will he be relegated to pass-rush duties alone? Will he be as effective, and have the same burst off the line as he did before his injury?

Can Jelani Jenkins return to his 2014 form after injuries and a dip in performance in 2015?

Will this corps of LBs provide an upgrade to a run defense that tied for 28th in rushing yards allowed?

Is there enough depth at LB for Miami to overcome the inevitable injury to a starter?

Who will line up on the opposite side of Maxwell, as our #2 Corner back?

Will Isa Abdul-Quddus continue his ascent and provide the center fielder Miami needs to provide Jones the freedom to be the natural, instinctive play maker he is?

I don't think this defensive roster is a finished product. Unless Howard or Lippett blows Gase and Joseph away early in camp, I see them picking up a veteran CB to hold down that spot for the next year or so, giving Howard and Lippett some time to develop. IMO, I don't think our #2 Corner Back is on the roster right now. They have the cap space to sign a veteran, and regardless of what you may think, they want to win now, and a veteran CB helps get that done. They'll be combing the waver wire in the next few weeks, looking to add some depth to the LB corps, and wherever they think they need that help.

There are a lot of serious questions on defense that need to be answered if we're going to be successful in 2016, but I believe we have the right people in place to answer those questions, and make the moves and decisions necessary.

FINS UP!








Monday, July 25, 2016

This Offense is Primed, and Ready to Explode!

Good Evening Phin Fans!


I don't believe that the team's defensive roster is set, just yet. The Offense, on the other hand, is locked and loaded with talent.

Tannehill will play behind the best starting Offensive Line he has had, since his arrival in Miami, and there is quality depth available to overcome the inevitable injury. They added #1 draft pick, and consensus #1 overall prospect in the 2016 Draft LT Laremy Tunsil, a 2 Time Pro-Bowl OT Jermon Bushrod, and C/G Kraig Urbik in Free Agency, to compete at Guard, and provide quality depth at Tackle. When he's had a healthy line, consisting of James, Pouncy, and Albert, regardless of the sub-par Guard play, he's completed passes at a 70% clip, and produced a 6-1 record, with the only loss coming at the hands of Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, in a close, competitive game, won by the Packers in the last seconds.

The strides Devante Parker made to end last year, should bring a smile to the face of Dolphins fans everywhere. He has the speed to take it deep, the ability to take a short pass and turn it into a big play, the length to win the 50/50 balls, and has the route running and hands to be a possession guy underneath. He looked like the #1 receiver Miami has lacked since Brandon Marshall stopped by for a cup of coffee, and he's backed up by history making Pro-Bowler Jarvis Landry. All Landry's done since being drafted is catch more passes his first two years in the league than any other Wide Receiver in history.

The rest of the receiving core, is deep, talented, and full of potential, beginning with presumptive #3, Kenny Stills. He provides the speed to be a deep threat, stretching the field for Parker and Landry to work underneath, drawing the safety deep in support, or bringing down the big play when they decide to double Landry and Parker. All reports out of camp say he has improved his route running as well. The draft also yielded a receiver, Leonte Carroo, some have compared to Anquan Bolden, and a matchup nightmare and speed-demon in Jakeem Grant. This is a diverse, talented, and complimentary group of receivers that will be hard to defend.

A healthy, and solidified Offensive line doesn't just help Tannehill and his receivers. It will also provide running lanes for our recently upgraded group of Running Backs. In a move that had to be made, the Dolphins signed Arian Foster to compete for playing time against second year runner, Jay Ajayi, 3rd round pick Kenyon Drake, and several free agent signees. He provides the all around skillset expected and coveted by Adam Gase of his backs. I feel Ajayi will be given every opportunity to win the starting job in camp, but if Foster can prove he is fully recovered from last years injury, and demonstrate the undeniable ability he has shown in years past, Gase will have a hard time giving the job to anyone else. He runs with speed, power, and elusiveness, and he has great hands and route running ability out of the backfield, which he calls his greatest attribute. He is also a willing and professional blocker for his QB. Health history and future concerns aside, he bring a veteran presence and leadership to the RB position, they were lacking before he arrived.

At TE, the Dolphins have a couple proven options, with diverse yet complimentary talents. Jordan Cameron was misused and underutilized last year, and never seemed to be a legitimate option for Bill Lazor. Alternatively, the TE position is used to full advantage in Adam Gase's offense, and he will get the most out of this group. Jordan is a receiving TE with great size, speed, hands, and good route running ability. Dion Sims is a fantastic in-line blocker, with under-rated receiving ability. He lacks the speed to be a seam threat, but has all the ability to be a spot possession and situational red-zone threat.

Tannehill got a head start in the off-season, going over game-tape of Gase's offense, and working out with his receivers before mini-camp ever started.... demonstrating the kind of leadership he's been criticized for not showing in the past. The Offensive Line was a priority this off-season, and Miami  added talent and depth to a healthy Albert, Pouncy, and James. Parker enters Training Camp healthy, and primed for his new role as Miami's #1 receiver, and has a Pro-Bowler in Landry, and a hungry Kenny Stills, in a contract year, right there to take the pressure off. They added Foster, a 2 time Pro-Bowler and former NFL Rushing Champion to a group of running backs offering speed, power, receiving, and playmaking ability. There is youth, but loads of potential, but Foster offers them all a chance to grow, develop, and succeed.

No.. It won't happen overnight, but that's what Training Camp is for. Gase came to Miami at a time when the offense only needed a couple of pieces to make it very dangerous. They've done that since his arrival, and now it's time for him to unleash his offense, and this group of talent, loose on the league!

FINS UP!