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Thursday, October 23, 2008
Sparano explains why Wilford doesn't play


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The most expensive mistake on the Miami Dolphins' roster is receiver Ernest Wilford.

Wilford

The Dolphins signed him to a four-year, $13 million contract with $6 million in guarantees. He has been a healthy scratch the past two games. They club also deactivated him for the season opener.

Wilford, who has one catch for 15 yards this year, has been a frequent topic at Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's news conferences, but Thursday's exchange with reporters was the most enlightening on why Wilford can't get on the field.

Part of Wilford's problem is he's not effective on special teams. Another reason is the Dolphins prefer to run more than throw -- Sparano said his ideal offensive balance is 40 runs and 25 passes -- and sometimes use two tight ends.

That said, Wilford's inability to get on the field is astonishing.

He hasn't been able to wedge his way into a receiving corps that includes beleaguered first-round pick Ted Ginn and three undrafted players: Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and Brandon London. London made his NFL debut this year. Bess is a rookie.

So I asked Sparano what has been lacking from Wilford, the team's highest-paid spectator.

Sparano broke the situation down in great detail.

"I don't think it's something that's lacking one way or the other," Sparano replied. "One of the things we've been fortunate with right now is that we have not had a lot of injuries. As of late, we've had a couple of injuries. [Fullback] Casey Cramer wasn't able to play last week in the ballgame. [Tight end] David Martin got dinged up a couple weeks ago in practice, but you weren't sure maybe what was going to happen at the game, so you had to take another tight end and do some of those things.

"It depends largely on what personnel you think you're going to feature in the game plan. If you're going to feature three wide receivers in the game plan, then you should take five of them. But if you're going to feature what we call 'Detroit' personnel, which is two tight ends, or our '22' personnel packages, which is heavy two tight ends, sometimes three tight ends, then you're not going to take five wide receivers. You're going to try to take the extra tight end.

"Where Ernest falls into that is 'Hey, there's Camarillo, who's been one of the most consistent guys that I've had out there right now. There's Ginn, who's getting better and better. He returned some kicks for us last week. There's Bess, who does return the punts. He has a large role on special teams that way, is the third-down guy when we go out there and we play in half personnel. So you're at three, and then there's London, who's giving me 20 plays a game. I know he's giving me 20 plays a game when I go to the game. If he doesn't play one play on offense, he's playing 20 plays.

"So, that's kind of how [Wilford], unfortunately, falls into that. No different than [2006 third-round pick Derek] Hagan. They're both working hard. That's just the way it falls."