AFC East: Bryant McKinnie

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DAVIE, Fla. -- It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL draft that the Miami Dolphins desperately needed to fix their offensive line this week. Miami’s weakest unit allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks and could have as many as four new starters next season. Major changes were needed.

But the first pick of the Dennis Hickey era felt like a reach Thursday night when the Dolphins selected right tackle Ja'Wuan James at No. 19 overall. Most draft experts did not rate James as the 19th-best player in this draft. James said himself that some people told him he was projected to go in the second round. There was a solid chance the Dolphins could've landed James later in the first round by trading down to acquire more picks, which seemed like the best scenario.

However, Hickey said James was the best available player on the Dolphins' draft board. (I have yet to see a general manager willing to admit the opposite.) James was a player Miami did extensive homework on and fits many of the characteristics the team is looking for.

But the big question remains: Did Miami get the right value for this pick?

“We had a couple calls [for trades], but we were just excited about picking Ja'Wuan James and adding him to our roster,” Hickey said. “He’s a guy that definitely fits in from a talent aspect as well as a person, and brings what the Dolphins were all about.”

The draft board did not fall in Miami's favor. The Dolphins were put at a disadvantage when top-tier offensive tackles Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin were all taken off the board in the first 16 picks. That left the Dolphins with the option of picking the fifth-rated offensive tackle, which is their biggest need, or another position. Miami passed on higher-rated players by the general consensus such as safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

On the positive, James could be a Day 1 starter for Miami. The Dolphins' offensive line was ravaged this offseason due to the loss of offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo in free agency and guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry with last year’s bullying scandal. James started 49 career games at Tennessee in the competitive Southeastern Conference and comes to Miami with plenty of college experience.

“I’m a tough, smart offensive lineman,” James said on a conference call with the Miami media. “I pride myself on being smart and not making many mistakes. I bring athleticism to the table, strength and a lot of experience.”

The Dolphins held the No. 19 pick only twice before in their team history. Miami selected two solid players: offensive lineman Vernon Carey (2004) and defensive end Kim Bokamper (1976) with those picks. Perhaps James can join the aforementioned pair as a quality contributor for the franchise. If that's the case, no one will care several years from now where James was taken. But Hickey's first draft pick in Miami lacks sizzle.
One of the worst-kept secrets in this year’s NFL draft is the Miami Dolphins will draft offensive linemen. There is a strong chance Miami will dedicate at least two of its six draft picks this year on fixing the position.

The Dolphins are in the process of completely making over the offensive line. Miami could have four new starters next season after the departures of tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo in free agency and guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry due to last year’s bullying scandal. Jonathan Martin, who began the 2013 season at left tackle, was traded after leaving the team in late October due to the harassment.

Miami could only do so much in free agency. The Dolphins signed starting left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith. But another guard position and right tackle remain wide open entering next week’s draft.

Top prospects such as Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan are expected to be off the board when the Dolphins select at No. 19. Therefore, former NFL head coach and ESPN football analyst Jon Gruden shared his thoughts on this year’s second tier of offensive tackles in a recent conference call:
“Morgan Moses at Virginia is a very interesting guy to me. They've had a history of left tackles come out of Virginia. Moses is a kid that played one year at left tackle. He was a right tackle for a couple years. Joel Bitonio at Nevada is an interesting player. A fifth-year senior, been around, worked hard. I think he has some position flexibility, can play right, left or go inside. I like Zack Martin at Notre Dame. He might be my favorite linemen in this draft – 52-time starter, captain, really excelled at the Senior Bowl, drill work. Cyrus Kouandjio at Alabama, interesting player. Had some knee issues. I believe he's rounding into health. Massive person with experience on the left side. There's a number of interesting big people in this draft. I think last year we had three tackles go in the top five. So we got a lot of good quality offensive linemen coming into pro football here.”

The Dolphins are expected to have interest in all of these prospects. Martin is the top target at No. 19 of this group. But Moses and Bitonio also are possibilities in the second round.

Look for Miami to not only look for offensive linemen in the early rounds, but also in the middle and late rounds, as well.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Wednesday from around the web:
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes the Dolphins' free-agent options are dwindling.
  • Morning take: The first week of free agency usually is the busiest. The Dolphins made the immediate moves they felt necessary. Now it's time to bargain hunt.

  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports the Dolphins are in no rush to sign offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie.
  • Morning take: McKinnie says he will play on the left or right side in an effort to gain interest. That probably won't come from Miami unless other options in the draft and free agency don't pan out.

  • ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. discusses draft options for the Dolphins.
  • Morning take: It still looks like the offensive line for Miami. A guard and right tackle spot are wide open. A first-round pick could fill that void.

  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel wonders if Dolphins tailback Lamar Miller can be elite.
  • Morning take: Elite? That's a strong word and it's doubtful Miller will get to that level. But he's young and still has room to grow.
Branden AlbertPeter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins bolstered their O-line by agreeing to a five-year, $46 million deal with Brandon Albert.
NFL free agency kicked off with a bang Tuesday, and Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert was one of the biggest names to switch teams. Albert signed a five-year, $46 million contract with Miami Dolphins. He spent the previous five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

One team’s loss is another team’s gain in free agency. ESPN.com’s Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Dolphins reporter James Walker weigh in on both sides of the Albert signing.

James Walker: Adam, the Dolphins are ecstatic to land a player of Albert’s caliber. Pro Bowl left tackles do not grow on trees, and Albert was the highest-rated player at that position on the market. Albert also filled Miami’s biggest need on the offensive line, which was torn apart last season with the bullying controversy. The price tag wasn’t cheap. But the Dolphins feel it was worth the investment, especially after watching their quarterback get sacked a team-record 58 times last season. Albert will protect Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. Adam, how are the Chiefs dealing with the loss of Albert?

Adam Teicher: It’s a loss for the Chiefs for the short term without a doubt. Eventually, the Chiefs should be able to handle his departure. The Chiefs and Albert were so far apart on a long-term contract last year that they knew it was never going to happen. So they began preparing for this day last year by selecting a tackle, Eric Fisher, with the first pick in the draft. Fisher started as a rookie at right tackle but didn’t play well. He was a huge disappointment, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t eventually become the player the Chiefs envision. He needs a year in Kansas City’s weight program. That alone should make him better.

The Chiefs and Dolphins talked about a trade involving Albert last year. How disappointed was Miami they couldn’t acquire Albert then?

Walker: The Dolphins liked Albert last year, but the person calling the shots this year is different. Miami fired former general manager Jeff Ireland and hired new GM Dennis Hickey in January. Ireland liked to acquire picks as opposed to trading them away. So it wasn’t a shock when talks with Kansas City failed. It turned out to be a mistake as Miami’s offensive line was atrocious, which played a factor in Ireland losing his job. Hickey doesn’t want to make the same mistake. It appears he values the perks of a good offensive line and is making it a priority by putting money into Albert.

Adam, the Chiefs’ offensive line appears to be in transition with losses of Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. How will they recover?

Teicher: They’ve tried to prepare for this. Over the last four drafts, the Chiefs have used five picks in the first three rounds on offensive linemen. Four of them will start next season. They have three developmental linemen and the Chiefs could slide one of them into a starting spot in the middle of the line. Their depth will definitely take a hit, particularly at tackle. They’ll have to find some backups and perhaps even a starter through free agency or the draft.

With regard to the offensive line, is anything left for the Dolphins to do or are they set?

Walker: The Dolphins are far from set, Adam. Unlike Kansas City, Miami has not invested much in the offensive line in the past year. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is the only starting offensive lineman expected to return. Last year’s starting guards -- Richie Incognito and John Jerry -- will not return due to their involvement in Miami’s high-profile bullying scandal. Offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both unrestricted free agents who are long in the tooth. Pouncey and Albert are a solid foundation. But the Dolphins still need two starting guards and a right tackle to play alongside their two Pro Bowlers.

Free-agency primer: Dolphins

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Key free agents: DT Randy Starks, DT Paul Soliai, S Chris Clemons, G Richie Incognito, G John Jerry, OT Bryant McKinnie, OT Tyson Clabo

Where they stand: The Dolphins are expecting major turnover on their offensive line this offseason. Four starters -- Incognito, Jerry, McKinnie and Clabo -- are unrestricted free agents; most are not expected to return after Miami set a franchise record with 58 quarterback sacks allowed and were 26th in rushing. Incognito and Jerry were both involved in Miami’s high-profile bullying scandal. McKinnie and Clabo are older veterans at the end of their careers. So the Dolphins will look to get younger at offensive tackle. Starks and Soliai are solid defensive tackles who could get interest on the open market. Clemons is an average safety who has starting experience.

What to expect: Incognito and Jerry are as good as gone. Both were cited in the 144-page Ted Wells report. The Dolphins will let them go elsewhere in order to distance the franchise from that ugly scandal. Miami has plenty of cap room and will look to spend it at offensive tackle. Free-agent tackles like Eugene Monroe and Branden Albert could be high priorities. If the Dolphins can land one of them, that rules out a return for McKinnie. The defensive tackle position is interesting. Miami may aim to bring back Starks or Soliai, but nothing is guaranteed if neither player is signed before March 11. There is a chance the Dolphins could lose both players and need a contingency plan.
MIAMI -- NFL free agency is one week away, and the Miami Dolphins have well-defined needs and plenty of cap room to improve their roster.

Perhaps no need is bigger in Miami than left tackle. The Dolphins set a new franchise record in 2013 with 58 quarterbacks sacks. Miami must protect young quarterback Ryan Tannehill in his third year for the team to be successful.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the current left tackle market for Miami:

Monroe
1. Eugene Monroe

2013 team: Baltimore Ravens

Analysis: In my opinion, Monroe is the best combination of price and quality for the Dolphins. Monroe never made the Pro Bowl, like Branden Albert. But Monroe is a solid, above average left tackle who should be more affordable. The former first-round pick is only 26 and still has room to get better. Expect the Dolphins to be one of several teams in pursuit of Monroe if the Ravens allow him to hit the open market.

2. Branden Albert

2013 team: Kansas City Chiefs

Analysis: Albert, 29, is perhaps the biggest name among left tackles. Albert is coming off the best year of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and his stock has never been higher. That’s great for Albert, who is ready to cash in, but what does this mean for Miami? There are some red flags that Albert didn’t play to his Pro Bowl potential until his sixth season, which was a contract year. Albert also will be 30 in November. Would the Dolphins get Albert’s best years by signing him to a lucrative, multi-year contract?

3. Jared Veldheer

2013 team: Oakland Raiders

Analysis: It was a rough 2013 for Veldheer. He suffered a left triceps injury in training camp and only returned for Oakland’s final five games. But before the injury Veldheer had been solid at left tackle for the Raiders. The Dolphins or any team interested will be paying for Veldheer’s solid showing from 2011-2012 and also his potential. Veldheer is only 26.

4. Anthony Collins

2013 team: Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: Collins in an interesting prospect to hit the free-agent market. Collins has good size, is versatile and can play both left and right tackle. Collins also is just 28 and still in the prime. However, Collins only has 25 career starts in seven years with the Bengals. He’s been a part-time starter for a long time in Cincinnati and is looking for his chance to be a full-time starter in free agency. Collins could be a good value for a team willing to take a chance on his small sample size.

5. Bryant McKinnie

2013 team: Dolphins

Analysis: McKinnie is a potential fallback option for Miami if all else doesn’t work. The Dolphins acquired him in a midseason trade last October and he played decent football. But McKinnie, 34, is past his prime. Look for the Dolphins to go after top-shelf left tackles such as Monroe, Albert or Veldheer first. If Miami whiffs, the team could turn back to McKinnie on a short-term contract.

Miami Dolphins combine preview

February, 18, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins have been "team turmoil" as of late. They have been dealing with the aftermath of the Ted Wells report, but there are some other things on the way in terms of free agency and the NFL draft.

With that in mind, the NFL combine kicks off later this week. The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick.

Here are some key questions and answers:

1. How will the new GM handle the combine?

This is the first NFL combine as the top guy for Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey. He worked in both college and pro scouting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 18 years before getting the GM job in Miami in January.

Hickey was not Miami’s first choice, but he has an opportunity to begin proving his worth at the combine. Scouting is his specialty and one of the primary reasons he got the job. The Dolphins have some holes to fill.

Hickey will address the media on Thursday in Indianapolis. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Hickey most likely will have to spend a good amount of time addressing the fallout from the Ted Wells report, which was released last week and detailed Miami’s bullying scandal involving Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

2. Who are some players to watch for Miami?

The Dolphins were 8-8 in 2013. So they are not a rebuilding team with a bare cupboard. However, Miami does have some well-defined needs that must be addressed if the Dolphins want to get to the next level.

For starters, Miami must rebuild nearly its entire offensive line. It was the weakest part of the team last year, allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks to go with an inconsistent running game. The Dolphins have four starters about to become unrestricted free agents: offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, as well as guards Incognito and John Jerry. Incognito and Jerry were two parties involved in the Ted Wells investigation for Miami’s bullying scandal and won’t return. Clabo and McKinnie are older players and the Dolphins will look to get younger at the position.

That means Miami will have a long look at guards and tackles in the draft. The Dolphins are fortunate that this is an area of great depth this year. Some offensive tackles to keep an eye on are Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio and Virginia's Morgan Moses. All three should be in range for Miami at No. 19. Potential second-round selections could come at running back, where players like Carlos Hyde from Ohio State or Wisconsin’s James White could be available.

3. What is Jonathan Martin’s future?

Scouting rookies isn’t the only business that happens at the combine. Team executives also meet with agents in Indianapolis to discuss current NFL players, potential trades and contracts. One major issue for Miami is what to do with Martin.

The 2012 second-round pick has two years left on his rookie contract. But it’s clear after the Wells report that a mutual parting of ways is best for both parties. Both sides are expected to meet in Indianapolis to figure out where to go from here.
With the 2013 season officially in the books, it’s time to shift our focus to 2014. ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both produced their post-Super Bowl mock drafts on Thursday.

Here is how they view the Miami Dolphins with the No. 19 overall pick:
Interestingly, both Kiper and McShay projected the same position and player for Miami in May’s draft. It’s no secret that offensive line is a huge need for the Dolphins after allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks last season. Miami's running game also was rated 26th in the league. Starting offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie, Tyson Clabo, John Jerry and Richie Incognito will all become free agents in March and most -- if not all -- are expected to leave.

Martin would be a solid addition with the 19th pick. He was a very productive player at Notre Dame and is coming off a productive Senior Bowl. He is a three-year starter and team captain, which shows leadership.

The only question I have about Martin is his physical tools. He's not as naturally gifted as other left tackle prospects in the draft. But Martin is a high-motor player who gets the most out of what he has.

Martin would be a safe pick for the Dolphins, albeit not a spectacular one.
The Senior Bowl practices are underway in Mobile, Ala.Unless you're the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks, this is the biggest thing going for NFL teams this week.

The Miami Dolphins have their scouts and personnel department in Mobile. Here are five college prospects the Dolphins can have their eye on:

1. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Thoughts: The Dolphins desperately need offensive linemen -- and particularly offensive tackles. Miami starters Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both free agents. Jonathan Martin also is expected to be traded or released following the team's bullying scandal. That makes a big tackle prospect like Moses attractive. It also doesn't hurt that Moses has ties to new Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who was part of the coaching staff that recruited Moses to Virginia.

2. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Thoughts: Martin is an experienced left tackle who has good leadership and started 52 games in his career. He's played in many big games and shouldn't be afraid of the big stage. Martin doesn't have the same physical gifts as Moses but brings a lot of intangibles. He may also offer versatility as a guard, which is also a position of need for Miami.

3. James White, RB, Wisconsin

Thoughts: White had a productive year in the rugged Big Ten conference. He rushed for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns for Wisconsin, which is a school known to churn out quality running backs. White also is a Ft. Lauderdale native and would be happy to return home. Although not huge, White is durable and productive.

4. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Thoughts: The Dolphins have yet to hire a general manager. But there is a decent chance that new GM will take a flier on the quarterback. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has done enough to earn a third consecutive year as a starter. Tannehill has some tools and potential. But Tannehill was a top pick of former GM Jeff Ireland, not the new GM. It wouldn't be surprising if Miami's next head of personnel takes a mid-to-late round quarterback of their own to develop on the roster.
MIAMI -- The Dolphins finished another disappointing season at 8-8, and Miami fans want answers.

Who stays? Who goes? What improvements will be made this offseason?

Let’s open the Dolphins mailbag.

If you have additional Dolphins questions, send them my way via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
 

Dolphins are rooting for the Bengals

December, 26, 2013
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DAVIE, Fla. -- For one week only, the Cincinnati Bengals have 53 new fans within the locker room of the Miami Dolphins.

McKinnie
McKinnie
Ellerbe
There are four potential scenarios for the Dolphins to get into the playoffs Sunday as the final wild card in the AFC. The easiest would be for Cincinnati to beat the Baltimore Ravens (8-7), and Miami (8-7) to beat the New York Jets.

That would catapult the Dolphins into the postseason for the first time since 2008. Miami would snag the wild card while the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens would be on the outside looking in this season.

For Dolphins players like Dannell Ellerbe and Bryant McKinnie, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore, getting to the postseason over the Ravens would have extra meaning.

“It would be lovely to get into the playoffs -- period,” Ellerbe said. “But for us to go and [Baltimore] not to go would be very, very special.”

Ellerbe spent his first four seasons with the Ravens, and left in free agency. Miami signed Ellerbe to a $35 million contract last March.

Ellerbe said he has a few good friends on the Bengals, such as Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and injured defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

“They know I want them to win,” Ellerbe said.

Former Raven Bryant McKinnie, who was traded to Miami in October, has been trash-talking with his friend and former teammate -- running back Ray Rice of Baltimore -- the past few weeks.

“I texted him after their game [against New England], because one of their players is staying in the house that I have up there,” McKinnie said. “I said, ‘Can you make sure he’s out by January 1st, because ya’ll aren’t going to the playoffs.’ ... I don’t think he really caught onto what I said. He just went along with the conversation.”

There are other scenarios where teams like the San Diego Chargers (8-7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) could get the AFC’s final wild card. But there is a strong chance it will come down to Miami or Baltimore.

Ellerbe has never missed the playoffs during his five-year career, and wants to keep that streak alive with the Dolphins.

“It would really be in my career, because in high school I always went to the playoffs,” Ellerbe said. “I’d be devastated. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

Will Dolphins have a sense of urgency?

November, 29, 2013
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are 2-6 in their past eight games and there's little margin for error the rest of the year.

Miami will begin its crucial, five-game December slate against the New York Jets on Sunday. Both teams have identical 5-6 records in what is essentially an elimination game for these AFC East rivals.

The Baltimore Ravens (6-6) currently hold the final wild-card spot in the AFC and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins and the Jets. The loser of Sunday’s division game will have their postseason chances on life support.

“Both teams are kind of in a similar position,” Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie said after Friday's practice. “We [both] need these last few games to try to get into the playoffs.”

Added Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, “This is like a playoff game to get to a playoff game.”

A huge key for Miami will be to continue to rattle Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith. New York’s second-round pick is struggling mightily. Smith has 10 interceptions and just one touchdown in his past six starts. The Jets are 2-4 in that span.

Keeping Smith in a funk is perhaps the best way for the Dolphins to exit MetLife Stadium with an important road victory on Sunday.

“You don't want to be the team that he gets his confidence back with,” Ellerbe said. “He’s an athletic quarterback. He can beat you running the ball as well as throwing. We just want to put the pressure on him and make him beat us throwing the ball.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are in the middle of an important investigation by the NFL. At the center of it is the offensive line, the unit that worked closely with suspended guard Richie Incognito and embattled right tackle Jonathan Martin.

Several Dolphins offensive linemen confirmed Wednesday that they had interviews with the NFL. These are the players who best know Incognito, Martin and the relationship between them that eventually led to bullying and harassment allegations by Martin.

“Everything went very well. So we will see how it goes,” Dolphins center Mike Pouncey said of the investigation. "We were in there for a while. They asked a bunch of questions. … It seemed like a long time but it probably wasn't. They got all the questions they wanted to get out of us and we gave them all the trustful answers."

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie joined the team in October from Baltimore. He didn’t know either party well, but said he hasn’t been afraid to voice his opinion on the situation.

According to McKinnie, investigators wanted to pick his brain as a veteran who has played on three different teams and been in various locker rooms. McKinnie estimated his interview lasted about 30 minutes.

"There was four people in there and two people asking questions," McKinnie said. "They’re just trying to gather knowledge from everybody on what really happened and go from there."

Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo also has been vocal and supportive of Incognito. However, Clabo was more tight-lipped about what went on behind closed doors when he met with the NFL.

"Yeah, I did that. They asked us to respect the process of the investigation and to not really go into the details about it," Clabo said. "So I did my time up there and that’s really all I’m going to say about it."

Pouncey, who has spent time with Incognito since the suspension, said he believes the full truth will come out at the conclusion of this investigation.

The Dolphins (5-5) are still in the playoff hunt and have tried to stay focused with a big game upcoming at home against the Carolina Panthers (7-3).

"I feel like we’re all at ease now," Pouncey said. "Now we can just focus straight on football. That’s the most important thing, that we can focus on football so we can win games."
DAVIE, Fla. -- Various players in the Miami Dolphins' locker room on Monday were surprised by the developments regarding Richie Incognito, who was suspended indefinitely for his treatment of teammate Jonathan Martin, which included threating text messages and a voicemail that included racial slurs.

"I was shocked when all this happened," rookie cornerback Will Davis said. "What's going on? I was trying to get filled in. I'm not sure about this situation at all."

Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN that the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, one year after Martin was drafted:

"Hey, wassup, you half n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s--- in your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."

Dolphins starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson has played for five NFL teams in eight seasons. He said sometimes personal issues between players call fall between the cracks in a locker room.

"Everybody has their own deal going on. Guys don't know," Patterson said. "There's so much that goes on throughout a work week, and there's so much that goes on throughout guys' individual lives. Guys have kids, guys have other things that's going on."

Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe added, "I never heard anything about it until now."

Ellerbe is on Miami's six-player leadership council -- so was Incognito -- and said Martin could have addressed the leaders on the team with his concerns.

"We don't have no problem with [coming forward]," Ellerbe said. "We would try to handle it the best way possible. We would rather [happen] that than this."

Miami starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie was traded to the Dolphins just two weeks ago. But McKinnie spent a lot of time with both Martin and Incognito in various team practices and meetings during that span.

"I didn't sense anything," McKinnie said. "I mean, I was kind of caught off guard with it. I don't really know too much about the situation because I just got here."

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin took the blame for the environment that was created in his locker room. The final thing that forced Martin to leave the team last week was a lunchroom incident. Martin hasn't returned since.

"I want you to know as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, I am in charge of the workplace atmosphere," Philbin said. "Since April 10, 2012, when players first came here ... every decision I've made, everything we've done at this facility was done with one thing in mind: that is to help our players and our organization to reach their full potential. Any type of conduct and behavior that detracts from that objective will not be tolerated."

The Dolphins (4-4) will travel to play the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) on "Monday Night Football."

Tyson Clabo says he's ready, if needed

October, 29, 2013
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DAVIE, Fla. -- It’s been a wild, roller-coaster week for Miami Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo. He was recently benched after allowing eight sacks in his first six games. But things could be looking up again for the embattled veteran.

Clabo
Clabo could return to the starting lineup Thursday when the Dolphins (3-4) host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2). Starting right tackle and 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin missed his second straight practice Tuesday with an illness.

Players who can’t practice typically do not play under Miami second-year coach Joe Philbin. The Dolphins have just one light walkthrough remaining on Wednesday.

Clabo said he’s ready to play Thursday if Martin can’t go.

“You have to focus on your role; roles change constantly in this league,” Clabo said. “Last week my role was to be ready in case anything happened. This week, my role might be a little different. That’s just life in the NFL week to week.”

Clabo struggled with pass protection in two losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills, which forced the Dolphins to trade for starting offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. Clabo, a nine-year veteran, has been a starter for the previous eight seasons with Miami and the Atlanta Falcons. But last Sunday was the first time in a long time Clabo was healthy and watched from the sideline due to poor performance.

There was no bickering from Clabo, who received praise for the way he's handled the situation.

"He's a true professional," Philbin said. "He comes in to work every single day wanting to get better and wanting to improve."

The Dolphins may need an improved Clabo on Thursday. Cincinnati has a talented defensive line, and Miami has allowed 32 sacks this season.

However, Clabo said he is prepared for a shot at redemption if Martin cannot get healthy.

“I understand that there are probably four right tackles in the NFL that can block [Ravens defensive end] Elvis Dumervil and [Bills defensive end] Mario Williams consistently one-on-one,” Clabo said. “At this point in my career, it doesn’t appear that I’m one of them. But I still have confidence in my ability to start at right tackle in this league.”

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