AFC East: Cory Procter

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November, 24, 2010
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1. Dolphins offensive line: Once the Dolphins' pride and joy, their O-line hasn't held up lately. They were forced to move guard Richie Incognito to center against Chicago last week, when backup center Cory Procter suffered a season-ending knee injury. A shoulder injury to Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long has weakened the unit further. The Dolphins averaged 3.0 yards a rush against the Bears, a lackluster pass-rushing team that also sacked Tyler Thigpen six times.

2. Dustin Keller, Jets tight end: Through the first four games, Keller averaged 4.8 receptions, 63.5 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. Since then -- and perhaps because Santonio Holmes returned from his suspension -- Keller has averaged 2.7 receptions, 37.5 yards and 0.0 touchdowns. In Sunday's victory over the Texans, Mark Sanchez targeted Keller six times, but they connected just twice for a season-low 7 yards.

3. Jairus Byrd, Bills safety: As a rookie last year, Byrd was selected for the Pro Bowl and tied for the league lead with nine interceptions in 14 games. Byrd's follow-up season has been empty so far. He has zero interceptions and just one pass defensed. He has no sacks or forced fumbles, and he never has been known for his run support.

[+] EnlargeNew York Jets celebrating
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Jets' comeback Sunday against Houston is another example of why this is a team to watch down the stretch.

1. Jets' feeling of invincibility: There's not much in sports that stuns me anymore. I was able to assemble coherent thoughts after I watched Mike Tyson bite off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear. Any singular event can be explained as a wild occurrence or merely happenstance. But what the Jets did to the Texans on Sunday astonished me for the sheer absurdity of this hot streak Rex Ryan's team is on. In Week 10 they became the first team in NFL history to win back-to-back overtime road games, and then they went 72 yards in 45 seconds with no timeouts to score the winning touchdown against the Texans.

2. Buffalo's dynamic offense: The Bills scored 49 points -- five touchdowns in the second half -- in a rollicking comeback road victory over the Bengals. So many players are surging that I couldn't pick just one. Steve Johnson caught a career-high three touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick tied a career-high with four TD passes. Fred Jackson posted consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time. Undrafted rookie receiver Donald Jones scored his first NFL touchdown.

3. Danny Woodhead, Patriots running back: If ever the Jets need to be reminded they're not infallible, they just need to check what Woodhead is doing for the Patriots. The Jets didn't have a spot on their 53-man roster for him. Yet he has scored a touchdown in half of his eight games for the Patriots. Woodhead scored on a spectacular 36-yard run in Sunday's victory over the Colts and then made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff. He finished with seven carries for a career-high 69 yards and had four catches for 21 yards.

Dolphins run game historically anemic

November, 19, 2010
The Miami Dolphins were forced to start their third-string quarterback Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.

Tyler Thigpen revealed during the week he hadn't taken a single practice rep since the regular season began, and he had only three days to prepare for his first start in two years.

[+] EnlargeRicky Williams and Ronnie Brown
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeDolphins running backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for just six carries for 11 yards against the Bears.
One might think the Dolphins would help him out by letting Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown take as many handoffs as possible.

Whoever would dare think such a thing turned out to be dead wrong. The Dolphins abandoned the run in a 16-0 loss at Sun Life Stadium. It was only the second home shutout in 40 years for Miami.

"You know, that was our game plan," Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long said. "We wanted to come out and establish the run and then protect Tyler. We didn't do either of them."

Three quick nuggets that should disgust Dolfans:

  • The Dolphins rushed for only 39 yards, their worst output since Tony Sparano became head coach.
  • They have rushed for under 100 yards in each of their past eight home games, the longest current streak by any NFL team and the longest such streak in Dolphins history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
  • They tied a franchise record for fewest combined rushes by fullbacks and running backs with seven.
Seven rushing attempts? This from the team that was known for fielding one of the most punishing ground games in the NFL since Sparano took over in 2008.

Brown ran three times for 10 yards. Williams ran three times for 1 yard. Patrick Cobbs ran once for 1 yards. Lousaka Polite didn't have any carries.

Where did the other 27 rushing yards come from? Thigpen on six scrambles, preventing the Bears from adding to their sack total of six.

The only other times Miami running backs ran seven times were, as you would expect, during the Dan Marino era: in a 42-20 loss to the Washington Redskins in 1990 and in a 34-7 loss to the Bears in 1988.

Don Shula watched Thursday night's game from the Dolphins bench. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning calls plays from the booth. I wonder what Shula might've said to Henning had they been on the sideline together.

Sparano justified the low number of handoffs by pointing to the fact the Bears dominated time of possession at nearly 38 minutes, leaving the Dolphins with only 48 offensive plays.

The Dolphins also went into the game with a banged up offensive line and lost center Cory Procter to a knee injury early. That forced left guard Richie Incognito to handle snaps.

"We didn't get out of our way on offense," Sparano said. "We couldn't help ourselves there and really couldn't get off the field consistently on defense.

"So starting to talk about whether or not you didn't run the ball or throw the ball -- now, at one point you're down 16 points you've got to throw the ball."

Wrap-up: Bears 16, Dolphins 0

November, 18, 2010
A few thoughts about Miami's 16-0 loss to the Bears.

What it means: The Dolphins technically aren't out of the playoff race, but they're almost out of hope.

To get a wild-card berth, the Dolphins must catch either the AFC East runners-up (New York Jets or New England Patriots) or surpass the AFC North runners-up (Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers) while also outjockeying the other teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins won't win many tiebreakers, having already lost head-to-head versus the Jets, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.

Rare shutout: The Dolphins had been blanked at home only once in the past 40 years. That was in 2001 against the Jets.

Dolphins quarterback update: Tyler Thigpen didn't get much help. His line was banged up, the Dolphins failed to establish a running game and he had only three days to prepare for the match. Still, Thigpen didn't give Dolfans much hope for the homestretch, completing 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards and an interception.

Miami abandons the run: The Dolphins rushed for a season-low 39 yards, with Thigpen gaining 27 of them. Ronnie Brown ran three times for 10 yards. Ricky Williams ran three times for 1 yard.

Marshall disappoints again: Brandon Marshall, after insisting over the summer he was a changed man, is living up to his reputation as a clown. On one second quarter possession he had two bad drops and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct along the Bears sideline for throwing the ball at old Denver Broncos teammate Jay Cutler. That's the second straight week Marshall was flagged for chucking the ball after a catch. Marshall permanently left the game in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury.

More injuries: The Dolphins are eroding by the week, but at least they have 10 days to slather on some spackle. Cory Procter, playing center for the injured Joe Berger, went down with a non-contact knee injury in the first quarter. That's bad news. Left guard Richie Incognito was shifted to center and had trouble with shotgun snaps.

Wake a bright spot for Miami: Unless he gets hurt, Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake is headed to the Pro Bowl. He was a force in the first half, recording a strip sack (the Bears recovered) and drawing two holding calls on tackle J'Marcus Webb.

Third-down woes: Miami was awful on third down. Chicago converted 55 percent in the game. On a drive that straddled the first and second quarters, Chicago converted third downs of 9 and 16 yards (a Cutler scramble) before kicking a field goal. Miami's offense converted 9 percent of its third downs.

Henne in uniform: Chad Henne dressed as the third quarterback. That doesn't necessarily indicate anything about his injured knee, but it's a better sign than going to the injured reserve. The thing is, if the Dolphins can't generate any momentum, then there's no motivation to bring him back this year, and they might as well shelve him.

What's next: The Dolphins have extra time to prepare, but they'll have to travel cross-continent to play the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.

Transaction wire humming in AFC East

September, 5, 2010
A lot of paperwork was flying around AFC East front offices Sunday.

Teams fiddled with their rosters by rummaging through a free-agent pile enlarged by Saturday's cuts.

The Buffalo Bills made a big signing at tight end, bringing in veteran David Martin for immediate help at a position of need and claimed guard Kraig Urbik off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Miami Dolphins surprisingly cut Martin, leaving them with only Anthony Fasano and John Nalbone. Joey Haynos is out with a foot injury.

The Bills were hit hard by tight end injuries this summer, and Shawn Nelson was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Buffalo cut tight end J.P. Foschi and cornerback Dominique Harris to make space for their new players.

The Dolphins placed cornerback Will Allen on injured reserve and picked up four players off waivers: offensive linemen Jeremy Parnell (New Orleans Saints) and Joe Reitz (Baltimore Ravens) and defensive ends Clifton Geathers (Cleveland Browns) and Robert Rose (Seattle Seahawks).

To clear room, the Dolphins cut offensive lineman Cory Procter and defensive end Charles Grant and Marques Douglas.

Also on Sunday, the New England Patriots officially announced a pair of trades: safety Jarrad Page from the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Tracy White from the Philadelphia Eagles for undisclosed draft picks.

New England claimed guard Stave Maneri off waivers from the Houston Texans and released linebacker Tyrone McKenzie.

Miami Dolphins cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The Dolphins' decision to release tight end David Martin isn't surprising on account of his ability, but because of the depth chart. Joey Haynos is out with a foot injury, leaving incumbent starter Anthony Fasano and the unconvincing John Nalbone. The Dolphins also cut guard Donald Thomas, who was good enough to be their opening-day starter as a rookie in 2008 and again last year. Thomas played all 16 games last year and started 12. But the Dolphins have been trying to find the correct combination for the interior offensive line since Bill Parcells arrived at the end of the 2007 season. They signed free agents Richie Incognito and Cory Procter, drafted John Jerry in the third round and just traded for Pat McQuistan from the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas couldn't beat out any of them.

No-brainers: Based on 2008 draft status, it's notable that the Dolphins already have given up on quarterback Pat White (second round) and receiver Patrick Turner (third round). But they didn't belong. Neither of them ever showed they belonged in the NFL. White was drafted to enhance the Wildcat package, but he couldn't throw. Turner was deactivated for all but two games last year and was outplayed by undrafted rookies this summer.

What's next: Miami has no glaring needs, but they could stand to improve at a number of positions. General manager Jeff Ireland will be scavenging for what he call "acorns" that have fallen out of other teams' trees. Areas to look at will be the pass rush and, as always, interior O-line.

O-line a lingering concern for Dolphins

August, 17, 2010
From the moment Bill Parcells took over the Miami Dolphins and began drawing up plans for his offensive line, the interior three blockers have been a volatile mix.

The Dolphins are entering their third season under Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano, whose professional foundation was built on the offensive line.

In a short time, the Dolphins are on their second O-line assistant coach, perhaps their third different starting center (Samson Satele to Jake Grove to Joe Berger) and maybe their sixth and seventh different starting guards.

Miami's interior line became even more unstable in the past few days.

Nate Garner, who started four games at left guard and four games at right guard last year, underwent foot surgery that reportedly will sideline him at least eight weeks. He had surgery on the same foot over the offseason.

Third-round draft choice John Jerry, the starter at right guard in Saturday night's preseason opener, also is hurt. He suffered a knee injury at the end of Monday's practice and was unable to participate Tuesday.

Richie Incognito and Donald Thomas are battling for the left guard spot, although Thomas can be switched to the right side if Jerry's injury becomes an issue. Thomas has started at right guard the past two opening days, but he's injury-prone. Cory Procter practiced at right guard Tuesday.

Thankfully for Miami fans, Jake Long and Vernon Carey comprise one of the NFL's best tackle sets.