AFC East: Ike Ndukwe
The Miami Dolphins admitted their first notable mistake of the Bill Parcells era Tuesday by cutting second-year guard Shawn Murphy and signing 6-foot-7 tackle Lydon Murtha off the Detroit Lions' practice squad.
Murphy will be best remembered in South Florida as the son of baseball star Dale Murphy, but Shawn was fully expected to cut his own swath in the sports world. The Dolphins drafted him in the fourth round out of Utah State last year.
Murphy not only failed to start a game, he didn't dress once. The Dolphins deactivated him every week even though he never was listed on the injury report.
Soon after the Dolphins drafted Murphy, he was surpassed on the depth chart by sixth-rounder Donald Thomas, who a Connecticut coach discovered during a pickup basketball game on campus and didn't start until his senior year.
When Thomas went down with a season-ending foot injury on opening day, the Dolphins plugged in Ike Ndukwe, who'd been released by three previous NFL teams. Rather than trust Murphy enough to put him on the field, the Dolphins churned the waiver wire for guys like Matt McChesney and Evan Mathis.
The Dolphins gave Murphy the chance to assert himself. They inserted him as the first-team guard at the start of training camp, while Thomas was recovering from an injury. The experiment didn't last.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Shawn Murphy doesn't have to venture far to find someone who understands.
The Miami Dolphins selected Murphy in the fourth round of last year's draft. He was an honorable mention All-American guard at Utah State. The Dolphins were high on him.
He didn't start a game, didn't play a game, didn't even dress for a game his rookie year.
Murphy's father has a story to relate. Dale Murphy had a career many people think was good enough to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dale Murphy is in baseball's rare club of back-to-back MVP winners and hit 398 career home runs.
Dale Murphy, however, struggled to break through as a professional. The fifth overall pick in 1974, he didn't debut in the majors for two years. He was switched from catcher to first base to outfield. He didn't play 20 games until his fourth season.
"He was a natural athlete, a big, strong guy," said Shawn Murphy, who has been getting first-team reps at minicamp. "But he had a lot of technical things to work on. It just took time."
Dale Murphy always seemed on the verge. The other exclusive back-to-back club he belongs to? The Topps trading card company featured him as a top rookie prospect two years in a row, 1977 and 1978. That means he failed to meet expectations the first time.
"He ended up being a two-time MVP, being a great player," Shawn Murphy said. "But he always relates to how he started. He was a work in progress. That's how it is for everyone.
"I'm not even saying that my career is going to be like his. I'm not trying to compare them at all. But it's an example that you can have a rough start and work through it and have a great career."
Shawn Murphy was inactive for all 16 games last year. He was leapfrogged on the depth chart by sixth-round pick Donald Thomas, who was viewed as a project.
When Thomas went down with a season-ending foot injury on opening day, the Dolphins plugged in Ike Ndukwe, an undrafted player who had been released by three previous NFL teams.
"I wouldn't really call it self-doubt. It was frustration," Shawn Murphy said of his lost rookie campaign. "I trust my coaches. If they're saying I'm not ready to play, then what do I need to do to improve? It was a question of what I have to do to play."
Thomas has been sidelined with a pectoral muscle injury, clearing the way for others to get first-team reps.
"I try not to think about it from a first-team, second-team perspective," Shawn Murphy said. "I try to think 'Did I do better today that I did yesterday?' Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't."
He claimed he has put his disappointing season behind him and is feeling much more comfortable in the NFL.
"It's been a gradual thing," Murphy said. "I don't think there was any moment of revelation. It was just sort of a gradual process. I needed to pick it up in this area or that area, and then when the season ended I said I was going to treat  like a fresh new season.
"I'm going to forget what happened last season. I'm going to come out and work hard all offseason, come to OTAs and camp with a new perspective."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
- Palm Beach Post reporter Chris Perkins reports inactive WR Ernest Wilford's getting called out by his teammates.
- Miami Herald reporter Jeff Darlington examines the Dolphins WRs.
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel scribe Harvey Fialkov writes about G Ike Ndukwe's chances of cracking the lineup.
- Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post looks back at some teams that thrived after major QB injuries.
- Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan proclaims Bills WR Lee Evans worthy of a new contract ASAP.
- Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News writes Bills LT Jason Peters can stand the heat of playing Sunday.
- USA Today's Erik Brady previews DT Marcus Stroud's return to Jacksonville.
- Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle collects reaction in the Bills locker room to the Brady-less Patriots.
New England Patriots
- Boston Herald writer John Tomase shares the story of CB Lewis Sanders, whose father was on the 70th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
- Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe takes a look at what QB Matt Cassel's playbook might look like.
- The Boston Globe's Christopher L. Gasper checks to see how WR Randy Moss is coping with QB Tom Brady done for the year.
- Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds tells Pats fans it's time to move on.
- Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reports on Brady's Gillette Stadium visit Wednesday.
New York Jets
- New York Times reporter Greg Bishop breaks down just how incredible it is that QB Brett Favre is about to start his 277th straight game.
- Newsday columnist Johnette Howard wants to see how the Jets handle being favorites over the Pats.
- The Jets are talking about a healthy respect for Cassel, writes the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro.
- New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini reports on TE Chris Baker's new deal among other notes.
- Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press checks in with new K Jay Feely.