AFC East: Patrick Cobbs

Wrap-up: Dolphins 33, Raiders 17

November, 28, 2010
11/28/10
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The Miami Dolphins thumped the Oakland Raiders 33-17 on Sunday in the Black Hole.

What it means: A great victory is somewhat muted by the fact the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are not losing. The Dolphins are 6-5, but still three games out of the division race. They probably can afford to lose only one of their remaining games to still have a shot at a wild-card berth.

Run attack on track: Ten days after one of the flimsiest rushing performances in Dolphins history, Ricky Williams ran 20 times for 95 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to stamp the victory. Ronnie Brown added 85 yards on 24 carries.

Henne returns: With a big brace on his left knee, quarterback Chad Henne started and played well even though Brandon Marshall (hamstring) could not play. Henne completed 17 of his 30 throws for 307 yards and two touchdowns with one bad interception near the goal line. His touchdowns were to Marlon Moore and running back Patrick Cobbs.

Not-so-special teams: The Dolphins continue to struggle in that phase. Raiders rookie Jacoby Ford returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. Dolphins punt returner Davone Bess did have a 47-yard return though.

Pro Bowl watch: Outside linebacker Cameron Wake added another sack, giving him 10.5 for the season. Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals with a long of 49 yards. Carpenter missed from 51 yards and 49 yards.

What's next: The Cleveland Browns will visit Sun Life Stadium in Week 13.

Dolphins run game historically anemic

November, 19, 2010
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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: Dolphins 29, Titans 17

November, 14, 2010
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A few thoughts from the Dolphins' 29-17 win over the Titans.

What it means: The Dolphins persevered through injuries to starting quarterback Chad Pennington (shoulder) and Chad Henne (knee) to score a crucial victory and remain in the AFC East race.

Injury report: Pennington's turn as starting quarterback lasted two plays. He injured his shoulder again. He was hit while completing a 19-yard pass to Brian Hartline. Henne came in for Pennington and played decently, going 19-of-28 for 240 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Henne was knocked out of the game in the third quarter.

Wildcat returns: The Dolphins went with their Wildcat offense rather than rely on third quarterback Tyler Thigpen right away. Thigpen eventually entered the game and completed four of his six throws for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Touchdown bonanza: The Dolphins' struggling offense received scoring contributions from all sorts of cast members. For the second straight week, the Dolphins scored on their opening possession with a Ronnie Brown run. Third running back Patrick Cobbs caught Henne's touchdown pass. Tight end Anthony Fasano caught Thigpen's.

Quiet day for Moss: In his Titans debut, Randy Moss made one reception for 26 yards. He did draw a 33-yard pass interference penalty on Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis that helped the Titans score a first-quarter touchdown.

What's next: The Dolphins have four days to prepare for the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, but at least the game is in Sun Life Stadium.

Bonamego firing bothers Westhoff

October, 8, 2010
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From one special teams coach to another, Mike Westhoff sent his regards to John Bonamego.

The Miami Dolphins fired Bonamego on Tuesday morning. Westhoff, the New York Jets' coordinator, said he reached out to let him know others were thinking of him.

"I'm the guy to do it," said Westhoff, who's in his 28th NFL season. "I've been around the longest. I think I know enough that I can talk from experience on both sides of it, from having good days and bad days. ... I know one thing. I know he appreciated it when we talked."

[+] EnlargePat Chung
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyBrandon Fields' blocked punt was just one of three special teams disasters that plagued the Miami Dolphins on Monday.
The Dolphins fired Bonamego hours after the New England Patriots annihilated them 41-14. The Patriots scored 21 points off special teams gaffes: a 103-yard kickoff return, a blocked punt and a blocked field goal.

Westhoff called a play that helped the Jets block a Dolphins punt the week before. As a result, the Dolphins cut linebacker Erik Walden supposedly for not picking up Jets safety Eric Smith on that punt block.

"I helped it happen," Westhoff said of the Bonamego's dismissal, "but it's happened to everybody."

Westhoff coached for the Dolphins from 1986 to 2000. His tenure ended when Dave Wannstedt fired him.

Westhoff said he was disappointed in the Dolphins' decision and sounded bothered Bonamego took the fall alone, with no players getting released, too.

One Dolphins player was at fault for two of the three special teams implosions, Westhoff claimed.

"It's interesting that there was one particular guy that was involved in two of those major breakdowns," Westhoff said. "Frankly, I don't think he could play. I don't want the guy either."

Who could this player be?

"I'm not going to tell you," Westhoff said. "That wouldn't be fair, but there was a common denominator."

Let's try to figure it out.

We can eliminate the blocked field goal as a play Westhoff was referring to for two reasons: 1) It was pretty obvious left wing Lydon Murtha simply let Patriots safety Pat Chung blow right past him; 2) nobody on the field-goal unit was on for punt protection or kickoff coverage.

Only four players were on both the punt and kickoff units: Bobby Carpenter, Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, Tim Dobbins and Tyrone Culver.

We can eliminate Dobbins and Culver from the discussion because they lined up on the right side for the punt, and Chung's block came through the left. Carpenter was the left tackle. Hilliard was the left wing. Cobbs was the personal protector.

On Brandon Tate's 103-yard kickoff return up the sideline, when he "broke around the edge, he had two unblocked guys," Westhoff said. "Make the tackle."

Carpenter was the first to miss. Nolan Carroll appears to be the other unblocked pursuer Westhoff referred to, and he's not on the other units.

Carpenter, a backup linebacker, was the first-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, when Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland were there.

"If they had included some personnel with [Bonamego's dismissal], I might have not felt so bad," Westhoff said. "That bothers me. I know the guy worked hard. It's their business. It's not mine. They have the right to decide their own. I respect that, but I'm disappointed when those things happen."

Tony Sparano stands behind Wildcat

September, 27, 2010
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Amid criticism it's time to abandon the Wildcat, Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano defended their signature offensive feature.

The Dolphins called eight Wildcat plays in Sunday night's 31-23 loss to the New York Jets in Sun Life Stadium. The plays were not only ineffective, but also seemed to disrupt the rhythm of the Dolphins' offense when they were driving.

Chad Henne threw for a career-high 363 yards, but the Wildcat essentially removes the quarterback from the equation because the ball is snapped directly to a running back.

The Dolphins gained only 6 yards with the Wildcat. One play was a Brandon Marshall run for minus-1 yard. Ronnie Brown threw an incomplete pass intended for Marshall. A 1-yard run was nullified by a holding penalty.

In the fourth quarter and trailing by four points, the Dolphins had a first-and-10 situation on the Jets' 36-yard line. They called a cute Wildcat reverse to Patrick Cobbs, who linebacker David Harris dropped for a 6-yard loss. The Dolphins eventually kicked a 50-yard field goal.

"We probably ran two or three others that were 4-yard plays, which is really what we're looking for," Sparano said at his Monday news conference. "We're not looking for 40-yard plays out of the thing. It's an efficient run.

"Ronnie had two or three efficient runs out of the thing. And then we threw a pass on one of them that, to be quite honest with you, we threw the ball down the field to Brandon, but if we threw the wheel route, it might've been a 30-yard gain.

"So I ain't all stuck on that. Not at all."

AFC East captains selected

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
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A look at 2010 captains in the AFC East and how they were chosen ...

Buffalo Bills (player vote)

Miami Dolphins (player vote)

New England Patriots (player vote)

New York Jets

  • Selected on game-by-game basis by head coach Rex Ryan.

Sparano would dominate Jets competition

July, 31, 2010
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New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been staging a weight-loss competition with right tackle Damien Woody and nose tackle Kris Jenkins.

Woody revealed Friday he had lost 30-something pounds, but didn't want to get specific until the final weigh-in this weekend. Jenkins said he has lost 26 pounds so far.

Ryan has been shedding pounds since undergoing lap-band surgery in March. He dropped 40 pounds in the first three weeks, getting him down to 310. His target weight was 275.

But neither of them can touch Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

He has lost 55 pounds since the end of last season, roughly as much as Woody and Jenkins combined and without the help of a gastric device.

Dolphins running back Patrick Cobbs approached Sparano before their first training camp session Friday.

"He said 'Coach, looks like you lost a little weight.' I said 'Well, I didn't lose a little weight, Pat. I lost a whole person,' " Sparano said.

Sparano began to dwindle after he had knee surgery in February and embarked on a robust rehab regimen under Dolphins strength-and-conditioning coaches Evan Marcus and Dave Puloka.

"I'm in the best physical shape I've been in going into training camp," Sparano said. "I'm excited about it, feel great, got a lot of energy. So I'm sure the boys weren't happy to hear that I have that much energy, but I do."

No Dolphins start camp on PUP list

July, 30, 2010
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Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano announced several key players were ready to fully participate when training camp opened Friday afternoon.

The Dolphins didn't place anybody on the active/physically unable-to-perform list. That means several notable players were cleared for practice.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had hip surgery in the spring and was unable to practice in the offseason.

Sparano didn't sound concerned about getting Marshall up to speed. Although Marshall couldn't take part in voluntary workouts or minicamp, he spent considerable time playing catch with and learning from quarterbacks Chad Henne and Chad Pennington.

"I don't think we're all the way caught up, obviously," Sparano said, "but I feel like we're pretty close."

Pennington had reconstructive shoulder surgery on his throwing arm and was limited in offseason workouts. Pennington will compete to be Henne's primary backup.

"He's progressed very nicely," Sparano said. "Chad is ready to go, and he'll get out there and get some reps."

Running back Ronnie Brown is recovered from a broken foot suffered in Week 10.

Running back Patrick Cobbs is returning after a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.

Cornerback Will Allen is coming back from a season-ending knee injury in Week 7.

AFC East links: Thomas tabs starting QB

July, 9, 2010
7/09/10
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Buffalo Bills

Continuing its series examining the Ravens' opponents this season, The Baltimore Sun scouts the Bills.

Appearing on "The Howard Simon Show" Thursday, Bills great Thurman Thomas had a surprise prediction for the winner of Buffalo's QB derby: Brian Brohm.

Tony Jones looks at the odds of Jarius Byrd repeating his 2009 breakout season in which he compiled 45 tackles, nine interceptions and 11 passes defended.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins came in at No. 11 on ESPN's Ultimate NFL Rankings.

Andy Kent talked to Patrick Cobbs and Channing Crowder about coming back from the injuries they sustained last season.

New England Patriots

The Patriots were one of 20 teams in Provo, Utah, to watch running back Harvey Unga work out. Unga, BYU’s all-time leading rusher, is expected to be taken in the July 15 NFL supplemental draft.

Thirty-three-year-old running back Sammy Morris said he's ready for another year of pounding, and he has no timetable for when he'll walk away from the game.

New York Jets

Manish Mehta writes that Darrelle Revis is not bluffing -- the Pro Bowl cornerback is prepared to sit out training camp without a new contract from the Jets. There’s been no progress in negotiations the past few weeks.

Jenny Vrentas has a Q&A with new linebacker Lance Laury, who's expected to be an impact player on special teams.

AFC East links: Brady's deal an issue?

July, 5, 2010
7/05/10
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Buffalo Bills

Brian Galliford at BuffaloRumblings.com is already looking forward to the 2011 draft where the Bills could target a defensive end or wide receiver.

Miami Dolphins

Running back Patrick Cobbs is focused on returning from the knee injury that ended his 2009 season.

Jeff Howe of NESN.com takes a look at how the Dolphins will match up against the AFC East this season.

New England Patriots

In the first of 10 offseason questions, the Boston Globe's Albert Breer asks: Is Tom Brady's deal an issue?

And in the second... Shalise Manza Young wonders, "Can the line make it without Logan Mankins?"

Continuing the list trend, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss has 10 thoughts about the Patriots and NFL before summer break.

The Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport compares Brady's contract situation to that of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

New York Jets

Running back Joe McKnight knows he needs to fight the perception he can't handle the NFL after a disastrous rookie camp performance.

The Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer looks at seven Super Bowl contenders and a problem each has to fix. For the Jets, he targets the passing game.

The Baltimore Sun scouts the Jets, the Ravens' opponents in Week 1.

McCluster, McNeal fit Bills' RB description

March, 25, 2010
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Rare are the moments when an NFL coach provides specifics on the sort of player he'd like to add through the draft.

Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey let down his guard this week at the owners meetings and sketched out the style of running back he has his eye on. He wants a smallish, change-of-pace "water bug" to complement Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Gailey even provided the ideal dimensions: about 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds.

I took that information to Scouts Inc. draft analyst Steve Muench for his thoughts.

[+] EnlargeDexter McCluster
Jim Brown/US PresswireDexter McCluster fits the mold of the running back Bills coach Chan Gailey would like to add to his offense.
As Muench points out, two of the better third-down backs hail from the AFC East. The New England Patriots have Kevin Faulk (5-8, 202 pounds), while the New York Jets plan on having restricted free agent Leon Washington (5-8, 195) in their backfield again. Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano adores Patrick Cobbs (5-8, 205), who is on track to return from a season-ending knee injury.

The Bills are missing that player.

"Buffalo is interesting because they have two backs in Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch who can carry the heavy workload and catch the ball fairly well," Muench said. "However, they are the only backs on the roster, and Lynch has yet to play in all 16 games of a season. So adding a third-down back to bolster depth and help keep the top two fresh makes sense."

Muench views Mississippi's Dexter McCluster (5-8, 172) as the best option in this year's draft class.

"McCluster would be a great fit," Muench said. "He can turn the corner in a flash as a runner, and he's an effective receiver who can produce after the catch. He's also versatile enough to line up in the slot, and the Bills need some help at receiver."

Scouts Inc. forecasts McCluster as a second-round draft pick, and Muench can't envision the Bills going after a running back that soon. The Bills have more pressing needs to address.

Another name to remember is Southern Methodist's Shawnbrey McNeal (5-10, 190).

"He appears to lose focus and drop passes he should catch at times, but he has the big hands and agility to develop into a productive receiver," Muench said. "He should be available in the fifth round and could last into the sixth."

Dolphins offense suffers Brown out

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
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The Miami Dolphins' outside chances of making the playoffs have gotten significantly more remote.


Steve Mitchell/US PresswireDolphins running back Ronnie Brown's season is over.
A foot injury landed Pro Bowl running back Ronnie Brown on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday.

The Dolphins previously announced Brown would miss Thursday night's game against the Carolina Panthers, but Dolfans held out hope he would be back for part of the homestretch.

Miami ranks fourth on the ground at 156 yards a game. Brown had a team-high 648 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, tied for fourth in the league.

Brown's absence leaves the rushing duties almost exclusively to Ricky Williams and probably snuffs the Wildcat offense.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano expressed confidence Williams could handle the Wildcat's direct snaps, but didn't say who would handle Williams' motion-man role that makes the play so tricky to defend.

"Ricky has been back handling the snaps," Sparano told reporters Monday. "There is going to be some other people if Ronnie isn't able to be out there that would come into play."

Miami chose to fill Brown's roster spot with safety Nate Ness and not another running back.

The only other available running back with a carry this year is fullback Lousaka Polite, a fine third-and-short runner, but probably not a legitimate complement for Williams. Polite is averaging 2.9 yards on 18 attempts.

Second-year pro Lex Hilliard wowed Dolfans in exhibitions, but hasn't touched the ball in the regular season. A knee injury ended utility back Patrick Cobbs' season in Week 5.

Patriots have had time to think about Wildcat

November, 2, 2009
11/02/09
2:11
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Good news for the Miami Dolphins is they remained undefeated in the AFC East with Sunday's improbable victory over the New York Jets.

Bad news for the Dolphins is the New England Patriots started preparing for them a week ago. They will meet for the first time this season Sunday in Gillette Stadium.

The division-leading Patriots are coming off their bye. Under Bill Belichick, they are 7-2 in their first games after a weekend off.

Belichick has had bonus time to prepare for Miami's diverse offense. The extra practice sessions should help New England find enough time to work on strategies to stop the Wildcat while not totally diverting attention from the usual stuff.

The Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat in devastating fashion against the Patriots in Week 3 last year. Ronnie Brown ran amok. But the Patriots adjusted for the rematch and dominated the Dolphins in South Florida.

"There’s a lot of things that we’ll see in the game Sunday that we really can’t prepare for, because they haven’t shown them yet exactly the way they’re going to do them," Belichick said Monday on a conference call. "There will be something different and creative this week that will be different from the other games that we've seen them play. They kind of keep the wheels spinning that way."

Ricky Williams has become a much bigger contributor in the Wildcat this year, but the loss of utility back Patrick Cobbs to a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago seems to have taken a little zip out of the package.

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss he thinks the Patriots will handle the Wildcat on Sunday.

"We weren't prepared for it the first time, and when you're not prepared for something, you tend to play on your heels and start playing soft," Harrison told Reiss. "We didn't have our gap responsibilities and didn't handle the individual one-on-one with the cornerback out wide."

"The Patriots are a lot better in the secondary, with the two Brandons back there [Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan]. They'll still have to prepare for it, and that's a headache because it takes time away from other valuable elements, like the red zone."

But with an extra week, I have a feeling Belichick has found the time.

Two TD returns give Ginn plenty to crow about

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
3:22
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I'll bet Ted Ginn will be happy to speak after this game.
Ginn

The beleaguered Miami Dolphins receiver and return man slithered out of the locker room after last week's droptastic performance against the New Orleans Saints. He ducked reporters a few more days beyond that.

But I have a feeling he'll be downright chatty after returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in the third quarter against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands. His second score put the Dolphins ahead 24-13.

Ginn brought both back up the right sideline, in front of his Dolphins teammates. The first was for 100 yards, the second for 101. The latter return was electric. Ginn stopped around the 20 and made several lateral shuffles to avoid tackles before bursting through a hole and up the sideline.

Ginn has struggled to catch the ball lately and lost his spot in the Dolphins' starting lineup Sunday. He was replaced by Brian Hartline.

And here's another thing to keep in mind: Had original kick returner Patrick Cobbs not suffered a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago, Ginn probably wouldn't have been returning kicks, either.

Will AFC East sell or buy at trade deadline?

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
3:10
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AP Photo/Steve Cannon; Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE
The New York Jets landed Braylon Edwards in a deal last week; will the Bills ship Terrell Owens out of Buffalo before the trade deadline?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Unlike trade deadlines in the other major sports, the NFL's closing date doesn't elicit an entertaining barrage of player movement.

Blockbuster deadline deals are rare, but they do happen. Eric Dickerson, Hershel Walker and Jerry Rice were traded at the deadline. Lesser stars such as Roy Williams, Chris Chambers and Keenan McCardell were bartered, too.

This year's trade deadline is Tuesday.

The biggest name being bandied about lately is Terrell Owens. The Buffalo Bills haven't been able to figure out how to use the future Hall of Famer, who likely will be gone when his contract is up after the season.

With that in mind, here's a deadline preview for all four AFC East clubs.

(Read full post)

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