AFC East: preseason

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will play their third and most important preseason game Saturday when they host the Dallas Cowboys.

All eyes nationally will be on the high-profile Cowboys and stars such as quarterback Tony Romo and Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. But for Miami, this team is focused on taking another important step forward before its Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the AFC East rival New England Patriots.

Saturday could be the final time key starters play in the exhibition season. Most coaches prefer to use the fourth preseason game to let the backups determine the final roster spots.

"It’s the most game-like," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of the third preseason game. "It’s the game where the starters will get the most playing time out of the entire preseason. It doesn’t really count, but it matters, it matters to us and the progression we make as a team as far as getting better. It’s our last chance before we play for real."

Tannehill has made steady progress throughout training camp and the preseason, which is good news for the Dolphins. He started training camp with a rocky start, including one stretch early where he threw six interceptions in two practices. It was part of the growing pains of learning a new offense under Bill Lazor.

However, Tannehill has been solid in the second half of training camp and the preseason. He completed all six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons and was 9-of-14 passing last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tannehill is completing 75 percent of his passes during the preseason and playing faster and more decisive.

Tannehill and the offense are showing early signs of growth compared to last season. This unit was 27th in the NFL in 2013. If Miami’s offense can rise to the middle of the pack, the Dolphins could be dangerous when paired with a talented defense.

"I’m excited about this team," Tannehill said. "I’m excited about the players we have first and foremost, I’m excited about the offense we have and the meshing of the two. I think it’s a good fit, the personnel we have is a good fit for this offense."

What to Watch: Saints-Dolphins

August, 29, 2013
MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins will play their fifth and final preseason game Thursday against the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Here are three things to watch for the Dolphins:

1. Players on the bubble: Miami must make 25 roster cuts by Saturday evening to get down to the 53-man limit. Several key players to watch are defensive tackle A.J. Francis, third-string quarterback Pat Devlin and receivers Marvin McNutt and Chad Bumphis. Look for the bottom portion of the roster to get plenty of playing time. Shameless plug alert: I will do my roster projection Friday after the final preseason game.

2. Progression of tight ends: It was not a strong outing for Miami’s tight ends following the season-ending knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. The Dolphins got just three catches and 34 yards from the position. New starter Charles Clay had just one reception for five yards -- though he was targeted six times by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This will be an important game for Miami’s tight ends to get reps in preparation for the regular season, even if Tannehill isn’t on the field. Let's see what more Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and Dion Sims can do.

3. No injuries: To be blunt, there isn’t much for teams to gain in this final preseason game. The most important thing for the Dolphins is to exit without significant injuries. The real games start in about 10 days, when the Dolphins travel to face the Cleveland Browns. Miami head coach Joe Philbin has been coy about playing time for his starters. Some may play briefly, while others might not play at all. This is a game for backups and fringe players.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins took part in a full-padded practice Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints.

Here are several notes from Miami's practice:
  • Tuesday marked a significant day of progress for Miami No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan. He dressed in full pads and participated in drills for the first time since re-injuring his shoulder against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 9. Jordan has been doing rehab assignments and taking things slow with trainers for the past few weeks. The primary goal is to get Jordan ready for Week 1, and he took one step closer to that goal on Tuesday.
  • Dolphins rookie cornerback Will Davis missed his second straight practice and appears unlikely to play against the Saints. The team hasn’t clarified Davis’ injury, but he appeared to have suffered a leg injury in last weekend’s preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miami's depth at cornerback is not strong after Davis’ injury and recently cutting veteran Richard Marshall.
  • Miami is using backup quarterback Pat Devlin with the second-string offense this week. This probably means Devlin is on the bubble, and the coaching staff wants to see what he can do with a better supporting cast. Devlin is the third quarterback behind Ryan Tannehill and veteran Matt Moore. The Dolphins must decide if they want to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this week or use that spot to boost another position. Look for Devlin to get a lot of playing time in Thursday's preseason finale.
  • The Dolphins did not make their cuts before Tuesday’s practice. Miami has until 4 p.m. ET to trim its roster down to 75 players. We will post the full list when the Dolphins make their first round of cuts this afternoon.

Five Miami Dolphins on the bubble

August, 23, 2013
MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins will play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Saturday night in the "dress rehearsal" game for both teams. The first round of cuts to 75 will be next Tuesday, and the final cut to 53 players is coming on Aug. 31.

This is a huge game for Miami's players who are on the verge of making the team or getting released. Here are five players who need a good performance Saturday night:

1. RB Jonas Gray

Analysis: It’s not often that a team keeps four running backs. But Gray is doing everything he can to make that a tough decision for Miami. Gray has been solid in training camp and preseason games. He even carved out a potential role as a short-yardage and goal-line option for the Dolphins this preseason, which he's done well. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are locks for the 53-man roster. Mike Gillislee also is a draft pick, so he also sticks. Gray is fighting a number's game, and needs to prove Saturday why it is worth keeping an extra tailback.

2. DT A.J. Francis

Analysis: Perhaps no Dolphins backup has come on stronger in the past week or 10 days than Francis. The light has come on for the raw defensive lineman. Francis put together two good weeks of practice, and had an impressive preseason game last Saturday against the Houston Texans. The problem is that the defensive line is the deepest area of the team. My latest Miami roster projection has nine defensive linemen, and Francis didn’t make the cut. Ideally, the Dolphins would like to keep Francis on the practice squad. But that would risk Miami losing him to another team. Saturday is a good chance for Francis to show why he deserves to be on a 53-man roster -- whether it is Miami's or someone else's roster.

3. Guard Lance Louis

Analysis: Louis has been in a rough spot in training camp. The four-year veteran is coming off ACL surgery. He missed valuable practice time, but also needed to come back early enough to show what he can do before roster cuts. Louis has plenty of starting experience, but he's still rusty and probably not 100 percent. Louis was my last offensive lineman to make the cut. Much of that was because other offensive linemen are injured. This is a big game for Louis to validate his standing.

4. WR Marvin McNutt

Analysis: McNutt is in a neck-and-neck roster battle with fellow receiver Chad Bumphis. McNutt started training camp fast, then Bumphis took the lead, but lately McNutt is back to making more plays in practice. McNutt also has the size Miami's coaching staff covets. He just needs to work on his consistency. Bumphis is a slot receiver who doesn't offer much versatility. But this battle is still up for grabs, and could come down to the final two preseason games.

5. FB Jorvorskie Lane

Analysis: Lane, last year’s starting fullback, has really seen his stock drop in training camp and the preseason. Miami's coaching staff has moved in the direction of versatility and position-flexibility on offense. Therefore, players like Charles Clay and Evan Rodriguez are getting more reps ahead of Lane, who is a pure fullback. If roster cuts were today, I would expect Rodriguez to get the nod over Lane. Rodriguez is a better athlete, receiver and can play special teams. Lane's chances are dwindling fast. He has two more preseason games to try to earn a roster spot.
MIAMI -- I'm not a superstitious person and apparently neither is Tampa Bay Buccaneers star cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The latest reports coming out of Tampa is that Revis and the team are considering the third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins as a possible return date for Revis. The talented cornerback has been rehabbing his knee injury meticulously and appears close to returning.

But are the Buccaneers considering a risky move?

The goal is to get Revis ready for Week 1 of the regular season against the New York Jets. And if you recall the last time we saw Revis, he was crumbled on the field at Sun Life Stadium after his knee gave out. To have Revis’ first game back against the same team and on the same field where he blew out his knee last year is a bit eerie. Don't think for one second that the thought won't travel through Revis' head.

Miami’s passing game, and particularly speedy receiver Mike Wallace, could certainly use the test of Revis on the field for Tampa Bay on Aug. 25. But Revis is a priority for the Buccaneers, and playing against Miami in 10 days seems unnecessary.

Tampa Bay has more than three weeks before its regular-season opener against the Jets. Allowing Revis three more weeks to get healthy and in playing shape seems like the best route.

Dion Jordan continues to progress

August, 5, 2013
CANTON, Ohio – The Miami Dolphins are still bringing No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan along slowly after February shoulder surgery. His work has gradually increased in training camp, and Jordan played only on third-down situations in Miami's 24-20 preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

But Jordan made the most of his limited reps by impacting Sunday's Hall of Fame Game. He recorded two tackles and two quarterback pressures in his NFL debut.

Jordan was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise sloppy game for Miami.

“I’m practicing my butt off so I will be prepared when the [regular] season and games come,” Jordan said in the locker room Sunday night. “As far as when I get out there [more] and timetables, you have to talk to coach. They’re letting me know what I have to do to get prepared.”

Jordan's best play happened in the third quarter. He sprinted around the edge and forced Cowboys quarterback Nick Stephens to move in the pocket and into the arms of Miami teammate Derrick Shelby.

On that play, Jordan showed the explosiveness, fluid movement and aggressiveness getting to the quarterback that Miami needs this season.

“I looked like one or two times he got adequate pressure and got around the quarterback a little bit,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “We will take a closer look at the tape.”

Jordan’s workload will continue to increase in training camp and the preseason. He’s currently behind second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon on the depth chart.

Miami’s defensive line is arguably the deepest unit on the team. Performances Sunday by Jordan and Shelby (two sacks) further proved that point, but Jordan is looking for more.

“We can be really deep,” Jordan said of his fellow defensive linemen. “The front line starts it all off and it works its way to the [backups]. It’s good that we got pressure on the quarterback, but we have to finish as a unit. As a defense, we have to do better.”

Dolphins Hall of Fame Game preview

August, 4, 2013
CANTON, Ohio – The Miami Dolphins will have their first preseason game Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET against the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame Game. There have been a lot of interesting developments during the first two weeks of training camp, and now we get to see Miami in a game scenario.

The AFC East blog will be live in attendance for the first preseason game of the NFL season. Here are five things to keep an eye on from Miami’s perspective:

No. 1: Offensive line

Analysis: This has been Miami’s weakness unit through two weeks of training camp. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been pushed around for the most part and lacks depth. An injury to starting guard John Jerry has caused the coaching staff to scramble. The Dolphins have tried out multiple replacements such as Josh Samuda, Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas. Right now there are more questions than answers. But Sunday’s game will be a good opportunity for this much-maligned unit to show improvement.

No. 2: Miami’s passing game

Analysis: Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a lot of new weapons, and this will be the first chance to show them off in a national game. Starting receivers Mike Wallace (groin) and Brian Hartline (calf) are nursing injuries this week and will be game-time decisions. But Tannehill, at the very least, will throw to new tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Brandon Gibson. All of these players need to be on the same page by Week 1. Playing against another team for the first time presents a good challenge.

No. 3: Second starting cornerback

Analysis: Veteran corners Dimitri Patterson and Richard Marshall have battled back and forth with the starters. This competition won’t be settled until there are preseason games. Patterson currently has the hot hand and has shown good quickness and athleticism. Both players could get a lot of playing time in sub-packages, but only one can start opposite Brent Grimes. This is the time for one of these veteran corners to step forward.

No. 4: Kicking battle

Analysis: Miami’s kicking competition between rookie Caleb Sturgis and veteran incumbent Dan Carpenter is about even after two weeks of camp. It will probably take several preseason games to determine this one. Sturgis is the favorite because he’s a fifth-round pick scheduled to make just $405,000 this season. Carpenter is on Miami’s books for $2.68 million if he makes the team. Therefore, if the competition is close, the edge goes to the rookie.

No. 5: Which unknowns will step up?

Analysis: With five preseason games for Miami this year, look for many of the Dolphins’ backups to get extended playing time Sunday. That means this is a golden opportunity for lesser-known players to shine and make a push for roster spots. Several players who come to mind are tight end Michael Egnew, receiver Jeff Fuller, tight end Kyle Miller and rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins. These are the kind of bubble players who must show up in preseason games to make the 53-man roster.

There will be a full report from the game later tonight in the AFC East blog. You can also follow me on Twitter for live updates from Canton before, during and after the game.
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins lost some depth at receiver Sunday with the season-ending knee injury to Armon Binns. But the team is quickly exploring outside options to see what’s available.

Free-agent receiver Laurent Robinson is scheduled to work out with Miami on Tuesday, a source confirmed. Robinson played with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Robinson recently signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract with Jacksonville but was released after one disappointing season. He caught just 24 receptions for 252 yards and zero touchdowns in 2012. Robinson also had concussion issues.

In the past week, Robinson also had workouts with the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Detroit Lions. The Dolphins, who have already spent more than $200 million in free-agency this offseason, are looking for another receiving threat off the bench behind starters Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and slot receiver Brandon Gibson.

The Dolphins will open their preseason schedule on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboy in the Hall of Fame Game. They also will have a scrimmage Monday night at 7 p.m. ET.
NFL football will return in about one month when the Miami Dolphins take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 3. That means the regular season also is just around the corner.

With that in mind, let's take an early peek at Week 1 matchups and see which AFC East teams are best positioned to get off to a fast start.

No. 1: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Storylines: This is a big game to kick off the AFC East season. The Patriots have owned the Bills over the years. However, Buffalo may be catching New England at the right time. The Patriots are reeling after back and arm surgeries to Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable for Week 1, and cutting star tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was charged for murder and faces five additional gun charges. New England also will be using a new cast of receivers around quarterback Tom Brady this year, and it could take time to get on the same page. Considering the excitement of a home opener and first game under new Bills coach Doug Marrone, this could be a tricky first game for New England.

Very early favorite: Patriots

No. 2: Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns

Storylines: This is an underrated game involving two young teams with a lot to prove. It also involves an interesting battle of two second-year quarterbacks: Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden. These were two players from the famed 2012 quarterback class that few people talk about on a national scale. The new-look Dolphins spent more than $200 million in free agency and need to get off to a fast start amid high expectations. Miami also will get to face former Dolphins receiver Davone Bess, who was traded to Cleveland this spring.

Very early favorite: Dolphins

No. 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets

Storylines: This game will be hyped by the fact that star cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to make his Tampa debut and return to New York against the Jets. It’s a perfect recipe for disaster if you're the Jets. New Jets general manager John Idzik traded Revis to their Week 1 opponent, and Revis gets a chance to kick off New York’s season with a loss. Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith have not provided any optimism in organized team activities and minicamp that they can attack Revis. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is in a must-win year and has to come up with a wise strategy.

Very early favorite: Buccaneers
New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez is facing his second bout with legal issues in as many days. New York attorney David Jaroslawicz confirmed to ESPN’s Ed Werder that a lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of Alexander S. Bradley, who claims he was shot in arm by Hernandez in February.

The timing of this lawsuit couldn't be any worse for Hernandez. Massachusetts police just searched his home and rental car earlier this week during an investigation for a homicide of a 27-year-old Boston man. Hernandez is not believed to be a suspect, a source told the USA Today.

But this latest lawsuit claims Bradley, who has been a friend of Hernandez for several years, got into an argument with the tight end in Miami back in February. The lawsuit claims Hernandez shot Bradley in the arm and the bullet traveled up to his head and damaged his eye. Bradley reportedly required surgery to fix the damage.

These are certainly interesting times for Patriots tight ends -- and not in a good way. Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski just had back surgery, and his status is questionable for Week 1. In addition, Hernandez now has two legal issues to face with training camp starting in about five weeks.

Jets claim former Dolphins WR

September, 1, 2012
The Miami Dolphins had arguably the worst group of wide receivers in the preseason. This was a group that couldn't make plays and could catch the football with any consistency.

Still, the New York Jets reportedly claimed Dolphins castoff receiver Clyde Gates off waivers on Saturday. Gates has much-needed speed but struggled in Miami to make plays. Perhaps the Jets feel they can coach Gates up and get more out of him in their system.

Gates played in Miami under new Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who gets to coach the receiver again. In New York’s ground-and-pound offense, the Jets need speedy receivers to beat defenses deep if opponents stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

Speaking of receivers, the Dolphins claimed former Washington Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong. He caught seven passes for 103 yards last season.

Miami Dolphins cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
Click here for a complete list of Miami Dolphins' roster moves.

Most significant move: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, head coach Joe Philbin and the rest of his coaching staff warned their wide receivers that they needed to step up. This is Miami's weakest area, and week after week, receivers dropped balls and failed to make plays. Still, it was surprising that Miami cut two receivers of significance: Clyde Gates and Roberto Wallace. Both were on the bubble, but at least one was expected to make the cut -- especially on a receiver-deprived team. The Dolphins also released fellow receivers Chris Hogan, B.J. Cunningham and Jeff Fuller. The Dolphins said in the spring that they liked their receivers group; clearly, those opinions changed after training camp and the preseason.

Onward and upward: Miami made two free-agent additions to help the team’s depth at linebacker this offseason: Jamaal Westerman and Gary Guyton. Both players had starting experience and had played in the AFC East. But neither fit well with Miami’s new 4-3 defense. The Dolphins decided to cut their losses and not take either on their 53-man roster. There’s a good chance other teams will be looking for veteran linebackers, and due to their experience, both have a chance to land elsewhere.

What's next: Miami should be one of the busiest teams in free agency and scanning waivers. The Dolphins are rebuilding and need a lot of upgrades and depth. Wide receiver and safety are two positions Miami certainly will have its eye on. The Dolphins have a long way to go to make their roster into a contender. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs some assistance in his first season. So expect more changes in Miami before its Week 1 game against the Houston Texans.

Observation deck: Dolphins-Cowboys

August, 30, 2012
The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their 2012 preseason with a 30-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Miami finished winless in the preseason for the first time since 1989.

Here are several notes and observations:

What I liked: Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill was efficient in limited playing time. He made safe throws and finished 5-of-7 for 35 yards. Miami led 3-0 when Tannehill exited the game. He looks fairly ready for the regular season. Backup running back Daniel Thomas also ran well. The second-year tailback, who is in Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s doghouse for tardiness, gained 31 yards on five carries. It appears Miami’s running game should be the best part of its offense.

What I didn’t like: The Dolphins have few playmakers and little depth. The backups were throttled by Dallas’ reserves, which is a trend we saw throughout the AFC East division this preseason. Dolphins No. 2 quarterback Matt Moore finished his miserable preseason, completing just 4 of 12 passes and another interception. This time Moore’s turnover was a pick-six. The receiver position is still an issue. No one has really stepped up to claim the top spots heading into the regular season.

Fields is ready: Miami punter Brandon Fields already is in midseason form. Fields’ punts were booming Friday. He had an average of 50.2 yards on six punts. With a young offense, Fields could be needed a lot this year.

What’s next: The Dolphins will travel in their regular-season opener to face the Houston Texans. It’s a tough game for Miami, which is rebuilding with a rookie quarterback, to hit the road and face a playoff-caliber team in its home opener.
Last week of the preseason was the “dress rehearsal.” This week is all about survival.

The final preseason game is upon us with another four games in the AFC East. Avoiding injuries are the biggest key. But here are some other things to watch:

No. 1: Can Patriots prepare Jeff Demps?

Thoughts: The New England Patriots have a great opportunity to prepare Jeff Demps in the fourth preseason game. Demps was a late arrival after winning a silver medal in the Olympics. Demps performed well in his NFL debut. He rushed for 41 yards and had two kickoff returns and one punt return. New England should play Demps as much as possible Wednesday night against the New York Giants. He missed all of training camp and half the preseason.

No. 2: How many reps for Ryan Tannehill?

Thoughts: The Miami Dolphins are in a very tricky spot with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The first-round pick and Week 1 starter needs the reps. However, the purpose of this game is to exit injury-free. Tannehill will play Wednesday against the Dallas Cowboys. However, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin should put the rookie on a pitch count. Tannehill should play at least on full quarter to prepare for the Houston Texans in the regular-season opener.

No. 3: Is Tarvaris Jackson ready?

Thoughts: The Buffalo Bills need to get new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson quickly acclimated to their offense in the preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. Jackson will be the No. 2 quarterback this year behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jackson probably will run basic plays this week but needs to be a fast learner in the event Fitzpatrick suffers an early-season injury.

No. 4: Can Jason Smith contribute?

Thoughts: The Jets made a swap for struggling right tackles this week. New York acquired Jason Smith of the St. Louis Rams in exchange for Wayne Hunter. Smith is a draft bust and former No. 2 overall pick. He still has some promise and will play a limited role as the third tackle off the bench. Smith should get plenty of playing time.

Morning take: Bills in playoffs?

August, 28, 2012
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC East:
  • Is this finally the season the Buffalo Bills make it back to the playoffs?
Morning take: It’s been 13 years, so maybe Buffalo is due. The Bills have the roster to compete. But you have wonder about their depth and a whether this team can learn how to win together for the first time.
Morning take: According to Adam Schefter, it could be a sprained MCL. It’s unknown if Long will play the regular-season opener against the Houston Texans. Rookie Jonathan Martin will take over Long’s spot until he’s healthy.
Morning take: You try not to overact to the preseason, but it’s hard to ignore New York’s struggling offense. This side of the football will be key to the overall success of the team.
Morning take: Yes it is. Anything less would be a disappointment after coming within one drive of a title last year. But getting back to the big game is extremely difficult, and New England needs a lot to go right.