NFL Nation: Caleb Sturgis

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins second-year kicker Caleb Sturgis had an interesting summer. So much is the case that last season's leading scorer (111 points) is suddenly a question mark heading into the Week 1 matchup against the New England Patriots.

Sturgis was hampered most of training camp with a groin injury. It prevented him from kicking in the first three preseason games. Sturgis made his preseason debut last week against the St. Louis Rams and missed his only field-goal attempt.

Will Sturgis be in regular-season form Sunday in a big division game against New England? No one knows for sure, but Sturgis remains confident.

"I think it’s just going back to the confidence in what you do," Sturgis told Thursday. "It’s the same thing I’ve been doing the last eight or nine years of my life. I feel like I’ve perfected it and need to just rely on what I do and not change anything."

Miami has played musical chairs at kicker this summer because of multiple injuries. In addition to Sturgis' groin ailment, John Potter also suffered a hip injury before being released. Danny Hrappman also kicked for Miami and was 1-for-1 in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Dolphins do not have another kicker on the 53-man roster this week, which is an indication they have confidence in Sturgis' health and performance. During his rookie year Sturgis had issues with consistency, making just 76.5 percent of his field-goal attempts.

"He’s in his second year. We expect him to have a better year than he did last year," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. "This is Week 1 of the season. We are getting ready for that. Yeah, I have a lot of confidence in him."

Sturgis said he’s a better kicker than a year ago. He believes he has a better feel for Sun Life Stadium and good chemistry with his holder Brandon Fields and long snapper John Denny. But Sturgis cannot prove it this season unless he stays healthy.

"I don’t think for any position you enjoy being injured or ever get used to it," Sturgis explained. "All you can do is keep your mind on is getting healthy and wanting to be healthy."

W2W4: Miami Dolphins

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The Miami Dolphins (2-1) will host the St. Louis Rams (1-2) on Thursday night (7 ET) at Sun Life Stadium.

1. Bubble watch: This will be an important game for several key Dolphins who are on the roster bubble. Running back Daniel Thomas, receiver/kick returner Marcus Thigpen and defensive back Don Jones are among the bigger names who should be nervous entering Thursday’s game. Miami still needs to cut 22 players before Saturday and these three must prove themselves against St. Louis to avoid the chopping block.

2. Special teams: After last week’s poor performance, the Dolphins have a lot of questions on special teams. For starters, Miami kicker Caleb Sturgis is expected to return from a groin injury. Sturgis must prove he’s ready for Week 1. The Dolphins' coverage teams also gave up big returns and Brandon Fields had a punt blocked that was called back due to a penalty. Miami's third phase, as a whole, needs a much better showing in the final preseason game.

3. Quiet homecoming: Partially because it's preseason, there has been virtually no fanfare for Jake Long's first return to Miami since leaving in 2013 as a free agent. Long was a former No. 1 overall pick for the Dolphins in 2008 and had six productive years in Miami. But Long suffered through various injuries the past few years, and the Dolphins no longer believed he was worth the price tag. Thursday will mark Long’s first game in Miami since departing as a free agent.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins finished their final practice in preparation for Thursday’s preseason final against the St. Louis Rams at Sun Life Stadium.

Here are some notes and observations:
  • Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis returned to practice on Tuesday. His kicks looked strong and he didn’t show any ill effects from his groin injury. Miami has had injury issues at the kicker position, but it appears Sturgis is on his way back to the field. “All initial reports are positive,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “We’ll see once he warms up [Thursday] if we can get him out there.”
  • Philbin was not as forthright with the playing time of his starters Thursday, particularly his starting offense. It remains unknown if starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Co. will play against the Rams. Last year, Tannehill did not play in the final preseason game. But last week, Miami’s offense struggled to put points on the board against the Dallas Cowboys in the third preseason game as the Dolphins’ starters scored just three points in six possessions. Miami may want to get its first-team offense some confidence before its Week 1 showdown against the rival New England Patriots.
  • Miami backup running back Daniel Thomas said he’s ready to make his preseason debut against St. Louis. Thomas missed some of training camp and the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. Since then, Miami rookie running backs Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa have stepped up and played, which has put Thomas’ roster spot in jeopardy. Thursday’s preseason game may be Thomas’ last chance to impress. “It’s pretty important,” Thomas admitted. “I haven’t gone out there in a while. So I just want to show coaches that my hamstring is good, I’m feeling good and I’m ready to play good.”
  • There were dual “Play of the Day” candidates in practice. The first big play was Tannehill throwing a 30-plus-yard touchdown to speedy receiver Mike Wallace in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. There has been a lot of chatter about Tannehill and Wallace’s inability to connect on big plays, and that was a nice connection. The second play of the day was a pick-six by safety Reshad Jones off quarterback Brady Quinn in team drills.
  • The Dolphins are currently at 86 players. They have to make 11 cuts to get down to 75 players by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.’s Dolphins blog will provide a cut-down analysis Tuesday evening once the team makes it decision.

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill had perhaps his worst practice of training camp Monday. Tannehill threw three interceptions in team drills, including two returned for touchdowns by cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Will Davis. Tannehill’s third interception was to safety Reshad Jones. Tannehill’s day was erratic, and it comes following a good performance Saturday during the Dolphins’ annual scrimmage. To his credit, Tannehill didn’t play with many of his key wide receivers and worked with a new center in Samson Satele.
  • The “Player of the Day” was Davis, who was all over the field. Davis had the pick-6 off Tannehill and at least three pass-breakups in team drills. The second-year cornerback has a penchant for making plays and is now working on his consistency. "I just had aggressive opportunities to make plays, and I made them," Davis said. "It was one of those days where I came in, made a play early, which fills you up, and then you’re reacting right [to the ball]."
  • Miami’s injury list continues to grow. Today I wrote about ailments affecting tight end Charles Clay (knee), backup quarterback Pat Devlin (hamstring) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (groin). During practice the Dolphins suffered additional injuries to defensive end Olivier Vernon, tight end Michael Egnew and offensive lineman Nate Garner. The Dolphins had several full-padded practices in the past week, and the injuries are adding up.
  • The Dolphins continued to mix and match on the offensive line. Satele and Sam Brenner rotated with the starters at center. Shelley Smith took snaps with the first team and second team at guard. Miami is still using a lot of combinations on the offense line and eventually must settle on a starting five to begin developing continuity.
  • The Dolphins will take the field again at 8 a.m. Tuesday for their 10th practice of training camp. Miami continues to prepare for its first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said he will determine playing time for the offense and defense after practice on Wednesday.
Jamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis AP Photo, Getty ImagesJamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis made a minimal impact as rookies.
Most of the attention over the next three weeks will be focused on the 2014 NFL draft, as each team tries to shape its present and future by identifying the right college players to fill needs.

But for the Miami Dolphins, success or failure this season will depend more on the development of the 2013 draft class. Few teams got less production from their rookies last year than Miami. Only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks had fewer snaps from first-year players -- and those teams, which competed in Super Bowl XLVIII, were stacked with established veterans.

The Dolphins, who faltered down the stretch and finished 8-8, did not have that luxury.

It's time for Miami's second-year players to come of age during an important time for many within the organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is entering an important third year after going 15-17 his first two seasons, and there could be a lot of change next year if the Dolphins aren't successful.

Most of Miami's top picks -- including defensive end Dion Jordan, offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis -- basically had red-shirt seasons in 2013, thanks to injuries, inconsistency and lack of confidence from the coaching staff. That lack of production was one reason why the Dolphins failed to get to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

"They got less than anybody in the league out of their draft class, and they had high picks. That's a huge issue," NFL scout Matt Williamson said. "But if that group, the corners and especially Jordan, can play up to what Miami thought they were and what most people thought they were, the Dolphins could rebound."

"We have a lot of hope for the draft class from last year," Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings in late March. "A lot of them have been back early, working. You want to see development throughout the course of an individual player's career, but I think all of you guys would agree you usually see a significant jump between Year 1 and Year 2. These are guys we thought highly of a year ago when we drafted them.

"They had some injury issues that kind of curtailed their development in Year 1. So I'm excited about working with them, developing them and seeing them progress here this season."

The 2013 draft class was one point of contention last year between Miami's coaching staff and the front office. Philbin didn't feel his rookies were ready to take on larger roles. Jeff Ireland, then the Dolphins' general manager, believed in the talent of his draft picks and felt they were not being used properly. Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, was perhaps the biggest example.

Due to offseason shoulder surgery, Jordan missed time in training camp and the preseason. He never found his footing in the regular season and he fell behind veteran defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby.

Williamson described Jordan as "a ridiculous athlete." He has immense potential but spent most of the season as the third or fourth defensive end and on special teams. He was involved in 321 snaps and had a disappointing 26 tackles and two sacks.

There have also been offseason trade rumors involving Jordan, which Philbin has denied. Miami's head coach expects Jordan to have a larger role in 2014.

"We feel like with a full offseason, with more time devoted to his fundamentals, he will have a better grasp of the position he's playing," Philbin said. "We do want to do a better job with the numbers, rotating him in. ... We want to get him more snaps on first and second down. "

The Dolphins also are counting on young corners Taylor and Davis, who were drafted in the second and third round, respectively. Both had injury setbacks last season and played a combined 104 snaps.

Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes will occupy one starting job, and Taylor and Davis will compete with veteran free-agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan for the other spot. Finnegan, a former Pro Bowl corner, is the favorite to start due to experience. But Philbin is not going in with any preconceived notions.

"I want to see the best player, whoever can help us win football games," Philbin explained. "Whoever performs the best should be the starting corner."

Miami got most of its rookie production last year from unlikely sources. Fifth-round kicker Caleb Sturgis proved to be the Dolphins' best rookie acquisition last season. He beat out longtime Miami kicker Dan Carpenter in training camp and led the Dolphins with 111 points.

The Dolphins also had decent production from undrafted rookie guard Sam Brenner, who made four starts and played 274 snaps. Brenner stepped up following the suspension of guard Richie Incognito in Miami's high-profile bullying scandal.

Brenner's production highlighted the fact that Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick, was too green to step in and be productive. Thomas was rotated between guard and tackle in training camp and never got comfortable in either position. Thomas must find a home at this season in order to provide quality depth.

In fact, it will be vital for Miami's entire 2013 draft class to find roles and contribute next season. The Dolphins used nine draft picks last year, and most have yet to make an impact.

"The Dolphins have a young quarterback [Ryan Tannehill], so they need to build a real core for the long term," Williamson said. "They need last year's draft and this upcoming come to build around Tannehill. They don't need to live for today. A strong core is more important than winning it all this year, although that philosophy can get you fired in Miami if you're 6-10."

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 15, 2013

MIAMI -- Thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

What it means: The Dolphins picked up their biggest victory of the season to improve to 8-6 thanks to a late touchdown pass by quarterback Ryan Tannehill to running back Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 remaining and a big defensive stop to end the game. Unheralded safety Michael Thomas picked off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the end zone with two seconds remaining. Miami also snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots (10-4), who still hold a firm lead in the AFC East. However, the Dolphins hold sole possession of the final wild-card spot in the AFC -- even if just for a day. The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami and will try to reclaim the sixth seed when they play the Detroit Lions on “Monday Night Football."

Stock Watch: Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace had another solid performance. Wallace had six receptions for 105 yards and a 39-yard touchdown catch before halftime. It was Wallace’s fourth 100-yard game of the season. Wallace’s chemistry with Tannehill has improved tremendously in the second half of the season.

In terms of stock down, the Patriots did a terrific job to shut down Miami tight end Charles Clay. New England made a concerted effort to stop Clay by rolling extra coverage his way. Clay had zero receptions in the first half and just one reception in the game.

Field goal folly: Miami had a costly mistake in the first half. Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis lined up for a 42-yarder that was botched as Miami was going for the tie before halftime. Long-snapper John Denney snapped the ball to an unsuspecting Brandon Fields, and the ball hit Fields in the helmet. The Patriots recovered and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive before the half.

What’s next: The Dolphins will hit the road for their final road game of the regular season to play the Buffalo Bills Sunday in an effort to split the season series. The Bills upset the Dolphins in Miami 23-21 in Week 7. The Dolphins will need to win this game to firmly remain in the playoff hunt.

Patriots-Dolphins halftime notes

December, 15, 2013
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins trail the New England Patriots, 10-7, at halftime.

Here are some notes at intermission.
  • New England head coach Bill Belichick added an interesting wrinkle on defense. The Patriots put No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib on Miami tight end Charles Clay several times on passing downs. Belichick spoke very highly of Clay this past week. For him to put New England’s best cover corner on a tight end speaks to that level of respect. Clay has zero receptions in the first half.
  • The Patriots are giving Miami second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill a lot of different pre-snap looks. Tannehill looked confused several times and checked into a few bad plays. Tannehill also has been sacked three times in the first half before throwing a 39-yard touchdown to receiver Mike Wallace before the half ended.
  • Miami had a big football folly in the first half. Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis lined up for a 42-yard that was botched. Long-snapper John Denny snapped the ball to an unsuspecting Brandon Fields and the ball hit Fields in the helmet. The Patriots recovered and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
  • Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter. His return to the game is questionable.

Dolphins can't overlook kicking game

December, 6, 2013
DAVIE, Fla. – Heinz Field can be a house of horrors for opposing kickers. Miami Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis will get his first taste of one of the trickiest winter stadiums to play in the NFL.

Whether it is wind, a slippery surface or inclement weather, Heinz Field potentially has it all in December. Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) is an important one for both teams and could come down to kicking and field position.

“I’ve never been there, but watching it on TV, Pittsburgh always is pretty tough conditions,” Sturgis said Friday. “I know multiple teams play on the field. They do have the lower end zone there. Around this time of the year you’re in between snow and rain. So I hear it’s pretty tough.”

Sturgis started the year hot, making his first 10 field goals. Since then, Sturgis is 13 of his last 20 (65 percent). He’s missed at least one field goal in five of his past seven games, including two misses in a Week 8 loss to the New England Patriots.

Many opposing kickers have missed field goals at Heinz Field. Therefore, Sturgis must be at his best.

“I’m not a meteorologist, but I think that open end and that wind can play some tricks,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said.

The Dolphins (6-6) have little margin for error in their push for the playoffs. They cannot afford to leave points on the field due to missed field goals.

Sturgis, who played at the University of Florida, said he’s never kicked in the snow. This may be a first on Sunday if the early forecasts in Pittsburgh hold true.

“I heard you prefer snow over really cold rain; I’ve been told that,” Sturgis explained. “You have to be a little bit lighter on your feet to make sure your foot is not going to slip from under you. You have to still stay square to your target.”

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 27, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: Despite a strong effort, the Dolphins (3-4) dropped their fourth straight game and their first two in the AFC East. Miami spent its entire offseason trying to close the gap with the Patriots. It looked good for the first half following a fast start. The Dolphins led 17-3 at halftime. But New England turned it on at home and rode the wave of 24 unanswered points in the second half to get the victory. You have to wonder when things will turn around for the Dolphins. Miami has not won since Sept. 22, but the effort is there.

Stock Watch: Rising: New Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie played relatively well in his Miami debut. Coming off just three days of practice, McKinnie did a solid job on New England defensive end Chandler Jones. McKinnie should improve once he gets more time to learn the offense. Miami defensive tackle Jared Odrick also had arguably his best game of the year with four tackles and two sacks.

Falling: Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis and quarterback Ryan Tannehill had two game-changing plays that hurt Miami. Sturgis missed a key 46-yard field goal in the third quarter that ultimately led to New England's first touchdown. He also had a field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. Tannehill was sacked by Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan and fumbled in the third quarter. New England tied the score with another touchdown. Tannehill also threw two interceptions.

The officiating also was shaky. The Dolphins had a few questionable calls against them, including a 10-yard penalty for illegal batting of the ball by Olivier Vernon that kept New England’s drive alive and led to a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Big loss: Miami’s receiving corps took a big hit in the first quarterback when slot receiver Brandon Gibson suffered a left knee injury. Gibson went high for a pass and landed awkwardly. He was carted to the locker room. Gibson is expected to miss significant time. Miami has only three healthy receivers on its 53-man roster and most likely will sign another from the practice squad or in free agency.

What’s next: The Dolphins will not have a lot of time to recover from this tough loss. They will host the first-place Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. This could be Miami’s last chance to make something significant of its season. The Dolphins, who had preseason playoff aspirations, can get back to .500 with a victory. A loss to Cincinnati would make it five straight and put a major dent in any hopes of a postseason run.
It wasn't long ago when Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter was involved in one of the biggest training-camp storylines with the Miami Dolphins.

[+] EnlargeCarpenter
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsDan Carpenter spent five mostly successful seasons in Miami, but the Dolphins decided to go in another direction last spring at the kicker spot.
Carpenter was a longtime kicker in Miami who was being pushed out by rookie draft pick Caleb Sturgis. Carpenter's career was mostly successful with the Dolphins -- he made the Pro Bowl in 2009 -- until he hit rough patches last year under a new coaching staff.

Several missed kicks in key spots last year influenced the Dolphins to look for an alternative in April's NFL draft. Miami cut Carpenter on Aug. 14 after the second preseason game. Now, Carpenter has found a new home in Buffalo (2-4) and will face the Dolphins (3-2) for the first time Sunday.

Carpenter is off to a stellar start with the Bills, making 12 of his 13 field-goal attempts. He also has three field goals of 50 yards or more.

Although Carpenter is coming to Sun Life Stadium to beat his former team, he said his motivation isn't personal.

"I don't have any bitter feelings about what happened," Carpenter said Wednesday in a phone interview with "I understand it's a business, and obviously they found a young [kicker] who is doing really well for them. But it will be fun. It will be different to come back to Florida and get dressed in the visiting locker room and come out of the tunnel and go to the other sideline. It will be something new and I'm excited."

Carpenter, who spent five years with the Dolphins, said he's not sure what type of reception he will receive this weekend in his return to Miami. He was once a popular special teams player. But Dolphins fans eventually grew frustrated last year when he failed to make several field goals in big spots. A case can be made that Miami could have won an extra game or two last year if Carpenter was more consistent.

The writing was on the wall for Carpenter in the spring when Miami spent a fifth-round pick on Sturgis. Carpenter also was due to make $2.68 million from the Dolphins in the final year of his contract, compared to Sturgis' $405,000 salary.

To this day, Carpenter isn't sure how much salary factored into the decision.

"To answer the financial question, I don't know financially where Miami sits. ... So that's kind of a hard question to answer," Carpenter said. "I was given just as many kicking opportunities in camp and in the games that [Sturgis] was. To his credit, he did really well and they went with him. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm now in Buffalo and enjoying my time up here. We're going to come down there and try to get a win."

Imagine this scenario: There's just a few seconds left in Sunday's game and Buffalo trails Miami by two points. Carpenter lines up to attempt a game-winning field goal that could send the Dolphins spiraling to a three-game losing streak.

It's a real possibility, and Carpenter admits the thought has crossed his mind.

"As a kicker you think about that every week," Carpenter said. "Every game in the NFL is usually very tight, score-wise. They're always close. A lot of games come down to three points or less in this league. That just shows the competitiveness of this league. That's something that could play out any week, and any week you hit a game-winner it's going to be special."

Keep an eye on Carpenter this weekend on Buffalo's sideline. If the game is close, an old friend could have a chance for revenge against at a crucial time.

Can Dolphins special teams make impact?

September, 29, 2013
DAVIE, Fla. -- When you have two undefeated teams playing at a high level, something unexpected could be the difference.

Could special teams play a major role in Monday’s huge matchup between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints?

"It’s huge," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “They have excellent specialists. We feel like our specialists have played very, very well up to this point in time. They have a good group of core players, as do we. ... It’s going to be a very good matchup in special teams.”

The Dolphins take the third phase of the game very serious, and it’s one reason Miami is 3-0. Philbin plays several starters on his special-teams units and also is getting tremendous production from his rookie class.

Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis is perfect in six field goal attempts, which includes two makes of 50 yards or more. Seventh-round pick Don Jones has been a monster on special teams and he caused a critical fumble last week against the Atlanta Falcons. No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan also has contributed.

The Dolphins are starting to find their right mix of aggressive, special-teams players.

“I think special teams is all about who wants it the most,” Jones said. “You got to line up and say, ‘I’m going to kick your tail on this rep,’ and then do it.”

Most of the hype this week has revolved around the big keys on offense and defense for Miami and New Orleans. But winning on special teams could also go a long way.

Thoughts on GM Jeff Ireland's extension

September, 23, 2013
The Miami Dolphins extended general manager Jeff Ireland’s contract through at least 2014, a source told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald on Monday. The move happened in the offseason, according to the report.

Here are some thoughts on the extension:
  • The timing of the news is interesting. This is as good a time as any to get word out on the extension. Ireland has been an unpopular figure in Miami for years, but his image is coming around after a 3-0 start. If this move was announced when it happened, that likely would have garnered a bad reaction from Dolphins fans.
  • The extension shows how much confidence owner Stephen Ross has in Ireland. The Dolphins were 7-9 last year, and Ross still made the move. Ross also opened his wallet this offseason to allow Ireland to spend more than $200 million in contracts this offseason. The two have a good relationship that involves trust on both sides.
  • Miami’s fast start all but ends any talk of Ireland on the hot seat. The team is winning and Ireland's moves this offseason are panning out. Free agents such as receiver Mike Wallace, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Brent Grimes are all major contributors to the Dolphins staying undefeated. Draft picks such as defensive end Dion Jordan, tight end Dion Sims, kicker Caleb Sturgis and cornerback Don Jones are also making plays early.

Four silent contributors for Dolphins

September, 17, 2013
The Miami Dolphins are a surprise team off to a 2-0 start after beating the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns.

How are the Dolphins doing it? Here are five under-the-radar reasons Miami is undefeated:

Tight end Charles Clay: There were questions this preseason of who would step up in the absence of former starting tight end Dustin Keller. Clay has done a good job of filling Keller’s role in the first two weeks of the regular season. Clay is tied for second on the team with 10 receptions and is second in yards with 163. He had a big game Sunday against Indianapolis with five catches for 109 yards. With much of the focus on receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, Clay has been able to do some damage underneath to keep the chains moving.

Third-down defense: Miami’s defense is getting off the field when it matters most on third downs. Opponents are being held to a 27.6-percent conversion rate on third down. By comparison, Miami’s offense is converting on 46.7 percent of its third downs. That’s a huge difference, especially in close games. The Dolphins have been good so far at creating third-and-long situations and getting to the quarterback on obviously passing downs. Miami has nine sacks and four interceptions in two games.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis: Sturgis is quietly proving to be a solid draft pick. The rookie fifth-rounder is a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals, including a big 54-yard kick before halftime that tied the score against the Colts. Sturgis also is perfect on four extra points and consistently produces touchbacks. He’s quickly made Dolphins fans forget about former kicker Dan Carpenter.

Defensive end Derrick Shelby: In limited playing time, Shelby has contributed a sack in each of the first two games. The backup defensive end started to come on strong in the preseason. He’s earned playing time as the fourth defensive before Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, starter Olivier Vernon and rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan.

The Dolphins are getting contributions from both their star players and under-the-radar contributors. It will be key for Miami to continue this trend throughout the season.

Miami Dolphins halftime notes

September, 8, 2013
CLEVELAND -- The Miami Dolphins trail the Cleveland Browns, 7-6, at halftime.

Here are some notes at intermission:
  • Miami’s defense got off to a fast start. The Dolphins forced three interceptions in the first half off Browns starting quarterback Brandon Weeden. The first was a deep ball that floated in the air for Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll. The second and third interceptions were off dropped balls that were tipped for Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who is a former Brown. The Dolphins focused all training camp on creating turnovers. They are doing a good job so far, despite the late touchdown allowed in the first half.
  • But the biggest issue is Miami's offense didn't capitalize on Cleveland's mistakes. The Dolphins' defense forced three turnovers, and Miami only scored three points off those errors. Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis has been money so far. He nailed two field goals in the first half -- of 45 and 49 yards -- for all of Miami’s points. Sturgis also has one touchback in the first half.
  • It’s been mixed results so far from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He is 12-of-18 passing for 98 yards and an interception. Tannehill’s interception came off a bad read where he failed to see Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson underneath in coverage. Jackson tipped the pass and it was picked off by Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson. But Tannehill also has made several nice completions. His best throw was to tight end Charles Clay for 20 yards in the middle of the field.
  • Cleveland defensive lineman Desmond Bryant sacked Tannehill twice in the second quarter. He now has at least one sack in five straight games, dating to last season. The Browns have three sacks in the first half on Tannehill.

It's still a close and competitive game. Check back with the Dolphins page on for post-game reaction.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins completed their final practice for their Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

Here is the latest buzz from Friday's locker room:
  • One of the lesser-known stories this week is how hard the Browns went after Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes. On Friday, I asked Grimes about Cleveland’s pursuit of him in free agency and why he chose Miami instead. Grimes said he was impressed with the Browns and especially defensive coordinator Ray Horton. “It was a cool place; they got a nice situation over there,” Grimes said. “I liked the coaches, I liked the defensive coordinator. They talked a lot about what they had planned on defense and what they could do. It was a good trip, but I made the decision to come to Miami.”
  • Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said he didn’t watch his former team -- the Baltimore Ravens -- play Thursday night. Baltimore’s defense struggled mightily against the Denver Broncos without Ellerbe and defensive leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Baltimore's defense allowed 49 points. “That was a record,” Ellerbe said Friday in the locker room. “That’s definitely not the type of defense they want to play there. But, honestly, I didn’t watch the game last night on purpose. I fell asleep before the game.”
  • Miami rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis says he’s ready to make his NFL debut Sunday. It happens that his NFL debut is in Cleveland, which is right off the lake and can be challenging for kickers. “[I’m] well aware that Cleveland is one of the tougher places to kick,” Sturgis said. “I’m going to try to go out there a little bit early and figure things out.”
  • Dolphins coach Joe Philbin believes his recent trip to northeast Ohio for the Hall of Fame Game will assist with logistics this week. Miami traveled to nearby Canton to play the Dallas Cowboys in August and will do the same this weekend in Cleveland. "One of the reasons we had the extra game is we feel like we’ve been there," Philbin said. "We’re staying at the same hotel we were at. Familiarity is an important part of being successful on the road, being comfortable and playing on the road."

The Dolphins will travel and have meetings on Saturday. Miami will take the field Sunday for their regular-season opener against the Browns at 1 p.m. ET.