NFL Nation: Ikechuku Ndukwe

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
6:19
PM ET
Denver

Potential unrestricted free agents: P Mitch Berger, S Vernon Fox, T Brandon Gorin, Nick Greisen, G Ben Hamilton, G Russ Hochstein, DE Vonnie Holliday, CB Ty Law, WR Brandon Lloyd

Potential restricted free agents: LB Elvis Dumervil, OL Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler, DT Le Kevin Smith

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Broncos’ restricted class is talented. That will be the focus. It has been reported that Marshall, Orton, Dumervil, Scheffler and Kuper will all get one-year tenders. Marshall very well could be traded. It wouldn’t be a shock if Dumervil gets some action on the restricted market. Miami could be interested.

Kansas City

Potential unrestricted free agents: OL Andy Alleman, S Mike Brown, WR Chris Chambers, WR Terrance Copper, TE Sean Ryan, C Wade Smith, LB Mike Vrabel, WR Bobby Wade

Potential restricted free agents: RB Jackie Battle, QB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, OL Ikechuku Ndukwe, OL Rudy Niswanger, OL Ryan O'Callaghan, S Jarrad Page

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Chiefs are interested in keeping some of their unrestricted free agents. General manager Scott Pioli said at the combine the team has been in contact with several of their free agents. Chambers is the focus. The team is trying to keep him. Brown and Vrabel could also return with new deals.

Oakland

Potential unrestricted free agents: S Hiram Eugene, G Cornell Green, T Langston Walker, LB Sam Williams

Potential restricted free agents: LB Jon Alston, OL Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, LB Jon Condo, QB Charlie Frye, QB Bruce Gradkowski, LB Thomas Howard, RB Luke Lawton, OL Chris Morris, LB Kirk Morrison, CB Stanford Routt, RB Gary Russell

Franchise player: DE Richard Seymour.

What to expect: The Raiders franchised Seymour and signed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to a record deal, so they’ve already been busy. It will be interesting to see how they tender Howard and Morrison. The Raiders could use some new life at linebacker and this could be the start of it.

San Diego

Potential unrestricted free agents: DT Alfonso Boone, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, C Dennis Norman, WR Kassim Osgood. T Jon Runyan, DT Ian Scott, TE Kris Wilson

Potential restricted free agents: OL Jeromey Clary, LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, OL Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DT Travis Johnson, OL Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles, QB Charlie Whitehurst

Franchise player: None

What to expect: The Chargers have their hands full. It’s been reported they will give high tenders to Jackson, Merriman, McNeill and Floyd. Jackson and McNeill could still attract some interest on the restricted market. Sproles is not expected to be tendered, making him a free agent. The Chargers want him back. But if Sproles hits the open market, the multifaceted weapon could be scooped up quickly.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DANA POINT, Calif. -- A pair of Miami Dolphins earned hefty bonuses as part of the NFL's performance-based pay system.

Right guard Ikechuku Ndukwe received $266,912, and tight end Anthony Fasano received $253,769 from a league-wide pool of about $105 million that was doled out, the NFL announced Tuesday at the annual owners' meeting in the St. Regis Hotel.

The performance-based pay system was instituted in 2002 to reward playing time compared to salaries. San Diego Chargers tackle Jeromey Clary was the biggest winner with a check for $405,859.

The only other AFC East player to crack the top 25 was New York Jets rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery, a fourth-round pick who started the first 10 games of last season. He received $263,509.

Wildcat coughs up a fur ball

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
8:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

MIAMI -- The Wildcat looked more like a fluffy Persian kitty.

'Wildcat' formation falling behind
Opp.UsesYdsAvg.TDW-L
NE 6 119 19.8 4 Won
SD 11 49 4.5 1 Won
Hou 8 84 10.5 1 Lost
Bal 5 4 0.8 0 Lost

The first three games the Miami Dolphins used their Wildcat offense it played a significant role. They recorded two victories and lost on a fourth-down desperation scramble in the final seconds.

The Baltimore Ravens found a way to tame the unusual formation -- an unbalanced line with running back Ronnie Brown taking a direct shotgun snap -- in Sunday's 27-13 victory in Dolphin Stadium.

"They are the No. 1 defense in the league, and we knew it was going to be tough," Dolphins running back Patrick Cobbs said. "Our execution wasn't as good as it should have been. I credit a lot to them, and we have to go back to the drawing board."

The Dolphins called a Wildcat play only six times. One was aborted by a false start. The five snaps generated 4 yards.

  • Brown runs for minus-1 yard
  • Right guard Ikechuku Ndukwe false start
  • Brown hands off to Ricky Williams for 5 yards
  • Brown runs for no gain
  • Brown runs for minus-3 yards
  • Brown hands off to Cobbs for 3 yards

Fans might have noticed the Dolphins run some plays that resembled the Wildcat but were not counted as such because quarterback Chad Pennington took the snaps before making an inside handoff (or faking it) to Brown or Williams on a misdirection.

The Wildcat failed to produce a touchdown for the first time. Miami scored six touchdowns out of that formation in the previous three games.

Baltimore also snapped Brown's four-game touchdown streak.

In the locker room afterward, some frustrated Dolphins sounded fed up about answering Wildcat questions.

"It's funny," Brown said. "The first couple of weeks, everybody was talking about 'Wildcat! Wildcat!' This is just part of our offense. It wasn't so much about the Wildcat. It's about our offense as a whole wasn't able to execute and put up plays and it showed. Running the football, we weren't able to get much going."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- Two weeks into the season, Miami Dolphins ridicule had resumed. The wait-and-see grace period was over.

New football operations department, new general manager, new head coach, half a new roster ... the Dolphins didn't look any different than the version that went 1-15 last year.

 
  Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
 Rookie tackle Jake Long and the rest of the Dolphins O-line showed a new side against the Patriots in Week 3.

Derision was spread thickly and impartially. But the place it stung most of all in the Dolphins locker room was among the offensive linemen. Their running attack was nil. Sacks were plentiful.

"People were ragging on the O-line pretty bad," rookie left tackle Jake Long said.

Rags to rushes was the line's theme last week. The Dolphins exploded in Week 3 with a 38-13 frolic over the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.

Most of the attention was trained on the captivating single-wing Wildcat offense the Dolphins unveiled. But the offensive line controlled the game regardless of the formation.

"They had something to prove in the game, no doubt about it," said Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, a long-time offensive line assistant. "You take criticism for a couple weeks about not running the ball, offensive linemen take that personally, offensive line coaches take that personally. And they should."

In one afternoon's work, against one of the NFL's best front sevens and arguably the most fearsome defensive line, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams each tripled his rushing yardage output for the season.

Brown ran 17 times for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Williams ran 16 times for 98 yards.

"Did anybody give us any chance, really, to play like that?" left guard Justin Smiley said. "Everybody in our room did. We know what we're capable of doing and how we're capable of playing, but the first two weeks we didn't execute. Last week we went into the game hitting on all cylinders, and we dominated."

Domination isn't a word Dolfans are used to hearing in their favor, but their revamped offensive line was in total command against the Patriots.

The Dolphins linemen don't view their performance as one good afternoon but as a coming-of-age performance for a group still learning to play together. They'll have a chance to back up their performance Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, who rank 13th in rushing defense but third in third-down efficiency.

"We were as good as an offense can play," Smiley said. "We set the bar awfully high. That's what's expected of us now.

"So now there's no excuse every week. We have to go out there and play like that."

Only second-year center Samson Satele is in the same position as 2007. Smiley, from the San Francisco 49ers, was the Dolphins' top free-agent signing. Long was the No. 1 draft choice. Right tackle Vernon Carey lined up on the other side last year. The Dolphins signed right guard Ike Ndukwe off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before the season finale.

Carey, who is 27 years old, is the oldest offensive lineman. He and Smiley are in their fifth seasons, making them the unit's most experienced. All five starting linemen have only 127 career starts combined.

By comparison, Jets guard Alan Faneca has 157 career starts and Jets tackle Damien Woody has 124. The three-man Patriots defensive line the Dolphins went against last week have 217 career starts among them.

"I go against them every day," Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter said of the Dolphins O-linemen. "They're a young group. In time, around Week 8, Week 9 they'll be able to prove how good they really are."

Suffice to say, with Bill Parcells running Miami's football operations, establishing a redoubtable offensive line was a high priority. Sparano was Parcells' offensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins brought in Mike Maser, who has coached NFL offensive lines for 14 years.

But Miami's running game was a joke through the first two games.

Brown and Williams had grand plans to rush for 1,000 yards apiece, but 19 backs, including four rookies, had more yards than the 121 yards the Dolphins mustered as a team -- and that figure included a couple receiver reverses and a quarterback scramble.

So much for smashmouth, right? You wondered if Sparano would rather get caught singing Smashmouth songs into his hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror than call a run play on third and 3.

From an offensive lineman's perspective, mocking a team's ground game is tantamount to questioning his manhood. But the Dolphins had no one to blame but themselves.

"We weren't running the ball like we wanted to," Long said. "Everybody was talking, and that was the big thing: 'Why can't this offensive line open up holes?'

"We took that personally and put it on ourselves and took the blame."

Then they went out and bulldozed the vaunted Patriots defense, gashing their renowned defensive front in earnest.

Miami befuddled New England with the Wildcat package only six times. Take out those unusual plays and Miami still had 342 net yards, didn't allow a sack and gave Chad Pennington enough time to complete 17 of 20 passes.

"Whether that be good or bad, that's the way it is now," Smiley said. "Now people know we can play that way. There's no gimmicks. It's the way things have taken shape.

"Obviously, a lot of people were down on us, but with good reason. We weren't playing up to expectations. We're showing our capabilities now."

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