NFL Nation: Jason Taylor

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins shook things up on the final day of mandatory minicamp. Instead of a typical practice, head coach Joe Philbin staged a full-scale scrimmage between the aqua team led by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the white team led by No. 2 quarterback Matt Moore.

In the end Moore's white team won, 16-13, in a game that came down to the final play. Players were happy to get a taste of their first "game" situations of the 2014 season.

"It's exciting to be in this type of atmosphere," Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry said after the scrimmage. "We've been talking a lot about bringing that intensity to the field, and I think the guys came with it today in practice. Hopefully, it carries on when we return."

The Dolphins will take about a month off before returning to the field for training camp.

Here are some additional notes from Thursday's scrimmage:

  • [+] EnlargeOlivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill
    AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeOlivier Vernon was one of the stars of Friday's scrimmage, notching 2.5 sacks.
    The most lopsided battle was Miami's defensive line against its offensive line. The Dolphins' defensive line on both teams put on a dominant performance, which unofficially included eight total sacks. Olivier Vernon led the Dolphins with 2.5 sacks, including a pair against Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. "He's real, real good," Albert said after the scrimmage. "I didn't even know who he was until I got here. He's a good football player. He made some good plays. That's part of the game. He got better since I got here."
  • Dolphins rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James also struggled against Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake. The veteran defensive end showed an array of moves. Wake got a half sack against James and nearly got another sack that caused James to get a holding penalty. "His experienced level, his technical stuff, his hands, everything is good," James said of Wake. "You can't make many mistakes and I have to learn from it."
  • Tannehill had a decent outing for the aqua team. He threw his team's only touchdown pass with a beautiful 19-yard strike to receiver Armon Binns. Tannehill also made several connections to Landry and tight end Charles Clay that moved the chains. The primary reason his white team stalled was due to poor pass protection, which was a common theme from last season. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season.
  • Speaking of Landry, he looked more impressive in a game situation Thursday. Landry isn't the biggest or fastest receiver. But he has strong hands and runs good routes. Landry got open on several occasions and made some nice catches over the middle for first downs. He could be a "gamer" type of player -- one who doesn't wow you in practice but knows how to play well in real games.
  • Veteran players who sat out of Thursday's scrimmage included defensive lineman Jared Odrick, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, linebacker Koa Misi and running back Knowshon Moreno.
  • Former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor continues to assist the team's coaching staff and work with Miami's young defensive linemen. According to Philbin, Taylor is always welcome to help but the Dolphins haven't finalized anything in terms of a full-time position. From the sound of it, Taylor could have a choice to join the team in some capacity as long as he's willing to put in the long hours.
  • Now that the offseason program is over, Philbin was asked to list several players who stood out. Philbin cited guard Dallas Thomas, receiver Rishard Matthews and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones became the latest NFL player to have success on "Dancing With The Stars," finishing third on the ABC television series this month. Jones is back practicing with the Ravens and is looking to avoid following in his predecessors' footsteps.

The four active NFL players to participate on DWTS before Jones -- Jason Taylor, Chad Johnson, Hines Ward and Donald Driver -- failed to play a full season in the year they competed on the show and all were either on different teams or retired by the following season.

Does Jones worry about suffering a similar fate?

“I’m on the younger side,” Jones told the team's official website. “I’ll be fine.”

Jones does have youth on his side. At 28, Jones is the youngest NFL player in "Dancing With The Stars" history (according to DWTS Stats & Information).

Taylor, who was 33 when he went on the show in 2008, finished with 3.5 sacks for the Washington Redskins after recording 11 the previous season. He was released in 2009 and signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Johnson, who was 32 on DWTS and had the last name Ochocinco in 2010, managed 67 catches for 831 yards, the second-lowest during his nine seasons as a starting receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was traded to the New England Patriots in 2011.

Ward, who was 35 on the show in 2011, caught 46 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest numbers in more than a decade. He was released in 2012 and later retired with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Driver, who was 37 on DWTS in 2012, had eight receptions for 77 yards, his worst season since his rookie year. He retired with the Green Bay Packers in 2013.

The Ravens can't afford for Jones to decline this season. He has a chance to become a starting receiver for the Ravens after the team traded Anquan Boldin this offseason. At the very least, Jones will be Baltimore's primary returner, which earned him Pro Bowl honors last season.

Jones only missed one week of on-field workouts because of the show. But he hasn't been part of the team's offseason conditioning program, which began April 15.

“My conditioning is good and I’m not sore,” Jones said. “I’ve just got to get my legs back under me, football-wise. It’s not like dancing. I still don’t feel like me. In a week, I’ll feel like me.”

Tony Gonzalez and what might have been

January, 22, 2013
With Tony Gonzalez leaning toward retirement after 16 NFL seasons and 1,242 receptions, I turned back the clock in my mind to 1997, the year San Francisco tried to draft the tight end from California.

The 49ers were in a wheeling and dealing mode in that 1997 draft. They came away with three players -- Jim Druckenmiller, Marc Edwards and Greg Clark -- after trading away all picks in the fourth through seventh rounds.

"While they rated [Jim] Druckenmiller as the best player available at the 26th pick, the 49ers tried to trade up for Miami's No. 15 in order to take Cal tight end Tony Gonzalez," John Crumpacker wrote at the time in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Alas, Kansas City moved up to 13 in a trade with Houston and tabbed the Golden Bear."

Alas, indeed.

Druckenmiller would play in six NFL games, starting one. Edwards, a fullback the team envisioned in the Tom Rathman mold, started 82 of the 134 regular-season games he played. Clark, a tight end, started 39 of the 55 games he played.

As for Gonzalez? He has 237 starts in 254 games and ranks second to Jerry Rice on the NFL's list for all-time receptions. His total for receptions is 50 percent greater than the career total for any tight end. Shannon Sharpe is second with 815 receptions.

The chart ranks 1997 draft choices by most Pro Bowl appearances. Two NFC West players, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace, made the list. Also in 1997, the Arizona Cardinals drafted cornerback Tommy Knight with the ninth overall choice.

Here are selected comments from ESPN analysts on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the year:

Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with Lewis: "He was the best defensive player on the field every game he played in. Off the field he was the best. He had this unique ability to resonate with every single person in the locker room. And that's hard to do. In the NFL, unfortunately, sometimes the guy who is most productive has the loudest voice and that messaging is wrong. Well, that's not the case with Ray. He is the most productive player but his messaging within the locker room is always right. There's an intensity to him. That intensity is authentic. It's genuine and it's always directed at making the football organization better. ... When I say he's the best, really in my experience in the National Football League, I've never seen a person better than him at those three layers: preparation, leadership and play."

Mark Schlereth, a three-time Super Bowl champion: "I know he has lost a step. I know he's not the player that he once was. I still look at him as a great player and emotional leader, and all the different things that he brings to an organization. ... There's just something about Ray Lewis. You expect Sundays to see 52 out there - pregame, getting everybody going. Then during the course of the game just flying around making plays. I was actually shocked to hear this announcement."

Jason Taylor, a former NFL defensive player of the year: "It's always shocking when a great player leaves the game. Unfortunately, it happens to everybody. We understand that. It is a tough emotional time. The timing of it is interesting. He will provide an emotional boost for the team. He's not completely healthy, but he is still Ray Lewis. He is still going to bring energy. He's still going to bring leadership. He's going to bring passion. That place will be electric on Sunday."

Tom Jackson, former NFL linebacker: "One of the top five guys, maybe, to play the position. ... When you look at his career, what he was able to accomplish over the years, the longevity, the excellence, you start doing a shell game with those top five guys to play the game, Ray Lewis is somewhere in there. ... As a player, his skill set was outstanding, but emotionally, in terms of inspiring guys around him to be a better player in your own right, I think there is no one who has ever been better at that than Ray Lewis."
Chris DolemanManny Rubio/US PresswireChris Doleman had a knack for getting to the quarterback and jarring the ball loose.
Chris Doleman was a long-armed pass rusher with the height (6-foot-5) to match up with big left tackles and the speed to run around them. He retired in 1999 with 150.5 sacks, which at the time qualified as the second-most in NFL history, while playing two stints for the Minnesota Vikings.

What you might not know: Doleman also retired with the most forced fumbles of any player since the NFL began tracking the statistic. He forced 44 fumbles in 232 career games, and on the eve of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it might be Doleman's most enduring legacy.

As fun and momentum-shifting as a violent sack might be, Doleman was among the first to realize that pulling back a bit on the force provided a better opportunity to achieve a more impactful play.

"The era that I played in, we had some pretty good defensive linemen," Doleman said in a conference call this week. There was Bruce Smith. Reggie White. They had their own style. When I was at that defensive end position, I definitely wanted to be perceived as a pass-rusher. But would I be a speed rusher? A power rusher? A guy that takes plays off? One of the things I found I [had a knack for] was separating the quarterback from the ball.

"When you separate the ball from a running back, you just have a fumble. But for a quarterback, that's a sack and a fumble. That's a much bigger play. It wasn't about putting brutal hits on them, but controlling them and getting the ball from them."

As the chart shows, the recently-retired Jason Taylor passed Doleman on the all-time list, and the latest generation of pass-rushers have achieved a higher ratio of forced fumbles per game. Players like Taylor, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis made an art of reaching their hand toward the ball even when they're being blocked away from the quarterback. Doleman deserves his share of credit for proving the value of those efforts.
Two of the Miami Dolphins' top defenders in franchise history -- former defensive end Jason Taylor and former linebacker Zach Thomas -- reacted to the death of linebacker Junior Seau. Taylor and Thomas were teammates with Seau for three seasons in Miami.

Taylor: "I'm shocked and saddened. Devastated, really. Junior was one of the most positive, uplifting people I have ever known. He was always full of life and energy and had an infectious spirit that lifted everyone around him. Junior called everyone 'buddy' and treated them like he had known them forever. It would be easy for me to say he was a great friend and teammate, and a tremendous competitor, but that would be selling Junior short. Junior Seau was an individual of great honor and integrity, a leader of men and someone with a deep rooted passion for giving of himself to make the people, the community and especially the children around him better. This is an immeasurable loss for so many. My heart and prayers go out to Junior's family, Gina and their children. I'm going to miss you buddy."

Thomas: "I have never been around a man with more love and passion for the game of football than Junior Seau, and he lived life the same way. Junior was always fun to be around, always positive and made every person who knew him feel like he was their best friend. You never heard one negative word come out of his mouth. Junior just had this energy that followed him around wherever he went, almost like theme music. It was like he never had a bad day. As a young linebacker, Junior was my hero growing up and once I had the opportunity meet him I saw that he was everything I hoped he would be and more. Getting the chance to play alongside of Junior Seau, the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, made my dreams come true. I am absolutely devastated to hear this news. Today I lost my hero, my friend, my buddy."
I think we're close to moving on from Thursday's debate on how typical the now-infamous speech of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is on a relative scale. The initial reaction of many was to suggest Williams was speaking in metaphor and that the general populace would be stunned to know what is routinely said behind the closed doors of NFL locker rooms.

I fully accept that the violence of football starts at the top and is a central factor in the popularity of the game. But it also seems reasonable to make a distinction between accepted violence and inexcusable thuggery, and that's why I was so glad to see Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton speak out early Thursday on that issue.

Most every defensive coach encourages violence and intimidation, but it's flat-out apocryphal to suggest they all target individual players for serious and specific injuries as Williams did. That's not how everyone plays the game. But I don't want Sitton to stand as the sole representative of that viewpoint, so let's pass along similar thoughts from a number of other sources.

[+] EnlargeSeth Payne
AP Photo/Pat SullivanFormer NFL defensive lineman Seth Payne tweeted that Gregg Williams' behavior was not "business as usual in the NFL."
Via Twitter, former All-Pro defensive end/linebacker Jason Taylor said Williams is "trippin'." He added: "Playing hard and hitting hard is one thing. Going after ACL's and heads......not cool. … Saying someone flinches..ok. Wanting to hit everything moving and intimidate...ok. Calling someone a prima donna..fine ACL and Head... NO!"

Former NFL defensive lineman Seth Payne, who had a 10-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, tweeted: "Guys claiming Gregg Williams' behavior was normal in NFL are out of line. Played for 5 DC's and never heard anything remotely like that. … I'm not saying it didn't happen elsewhere. I'm just saying you can't claim it's business as usual in the NFL."

Meanwhile, speaking on the NFL Network, former Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci said he heard portions of Williams' speech on the radio while in the car and "almost drove off the road." Mariucci said he "was shocked and disturbed" and that Williams "obviously crossed the line."

Former Baltimore Ravens coach and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick expressed similar disdain during an NFL Network appearance.

"I've been in this game, man and boy, for better than 40 years," Billick said, "and the back of my hair bristled up a little bit. Because this whole process, people say, everybody does that. Well, no we don't. I've never in my 40 years heard or heard of somebody talking about with that specificity, the intent to injure a player. That was shocking to me."

Surely these coaches have an interest in protecting how people view the profession. But let's not get caught up in self interest here.

Look, I realize reasonable people can debate both sides of almost any issue. We can all get along here. I guess I'm just challenging you to avoid assumptions and generalizations based on what might appear to be a consensus view coming from those with better access than you or I to the innermost sanctums of the game. There might be a consensus on the commonality of Williams' aggressive style, but as you can see, there are people with insider credibility who disagree about the normalcy of his methods.
For the purposes of Hall of Fame discussions, Kevin Greene isn't really "ours." Greene played outside linebacker for four teams in his 15-year career, but none of them were in the NFC North or former NFC Central. But his current position as the Green Bay Packers' outside linebackers coach makes his Hall of Fame candidacy (or lack thereof) a topical offseason point.

[+] EnlargeKevin Greene
Joseph Patronite/Getty ImagesDespite 160 sacks, Kevin Greene remains on the outside looking in when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Saturday's election of Chris Doleman sharpened the focus on Greene's largely ignored candidacy. Dolman's career total of 150.5 sacks ranks below Greene on the NFL's all-time list, but he became the sixth pass-rusher in the past five years to win election.

The chart shows the top 12 pass-rushers in NFL history, at least based on career sack totals. Eight of them are in the Hall of Fame and two, Michael Strahan and Jason Taylor, aren't eligible yet. That leaves Green and Leslie O'Neal (132.5 sacks) as the only players in this 12-man group to be sitting on the outside.

Greene's 160 career sacks stand out starkly on the chart. If the 44-member voting committee values sacks as much as it appears to, why has Greene remained on the periphery of the conversation? On Saturday, I threw out via Twitter an opportunity to provide a devil's advocate argument to explain a statistical anomaly.

Besides the standard jokes about bias against long hair, most of you suggested the committee considers Greene a specialist. Wrote @kgilly75: "Because all he could do is rush the passer...not good in coverage or run support.."

Again, we in the NFC North aren't really in position to advocate or argue against Greene's candidacy. But given the respect that pass-rushers have received in recent elections, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to place an "all he could do" in front of "rush the passer." Do you? Just curious.

We spent plenty of time in recent days discussing the tough road for wide receivers making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the process, we ignored where the selection committee has turned its attention: pass-rushers.

Not a single receiver made the last cut to five modern-day finalists in Saturday's balloting in Indianapolis. But former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman became the third consecutive NFC North pass-rusher to earn enshrinement, following Richard Dent in 2011 and John Randle in 2010. Former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter once again failed to make the cut, a victim of the perceived value between pass-rushers and wide receivers.

[+] EnlargeVikings defensive end Chris Doleman
AP Photo/NFL PhotosNot only was Chris Doleman a sack specialist, but the former Vikings star is also among the NFL career leaders in fumble recoveries.
At least one pass-rusher has won election in each of the past five years. Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas were part of the 2009 class, and Fred Dean was in the class of 2008.

Doleman's 150.5 career sacks rank third in NFL history, behind Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160). Smith and White are both in Canton, and as of Saturday, eight of the 10 players with the highest career sack totals have or will be enshrined. Greene and the recently retired Jason Taylor (139.5) are the only players who have been left out.

(More on Greene, who didn't even make the cut from 15 finalists to 10, in the coming days.)

I don't want to take anything away from Doleman, who was a pass-rushing force for an extended period in the NFL. His two best seasons -- 21 sacks in 1989 and 15 sacks in 1998 -- came nine years apart. Doleman was part of four teams that finished the season with the NFL's top-ranked defense, recovered the seventh-most fumbles (24) in league history and was an eight-time Pro Bowler.

But with the exception of Greene, it's clear that sack totals are among the most reliable tickets to the Hall of Fame. Minutes after Doleman's election was announced, longtime Twin Cities sports analyst Patrick Reusse (also a colleague of mine at ESPN 1500) tweeted: "Apparently, it's all about sacks, since in his absolute prime, Doleman was 2nd best D-lineman on his team, behind Keith Millard."

To me, the definition of a Hall of Fame player is that he was one of the best of his era. Doleman was named to the NFL's 1990's All-Decade team, along with three other defensive ends. Was he one of the best players of that generation? He was if you accept that pass rushing is as important as the voting committee considers it.

But enough of that. I'm not going to diminish Doleman's big day by questioning his credentials. There is little doubt he was a great player for a long time in this league.

Yes, the beauty of the annual Hall of Fame announcement is that it produces as much debate afterwards as it did beforehand. Chris Doleman is a Hall of Fame player because the voting committee places premium value on his particular skill set. (Again, Greene appears to be the lone exception to that rule.)

Cris Carter isn't in the Hall of Fame because the voting committee doesn't value his position and corresponding statistics nearly as much. There are still only 21 receivers in Canton, the lowest total of any position other than tight end and kicking specialist. That's the deal -- no more and no less.

MIAMI -- Here are some thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 19-17 victory over the New York Jets:

What it means: The Dolphins (6-10) split the season series with the Jets (8-8) and ended New York's slim playoff hopes. Miami was the NFL's most dangerous spoiler in the second half of the season and finished 6-3 in its last nine games. That run offers hope for the Dolphins in the future. The Jets, meanwhile, ended their year on a three-game losing streak and missed the playoffs for the first time under head coach Rex Ryan. Both teams have a lot of offseason questions to face.

Clock eater: The biggest drive of the game started midway through the third quarter. The Dolphins went on a season-long 21-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that ate up 12 minutes and 29 seconds. It was the longest scoring drive in Dolphins history and gave Miami a 13-10 lead. It also shortened the game and gave Miami's defense plenty of rest to close out the game.

Quarterback woes: Neither Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez nor Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore did much to prove they are the long-term solutions for their respective teams. Both combined for five interceptions -- Sanchez threw three picks and Moore threw two. Miami will be searching for Moore's replacement this offseason via the draft or free agency. At the very least, the Dolphins should draft a rookie to challenge and groom behind Moore. Sanchez's situation is more complex. He is a first-round pick who's won big games but also hasn't improved much over his three-year career. There have been rumors of the Jets trading for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, but that’s simply speculation at this stage. Indianapolis' public stance is that Manning will not be on the market.

Starks gets two: Miami's defense has been getting big plays from many players this season. But the Dolphins got some unexpected plays from Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks. He recorded a sack and two surprise interceptions.

Farewell to Taylor: Longtime Miami defensive end Jason Taylor wrapped up his 15-year career Sunday. Taylor recorded one tackle in his final game and his quarterback pressure helped set up one of Starks' two interceptions. Taylor is sixth all-time with 139.5 career sacks. He will be a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame in five years.

What’s next: A disappointing season ends for both teams. For the Dolphins, they begin a busy offseason that will include a coaching search and an attempt to land a long-term solution at quarterback. For the Jets, they have to find answers to why a talented roster that nearly everyone thought would make the playoffs crashed so badly and finished at .500.

Final Word: AFC East

December, 30, 2011
» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

[+] EnlargeBrady
Brad Mills/US PresswireWhere's the love? Tom Brady is also on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing record.
Brady for 5,000: With all the fanfare last week surrounding Drew Brees' surpassing Dan Marino's single-season passing record, there has been very little hype for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's also eclipsing 5,000 yards this week. Brady needs just 103 passing yards Sunday against the Buffalo Bills to reach the milestone. Brady is on pace to surpass Marino's old mark (5,084) but probably won't have enough to catch Brees (5,087), who could play the entire Week 17 game against the Carolina Panthers.

Wrong side of history: The Patriots could enter the record books for the wrong reasons Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, New England needs to allow just 122 passing yards to set an NFL record for most passing yards allowed in a season. New England's 32nd-ranked defense allows 293.8 yards per game, making the record a near certainty. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throws the ball a lot and could give New England that record before halftime. This is an area the Patriots must address.

Bills on the road: The Bills ended a season-high seven-game losing streak last week. But they still have another ugly streak hanging over them. Buffalo is just 1-6 on the road this year and has lost six straight games away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills' first and only road win of the season came in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, Buffalo has been outscored 194-93 on the road.

Marshall vs. Revis II: One of the matchups I'm most looking forward to this weekend is Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall against New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis. These two have had great battles in the past, including earlier this season when Marshall had six receptions for 109 yards but Revis had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. Marshall is arguably Revis' toughest matchup in the AFC East. Both players made the Pro Bowl this season.

Fond farewell: The Miami Dolphins will say goodbye Sunday to one of the franchise's greatest players. Defensive end Jason Taylor will retire after 15 NFL seasons. He played 13 seasons with Miami. Taylor, 37, is second on the Dolphins with seven sacks this season. That has been his best skill throughout his career. Taylor is sixth on the NFL career list with 139.5 sacks. Miami would love to send Taylor out with a victory against a division rival.

Is Jason Taylor a Hall of Famer?

December, 28, 2011
Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor has put together a Hall of Fame résumé. Taylor is sixth all-time in sacks (139.5) and played 15 consistent NFL seasons.

But will Taylor get into the Hall of Fame and can he squeeze in on the first ballot? Those are questions that will be asked about Taylor in the coming years.

Taylor is expected to retire on New Year's Day following the Dolphins' regular-season finale against the New York Jets. He will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction in five years.

I do not have a Hall of Fame vote. But we checked in Wednesday with someone who does: senior writer John Clayton. According to Clayton, the competition is stiff, particularly for pass-rushers, and that will make it tough for Taylor to get in on the first ballot.

"One of the problems that happens is when you have 100-sack guys going against 100-sack guys, they take votes away from each other," Clayton explained. "So sometimes there can be a stall three, four or five years. It depends on who Taylor is coming up against when he's up in five years. Anytime you get 100 sacks you're in the running, but you're also competing with other guys who have 100 sacks. That will probably prevent him from being first ballot, but I think ultimately he can make it. "

Taylor trails only Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198), Kevin Greene (160), Chris Doleman (150.5) and Michael Strahan (141.5) on the all-time sack list. Smith and White are already in the Hall of Fame. As Clayton mentioned, Taylor could be competing with other greats like Greene, Doleman and Strahan for votes in several years. But chances look good for Taylor to eventually get a call to Canton.

Wrap-up: Eagles 26, Dolphins 10

December, 11, 2011

Here are some thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 26-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: There wasn't anything at stake in terms of playoff implications. But with the loss, the Dolphins (4-9) are guaranteed their third consecutive losing season under embattled head coach Tony Sparano. The Dolphins were playing well under Sparano for the past month. But laying an egg at home doesn't help his already slim chances of returning next season.

What I liked: Dolphins veteran defensive end Jason Taylor did have his best game of the season with a pair of sacks. Miami starting tailback Reggie Bush also rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries. Other than that, there wasn't much to like from Miami's perspective.

What I didn’t like: This looked like the 0-7 Miami team from the first half of the season. The defense suddenly lost its way against Philadelphia and the offense turned over the football. Miami was playing too well to get blown out at home by a team with a similar record. The effort just wasn't there. The Dolphins didn't show up and fell behind to Philadelphia, 24-7, at halftime. I expected more from the Dolphins, especially at home.

Injuries galore: The Dolphins suffered some big injuries. Starting quarterback Matt Moore (head), left tackle Jake Long (back) and cornerback Vontae Davis (neck) were all knocked out of the game. Miami will have a tough time winning without these players going forward. We will keep an eye on these injuries next week.

What’s next: The Dolphins will travel to play the Buffalo Bills in an AFC East battle. Miami won the first meeting convincingly, 35-8, in Week 11 at Sun Life Stadium.
Andrew LuckMatt Kartozian/US PresswireMany NFL fans are rooting for their team to land Stanford's Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in April.
How bad are things for the winless Miami Dolphins?

The two most talked about players in South Florida this week were Andrew Luck and Tim Tebow.

The latter plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos (1-4), who will visit Miami this weekend. The former might someday play for the struggling Dolphins (0-5) if they continue to lose and secure the No. 1 overall pick.

That brings me to this thought: Miami is much better off losing Sunday's "Andrew Luck Bowl" against Denver than winning it. The loser of this game will win in the long run by having the inside track to one of the best quarterback prospects of the past decade.

For the record, I am not a proponent of "tanking" games. Dolphins players and coaches, for the sake of their own professionalism and job security, should work as hard as they can to try to turn the team around.

But there is nothing wrong with those not associated with the team objectively looking at the big picture -- and that is where Dolphins fans are 100 percent correct. Miami already lost its first five games and will not make the playoffs this season. Therefore, the more the Dolphins lose in 2011, the better off they will be in 2012.

It's not what embattled Dolphins coach Tony Sparano wants to hear. But that is the sad reality facing Miami the rest of the season.

"What bothers me about it most is that we have a lot of players in that locker room, every player in that locker room, every coach upstairs, every [public relations person] in this building ... with one agenda and that agenda is to win, period," Sparano said. "So we have no other agenda here. It's to win, and those players go out there every single week and they put themselves at risk. I think that part of it, yeah, that angers me a little."

Sparano's reaction is predictable. He's coaching for his job and his future with the team is in doubt. The quickest way to turn an organization around in the NFL is through a coaching and quarterback change. Sparano is on his way out, barring a miraculous turnaround. Now, the Dolphins have to find their franchise quarterback. One is clearly sitting there in the draft.

The "Suck for Andrew Luck" campaign is getting very popular in Miami. That has angered many players in the Dolphins' locker room, who are proud and paid a lot of money to do their jobs.

"It's ridiculous," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor told the Miami Herald. "Acknowledging it is condoning the stupidity. It’s illegal for a player to throw a game whether it’s for pay or for a pick. People are talking about ruining the integrity of a game for a draft pick ... Nothing amazes me anymore. There is no tanking, no ‘Suck for Luck’ in this locker room."

Teammate Karlos Dansby's insinuation that Miami still has a chance to win 11 straight games and make the playoffs is preposterous. Yes, players have to think that way. But what have we seen in the first five games from Miami to believe a playoff run is possible?

What is possible is Miami winning its first game of the season on Sunday.

Denver is similar to Miami. The Broncos have a lot of problems. Denver is making a quarterback switch to the popular Tebow, who will make his first start of the season. Miami did the same thing last week with former backup Matt Moore, who threw two big interceptions in a loss to the New York Jets.

Denver currently has the worst record of any team remaining on Miami's schedule. If Miami can't beat Tebow and the Broncos at home, there isn't much hope for picking up wins the rest of the season.

Miami is an abysmal 1-11 at Sun Life Stadium in its past dozen games. The Dolphins lost their first two games at home to the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, then played increasingly worse during their three-game road trip.

When asked this week why Dolphins fans still should believe in this season's team, Sparano's answer was not inspiring.

"Well, the only thing I can say in that situation is the team is playing hard," Sparano said. "These guys are playing hard and they practice hard. If you want hope, I mean, they're playing hard, they're practicing hard, there's improvement in different areas. There really is."

As strange as it sounds, most Dolphins fans hope there isn't too much improvement this week. Losing to Denver could eventually provide the gateway to Andrew Luck -- and that's a good thing.

Dolphins-Patriots halftime notes

September, 12, 2011
MIAMI, Fla. -- The New England Patriots lead the Miami Dolphins 14-7, at intermission.

Here are some halftime notes:
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is in midseason form. He completed his first eight throws that led to two touchdown drives to start the game. Brady is finding a lot of success over the middle. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined for seven receptions and a touchdown in the first half.
  • Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne also is playing well. He completed 8 of his first 9 passes. Henne is showing good poise and mobility in the pocket. He's thrown for 137 yards in the first half.
  • The Dolphins are giving New England a steady dose of Reggie Bush. Miami's new addition is getting the ball on the ground and through the air. He has 32 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving.
  • So far Chad Ochocinco has been a non-factor. Patriots receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch are getting most of the playing time, and New England is running a lot of two tight end sets. Branch and Welker both have a better grasp of the offense at this stage. Ochocinco caught one pass for 14 yards before halftime.
  • On the injury front, Patriots center Dan Koppen suffered a left leg injury and was carted off the field in the second quarter. Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor also hurt his lower right leg and limped off the field before halftime.