The beginning of July usually symbolizes the calendar turning to the new season as training camps begin kicking off around the last week of the month. Under normal circumstances, I would traditionally begin July with the first installment of our training camp preview, an exciting post to say the least as we are normally so close to football by now that we can taste it.
But, yes, I must remind you that circumstances are far from normal this time around. The lockout has put a serious damper on the increasing excitement we’ve grown accustomed to this time of year.
It’s worth noting, though, that the players and owners still have plenty of time to salvage all of camp and the preseason. But to start previewing training camp would be pointless considering that the Dolphins will be signing several free agents and undrafted rookies between now and whenever they open.
It’s been a difficult task lately, but we’re going to keep churning along here by manufacturing topics to discuss. What better way to do that then by talking a little defense, a topic that has seemingly been thrown under the rug all offseason. The reason for that has been obvious. The Dolphins were pathetic on offense in 2010 and have been forced to make drastic changes on that side of the ball- an unfinished project, with plenty of work yet to be done in free agency.
We’ve all kind of just chalked up defense as something that the Dolphins will excel at in 2011 by continuing to build off of the improvement they made last season. Comparing Mike Nolan’s unit to what we saw in 2009 was like night and day. I could talk all day about the strides made in the secondary, the emergence of Paul Soliai, the dominance of Cameron Wake, and the impact of Karlos Dansby, but the proof was in the numbers.
The pass defense improved from 24th to 8th, the run defense from 18th to 7th, and overall, the Dolphins jumped from 22nd to 6th. Logically, most are expecting the Dolphins to continue that trend by emerging as one of the league’s elite defenses in 2011. A fair expectation in my opinion.
But sometimes it doesn’t work out like it’s supposed to. Time and time again, players, offenses, defenses, and entire teams fail to live up to expectations. Here are the top three things that must happen for the defense to live up to those lofty aspirations and avoid being a disappointment this season.
3. Soliai stay motivated: It was a blessing in disguise for the Dolphins’ front three when Jared Odrick went down for the season with a broken leg. It was unfortunate for Miami’s first-round pick but they likely wouldn’t have found a dominant nose tackle if it didn’t happen. The injury forced Randy Starks back to defensive end and threw Paul Soliai into the starting lineup. Soliai flourished.
By season’s end, he was consistently commanding double-teams and causing havoc with penetration. In my opinion, he was the biggest factor in the Dolphins’ domination against the run in the latter part of the season. But some have pointed to the fact that Soliai was in a contract year as to why he was able to keep his weight down and finally emerge as a starting material.
Well, Soliai got his cash this offseason and then some when the Dolphins designated him as their franchise player. But that is obviously only for one year. He’s going to have to prove that 2010 wasn’t a fluke if he wants to earn a lucrative multi-year deal in 2012. But will his success last season and the cash he was handed this offseason allow some content to slip in? The Dolphins surely hope not. Whether or not they will be a brick wall or simply average against the run hangs in the balance.
We’ve had a fun little ride here at Phins Phocus, taking a look back at the proud tradition of this franchise by unveiling the greatest players in team history. It’s been a nice reminder in times like these. We haven’t seen the Dolphins win a playoff game in over a decade, and with the uncertainty of the lockout, we would probably kill to see them play in what we usually consider a meaningless preseason exhibition.
But all good things must come to an end, and it’s time to wrap up the series by selecting the All-Time Miami Dolphins’ special-teams unit. That obviously means the best kicker and punter in Dolphins’ history, but instead of boring you to death with a long snapper, I thought we would also try to pinpoint the top returner specialist to strap on the aqua and orange.
Olindo Mare (1997-2006): There isn’t much debate here. The Dolphins have enjoyed some outstanding kickers- Garo Yepremian and Pete Stoyanovich to name a couple. But Mare’s credentials for this honor stand alone.
He’s the team’s all-time leading scorer, and at one point in time during his tenure in Miami you could have made a case for Mare being the greatest kicker the game has ever seen, as he was temporarily the most accurate kicker in league history.
Mare also made an impact on kickoffs, frequently being one of the league leaders in touchbacks. His finest season came in 1999, when Mare was voted to the Pro Bowl and received All-Pro honors.
This summer has been a complete mess! The lockout has depressed the sports world and has left many football fans very bitter. If there is one thing football fans can agree on, it’s that we all want this lockout to end. During these rough times, tons of information has been put out there BUT there is also a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on that only NFL insiders know about. That being said, I went out and got an interview with NFL Network lockout specialist Albert Breer (@albertbreer). Here is everything Albert informed me about the lockout and a few things you might not be aware of.
1) What are a few things the fans know the least about in this whole lockout process?
I think the one thing that’s been glossed over, at times, is the magnitude of this negotiation. Since 1993, the parties have basically been renewing the previous CBA, and so this kind of change in the way the deal is structured really is a once-in-a-generation thing. Or at least you’d hope it is. The owners are looking for a deal that can work for a couple decades going forward, and the players are looking, under new leadership, to set a tone for the future of this relationship. Some very long-term interests are at stake here, and the end result could be another long period of labor peace. All things considered, if this thing gets done soon, I’d say getting that would be worth the pains of the last few months.
2) How would you describe Goodell and De Smith’s relationship?
I don’t think it was bad before, so much as it was non-existent. The advantage that Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue had in knowing each other was important in past talks, and I think that’s something that Smith and Goodell have had to develop, and I do think it’s getting there. Ultimately, it won’t be what gets a deal done – Deadlines and threat of losing money do that nicely. But having the leadership of each side understand where his counterpart is coming from, and having a common goal (a lucrative future for everyone) certainly helps with the pace of talks, and helps each side ride out the inevitable bumps of negotiation. The progress of the last few weeks is due to the looming scheduled start of training camps. But I think having Goodell and Smith build a rapport is certainly a contributing factor to things moving along.no comments
NFL Network has hooked us up once again. NFL insider Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora ) gave us some of his time to give Phins Phocus a little exclusive preview on free agency. We asked Jason several questions about the Dolphins and what to expect when the lockout ends. Jason is the NFL Network's inside man and has all the scoop so you should make sure you take what information he gives us very seriously.
1) What are your thoughts on this year’s free agency crop?
Well, if it includes fourth-year guys as GMs are suspecting, then its a nice crop. Deep at receiver in particular. Some nice DBs. Not a ton of linebackers and biggest shortcoming is with pass rushers.
Won't be finding too many franchise rushers or quarterbacks or stud left tackles, but its a better, younger group than what was on the open market last year, for sure.
2) What kind of trades do you expect this off-season?
I don't expect a ton of them. Kolb, Haynesworth, McNabb, Osi, Steve Smith will be guys we hear a lot about, but I suspect one two of them actually get dealt in the end.
3) When do you expect the Titans' decision on Vince Young to be made?
Well, the decision has been made to move on from him. The owner said as much. I figure they go ahead and release him shortly after the lockout.
4) Does your gut still tell you Carson won’t be traded?
I’m sure most Dolphins’ fans have grown accustomed to holding their breath whenever they see Brandon Marshall’s name in the headlines this time of year. We already had one scare this offseason when Brandon’s wife stuck him in the abdomen with a kitchen knife. Make that two scares, considering police have since arrested his wife again for violating her restraining order.
Sure, maybe a little bit of an overreaction with Marshall being fine and recovered from the stabbing as nothing more than the victim. But let’s not forget that we’re talking about a guy who could be one personal conduct policy violation away from a lengthy suspension. A lengthy suspension that could lead to Miami cutting ties with their two second-round pick, $50 million investment really even before Marshall has the chance to showcase how dominant of a receiver he can be.
But tonight’s report, courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel, gives us hope and a refreshing little dose of optimism that has been hard to come by in the midst of this lockout. Despite not being in South Florida with his teammates, Marshall has been training vigorously to regain the 4.4 speed he came into the league with as a rookie.
According to his trainer Matt Gates, Marshall has consistently been running sub-4.5 40’s and recently set a personal record by running 22.5 mph on the tread mill, which you can actually watch here. Just thinking of how dominant Marshall could be with his size and legit 4.4 speed has me wishing this lockout was over more intensely than ever. Because while Marshall was able to flash a few glimpses of greatness in 2010, he was far from as advertised in terms of running after the catch.
When you look at some of his highlights from Denver, he was able to elude defenders on his way to spectacular YAC yardage time and time again. We didn’t see that last year. We saw a big receiver that was almost an impossible cover in the short to intermediate passing game when Chad Henne was in his right mind, but we saw a guy that usually went down immediately after the grab.
There’s no telling how much this offense could open up if Marshall was able to turn some of those ordinary receptions into big-time yardage, or better yet, emerge as the deep threat Chad Henne could desperately use. But I suppose we shouldn’t get too giddy about these reports. Its one thing to run fast on a tread mill, but it’s another to do it on game days when some of the world’s best athletes are in pursuit. I’ll hold off on reading too much into these reports until we see the product on the field. Perhaps more importantly, though, Marshall is said to be in “good spirits,” which, if true, is quite the relief considering we were being left unaware of how he was mentally with so much turmoil in his personal life.
We’re wasting no time here at Phins Phocus in finishing the roster for the All-Time Miami Dolphins. Safeties are the only starting position left on the team and we have had a great group of safeties throughout Dolphins' history. Later this week we will officially finish off the squad by selecting the special teams unit.
Instead of separating both strong and free safety, we decided to select the 4 greatest safeties in Miami’s history. The secondary has definitely been a strong suit in year's past and it has always been a priority for the Dolphins to have help at the safety position. So here we go!
1) Jake Scott (1970–1978)
Believe it or not, but Dan Marino isn’t the only great player to wear #13 for the Dolphins. Even more shocking is that the other talented #13 played on defense. A lot of people might not have known this but Jake Scott actually came from the CFL and was later discovered in the NFL draft by Miami in the 7th round.
Scott tallied 49 INT’s throughout his career, two of which came in the Super Bowl leading to a Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl VII to finish off the Dolphins' perfect season. Jake Scott was a key member of the "No Name" defense in the early 70’s. During that span he became one the best at the position in the league.
Scott holds the Dolphins' career interception record with 35. That, along with a long list of accomplishments makes him the best defensive back in Miami Dolphins' history. Scott is considered one of the biggest draft steals in NFL history to date. Scott was inducted into the Dolphins Ring of Honor and hopefully will be a member of the HOF in due time.
2) Dick Anderson (1968-1977)
There are many Dolfans out there that might debate putting Anderson at two and they would have good reason. While Jake Scott still ranks number one on my list, Anderson certainly held his own on the field. Anderson was also one of the greatest Dolphins to hit the field. He was a three time Pro Bowl selection, three times an All-Pro and two time Super Bowl champion. Anderson’s accomplishments don’t end there as he was also named to the 70’s NFL All- Decade team and the 1973 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Anderson, like Scott, was also inducted into the Dolphins Ring of Honor. #40 was a player opposing QB’s always feared when they saw lined up across from them on the field. Anderson is well known for holding the record for interceptions in a game with four.
3) Brock Marion (1998–2003)
Putting Marion at number three on this list might be a bit of Phins Phocus bias but Marion, without question, left his mark on the Phins. The younger generation will certainly remember Marion as a playmaker in the secondary. Along with Surtain and Madison, the Dolphins had one of the best secondarys in the league in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Marion had 947 tackles and 31 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Marion was a three-time Pro Bowler in Miami and an All-Pro in 2000. Like Scott, Marion was also Miami’s returner and he led the NFL in return yards in 1999.
Modern day Dolfans have high praise for the former number #31
4) Louis Oliver (1989- 1993
His tenure in Miami wasn’t quite as prolific or long as the other three safeties on this list but there is no doubt that Oliver was a great player. Oliver played in 117 regular season games, started 101 of them, and recorded 544 tackles and twenty-seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns
Honorable mention: Glenn Blackwood
Over the weekend, our part-time contributor Joshua gave Zach Thomas the slight edge over Nick Buoniconti in the intense debate over which Dolphin great is the best middle linebacker in team history. Choosing the best cornerback in Miami Dolphins’ history proved to be an equally challenging task.
From 1998-2004, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain blanketed opposing receivers and established themselves as the league’s most dominant cornerback duo and subsequently, a legendary tandem in Miami.
Choosing one over the other is like splitting hairs, but that’s what makes lists like this fun. The corners we have ranked 3rd through 5th were also key cogs on some of the stingiest defenses the Dolphins have produced.
And in keep in mind we may be on the verge of witnessing a corner tandem nearly as dominant as Madison and Surtain were with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith projecting to emerge as two of the league’s better lockdown corners in the near future. But both still have plenty to prove. The future can wait. Now, it’s time to honor the past.
5. Curtis Johnson (1970-1978): Before Madison and Surtain, the best corner tandem in team history was Curtis Johnson and Tim Foley. Just like their successors, Johnson and Foley are nearly impossible to differentiate in rankings. They were the starting cornerback duo on the Dolphins’ only two Super Bowl champion teams. Ironically, they were so identical that they both finished their careers with 22 interceptions, which ranks 6th in franchise history. But we are talking about corners here, and Tim Foley had his best statistical seasons at safety, where he was moved in 1977. Curtis Johnson was arguably the more talented corner. Johnson only missed three games in his nine-year career in Miami, where he, along with his 22 picks, racked up 190 yards on returns and recovered 8 fumbles.