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.
The middle linebacker position has always been one that requires great physical skill and intelligence. The closest equivalent to the quarterback on offense, on the defensive side of the ball the middle linebacker is usually the signal caller and leader of the unit. Today’s linebackers are asked to do it all, tackle, cover, blitz, and motivate the troops.
The players ranked below brought all of these traits to the table, but more importantly brought their lunch pails to work every day. I can rank these players with pride knowing that they put their heart and souls into playing for the Dolphins and left everything out on the field. The following three players represent my biased ranking of the all-time Miami Dolphins middle linebackers.
3. John Offerdahl (1986-1993): Drafted with the 52nd pick in the 1986 draft, Offerdahl made an immediate impact making the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. He continued his stellar play for the next 4 years, making the Pro Bowl in each of them and being named a First Team All-Pro in 1990. Unfortunately, Offerdahl’s career was plagued with various injuries, allowing him to only start 22 games out of 48 over the next 3 seasons, leading to his early retirement. Offerdahl was one of the few bright spots on a porous Miami Dolphins’ defense, seemingly the only defensive player trying to help Dan Marino win a Super Bowl. Offerdahl could do it all on defense. He was a punishing hitter, was rarely out of position, had perfect tackling technique and drove his opponents into the ground. The Miami Dolphins were lucky do have such a dedicated and tenacious player, and one can only imagine what his career would have looked like without the injuries.no comments
I’m not going to speculate on the disappointing reports that came out of yesterday's CBA negotiations. It depresses me and I’m just going to pretend that one day we’re all going to wake up and this nightmare is going to be over.
Instead, I’m in the mood to revisit the Dolphins’ draft class. Sitting here watching the NBA draft has me thinking about what Miami did in April and what our expectations should be for their picks.
Jeff Ireland certainty didn’t bolster his approval rating by any stretch of the imagination, taking a conservative approach by passing on a quarterback. But every selection was justifiable, and at the end of the day, you have to believe the Dolphins will field a more competitive offense in 2011 and in particular, a rejuvenated and rebuilt running game.
But a lot of that will fall squarely on the shoulders of these rookies. So what do each of the Dolphins’ picks have to do in year one to be labeled a smart selection by Ireland? What about in the long-term? Let’s take a look.
MIKE POUNCEY, CENTER
Pre-camp projected depth chart standing: Starter
First-year expectations: Centers aren’t usually worthy of being a top 15 pick, so when you take one that high he better be special. Not that the pressure surrounding Pouncey from the fan base will be as tangible as it would be for a skill player, but you better believe anything less than starting from day one and immediately upgrading the Dolphins’ interior offensive line, and in turn, their ability to run the football between the tackles, would be a disappointment. This regime is no longer building for the future. They must win now not only because it’s time by year four, but because their jobs are depending on it.
Mike Pouncey will play a huge role in getting the Dolphins over the hump, because the running game doesn’t rebound without him stepping in and having an immediate impact. Statistically, Pouncey will be judged by how much the running game improves. The Dolphins ranked 21st in the league in rushing last season, a year after finishing 4th. A return to the top ten should be the goal, but the Dolphins should settle for nothing less than top half of the league. Pouncey will play a crucial role in any drastic improvement.
Long-term expectations: Pouncey was a safe pick by the Dolphins. They believe he can not only improve their running game in the present, but they’re expecting him to provide consistency on the interior much like Jake Long has done at tackle. That means being a perennial Pro Bowl caliber center. But I think they would settle for Pouncey emerging as a solid starter, or a step below elite, for years to come.
Prediction: I’ve said all along that Pouncey’s value was elevated by the success of his brother Maurkice with the Steelers. I have my doubts he’ll ever be an elite center in this league. But I do think he’ll be very solid and will give the Dolphins some consistency inside for several years. I see the Dolphins’ running game improving significantly in 2011 and Mike Pouncey is going to do his part to make that possible.
Special Teams CAN be for the Dolphins too!! Football fans sometime forget the fact that there are 3 aspects to the game: Offense, Defense AND Special teams. To be a complete team in the NFL it is important to be successful in each of these aspects. In fact if you look at some teams around the league it is a strong special teams unit that put their teams over the top. Chicago and Seattle most likely would not have been playoff teams last year if it isn’t for their strong special teams play. Special teams and Miami are two things that did not get along very well last year. Aside from Chad Henne and Rex Ryan’s foot obsession, Miami’s special team last year might have been the most frustrating aspect of last season. Initially led by fired special teams coach John Bonamego Miami’s special teams unit ranked in the bottom half of the league all year.
Miami ranked 22nd in average kickoff return yards and 15th in average punt return yards. While those numbers aren’t AWFUL, it is important to note how the leaders in our division did. New England was 3rd in the league in average punt return yards and the Jets were 3rd in average kickoff return yards. Also note worthy is that New England had 3 return touchdowns, and those loud mouth Jets had 2, while Miami had 0. That being said special teams goes two ways, you got to be able to have exciting returns but it is just as important to be able to cover kicks. Miami allowed the 5th most kickoff return yards and 11th most punt return yards. The dreadful stats continue as the Dolphins also gave up 3 return touchdowns. Once again it is important to see how we faired compared to the other teams in our division. The Jets allowed the 3rd least amount of kickoff return yards in the league and New England allowed the 6th least amount of punt return yards in the league. Both teams also didn’t give up the big play very often. The Jets and Patriots combined to give up 1 return touchdown compared to Miami’s 3.
Now the sad thing is that I am not even done ripping our beloved team because unfortunately it gets worse. Not only do those stats show how far behind New England and New York we are, they also don’t tell the full story. Miami also had their fare share of issues with blocked punts and field goals. This was most obvious in the Monday Night disaster against New England. I would attach the video of Patrick Chung’s blocked punt for a touchdown against Miami but I think it might be too painful to watch. While I don’t think Fields or Dan Carpenter are the problem, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
Bottom line is if the Miami organization wants to start having dreams about the division and playoffs, it might be time to start spending a little more attention to Miami’s CLEAR issues with special teams.
Miami has to find a solution to their returning lulls, whether its Kory Sheets returning from injury, rookie Edmund Gates or signing a guy like Leon Washington, Darren Sproles or Norwood, Miami NEEDS to find an explosive guy who can be a factor in the return game. I hate to bring up the greatest WR in Dolphins history Ted Ginn (pause to laugh) but in ‘09 Ginn’s return performance alone was able to get us a win over the Jets. On the kick coverage side, Miami needs to let players like Tim Dobbins who was a special team captain in San Diego play the role he does best. I know Dobbins had to fill as Linebacker due to injury issues but with Edds back Dobbins needs to put his focus solely into special teams. Miami had a lot of roster churning and needs to make sure player roles are made clear before the season starts.
When I asked everybody’s favorite Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly on twitter, how big of a weakness will special teams be for Dolphins? He responded, it won't be THAT big if they find a returner, stop churning the roster.
Miami needs to get their act together and take advantage of the special teams aspect of game because as you can see clearly New England and New York are. There is no easier way for the Dolphins to add a W or 2 to their count then by improving their special teams.