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33 posts from August 2007

August 31, 2007

PS4: Saints 7, Dolphins 0

     I know you're ready for some football. But are the Dolphins?

     It's now nine days from the season opener. How confident are you in Cam Cameron, Trent Green and these 2007 Dolphins? And did the just-concluded preseason serve to raise or lower your expectations?

     Thank gosh the biggest ripoff in American professional sports -- the NFL "preseason" -- comes to a merciful end now and the games count.

Aaadivot    [By the way, the DAaatalking_bottleolphins and Saints are represented in our dueling pictorial by a divot repair tool and a talking bottle opener. Which is certainly NOT to imply the NFL has gone merchandising crazy].

      Dolphins in N'Awlins and hardly anybody important played for Miami in a game that determined things like who'll be the team's fourth guard and which defensive back will make the roster as the spare destined to be on the inactive list each week.

     Once again the result didn't matter a nit. Did anybody stand out to you? Anybody? Some people clearly did not. Aside to the Next Marino Committee: Let's hold off just a bit on John Beck, shall we?

     Also interested to gauge reaction to Coach Cam's decision to relinquish authority to aides in order to better "step back" and evaluate talent. The fuss and to-do has been comical. People, it's an exhibition game. Cameron letting Dom Capers wear the headset for one August night isn't the U.S. government ceding command to Cheney while Bush undergoes a colonoscopy. Cam seems to have a bit of flair to him. Daring, even. I like it.

August 30, 2007

Give Chambers a bleepin' break

Aaacc     [Updated Thursday, 8-30. I wrote on Chambers in today's column. Find it by clicking on Chris is better than you think].

     Close to 40 percent of Dolfans in our online poll say the team should trade Chris Chambers, certifying my long-held belief that roughly 2 in 5 sports fans in general are nuts.

     Chambers is in his prime at 29. He is (pending the presumed eventual rise of Ted Ginn) the team's best wide receiver, in an offense with too few weapons. And, no, he has not been a bust or an egregious disappointment. His career has been commensurate with what you'd expect of a low-second-round draft pick. Not a superstar, not bad. Pretty good.

     For fun, here are Dolphin per-game receiving averages including playoffs for the six Miami wide receivers who have made at least one Pro Bowl with the team and including two guys, O.J. McDuffie and Duriel Harris, who never did. Ranked by yards per game. Had no idea how this would turn out when I began the research. I think it shows Chambers, stats-wise, right there in the mix with the best WRs Miami has had, and undeserving of the criticism he seems to get:

Player                   Games   Catches   Yards     Average    TDs

Irving Fryar              51       4.18        65.88    15.77       0.41

Mark Duper            155       3.50        61.06    17.43      0.41

Paul Warfield           71        2.68       57.35     21.43      0.52

Mark Clayton          168       3.65        56.43    15.44       0.52   

Chris Chambers        94       3.98        56.10    14.10       0.46

O.J. McDuffie         125       3.72        45.42    12.21       0.24

Duriel Harris          118       2.44         40.99    16.80       0.16

Nat Moore              193       2.76        40.61    14.70       0.40

August 29, 2007

UM picks Freeman ... for now

Aaakirby      [Updated Wednesday, 8-29: You'd click on the following to find today's column by me: Question isn't who starts. A better question: Is either guy any good?]

     Coach Randy Shannon, yesterday: "Kirby Freeman will be the starting quarterback for the Marshall game. We still consider Kyle [Wright] as a starter. You always need two quarterbacks." Shannon was asked if Freeman also would start Game 2 vs. Oklahoma. The question, like an errant pass, was deflected.

     So it's Freeman's job to lose. That's all the long-awaited announcement really means.

     What we know: That Wright or Freeman each would make a veteran, experienced backup. What we still don't know: Whether either guy is a great -- or even above average -- major-college quarterback.

     A few questions to chew on: How do you like Shannon's choice? What's your degree of confidence in Freeman? Do you feel like Wright, a two-year starter, is getting screwed? Do you consider Miami's QB situation firmly settled now or still up in the air?

Where to put Marlins' new stadium

Aaamarlins     [Refreshing this one from last week in light of MLB commissioner Bud Selig foraying into So Fla on Tuesday -- it's about time, Buddy! -- trying to jump-start the idea of a new Marlins stadium].

     The bad news? The team stinks. It isn't just injuries. The errors and sloppy, undisciplined nature of the Marlins has little to do with the DL list.

     The good news? The Hurricanes fleeing the Orange Bowl is to the Marlins' benefit. Money the city of Miami might have spent on renovating the OB is now freed -- or so it would seem -- to make up the shortfall in funding for the ballclub's new retractable-dome stadium. If anybody can donk it up the city of Miami can, but things are looking better.

     So, the question: Where to put the new stadium? Save the cynical/defeatist answers (Las Vegas!) or the stuff not remotely being considered (near Dolphin Stadium!). The choices are downtown Miami and the Orange Bowl site. That's it. Period. MLB and the Marlins prefer downtown (as do I) but seem receptive to the city/county's seeming preference for the OB site. You?

August 28, 2007

Is reaction to Vick shaped by race? II

     Three developments since yesterday: Vick's apology, Dan's mad at me, and your reaction.

     1. Michael Vick's apology and contrition seemed pretty genuine to me. I believe that after serving his time he should be able to attempt to resume his NFL career.

     2. Angry text-messages from Le Batard, who feels like this blog post misrepresented his column. Look, Dan certainly doesn't condone dog-fighting or exonerate Vick. But, sorry: When you devote an entire column to how some people see race playing a role here, you are playing the race card.

     3. An ambitious parade of mostly thoughtful, lucid comments by you people. Nicely done!

     Original post from yesterday:

     My buddy Dan Le Batard is playing the race card again. I think it's his favorite hobby. We have discussed this on his radio show and off the air as well, so he knows how I feel. He is relentless. I find it almost funny. Dan takes quite seriously his role as unelected spokesman for the black community and sees race at play in just about everything.

     Read his column on Michael Vick in [Monday's] paper. I'm sure it does represent how some people feel: that white authorities are making an example of a black icon. However I think in this case the vast majority of people -- no matter race, religion, gender or ethnicity -- believe dog-fighting (and killing) is terrible and abhor Vick for his role in it.

     Vick entering his plea agreement and admitting his guilt kicks the legs out from under the race argument. If he strongly swore his innocence and still the government pressed the case, maybe you could argue an overzealousness based on race.But if ol' Mike has said "I did it" to charges as gruesome as the image of a horrifically maimed dog, who are we to argue?

August 27, 2007

Fredi's future: Firm or frangible?

Aaafredi_2     Fire Fredi! No get off Fredi's back! Well, which is it? With the Marlins in the NL East cellar deep into the season and close to having the second-worst record in baseball, it's a fair time to weigh the job Fredi Gonzalez is doing. Especially considering the club fired the NL manager of the year, Joe Girardi, to get him.

     (By the way, sorry to trot out a word like "frangible" in the headline. I'm a slave to alliteration!)

     First posted this Saturday. Moving it back up in light of today's Herald story (found here) that asks, "Is Gonzalez doing his job?"

     My thought? Florida has suffered enough key, serious injuries this year to insulate Gonzalez from any fire-Fredi talk. And I won't quibble with particular questionable calls, such as bunting to leave first base open with Miguel Cabrera on deck, begging an intentional walk. But (BUT), the Marlins have been error-prone, sloppy and undisciplined -- things typically attributed to managerial leadership -- to a degree that leaves the jury out on how good Gonzalez is.

     He deserves to be back next season with hopefully a healthier roster. But the onus remains on him to prove he's as good in charge as he was as Bobby Cox's right-hand man. Your take on Fredi is invited.

August 26, 2007

PS3: Dolphins lose, but offense lives

Aaaliberty      Tampa Bay wins 31-28, but here's how the preseason is so weird. I was much more impressed with Miami in this first loss than I had been in the two wins. You? The passing game looked sharp, and included Ted Ginn and Lorenzo Booker in it. They even trotted a Statue of Liberty play out of mothballs. Cam Cameron hasn't shown much of his playbook yet, but it looks like this offense could be fun -- which a Dolphin offense hasn't been for a long while.

     You'd find my game column here. Who or what impressed you or didn't in the game? And did anything change in the way you see this team or this season?

     In-game ramble:

     10:36 p.m. -- Bucs back up, 31-28, late. Keep repeating to yourself: "This is NOT the Dolphins' first-team defense, this is NOT the..."

     10:23 p.m. -- John Beck's second touchdown pass has Miami up with 10 minutes left. QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!!!

     10:08 p.m. -- Bucs up 24-21 now as Dolphin defensive starters continue out of the game.

     9:37 p.m. -- Rookie John Beck's TD pass to P.K. Sam puts Dolphins up, 21-17. Dolphins' best offensive showing of the preseason so far.

     9:13 p.m. -- Bucs short FG in last minute of half vs. Dolphin backups. Game has become the standard August subfest with most starters now gone. I'll not be updating here as frequently in the second half. Will be occupied instead doing what I do when not blogging, which is writing for the newspaper. (You remember newspapers, kids, right? If not, ask Gramps). Writing throughout the second half will be necessary in order to meet the deadline assigned by my editor, Marquis de Sade.

     8:38 p.m. -- Cleo Lemon in for Trent Green. Still say Green and the first-team offense would benefit from playing together for more of these fake games. Lemon has completed a couple of nice passes. QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!!

     8:35 p.m. -- Bucs tie it, 14-14, on a 26-yard TD pass from Jeff Garcia to Joey Galloway. What I said a few minutes ago about Miami being on the way to a 3-0 exhibition record? I now deny saying it.

     8:16 p.m. Dolphins up, 14-7, after an 11-yard scoring run by Jesse Chatman, set up by a Matt Roth interception. First quarter ends seconds later. Miami on way to 3-0 exhibition record. Do we trust what we are seeing?

     8:06 p.m. -- Miami, 7-7, on a 1-yard TD pass from Trent Green to TE David Martin. They're playing that annoying song! Impressive 73-yard drive. Ronnie Brown looked sharp, Green too, and Ted Ginn had a couple of catches. Brown returned the kickoff. Which (not to be too technical) would seem to make him the kick returner. Crowd has filled in nicely, for a fake game.   

     7:50 p.m. -- Ouch. Trent Green just had a floaty little screen pass to Ronnie Brown intercepted and returned for a short touchdown on Miami's second play from scrimmage. Not all Trent. Brown went at it passively and sort of let Cato June snatch it from him.

     7:38 p.m. -- And we're underway! The Marlins' infield is still on the field. Hope that doesn't mean the Dolphins are destined to commit a bunch of errors.

    7:26 p.m. -- The pregame invocation just ended. I believe the Dolphins are the last NFL team that still does a pregame let-us-pray thing. Are we OK with that? By the way: Not sure about those green jackets the Dolphin Alumni wear. They look like they raided the coat room at Augusta National. 

     7:17 p.m. -- The teams have left the field. Tension building. Cam Cameron's longtime friend, Bobby Knight, is a special guest tonight. Cannot confirm, but sources tell me Knight is presently giving the Dolphins a pregame peptalk consisting of mostly berating players and throwing folding metal chairs.

     7:08 p.m. -- The atmosphere here at Hurricane Stadium is e-lectric. Nothing beats NFL preseason football. I'd estimate there are at least 62,000 empty orange seats. Hey, I thought the Marlins were out of town! 

     6:40 p.m. -- Our first live dispatch of the night. Dolphins dominating pregame warmups. Actor Jimmy Smits is in the house pimping his new TV show. It is called "Cane." Wonder if that means it's about to announce it is switching networks?

     Pre-game post:

     Dolphin fake-game No. 3 is tonight and we're hoping for a few sprinkles or a little syrup in that vanilla offense they've been showing. Not a lot. Just an indication the attack will be more potent and varied than we've seen so far.

Aaadolphs Aaatbbucs     By the way, which is a more embarrassing logo: a perturbed-looking dolphin wearing a helmet? Or a fey pirate who looks like he's on the way to a costume party at a leather bar?

     Inviting comments here before, during and of course after tonight's game.

August 25, 2007

Artest in Miami? Reward beats risk

Aaaartest     [Updated Saturday afternoon, 8-25: The Heat losing stout defender James Posey today to the Celtics should make Artest that much more attractive ].

     Yeah, Ron Artest once showed up for a practice wearing a bathrobe. So what? The man could play better defense in a silk smoking jacket and slippers than most guys can play in shorts and sneaks.

     This originally posted on Monday under the headline, 'Heat seeking The Artest Formerly Known As Ron.' Refreshing it now after columnizing on the topic in today's paper; click here to read.

     We know Pat Riley has called Sacramento about Artest. Riles now publicly downplays the possibility, yet said just yesterday, when asked a hypothetical alluding to Artest: "I've been able to manage players with tough backgrounds who might be thought of as discplinary problems. I'll look at any situation."

     Getting Artest would mean giving up Udonis Haslem and more, but I'm for the deal. You?

     Artest turns 28 in November, is a 6-7 swingman who'd give Miami versatility, defense and also some offensive pop, after averaging 18.8 last season. He's a talent vs. trouble guy, of course. The baggage includes the infamous 2004 brawl and more recently a March domestic abuse arrest that has a seven-game NBA suspension awaiting him to start the 2007-08 season. Artest + South Beach could = a Molotov cocktail. Neverthless, I trust Riley handling him.

     After a Heat offseason whose big adds have been Penny Hardaway and Smush Parker, Miami needs to make a move that would earn the attention of the rest of the East. This would.

August 23, 2007

Dolphins Rookie Encyclopedia

      Some Dolphins rookie lists, inspired by today's story on rookie starting center Samson Satele:

TOP 15 GREATEST ROOKIE SEASONS

As chosen by me, because it's my blog dammit:

1. Dan Marino, 1983 -- 2,210 yards, 20 TDs, 96.0 rating in 9 starts.

2. Dick Anderson, 1968 -- 8 picks for 230 yards, one TD.

3. Richmond Webb, 1990 -- Started all 16 games as instant LT star.

4. Tim Bowens, 1994 -- 3 sacks, monster run-stopping.

5. Chris Chambers, 2001 -- 883 receiving and 811 kick-return yards.

6. Zach Thomas, 1996 -- 3 picks, 2 sacks, led team in tackles.

7. Troy Stradford, 1987 -- 619 rushing yards, 48 catches.

8. Terry Kirby, 1993 -- 75 catches, 390 rushing yards.

9. Jack Clancy, 1967 -- 67 catches for 868 yards.

10. A.J. Duhe, 1977 -- Started every game as DE/OLB.

11. Todd Wade, 2000 -- First Dolphin to win NFL offensive rookie of month.

12. Karim Abdul-Jabbar, 1996 -- 1,116 rushing yards, 11 TDs.

13. Fuad Reveiz, 1985 -- 22 FGs, 116 points.

14. Nat Moore, 1974 -- 37 catches for 605 yards; 26.7 kick-return average.

15. Bill Stanfill, 1969 -- 8 sacks, 2 interceptions returned for TDs.

ROOKIES TO LEAD TEAM...

...in rushing, receiving or passing yards, chronologically:

Player                          Year     Category

Jack Clancy                  1967    868 receiving

Bob Griese                    1967   2,005 passing

Jim Kiick                      1968     621 rushing

Nat Moore                    1974     605 receiving

David Woodley              1980    1,850 passing

Dan Marino                   1983    2,210 passing

Troy Stradford               1987     619 rushing

Sammie Smith              1989     659 rushing

Karim Abdul-Jabbar        1996    1,116 rushing

J.J. Johnson                  1999    558 rushing

Chris Chambers             2001    883 receiving

Ronnie Brown                2005    907 rushing

ROOKIES TO START EVERY GAME

Player                           Pos.    Year

Randall Edmunds          OLB     1968

Curtis Johnson              CB       1970

Mike Kolen                   OLB     1970

Jake Scott                    S         1970

Larry Gordon                OLB     1976

Bob Baumhower           NT        1977

A.J. Duhe                    DE        1977

Jarvis Williams             FS       1988

Richmond Webb           LT        1990

Zach Thomas               MLB     1996

Kenny Mixon                DE       1998

Todd Wade                  RT        2000

Randy McMichael         TE        2002

Wade Smith                LT        2003

NFL ROOKIES OF THE YEAR

Associated Press leaguewide honors:

A.J. Duhe                    DE        1977

Troy Stradford              RB        1987

Tim Bowens                 DT        1994

SELECTED ROOKIE TEAM RECORDS

Chronologically:

Player                         Year      Record

Dick Anderson             1968      8 interceptions

Dan Marino                  1983      2,210 passing yards      

Ron Davenport              1985     13 touchdowns

Fuad Reveiz                 1985     116 points

Terry Kirby                   1993     1,264 rushing/receiving yards

Karim Abdul-Jabbar       1996     1,116 rushing yards

Chris Chambers            2001     883 receiving yards

Wes Welker                 2004     1,777 rushing/receiving/return yards

OVERALL TOP-10 DRAFT PICKS...

...and how they panned out as Dolphins, with grades by me:

Player, Pos.                 Drafted         Grade

Jim Grabowski, RB       1st-1966        F (Signed with rival NFL Packers)

Rick Norton, QB           2nd-1966       F (Absolutely abysmal)

Bob Griese, QB           4th-1967         A+ (Hall of Famer)

Larry Csonka, RB        8th-1968         A+ (Hall of Famer)

Sammie Smith, RB      9th-1989         D (Had 1,787 rush yards in 3 years)

Richmond Webb, OT    9th-1990         A (Stalwart blcoker for 11 seasons)

Troy Vincent, CB          7th-1992         C (Solid but brief; 14 picks in 4 years)

Ronnie Brown, RB        2nd-2005        C so far (Must do more)

Ted Ginn, WR-Ret        9th-2007         Inc. (Must have eventual impact as WR to justify pick)

UNLUCKY 13: BIGGEST DRAFT BUSTS

The 13 first-round picks who were biggest failures, chosen by me:

1. Rick Norton, QB, 1966

2. Mike Kadish, DT, 1972

3. Don Reese, DE, 1974

4. Billy Milner, OT, 1995

5. Yatil Green, WR, 1997

6. Jamar Fletcher, CB, 2001

7. Darryl Carlton, OT, 1975

8. Eric Kumerow, DE, 1988

9. John Bosa, DE, 1987

10. Jackie Shipp, LB, 1984

11. Randal Hill, WR, 1991

12. John Avery, RB, 1998

13. Sammie Smith, RB, 1989

SWEET 16: BIGGEST GEM-FINDS:

The 16 players drafted in fourth-round or lower who worked out best, chosen by me:

1. Mark Clayton, WR, 1983

2. Zach Thomas, LB, 1996

3. Jake Scott, S, 1970

4. Vern Den Herder, DE, 1971

5. Doug Betters, DE, 1978

6. Reggie Roby, P, 1983

7. Jim Kiick, RB, 1968

8. Mike Kolen, LB, 1970

9. Jim Jensen, UTIL, 1981

10. Ed Newman, OG, 1973

11. Bryan Cox, LB, 1991

12. Uwe von Schamann, PK, 1979

13. Jeff Cross, DE, 1988

14. Bruce Hardy,TE, 1978

15. Steve Towle, LB, 1975

16. Larry Seiple, TE-P, 1967

If you have made it this far, congratulations. You are a true Dolfan. The team thanks you, and I thank you!

Praying the "SI Jinx" is real

Aaasi       Nick Saban on the cover of the current Sports Illustrated.