Miami Dolphins

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2011 NFL Season: 10 Early Questions for NFL QB’s (Week 3)

No time like the present to dig in and ask some tough questions about performance.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

  1. Why is Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco currently ranked 28th (tied with Browns’ QB Colt McCoy) with a completion percentage of 54.1%?
  2. Of the three QB’s that have thrown for over 1,000 yards this season (Brady, Brees, and Newton), which one has the biggest “upside”?
  3. Which QB with a lower completion percentage than Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb should be benched first: Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton or Sam Bradford?
  4. Quarterbacks averaging less than 7 yards per attempt include Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb. Only Ryan has offensive weapons as deep and varied as Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is it time for a change in Atlanta — and if so, who stays, who goes?
  5. Why is Chad Henne still playing (and why is Tony Sparano still coaching)?
  6. Should we all expect Kevin Kolb to win close games by now? When does his honeymoon end with the national press? Kolb and Cam Newton are the only 2 QB’s average more than 8 yards per attempt with losing records. The Panthers lost to the Cardinals in Week 1 due, in part, to a dropped pass in the endzone at the end of the game.
  7. How many writers had to trash stories about a “gritty, tough, resilient, smart, heady and really, really gritty, tough, resilient, smart and heady” Kevin Kolb positioning the Cardinals for a playoff run after T. Jax ran over both Cardinals safeties to knock off the red birds? Kolb is as unproven today as he was when the Philadelphia faithful fawned over his every move.
  8. When is Ben Roethlisberger going to stop playing down to the level of his competition and author a blowout defense that allows his aging defense to get some rest?
  9. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Matt Cassel lead the league in pass interceptions. Anyone covering this?
  10. Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in EVERY GAME THIS SEASON; his teams have always underperformed; and the Chargers are a razor’s edge away from an 0-3 start, but it’s crickets ALL AROUND the national media. Can Phil get a check up from the neck up? Is it as simple as the loss of a “security blanket”?

EXTRA CREDIT

  1. Tom Brady throws 4 picks and some analysts, I use the term loosely, are blaming receivers for failing to run routes properly…but missing Brady’s failure to finish plays and convert to defense once he surrenders the ball. Play the game the way its supposed to be played.
  2. If you’re running the Rams right now, would you rather have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ndamukong Suh or Sam Bradford?
  3. The Texans next three games are against the Steelers, Raiders and at Baltimore. Is Matt Schaub the guy? Will we know after this stretch, once and for all?

Just one final note: At some point it will be fitting for the NFL family to remember that Tom Brady has essentially had two careers. In the first stage of his career, as his team won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years by a total of 9 points (three point wins each time), Brady was not a dominant passer. He was efficient. He didn’t throw interceptions. He was a game manager, not a game changer. Young Tom Brady didn’t win games with his arm. He won them with his hand offs, and his execution of play action fakes. He had some big passing games (Super Bowls vs. Carolina and Philadelphia), but each of those games was also punctuated by high carry games from Patriot running backs. He threw for less than 4,000 yards in each of the Patriots Super Bowl-winning seasons…and he had QB ratings of under 93.

Rivals of the Era: Closer than Close

In the second stage of Tom Brady’s career, he has emerged as a dominant passer, but his teams have struggled to win post-season games. The Patriots, with an undefeated team, lost a Super Bowl to the New York Giants in which Brady threw 48 passes for a mere 266 yards. He was throttled, hammered and harassed all night long – and it still took a miracle for them to lose. Still, they lost. His passing was unable to carry the day – in much the same way that dominant passing was unable to garner rings for players like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and others.

It seems as though there is a bit of collective amnesia with respect to these two phases of Tom Brady’s career. The elite passer of the second phase has not won a Super Bowl. Like Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb and Dan Marino and others, he was won a lot of regular season games. However, he has lost a home playoff game to a team that featured an overwhelmed Joe Flacco (4-10, 35 total passing yards, 1 INT). He has lost to the New York Jets and second-year QB Mark Sanchez. And, for what it’s worth, Tom Brady has not thrown for 300 yards in a PLAYOFF GAME since 2005 against the Denver Broncos…and New England lost that game by 2 touchdowns.

It is difficult to separate Brady’s numbers and the regular season wins from his early success as the offensive leader of a team that was actually run by men like Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Lawyer Milloy. It’s hard. I know it is. But the bottom line for Brady and the Patriots is what it is…and the numbers never lie.

2010 NFL Pre-Season: Early Thoughts

It’s that time of year again.  The NFL season opens on Thursday with a highly anticipated rematch of the defending champion New Orleans Saints and the team that thoroughly dominated them in the NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Vikings.  Darrelle Revis is on the roster and ready for a visit from Anquan Boldin.  And Anquan’s not coming alone.  He’s bringing a 10,000 pound offensive line, that “other” defense, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  These are great bookends to the first week.

Anquan Boldin Discussing Exit Strategies

"Don't Leave Me Hanging on the Island!"

But before we get ahead of ourselves, I have a few takeaways from the pre-season.  Last pre-season, I was impressed by a few teams.  There was something about their intensity, passion and power that stood out.  The Jets were not on that list.  I did put a spotlight on the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals.  Not bad…those teams went 33-15.  That was much better than their combined 20-27-1 record in 2008.  I was also down on Denver.  When they started out 6-0, I was thinking — “Hmmm, might have missed on that one.”  When they finished 2-8, I felt better.

So, who do I think is the real deal this season? (more…)

Super Bowl XLIV: Keys to Victory – Indianapolis Colts

We’ve already looked at what the Saints need to do.  Now, lets look at the favored Indianapolis Colts.

Tom Moore and Peyton Manning

The Colts greatest strength is that they possess most stable offense in the NFL.  Offensive coordinator Tom Moore (a former wide receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers) has been in Indianapolis for more than a decade.  When you look around the league, most offensive coordinators have been hired within the last year or two.  A handful have been around since 2006.  Aside from the Colts, only the Bengals have kept their coordinator around for  more than a “New York minute.”  It is precisely this aspect of stability and familiarity that allow the Colts to consistently make great in-game and in-drive adjustments to defenses.

The success of this team is predicated, largely (though not entirely), on the capacity of the offense to simply take what is given and squeeze more out of those concessions than most defenses ever think possible.  The definitive expression of that tool this season was the Week 2 win at Miami.  The Dolphins power run game cranked out over 200 yards and Miami dominated the clock.  The Colts had the ball for little more than a quarter, but managed to put together quick scoring drives that produced touchdowns and a victory.  Contrast that win with the AFC Championship Game victory over the top-ranked defense of the Jets.  The Colts overcame a 17-6 deficit, out rushed the Jets, and still threw for well over 300 yards.  The Colts make defenses give ’til it hurts.

The Keys:

1) Remember! The Colts played in this game in 2006.  They used an unconventional approach to win that game.  They used the surprising and powerful tandem of Dominic Rhodes (113 yards) and Joseph Addai (77 yards and 10 catches) to defeat the Chicago Bears.  Peyton Manning was not the star of that game.  The Colts were also the beneficiaries of five turnovers and many other errors committed by a quarterback clearly overwhelmed by the moment.  That game is not likely to be repeated by a player like Drew Brees.  The last MVP to get outfoxed in a Super Bowl was going up against the coach who wrote his playbook.  The Colts have to be ready for THIS game — but remember all the little non-football things that worked so well in 2006.

Kelvin Hayden Closes Out the Bears

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2009 NFL Season: Lousaka Polite Keeps ‘Em Moving

The Miami Dolphins running game has not been stalled because of the season-ending injury to Ronnie Brown.  The Dolphins attack is multi-faceted and, in many respects, relies on the intelligence, guts and effectiveness of fullback Lousaka Polite.  The 6’0″, 250 pound masher out of the University of Pittsburgh has played for the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins during his six-year career.

The Dolphins pride themselves on having a physical attack.  Here are some shots of Lousaka Polite clearing a path for Ricky Williams in Week 14 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Dolphins win gave them the tie-breaker over the Jags in their pursuit of a playoff berth.

Lousaka Locks On.

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2009 NFL Season: An Early Peek at Week 9

Some games are already taking on a playoff atmosphere.  The Week 8 Falcons-Saints game on Monday night was one such game.  The one thing that is painfully clear to me (and probably to the Atlanta Falcons general manager) is that the Falcons really miss Harry Douglas.  If you don’t live in Atlanta or didn’t go to Louisville, you’ve probably never heard of him.  Douglas is a speedy wideout who was injured and lost for the season during pre-season.  He had two of his best games in 2008 vs. Chicago (5 catches, 96 yards) and Carolina (4 catches, 92 yards).  Douglas is a young guy, but he can stretch the field and create space for Roddy White.  That’s what’s been missing as teams exploit the absence of Jerrious Norwood and the presence of Michael Jenkins.

Next week, we’re going to see who gets off the mat…and who rolls over.

A month ago, if you told someone that the Chargers had the remotest chance of beating the Giants in New York, you’d have been run out of town.  Yet, after overpowering losses at New Orleans, home vs. the Cardinals and down in Philadelphia, the Giants may have shrunk the betting line to 2 or 3 points.  The Chargers are still a shell of their former selves, but anything is possible — especially in a game where Philip Rivers and Eli Manning will be playing for bragging rights.

Around Christmas time, when the Arizona Cardinals get the final confirmation that their 9-7 record is not good enough to get into the playoffs, they’re going to be kicking themselves for losing at home to Carolina.  They’re going on the road to Chicago.  The Cardinals have the perfect personnel to throttle the Bears all up and down Lake Shore Drive.  But, if Kurt Warner has his mind on other things, they can lose just like Cleveland did last week.  And if they do that, they’ll be watching the 49ers in the post-season.

Dallas travels to Philadelphia for what should be a classic confrontation of high-powered offenses.  The Cowboys have proven to have a stronger preference for running than the Eagles.  Too often Andy Reid get enamored with the beauty and grace of their passing game.  If that happens again this week, Dallas will leave town in first place.

The Miami Dolphins have had an interesting few weeks.  They lost a tough, tough game to the New Orleans Saints.  The offense could only muster 3 points vs. the Jets for much of the game, but the special teams unit exploded behind Ted Ginn, Jr.  The New England Patriots are coming off a bye and this could be the end of the ride.

The Baltimore Ravens play at the Cinncinati Bengals.  This is a game of the week candidate.  The Bengals have a one game lead over the Ravens and have already won in Baltimore.  A win here forces the Ravens to turn their attention to beating the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers twice…and they haven’t played this season.  If Baltimore loses, the chances of them making the playoffs, to me, drop considerably.

Don’t the Texans have something to prove?  When are they going to prove it?  They get to play the Colts in Indy this week and prove they can run and pass and stop the run and slow down the pass.  If they can’t do it, Indy gets to 8-0 and holds all the cards.  If Houston can find a way, a much deserved bye week is just around the corner.

NOTE: It had occurred to me that very little was probably said with respect to “race” last week as Mike Singletary’s 49ers faced off against Jim Caldwell’s Colts.  The NFL still has a long way to go, but it is worth noting that 5 of the last 6 teams to compete in the Super Bowl have had either a Black head coach or general manager.  The lone exception to this new trend is the New England Patriots.

The Raiders, Rams, Bills and Browns are all on a bye week.  Television programmers have never been so happy!

Monday night — Steelers vs. Broncos.  That’s a big one, even though the Ravens subjected Denver to an old-fashioned AFC North chin checking.  Denver will show up to play the Steelers and their fans will be juiced.  This game will get all the hype that probably should go to two teams who’ve already outdueled these two (Baltimore and Cincinnati).

2009 NFL Season: A Look Back at Week 7

So, how’d I do?

After going 5-8 last week, it couldn’t get any worse could it.  Let me get this out of the way first.  I was wrong about Miami being able to hang on and beat the Saints.  I was wrong about Chicago at Cincinnati…really, really wrong.  Sorry Cedric.  I was a believer at the end of the preseason.  I just slipped.  Next time you all are in New York to collect rent from the Jets, holler!

I wasn’t perfect this week, but I was better.  Heading into the Monday night game featuring the heavily-favored Eagles vs. the seriously-sedated Redskins, I had a record of 7-5. Let’s get to the good.

The Classics

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Minnesota Vikings 17. I have maintained two things since the beginning of Brett Favre’s flirtations with the Vikings…that this team is going to be a tough out in the post-season and that if the Vikings play teams that Adrian Peterson does not dominate – teams that force Brett Favre to beat them, he’s not going to do it.  I don’t dislike Favre.  For me it’s simpler than that.  Since 1997, he hasn’t won more than one playoff game in any season.  To play in a Super Bowl, the Vikings will need to win 2 or 3 playoff games.  The Steelers allowed 69 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson and the game was put in the hands of Favre to win or lose.

He threw 51 passes.  The chances of losing increase exponentially for most QBs after 45 passes (at least in the post-season).  Favre, for much of the game, did a masterful job of mixing up plays.  The Vikings attacked short and deep.  There are were a few plays where only good fortune and a very strong sun prevented Percy Harvin from dominating the action.  He is a very impressive young player.   The hamstring injury to Bernard Berrian significantly impacted the game.  Berrian did drop an easy pass, but he was otherwise having his way with William Gay.  Berrian’s speed forced Gay to play off — leaving room for underneath routes.  When Berrian went out of the game, Favre was reduced to throwing to Harvin, Sidney Rice (another great game) and Visanthe Shincoe.

The Steelers still have issues.  Rashard Mendenhall is a fumbler — until proven otherwise.  He’s not a nice back who happens to fumble.  He’s not a young power back with great speed and agility who happens to fumble.  He’s a fumbler.  He is a player who jeopardizes possessions each time he touches the ball.  After his Red Zone fumble yesterday, Coach Mike Tomlin went to former Viking Mewelde Moore to hold down the fort.  Moore, of course, is not a powerful between the tackles runner, but he is not a fumbler.

Adrian Peterson Runs Over Steeler RCB William Gay

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2009 NFL Season: The NFL’s Search for Dominance

We are nearly through 6 weeks of the NFL season and some interesting trends are beginning to emerge.  I decided to take a look at 2 indicators for some of the leading teams in both conferences.

Former Vol star, Robert Meachem Goes High

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2009 NFL Season: Week 6 Recap

There were some compelling story lines that emerged this week.  The Bengals took a not-so-surprising plunge back to earth after beating the Steelers and Ravens.  The Giants were undressed.  The “Sanchise” took it on the chin 5 times and the Jets found a new way to lose.  The Vikings showed just how tough they’re going to be down the stretch.  (It looks an awful lot like the Saints and Vikings are going to play for the NFC Championship.)  The Eagles did the unthinkable.  With all of these stories, perhaps nothing was more surprising that the rapid and complete demise of the once-proud Tennessee Titans.

Welker_v_Titans

AP Photo - Winslow Townson

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2009 NFL Season: What Week 5 Tells Me

How did they do that?

Is he really that good?

Wow.  I had no idea that team was that solid.

Dolphin tastes more like Shark than Chicken!!

That’s what people were saying on Monday after a week of surprising outcomes.  Perhaps none was more surprising that the score by which Atlanta dominated San Francisco and the method by which Miami defeated the New York Jets.   (more…)