Miami Dolphins Positional Breakdown: Quarterback

This will be the final installment of the positional breakdowns of all the Miami Dolphins player units.  I want to thank Kenny, Patrick, Todd, and Shawn for doing their part in this effort. Mike came on board after this segment had started, and that is the reason we did not see a write up from him.

Not to worry, though, Mike has been staying busy writing about the 15 most important players for this team.

Last year the Miami Dolphins took Ryan Tannehill with their first round pick in the draft (eighth overall).  During OTAs and preseason he showed the new coaching staff enough to be the Dolphins starter, and he played in all 16 games.

2012 Stat Line
Attempts: 484
Completions: 282
Completion Percentage: 58.3
Yards: 3,294
Average: 6.8
Yards per game: 205.9
Touchdowns: 12
Interceptions: 13
Sacks: 35
Passer Rating: 76.1

His passer rating of 76.1 is ranked 27th in the league, but his passer rating in the fourth quarter was 17th in the league. As I look back on those numbers I wouldn't say they are very good, but I wouldn't say they are that bad either.

Did he have the year that RG3, Wilson, or Luck had? I would say no, but I feel this coaching staff was trying to bring him along slowly. It was more important for the staff to teach him how they wanted him to play in this offense.

The win/loss record really didn't mean that much to the Dolphins management last year. The staff came here knowing that they had to change more than just the mentality of losing. They also had to train a new quarterback to play this game in a manner that will be successful for the NFL. The staff may have installed a new fast pace offense, but they are still old school NFL coaches.

All of us know that even though the Dolphins have added quite a bit of new talent, this team will revolve around Tannehill improving. Because of what I saw last year in him, I believe he will improve. He showed us he is a quick learner and rarely makes the same mistake again. His 10-spot improvement in fourth quarter passer rating from 27 to 17 shows he knows when the bright lights are on and he steps up his game.

He has all the tangibles, big arm, touch, mobile, and he looks down field first. He does need to improve a few things like getting rid of the ball quicker, learning to use the check down, and, of course, improve his touchdown to interception production.

For a team that had very little fire power last year, and with the added talent Tannehill's touchdown production should go up, and with that so will the win totals.

Oh, and one more thing. I left Paul out of the group above on purpose. I felt he needed a special thank you from me, all to himself. If it were not for him, none of us would be doing this. Patrick, Kenny, Shawn, Todd, Mike, myself, and all of you who read these words, comment, and follow the Dolphin Shout couldn't make The Dolphin Shout the best Dolphin Community on the net. Thank You Paul.

Check out this Awesome Dolphins Man Cave

I was looking on reddit, which by the way is an incredible site, and I came across this Youtube video of a Miami Dolphins man cave that I doubt many of us can come close to matching. Check it out:

Tell us about your man (or woman) cave. Feel free to send me any pictures that you might have of your own man cave and I'll put them up here.

Thanks for stopping by. Email me at I'm on twitter @PaulDSmythe.

15 Most Important Dolphins for 2013: #13 Brent Grimes

To say that the Miami Dolphins lack experience at cornerback is a bit of an understatement. Prior to last season the Dolphins traded former first round pick Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts and this offseason Sean Smith elected to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving Miami with little experience at the position.

This offseason, the Dolphins signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, and to this point the coaching staff has raved about him. Despite playing in just a game in 2012, Miami's pass defense may largely hinge on Grimes' play.

The Dolphins made a conscious effort to fill the position in the draft with the selections of Boise State's Jamar Taylor, Utah State's Will Davis and seventh round selection Don Jones from Arkansas State, but how viable any of those three are at this point is largely unknown.

Miami does have a few veterans at the corner position like Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson. Marshall has had a solid career with 18 interceptions in seven NFL seasons, but is perhaps best used in a nickelback role. Marshall also recorded just one interception a year ago. Despite eight seasons in the league, Patterson has just five career picks and played in just two games a season ago. Aside from his four-interception campaign in 2010, Patterson has just one career interception.

The lack of experience at cornerback means Brent Grimes may need to be the Grimes of old for the Dolphins to excel against the pass this season. An Achilles injury limited Grimes to just a game a season ago, but the former Falcon has 13 career interceptions, including six in 2009 and five in 2010, a season in which he made the Pro Bowl.

Despite only a 185-pound frame, Grimes is also an above average tackler, but he has rarely provided much in the blitzing game. As a purely cover corner, Grimes will need to be up to the challenge if the Dolphins are to make a legitimate playoff run.

Wes Welker may be in Denver now, but Steve Johnson is still in Buffalo and there's no telling the kind of production that former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes could give the New York Jets if someone other than Mark Sanchez is throwing him the ball.

The Dolphins will also face the pass-happy NFC South this season, which will certainly test the Miami secondary with elite quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Drew Brees and big-time receivers such as Roddy White and Vincent Jackson. Having a guy like Grimes, who once excelled in that division, could also prove to be a huge bonus for the Dolphins.

Last season Miami was 27th in the league against the pass and with a tough schedule. The Dolphins will need to be better this season to make the playoffs. The safety combination of Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons is solid, but cornerback remains suspect.

Not only was Miami 27th in the NFL against the pass, they were 27th in interceptions and 29th in total takeaways. Cornerback looks to be one of Miami's weaker positions, but if Grimes can return to form from previous years, the Dolphins should be in pretty good shape.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook!

2013 Dolphins Secondary: New Faces in New Places

Let me start off by saying this has been a very exciting offseason, whether you like/agree or not with them is another thing, but there is no one that can say it hasn't at least been interesting. With all of the comings and goings that have occurred, the writers here at the Shout have decided to break down the Dolphins by position groups. It is my duty to bring you the secondary. Here we will have a few new names and we have said goodbye to a couple old friends.

Let me start with the departure of Sean Smith. Smith was a very good cover corner. He was in the right position to make a play more often than not. Unfortunately for Smith and Dolphins fans, he dropped more than he caught. The outcome of many games could have been changed if he had hung on to a few of those possible interceptions. I'm not going to go into Smith's stats. We all know the interceptions just weren't there, so now he's not here.

On to the guys that are here:

Reshad Jones, S

Jones had a very good season last year. His stat line was on the verge of being impressive:
| 94 tackles | Nine passes defensed | Four interceptions | One sack |

That's a nice line. Pro Football Focus ranked him third in the NFL among safeties, behind only Eric Weddle and Jarius Byrd. I have heard a lot of clamoring for a long term extension for Mr. Jones, and based on last year he probably deserves one, but can we base $30-40 million on one year? Here are Jones' stats the previous 2 years:
| 2010 | 14 tackles | One sack | One interception |
| 2011 | 62 tackles | Two sacks | One interception |

Not great, but not terrible. In my opinion if he has another year like last that's when we make the bigger offer. I would just hate to sign a one year wonder to a long term, big money deal.

Chris Clemons, S
Clemons had a steady season. He registered 96 tackles and two interceptions. At only 27 years old, Clemons still has a lot of football left in him. The Dolphins just re-signed him to a one-year deal, probably looking to see what results they get this year before offering a multi-year deal.

Jimmy Wilson, S
The Dolphins only have one other safety currently on the roster with any NFL experience at all, and that would be Jimmy Wilson. Wilson had 35 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble last year.

The other safeties currently on the roster are either rookies or undrafted free agents:
Don Jones - Seventh round pick out of Arkansas St.
Keelan Johnson - Undrafted free agent out of Arizona St.
Kelcie McCray - Spent all of last year on the injured reserve after being an undrafted free agent

In my opinion we still need to address the safety position. Reshad Jones could be the answer, but after only one year of production it's too early to tell.

Brent Grimes, CB
On to the cornerbacks. Let's start on the left side. This is where the newly acquired Brent Grimes will most likely line up. Grimes isn't particularly big at 5'10", 185 pounds. Maybe that's why in his six year career he has only played all 16 games twice (2009 and 2010), and it's probably no coincidence that those were his best years in the takeaway department with six 2009 and five in 2010. I have to think that no matter how we slice it, we have gained talent in the secondary just by his signing.

One thing that I do see as interesting is the fact that in his six years with Atlanta he never registered a sack. Maybe that's because of the system they ran. I'm not sure, but I would think that at some time in six years they would have used him to run a corner blitz at least once. Coming off of his achilles tear and only signing a one year deal, I think Mr. Grimes will feel he has a lot to prove so that he can get a long term deal here or somewhere else.

Backing up Grimes will be Nolan Carroll and the newly drafted Will Davis. Carroll was a fifth round draft choice by the Dolphins back in 2010. He doesn't have a great stat line just because he hasn't had a ton of field time. He has two interceptions and one sack to his credit. He's also returned some kickoffs, and he averaged 24.3 yards per return back in the 2010 season. Davis was a 3rd round pick in this year's draft. He has nice size, but isn't too big at 5'11" and 186 pounds. Davis is physical and in the right place most of the time as his senior season college number show:
| 3 interceptions | 14 passes defensed | Three and a half tackles for a loss |

Now let's take a look at the right side. Richard Marshall was signed before last season to man this position, which he did for four games before a back injury put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year. Marshall has nice size at 5'11 and 200 pounds and was relatively quick seven years ago when he was drafted in the second round by the Carolina Panthers. He ran a very respectful 4.42 40-yard dash. Marshall's stats are consistent, if not spectacular: 18 interceptions and seven sacks in his six and a quarter seasons.

Jamar Taylor
I'm not sure he will hold onto the starting job, though. His backup is Jamar Taylor, the Dolphins second round selection out of Boise State. Taylor is a force on defense. He's 5'11" and 192 pounds of physical talent. He ran a 4.39 40 and says he's faster than that.

The thing I like about Taylor is he's always around the ball. As a senior he had three and a half tackles for a loss, two and a half sacks, four interceptions, and nine pass breakups. He's not completely polished. He does have a couple of flaws. He bites hard on play action, and he will need to learn how to stay home or he will get torched early and often.

Next on the depth chart would be R.J. Stanford. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2010 by Carolina, and he had one interception for them as a rookie and basically no stat line for the Dolphins last year.

There is one more player that I would like to go over: Dimitri Patterson. Patterson is a 5'10", 200 pound seven year veteran. He has five interceptions and one sack in his career. The Dolphins signed him to a three year, $16.05 million dollar contract before last season with $6 million guaranteed. He will have a 2013 salary of $4.5 million and a 2014 salary of $5.3 million. In many people's eyes these figures make him a cap casualty this year, probably during training camp. The play of the two rookies will probably dictate Patterson's Dolphins fate. If they play well, he will become expendable.

Well there you have a brief synopsis of the Dolphins current secondary.

Compared to last year this Shout writer is overjoyed with the new talent. I still wish we had gone after the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu. I think he may be the steal of the draft, but we didn't so let's move on with what we have. I didn't get into systems or salaries (other than Patterson's) for a reason. I didn't want to lean the conversation one way or the other so we can just talk about who we think will be here in September and who we think won't be.

Thanks for reading along and offering YOUR OPINIONS.

15 Most Important Dolphins for 2013: #14 Daniel Thomas

Daniel Thomas is Miami's leading returning rusher and touchdown scorer. (Photo: USA Today)
With Reggie Bush now in Detroit the Miami Dolphins will have fairly big shoes to fill at running back. In his two seasons as a Dolphin, Bush averaged better than 1,000 yards rushing per season and provided big play capability both on the ground and through the air.

Tasked with the responsibility of replacing Bush will be second year back Lamar Miller and third year Daniel Thomas. While Bush averaged more than 1,000 yards per season with Miami, the Dolphins do not have a single player on the roster with 1,000 career rushing yards.

Conventional wisdom seems to point to Miller being the starter. Even quarterback Ryan Tannehill has given Miller the endorsement, but should that be the case, Thomas will still take on a huge role for the Dolphins.

The most experienced back on the team, Thomas has not lived up to the expectations set for him when the Dolphins took him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Kansas State. Thomas has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, but he carries a 230-pound frame and is more of a power runner than Miller. Thomas has also fought fumbling issues as he put the ball on the ground three times last season despite just 91 carries.

Thomas however, is a better pass blocker than Miller and has an edge in experience. Thomas happens to also be Miami's leading returning touchdown scorer from a year ago as Bush and tight end Anthony Fasano each signed elsewhere during the offseason. Additionally, Thomas is the only player on the roster to have a 100-yard rushing game in his career. Thomas also finished with 15 receptions last season for better than 10 yards per grab despite being a bigger back.

If nothing else, Thomas will be Miami's short-yardage back which is an important role and one of the roles that has suited Thomas best. All four of Thomas' touchdowns a year ago came on the ground and within three yards of the goal line.

The Dolphins were in the middle of the pack in the NFL last season when it came to converting third downs. In a league where defensive interiors are bigger and stronger than ever before, games are often won and lost on third-and-short which makes Thomas' role all the more significant.

While Lamar Miller is presumed to be the starting running back for the Dolphins in 2013, Daniel Thomas is Miami's leading returning rusher and touchdown scorer. Thomas will be an important piece for the Dolphins this upcoming season even if only as a short-yardage back. The most experienced back on the team, Thomas could be asked to provide some leadership for a corps of young rushers as well.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of  Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook!

Miami Dolphins 2013 Running Back Review

This offseason Miami didn't shop for a running back during free agency. Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Turner were available, and all were passed on by Ireland. Reggie Bush moved on to the Lions via free agency, leaving us with no veteran experience at the position.

But maybe that's the point. It's time for a youth movement.

Since 2011 Ireland has drafted a running back between the second and fifth rounds, infusing the lineup with young fresh legs and talent. Building a running back core through the draft and undrafted free agency makes sense, especially in the second year of a new system. This allows these backs to grow and learn and for the coaches to weed out those that do not make the cut.

Barring injuries and here are four backs who should make the roster.

Lamar Miller, Age 22
5'11" 218 lbs
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 Draft out of the University of Miami. He is known for his explosive speed and expected to be the opening day starter. He is one of the reasons Bush was not re-signed. Granted, he didn't have a jaw dropping rookie season, but when he touched the ball he was explosive and moved decisively forward. His 2012 stats were the following:

| 13 games | 51 rushes | 250 yards | 4.9 average | 1 touchdown | 12 first downs |
|Here's an interesting stat: 0 fumbles |

Part of his problem last year was his lack of pass blocking skills, which shouldn't be a problem to correct. It could also be argued that he had trouble picking up a new offense, which can be a challenge for some. Here are some highlights of his 2012 season:

As you can see Miller is always moving the chains and should continue to do so. He has also set a goal of 1,500 yards rushing on the season, so there is a lot to get excited about.

Daniel Thomas, Age 25
6'1" 233 lbs
Thomas was drafted in the second round of the 2011 Draft and has not lived up to expectations yet. He has had some injury issues, which I won't fault any player for, but for a back his size he doesn't quite run with confidence. Yes, he is athletic and coming out of Kansas State he was highly productive, but the time is now for him to realize his time on the Dolphins is limited. His 2012 stats were the following:

| 12 games played | 91 rushes | 325 yards | four touchdowns (which, by the way, is his career total) | 3.6 average | 15 first downs |
| He has fumbled five times in his limited action during two seasons |

One thing I read recently which I liked was Thomas feels it's an open competition at running back in response to Miller being anointed the starter. I hope that motivates him to be more than just a backup. Here's some tape to watch from Thomas last year:

Mike Gillislee, Age 22
5'11" 210 lbs
Some mock drafts had Miami taking Gillislee out of the University of Florida in the mid-to-late rounds, which is what Ireland did in the fifth round. His only season as a starter was during his senior year but he made the most of it:

| 244 rushes | 1,152 yards | 4.7 average | 10 touchdowns

He is known for being good at many things. He's quick and agile and good at making defenders miss. He has the skill set to be a solid contributor on the Dolphins from day one. Check him out here:

Marcus Thigpen, Age 27
5'9" 195 lbs
Marcus, signed last year from the Canadian Football League, earned a starting job on special teams and never looked back. His 2012 stats were:

| 38 kick returns | 1040 kick return yards | One kick return touchdown | 26 punt returns | 316 punt return yards | One punt return touchdown |

He is a threat to return it any time and has come into this off season with some lofty goals, including showing up in better shape. Will he be a starter? Probably not. Can he contribute on the offense? Yes he can.

Check out his punt return touchdown:

Other Possibilities

Jonas Gray, Age 22
5'9" 225 lbs
He spent last season on injured reserve as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2012. In his senior year in 2011 his stats were:

| 114 rushes | 791 yards | 6.9 average | 12 touchdowns |

He was very productive. He has the size to be a power back but he is a year behind and facing competition. Here is a very large video with Gray's tape from college:

Cameron Marshall, Age 21
5'11" 215 lbs
Played four years at Arizona State, posting decent numbers:

| 2,700 yards | 38 touchdowns |

Here are some of Marshall's highlights from college:

Jorvorskie Lane, Age 26
5'11" 258 lbs
"J Train" was a feel good story in 2012. He was reunited with Mike Sherman, his college coach at Texas A&M, after not even being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009 because of conditioning issues. He played hard last year running over defenders, but he is still rough around the edges in the NFL. Currently the Dolphins are pursuing recently released fullback Vonta Leach. If Leach isn't signed I expect Lane to be the starter.

Evan Rodriguez, Age 24
6'2" 240 lbs
Drafted out of Temple in 2012 by the Bears, he was released this offseason due to a series of legal issues. He played in 12 games last season and was targeted 8 times for 4 receptions and 21 yards. He is considered a hybrid FB/TE. If he doesn't work out then it's no big loss.

Charles Clay, Age 24
6'3" 250 lbs
Drafted in the 6th round out of Tulsa. He is a hybrid FB/TE who appears to be better suited to play TE. He's very athletic and versatile, but has had some issues picking up the offense this offseason.

We will see how the preseason shakes out. There is still time before the start of the season, but I like who we have. Let me know what your thoughts are and thanks for stopping by.

Email me at

The Patriots and Dolphins, Paper Tiger Offenses

The following is the first in a 3 part series... First, comparing the AFC-East offenses.

This is what they call an eye-chart! The number geeks, scouring the web looking for justification of the conclusions they've already come to. Guilty! Guilty as charged! Depth charts in June are like Depth charts in February, completely different from what they were when the season began. What are fans to do, watch baseball with one eye on the ticker hoping not to see an injury in OTAs scroll across the bottom of the screen?

That's why number geeks survive, inundating readers with useless number crunches they can vehemently refute until the real games begin. Consider the chart above...

Green=4 - Blue=3 - Yellow=2 - Red=1

No rocket science this time! Just a simple comparison based on the current depth charts of the offenses in the AFC-East. A pro-bowl caliber player is colored green and worth 4 points. A good player, better than average at his position, is blue and worth 3 points. An average player at his position is yellow and worth 2 points. A player in need of an upgrade is red and worth 1 point.

Oh, but on close inspection, the numbers don't add up! Correct, that's because the QB position has been multiplied by two. Hopefully, the need for a little stat manipulation is socially acceptable to those with a lowly QB. If not, well tough, the stat manipulator has the only copy of the spreadsheet!

Therefore, the scoring system has been established by the ignorant notion that a franchise QB is worth at least twice as many points as other positions.

Of course, the stat manipulator is also a Dolphin fan, but no compensation was awarded to the other teams in the division. The stat manipulator decided it was unnecessary...

The winner of the ACF-East may be the easiest division in sports to handicap, New England has Brady - the other teams don't, any questions?

Perhaps paying so much attention to Brady and New England negates the end game, getting to the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen. After all, the Jets went to two AFC championship games with Mark Sanchez!

The obsession with winning the division turns from learning to play your own game, to figuring out how to stop those other guys, the Patriots have Brady - Miami does not.

Repeat after me!
The Patriots have Brady - Miami does not!

Perhaps it's a little deeper, the Patriots have an identity - Miami does not!

Being overly concerned about Brady, has taken the focus away from the Dolphins going out and finding their own Brady - Identity.

Drafting a QB was ignored in Miami for Tom Brady's entire career. Stopping him became more important than beating him.

It means all those numbers from the master of manipulation come down to a simple fact. Ryan Tannehill needs to be better than Tom Brady, the caveat is the word, "now." Brady has lost the last two Super Bowls he's played in and while it does nothing to negate his "past" greatness, the change of the guard is imminent.

Take away the stat master's QB doubling and what happens?

Such magic in the hands of mere mortals!

Things get a lot more interesting. It's time for the Dolphins to play Miami football and let the Patriots start trying to stop them. Great teams always make their rivals forget about being great and obsess with beating the greats.

As Steely Dan once said, "if you live in this world, you're feeling the change of the guard." New England's time has come, Belichick knows it. He'll hand the keys off to Josh McDaniel as soon as Brady tells him. He's such a nice man, he even gave Josh his Tebow toy to play with.

In Miami, the change of the guard is named Ryan Tannehill. If he's the real deal, Miami rises in the east. If he's another wannabee, well you know the motto, "keep drafting a QB until you get it right!"

Look again at the chart, use your imagination...

Ryan Tannehill in blue and Brady in blue?

Perhaps there's a new beast in the east!

Dolphins with Something New in 2013: Expectations

Joe Philbin will look to get the Dolphins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Sun Sentinel)
Unlike in the recent couple of years, the Miami Dolphins enter 2013 with something they have not had in a while, expectations.

After a run in 2012 that had the Dolphins in the playoff hunt until Week 16 and their best offseason in recent memory, Miami has become a popular pick to reach the playoffs, and with good reason. The Dolphins have upgraded at a number of positions, most notably wide receiver and linebacker, and made a bold move in April's draft by trading up to take Oregon talent Dion Jordan.

But for Miami to reach the playoffs, they are going to have to buck a trend from years past of underachieving. Since notching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and reaching the AFC Championship in 1992, rarely have the Dolphins lived up to lofty expectations.

Sure, there were overachieving teams like the first two teams under Dave Wannstedt in 2000 and 2001 seasons in which Miami finished 11-5. Dolphins fans also won't be forgetting the 10-win turnaround from 2007 to 2008 which, landed the 'Fins the AFC East title, anytime soon either. Even teams that didn't make the playoffs, like Nick Saban's first team that finished 9-7 in 2005 and even last year's squad, overachieved. But when the expectations have been high, the Dolphins have not exactly come through.

Despite strong early-season starts all throughout the 1990s, the Dolphins won just one division title after 1992, just three playoff games and never went further than the divisional round. Expectations were through the roof following the early parts of the Wannstedt era, but even after signing Ricky Williams, who blossomed into an All-Pro back in addition to defensive stalwarts like Sammy Knight and Junior Seau, the Dolphins went seven years without making the postseason.

There is still a cause for concern that it could happen again. The schedule, especially early on, is very difficult and the Dolphins have a lot of new faces which could mean that the team may take a while to get in lockstep with one another. But Dolphins' fans should be optimistic, and here's why:

Head coach Joe Philbin is a no-nonsense type of guy that gets the most out of his players and is dealing with a far more talented team than the one that went 7-9 in 2012. Miami was also just a handful of plays away from playing in the playoffs a year ago and even topped teams who did reach the playoffs in Cincinnati and Seattle.

The Dolphins have also built the offense around a quarterback taken in the draft rather than journeymen who's best football was in their past like Daunte Culpepper and Trent Green. Miami finally added a burner at receiver in Mike Wallace who can stretch the field and create the big plays in the passing game that the Dolphins lacked even while Brandon Marshall was lining up outside the hash marks.

Defensively, the Dolphins have made an effort to add play-makers like Philip Wheeler and rookie Dion Jordan. Meanwhile, Miami still has one of the league's premier pass rushers in defensive end Cameron Wake, while safety Reshad Jones looks to further cement his status as Pro Bowl caliber safety.

Despite all of their shortcomings in the past, general manager Jeff Ireland and the Miami front office has put together what looks to be a winning product on paper. With expectations high, the Miami Dolphins are hoping to end a five-year postseason hiatus. And although living up to expectations have never been Miami's M.O. over the last 20 years, Philbin looks to be the guy to buck that trend and bring football success back to South Florida.

15 Most Important Dolphins for 2013: #15 Caleb Sturgis

Caleb Sturgis was a two-time Lou Groza Award finalist at Florida. (Photo: Joe Lyons)
Could a rookie kicker taken in the fifth round be one of the more important Miami Dolphins this season? Certainly.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis from the University of Florida will battle Dan Carpenter this offseason for the team's kicking job in one the more intriguing yet largely untalked about position battles. As Dolphins fans have learned over the past few years, the kicker position is important.

A former Pro Bowler, Dan Carpenter has been inconsistent at best over the past three years and perhaps even more surprisingly, has battled injury.

Carpenter went 22-for-27 last season and hit a game-winner as time expired against Seattle, but in recent history, Carpenter has not been there when the game was on the line.

His 81.5 field goal percentage last season ranked just 24th in the NFL and he was just 2-for-5 from 50 yards and beyond. And in a season in which the Dolphins stayed in the playoff race until Week 16, he had an opportunity to win games early in the season that ultimately resulted in losses.

In Week 3 against the New York Jets, Carpenter missed a pair of field goals including a game-winning attempt in overtime as the Jets knocked off Miami 23-20. Carpenter also missed a kick the following week at Arizona which would eventually result in a 24-21 overtime loss to the Cardinals.

Carpenter even had an 0-for-4 effort in a 17-14 home loss to the Buffalo Bills back in December of 2010.

But beating out Carpenter won't be easy for the rookie from Florida. A two-time Lou Groza Award finalist, Sturgis has battled injury himself, but has been solid during his Florida career and possesses a big leg.

As a senior in 2012, Sturgis was 24-for-28 on field goal attempts, a perfect 3-for-3 from 50 yards and beyond and 9-for-10 from 40 yards out and beyond. His 85.7 field goal percentage last season was more than four points higher than Carpenter's and that's with wider hash marks in the college game.

Both guys have big legs, but over the last two years, Sturgis has been more consistent. Last season, five of Miami's nine losses were decided by a touchdown or less and there will likely be a lot of close contests this season so having a good kicker is necessary.

Carpenter has had a solid career with the Dolphins, but has come up short in critical situations in recent history and it's time the Dolphins move forward with a new face. With a career-long of 56 yards at Florida, Sturgis certainly has the leg and ability to thrive in the NFL. And if Sturgis is the guy, he will certainly be faced with some critical situations, but those are situations where Carpenter has not thrived in recent years. Teams play close games every week in the NFL and if the Dolphins are to make the postseason for the first time in five years, they're going to need a reliable kicker.

Could Dustin be The Destiny in Miami...

The Last year a Miami Dolphin Tight End made a Pro Bowl appearance was in 1993. His name was Keith Byars and he was a running back playing out of position. Miami was a team known for great tight end play during the times of plenty. Marv Fleming, Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich, Joe Rose, Bruce Hardy, Ferrell Edmunds, Keith Jackson, Randy McMichael, even names like Howard Twilly and Jim Jensen are associated with the position.

And then, the drought...

The skid of the Miami Dolphins runs parallel with the drought at the TE position. The inability to make critical plays in the redzone where great TEs live comes to life in the stats from the 2012 season. Consider the following graphic.

These are the top twenty passers in the NFL and the top twenty tight ends from 2012 as compiled by All those arrows are not coincidence, TEs are a QB’s best friend on the football field. Anthony Fasano may not have been an awful TE, but he is not to be confused with the players on this list. One which happens to be, Dustin Keller who was having somewhat of a down season and still managed to make the top twenty.

The Dolphins have neglected or devalued the position throughout their history. Jim Mandich along with Andre Tillman were selected in the 2nd round of the draft (Andre who?) and through nearly 50 years of drafts, Miami has never selected a TE in the 1st round. The chart above demonstrates the importance of the position related to the success of a QB and yet it has been a forgotten position in Miami.

It is not a coincidence the Dolphins have been unable to establish respectable quarterback play during the TE drought. It is inevitable when the safety valve is missing from the arsenal. Jim Jensen was not considered a true tight end, but ask Dan Marino what player he looked for in critical situations and number 11 will be high on the list. The 1994 Dolphin team that suffered the devastating injury to Marino was primed with Keith Jackson in the fold.

The Dolphins could have helped young Ryan Tannehill by bringing him the safety blanket of Tyler Eifert in a first, first at TE, but chose to trade up for Dion Jordan, again devaluing the position. Leaving Dustin Keller, who could turn out to be the best free agent acquisition for Miami this year if he remains healthy. If Keller can provide Tannehill with a consistent target and force safety attention away from other receivers, Tannehill will shine.

Looking closely at the tight end position on any NFL football team provides a tremendous key to the style of play anticipated on the field. A player like Fasano limits a team in the passing game because he is not a natural receiver. His motions and route running are not smooth enough to elude many linebackers and most safeties. A TE like Fasano got open by scheming him into open spaces. His presence as the number one TE was the primary key to defenses diagnosing Miami's rushing attack. Watching Fasano come out of his stance, keyed whether the play was a pass or a run.

To evolve into the offense Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman hope to employ, the Dolphins need look no further than the top of their own division. The Patriots are redefining the NFL passing game using tight end play. The game already dictates a QB throw into tight windows, throwing to a bigger and stronger target can only increase the chances of success. Having multiple TEs willing to block and get behind defenders in the passing game, opens the running game as well.

The reason the TE has been neglected, may not be a deliberate slight by the Dolphins, there are simply not many humans capable of playing the position well. The TE must be able to block like a tackle with the speed and hands of a wide receiver. Those guys are hard to find on this planet. The parallel between the Miami QB drought and the Miami TE drought means, perhaps the Dolphins should reconsider the value of the TE in the modern offense.

This season belongs to Dustin Keller. A great receiving TE has not been seen in these parts for nearly two decades. Ryan Tannehill needs a safety blanket and the redzone needs a stud. Keller signed a one-year deal to prove to Miami and the NFL his real value. He could not have chosen a better landing spot.

The rise of Ryan Tannehill may very likely coincide with the acquisition of Dustin Keller.

For Miami fans, the ascent could be fun to watch...

Miami Dolphins 2013 Receiver Outlook

Hello Dolphin Shout and Miami Dolphin Fans Everywhere.

First off, may I suggest a standing ovation (if you are alone at this moment) or a golf clap (if surrounded by folks of curiosity) in honor of our beloved overachieving 2008 undrafted free agent Davone Bess. Bess was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a fourth round pick during the 2013 draft. Davone is a class act football player on and off the field as well as an asset to the community of Miami! May we all wish him a farewell and good luck in his future endeavors beyond week one of the 2013 football season.

Here's Bess:
"My initial reaction was it was bittersweet, obviously being down here in Miami since my rookie year, having developed a relationship with the organization, the fans and kind of embracing my opportunity was something special here"
Bess had become one of the league's premier slot receivers in his five professional years, however as a 27 year old one-dimensional player with minimal size and speed and a 2013 cap number that would have topped all other Miami receivers he became expendable in an offense that revolves around versatility.

Who Is Gone?

Davone Bess
27 years old, five years experience in the NFL
Career: 77 games, 321 receptions, 3447 yards, 12 touchdowns
2012: 61 receptions, 778 yards, one touchdown

Marlon Moore
25 years old, four years
Career: 23 games, 12 receptions, 244 yards, two touchdowns
2012: 6 receptions, 116 yards, one touchdown

In comparing 2012's number one (Hartline), two (Bess), and three (Moore and Matthews) receiving targets to 2013's Wallace, Hartline, and Gibson/Binns/Matthews it is easily deduced that all three receiving threats have been substantially upgraded.

Wallace is an obvious upgrade to Hartline as the primary defensive concern, the versatile Hartline as Tannehill's Mr. Reliable is far more of a threat than Bess, and Gibson has been far more productive than Moore and Matthews combined! The 2013 trio of Mike, Brian, and Brandon are also inner changeable to a large extent, which is another extreme advantage to that of the 2012 wide receiver corps that tallied a grand total of three touchdown receptions!

In another series of Shout positional roundups here are your more than likely Miami Dolphin receivers for the 2013 season.

Who Still Remains?

5th WR
Rishard Matthews
6'0", 210 pounds, 23 years old, one year
In eight games had 11 receptions, 151 yards, and zero touchdowns
Matthews showed some promise and has nothing but upside in his future.

4th WR
Armon Binns
6'3", 209, 23 years old, one year
In 11 games had 24 receptions, 277 yards, and one touchdown
This kid has some much desired tools with a nice set of first year stats as a backup, and he could very well become a future force.

2nd WR
Brian Hartline
6'2", 199, 26 years old, four years
Career: 60 games, 183 receptions, 2753 yards, six touchdowns
2012: 74 receptions, 1083 yards, one touchdown

For the 2012 season the Dolphins number one receiving threat (Brian Hartline) was, and is actually a true complementary option to a number one receiver. Hartline had a career year in 2012 with 1083 yards despite facing double and triple coverage on practically every passing play, and due to being straight-jacketed in coverage he was able to cross a distinct white line (end zone) only one time.

In the upcoming 2013 season because of the presence of Mike Wallace the great route running, ball catching, and extremely intelligent Brian Hartline will be facing single coverage for the majority of pass plays. Hartline happens to be a yearly league leader in pass interference penalties forced over the duration of his career. With a single defender (in most instances) responsible for covering him in 2013, that beneficial statistic isn't likely to dwindle. In fact, it is very likely to increase. He sets defenders up with intelligence and precise routes, and without a second defender in the area he'll have a few more angles that the defender will be forced to bump him away from. One could expect Hartline's 2012 touchdown production to be multiplied by eight or so in 2013. Brian has proved that he is more than capable of major production from any receiver position on the field and in 2013 his versatility will be used from all angles!

Who Is New?

3rd WR
Brandon Gibson
6'0", 205, 25 years old, four years
Career: 55 games, 174 receptions, 2090 yards, nine touchdowns
2012: 51 receptions, 691 yards, five touchdowns

Gibson is being slated as the primary replacement to D Bess from the slot. His 2012 yardage stats are comparable to Bess, though most came from an outside receiver position. Gibson also had four more touchdowns. He suggests that he can productively run the entire route tree from any receiver position. He will have his turns at the slot and his outside versatility will allow others to play from inside on occasion. The question that remains is can he become as beloved or reliable as Bess?

 Coach Philbin.
“It’s not like he’s only going to line up (at slot), that’s certainly not going to be the case, but the slot, there’s some savvy that goes along with that position and some understanding of coverages,” Philbin said. “You’re in between the linebacker level and safeties dropping down and those types of things. You’re going to have to read things on the run relatively quickly and we think he’s a guy that has that awareness to adjust to different coverages, which I think you have to do inside.”

1st WR
Mike Wallace
6'0", 199, 26 years old, four years
Career: 63 games, 235 receptions, 4042 yards, 32 touchdowns
2012: 64 receptions, 836 yards, eight touchdowns

One trick pony? Sure, Mike Wallace as one of the NFL's fastest players is primarily thought of as an over the top touchdown trickster with more scores than all the other receivers combined in this roundup! He has 32 touchdowns in four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many folks believe that all 32 touchdowns were of the "one trick pony," straight line, long bomb variety. In actuality, 19 of his touchdowns were of 30 yards or more, which might suggest that he simply ran straight down the field for 30 plus yards and caught a ball for 6 points.

On the contrary, he has 13 touchdowns of 29 yards or less, which isn't a large enough tent for this "one trick pony" to perform under! The fact is that he has caught touchdowns from the slot position as well as from the number one and two receiver positions!

Several of his 30-plus yard touchdowns were short passes that he took to the house. Some were even catches in the flat behind the line of scrimmage that he ran with for 30 plus yards for six points. Same goes for the scores from 29 yards or less. For the 2011 season 35.61% of his 1267 yards were after the catch!

On average over his career Wallace crosses the first down yardage marker 50.8% of the time, or basically every other catch on Sundays. He averages a touchdown for every seven or so catches (235 receptions, 32 touchdowns).

The only real trick to this pony (on average) is to get him the ball eight times a game for at least four Dolphin first downs and six points! This horse can take a one yard pass or a 70 yard pass 99 yards on any given play!

Thank-You for an Open-Minded read, and we look forward to your angle of view!

There are other potential prospects too, but we'll let them weed themselves out before going into detail.

The Unknown
Brian Tyms 6'3", 210 pounds, 24 years old, one year of NFL experience
Marvin McNutt  6'2", 216, 23, one year
Jeff Fuller 6'4", 223, 23, one year
Courtney Gardner 6'4", 215, 22, rookie
Chad Bumphis 5'10", 196, 23, rookie
Jasper Collins  5'10", 180, 21, rookie