Monday, August 27, 2012

“Most Important” Preseason Game Also Most Revealing For Reeling ‘Fins

Anyone who’s anyone in the NFL (and even those who aren’t anyone) will tell you about the importance of the third preseason game. It’s the first one of the exhibitions that feature teams game-planning specifically for one another, when first-teamers play well into the second half, when a regular-season atmosphere is instilled.

If all that’s true, it may be an even longer season than I previously anticipated. Last week, Miami had a rough go of it vs. the Panthers, and this week the Dolphins took on Atlanta—a bonafide playoff team—in monsoon-like conditions at ProSunDolphinLandSharkRobbie Stadium Park.

  • On “Hard Knocks,” offensive guard John Jerry has been a whipping boy, being given rep after rep after rep until he either gets it, throws up, loses some weight—or all three. Why is he in the coaches’ sights so much? Because as Dolphins line coach Jim Turner said on the show, Jerry has All-Pro potential. Players should be worried only when coaches don’t even try with them. Jerry backed up the added attention with strong play vs. Atlanta, combination-blocking effectively and paving the way for some nice running yardage in the first half. Lack of consistency has been one of his key issues, so can he keep it up? That’s the biggest question for this kid.
  • Speaking of running the ball, second-year tailback Daniel Thomas looked good against the Falcons. He ripped off a couple of sizeable runs, and in general looked much quicker and more committed to his cuts than he did a year ago. He should offer Miami a nice change of pace with Reggie Bush this year.
  • Cameron Wake looked like, well, Cameron Wake. Freakish ability. The next step for Cam is to turn good plays into great plays by forcing turnovers, but it’s hard to believe he isn’t capable of doing just that.
  • Koa Misi, who has been treading on the “bust” line for a couple of years now, looks reborn as a 4-3 linebacker. He still has some fundamentals to nail down when he’s playing out in space, but his play has been one of the few bright spots this preseason for the Dolphins.
  • Gary Guyton looks to be a nice addition as a backup linebacker. The former Patriot is pretty active in the passing lanes, and depending on your how-full-is-the-glass outlook, he either broke up two passes the other night or dropped two interceptions.
  • The light has appeared to have come on for cornerback Sean Smith. The dreadlocks are gone, the confidence is there and he is much more physical in run support. Headed into a contract year, Smith appears to have at least put himself in position to emerge as a plus defender for the ‘Fins.
  • Try as I might, I am having a hard time envisioning a scenario where Marlon Moore doesn’t make the team as a fifth or sixth receiver. He is just too valuable on special teams and too promising as a wideout to give up on at this point, in my estimation.
  • Also on special teams, it was surprising to see veteran running back Steve Slaton make a couple of plays in that area the other evening. He also looked solid catching passes out of the backfield, and he may have regained the advantage for the No. 4 RB spot from Marcus Thigpen.
  • I thought backup quarterback Matt Moore threw several nice balls in relief against the Falcons, but he was absolutely wrecked by mind-numbing dropped passes. I still view Moore as an asset to this squad from a leadership and experience perspective.

  • The red-zone offense still needs a lot of work. For a team that doesn’t look to find itself in that vicinity very often in 2012, Miami needs to find a way to convert for seven instead of three every now and again.
  • At safety, Reshad Jones is way out of position way too often. He’s basically been gift-wrapped a starting job this offseason, but he certainly hasn’t put his stamp on the position.
  • One of the players that everyone pointed to immediately as gaining the most from the hiring of Joe Philbin was H-back Charles Clay. After showing some signs as a receiving threat as a rookie a season ago, Clay has been inconsistent this preseason. For a team screaming for some type of threat to emerge in the passing game, I have to consider Clay a big disappointment thus far.
  • On that same thread, the receivers on the whole (including the tight ends) continue to be, well, depressing. I lost track of dropped passes against Atlanta, and when you add a position-wide inability to gain separation, that’s a pretty bad combo.
  • As noted above, it looked like Marcus Thigpen took a step back in his quest to earn a job in the running back corps. He dropped a potential big gainer and was nondescript in the return game, severely hurting his chances.
  • Elsewhere in the running back competition, rookie Lamar Miller again failed to make an impact. I still think he runs tentatively and hasn’t been put in position to use his speed in space. I also question why he hasn’t seen any action returning kicks as well—if Thigpen is borderline to make the team, what is the backup plan in the return game? I don’t think they want to put their No. 1 (shudder) receiver, Davone Bess, back there anymore.
  • Is “7/11” finally closed? “Hard Knocks” darling Chris Hogan received no legitimate snaps against the Falcons, making it difficult to see how he possibly fits on the active roster at this point.

Over the weekend, Miami traded underachieving fourth-year corner Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts for a second-rounder and a sixth-rounder in next year’s draft. My first impression was that the Dolphins did surprisingly well in compensation for a player who was first benched and then mocked on a national stage. My second impression is that Miami continues to leak talent without bringing much or any of it back into the fold.

There’s no question that Davis is a headcase (who once injured himself celebrating a tackle) with maturity issues, but his corner skills are unquestioned and he has the talent to become a top-five cornerback in this league. At 24 years old, the biggest question for the new few years will be whether the ‘Fins gave up on the former first-rounder too early. One only need to look at his brother, Vernon, who suffered through many of the same knuckleheaded, uncoachable issues for years before emerging as one of the NFL’s top tight ends in San Francisco.

To me, one of the key variables was the relative emergence of fellow cornerback (and draft classmate) Sean Smith, as noted above. Thus far, Smith seems to have overcome the same maturity and discipline problems that he shared with Davis, and many feel Smith has turned a corner (pun intended) this year (knock on wood). With Smith’s contract expiring soon, I always felt that Miami would eventually be forced to choose between Smith and Davis, not having the money to re-sign both. Well, Smith took the necessary step forward while Davis took several steps back, helping to make that decision easier—and quicker.

So while many see this as a move to remove a problem child, I think the Dolphins got very strong value for a promising young player that didn’t work out in Miami. Now, whether you think general manager Jeff Ireland will just find a way to screw up that second-rounder by picking someone who he’ll either cut or trade for a sixth-rounder two years later is another issue ... but the reality is that the time was right to jettison Davis while he still was an appreciated commodity.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVIII: Dunder-Mifflin Prepping To Say Goodbye, Plus A Brutal Habit Returns

Inevitable words finally came
But the disappointment still the same
“The Office” final season
Leaving for a good reason
They’ll go in comedy’s Hall of Fame

An offensive line coming up lame
Wide receivers that no one can name
Let’s throw in a rookie QB
Then whine when he goes 6 for 23
Tannehill’s gonna catch all the blame

Just another misogynist ape
Talking about legitimate rape
Akin the worst of all
For his ouster, all call
Every politician mouth deserves duct tape

WebSourced is back, it seems
Creepy Wasps with dreams
Let’s restart the illegal tactics
And pray for no fact-checks
This is the stuff of Internet memes

Another year, another draft day
Sleepers and busts, whaddya say
Back to torture us again
‘Til a kicker costs you a win
Fantasy football, we all must play

Last time

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brutal Preseason Showing Uncovers What Looks Like A 5-11 Miami Squad

The ‘Fins entered Week 2 of the preseason with the most excitement surrounding the squad since Gloria Estefan became part owner, bolstered by the announcement that rookie Ryan Tannehill would be getting the start nod at quarterback. Unfortunately, much like Gloria Estafan, Miami was felled by a runaway bus driven by Cam Newton.

Here’s the ugly truth of what happened in Charlotte against the Panthers:

  • No turnovers (yay?).
  • Sean Smith looks more confident at cornerback. Can he parlay it into actual games and drop fewer than double-digit picks this year?
  • Tailback/return man Marcus Thigpen looks like a gamer, with a few nice grabs and some nifty returns. Prediction: He beats out Steve Slaton for the fourth running back job.
  • Reserve corner Nolan Carroll looks markedly stronger (and less lost) this year.
  • Reality-show creation Chris Hogan lived up to the “Hard Knocks” billing a bit with a couple of nice grabs. More importantly, he made a big tackle inside the 10-yard line on a kickoff return—key because he’ll have to make an impact on special teams in order to make the squad.
  • Undrafted free agent Derrick Shelby flashed against the second- and third-stringers, providing a good push and good energy at defensive end. Of course, the downside of that is he is significantly outplaying third-round draft pick Olivier Vernon.

  • The Dolphins.
  • Seriously, though, rookie Jonathan Martin was repeatedly turnstiled at right tackle. Yes, it’s early, but he appears to lack strength and you can’t convince me that he’s not Marc Columbo’s illegitimate brother at this point.
  •  The entire offensive line looked brutal.
  • The wide receiving corps, to be kind, is not NFL quality. When you’re counting down the moments until Brian Hartline returns to practice, that’s really all you need to say about the state of this position.
  • The replacement refs. Listen, I know they’re in a tough spot, but it appeared that some of these guys were members of Steve Smith’s family. The Carolina receiver attacked Vontae Davis (who’s having a bad-enough camp as it is) on several plays in a row, then ripped his helmet off at one point ... and Davis got the personal foul! Moments later, Sean Smith perfectly played a deep ball, reeled in the pick—and got whistled for a phantom pass interference call. Roger Goodell should be upping the offer to the real officials today ... you know, between quiet phone calls with Deepthroat.
  • Rookie tailback Lamar Miller appears to play much slower than his reported speed. Perhaps a hysterical Miami assistant will tag him “Ankle Weights” Miller in this week’s very special installment of “Hard Knocks.”
  • Third-round newcomer Michael Egnew is so bad at tight end that they may cut him before the regular season—you know, about a year earlier than they usually cut their third-round draft picks. I mean, when you’re getting outshone by guys who most recently played basketball and lacrosse, it’s just not going well for you.
  • I’m not saying Yeremiah Bell (now with the Jets) was the long-term answer or anything, but safety is going to be a real problem for the Dolphins again this year. Neither Chris Clemons nor Reshad Jones are starting-caliber safeties in this league, bottom line.
  • Early in his NFL career, Mike Pouncey has been solid at best, a first-round center who struggles in short yardage. He also seems to be more interested in image and promotion than the game at times, and playing grabass with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton not only after the game but at halftime does nothing to alter the perception that he’s not focused on his craft. Now, I’m not one of these guys who thinks players shouldn’t socialize or anything like that, but can you at least hold the lingering full-body embraces until after the freaking game?
  • As noted earlier, the offensive line bears most of the blame for pressure in Tannehill’s face, but the rookie signal-caller also had four passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. Miami is going to need more designed rollouts for the youngster to take advantage of his athleticism and minimize a leaky offensive front.
  • As Dolphins beat writer Armando Salguero pointed out weeks ago, a frenetic pace  and a hurry-up style is all well and good on offense—if you are actually moving the ball and scoring points. If not, well, all you’re doing is exhausting an already-overrated defense and giving the opposition more possessions. Therein lies the real danger of coach Joe Philbin’s approach for an undermanned, inexperienced attack.

  • How much freaking money do the Panthers have tied up in running backs?! I mean, they just signed Jonathan Stewart to a $36.5 million extension, a year after re-upping DeAngelo Williams to the tune of $43 million. For good measure, they inked Mike Tolbert to a $10 million deal in the offseason. Is it me, or does $90 million sound like a lot to invest in that position when your quarterback is actually your best running back?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVII: Pussy Riot Shouldn’t Be In Jail, Plus The Misogyny Campaign Gets Cranking

“Pussy Riot attacks Putin,” they said
A headline you can’t dream up dead
Even in commie Russia, it’s wild
Now they’re going to be trialed
Why couldn’t this happen to Bieber instead?

A bipolar receiver got cut
After a wifely head butt
If Chad Johnson could actually play
They might look the other way
But good riddance to a washed-up nut

Can’t read or watch the news
Without getting a severe case of the blues
A suicide bomb killed 40 there
Murders and fraud everywhere
So many lost and so much left to lose

Likeability “Big Brother” does lack
Middle-aged tools keep coming back
A twitchy 9-year-old creep scheming
A chef who can’t talk without screaming
Liked it better when it wasn’t so whack

In the latest GOP steaming shit heap
They’ve picked Paul Ryan as Veep
A Tea Party tool in the spotlight
Should go over well in a debate fight
Politics in general should be put to sleep

Last time

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Deep Thoughts By No-Look McFadden: Episode 59

Val Patterson, you’re my hero. “Or, How to Live a Memorable Life and Then Write a Memorable Obituary.”

It’s hard to keep track of the number of ongoing scandals at UNC, but does the ruling on Bitch Davis’s phone records mean we’ll never get a transcript of his drunk-dialing of Dawn Bunting?

In case you have a healthy disrespect for iconic images and an unhealthy obsession with “Star Wars,” here are some memorable pictures featuring action figures.

Have you ever seen U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe and “Point Break” actress Lori Petty in the same place at the same time? Me neither.

Rarely has one magical image better captured a human’s love for a dog. And the back story ain’t bad either.

Apparently, Jimmy Johnson wouldn’t have cut Chad Johnson. In terms of pertinence, this is akin to soliciting Keith Richards’s perspective on sobriety.

Finally, Mitt Romney’s tax return. What was the big deal over this anyway?

I’d like to submit to evidence reason #406 why Jim Mora Jr. is a complete and utter douchebag. Also, not a good football coach.

The definition of irony can be ascertained by observing driving interactions in a church parking lot on Christmas or Easter.

NBC elected to employ a tape-delay approach to the Olympics an instant-gratification world. But to make up for it, they used analysts who had little to no interest in actually explaining unfamiliar sports or rules to the casual viewer. Besides those small points, great job, NBC.

Monday, August 13, 2012

KFC's Got the Gayest Chicken

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVI: Remembering How It All Began, Plus Samuel L. Jackson’s Parenting Skills

A trip down memory lane
Of MSI going up in flames
Remembering games of whiffle
With a headshake and a sniffle
Sauceboxes made sense of the insane

Who knew they had theaters for porn vid?
Apparent Fred Willard did
Got caught Pee Weeing his Herman
Instead of giving a contrite sermon
He laughed it off like a 72-year-old kid

Ernie Els added to his trophy fame
Adam Scott lost the Open in shame
He had a mighty choke
To lose it all by a stroke
But both brought class to the game

In the wake of Sanduskygate
Deserved hammering of Penn State
The NCAA weighed in fast
Which is unlike their history past
But they deserved their ultimate fate
Blessed we are once again
A healthy wee next of kin
Taken our home from three to four
A boy and a girl we adore
Now just go the fuck to sleep, Finn