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Andy Cohen In The Morning will appear every Monday through Friday until the end of the season, except for the bye week. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m.
By on August 21, 2014 at 5:55 am

140821_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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The first free agent the Dolphins signed this past offseason, and perhaps the most important, says he has no regrets, no second thoughts. Branden Albert has, at least through training camp, been everything the Dolphins hoped he would be. A strong, powerful left tackle. The anchor of the offensive line. A leader to set an example for the young players around him.

The Dolphins moved swiftly to sign Albert. They did not hesitate paying him the kind of money a first-rate left tackle dictated on the open market. And now, as each week passes, they are seeing further evidence that their money was well spent.

“This was the best training camp of my career,” Albert says. “I’m out here every day mentally and physically. I was a little hesitant the first few days because there was so much to learn. But now it is full go for me. I’m 100 percent a Miami Dolphin. I’m so happy to be here.”

Albert is just one of several veteran free agents signed by the Dolphins this past offseason. It is too early to form any conclusions about this group as a whole. That will have to wait until we see how they produce when the games count for real. But I believe Albert is a given and my first impressions of the other free agents tell me that Dennis Hickey has gotten off to an excellent start as general manager of this team.

Any conversation about this free agent group has to start with Albert. But, even as important as he is, the others have a real chance to be productive players. Let’s go down the list, in no particular order, of the veteran free agent signings before training camp began and you’ll see what I mean.

• Safety Louis Delmas: Has been the starting safety since the first time he stepped on the practice field and gives this defense a legitimate big play threat in the secondary. I’ve spent time with Delmas. I understand what he’s about. I’ve seen his enthusiasm first hand. My gut feeling is that Delmas is going to have an excellent season.

• Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: The Dolphins are getting from Mitchell exactly what they hoped they would. A strong, tough-minded player who will rotate with Jared Odrick and Randy Starks in the middle of the defensive line. While I’m still not sure whether Mitchell will be as productive as Paul Soliai, I am certain that he will be a consistently good player and, in some games, a difference-maker.

• Cornerback Cortland Finnegan: He arrived with question marks because of injury and consistency problems over the past few seasons. But, with the exception of a few days off to attend a family funeral, Finnegan has been a factor in every practice. He has value at both the cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes in the base defense and as a nickel back in passing situations. You watch him on the practice field and you see the type of plays that, only a few years ago, made him one of the top corners in the league.

• Running back Knowshon Moreno: At this point you have to give Moreno an incomplete because of the time he missed recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery. But now that he is close to 100 percent again, we are beginning to see the attributes that guided the Dolphins in his direction. His pass receiving. His blocking ability. The moves he makes to avoid tacklers. If he can stay healthy, I expect Moreno to touch the ball 12-15 times a game.

• Offensive guard Daryn Colledge: Signed late in the offseason after Mike Pouncey went down with an injury, Colledge gives this offensive line smarts and experience. He is the likely starter next to Albert on the left side and, while there are bigger, stronger and more talented players, Colledge is consistently good and makes few glaring mistakes.

• Offensive guard Shelley Smith: The fifth-year player spent some time early on at center and since then has been playing exclusively at guard. He worked with the starters this week at right guard and probably will play a lot this season.

The other three veteran free agents signed by the Dolphins during the offseason are offensive lineman Jason Fox and wide receivers Damian Williams and Kevin Cone. Fox has been hurt recently, but is now back at practice to make a final push for a roster spot. Williams and Cone are in the mix for one of the last receiver spots and both have had some impressive moments.

(On Friday, AC in the AM takes a look at Saturday’s home preseason game against Dallas.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 20, 2014 at 5:55 am

140820_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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Linebacker Jordan Tripp, a fifth-round pick out of Montana, has been one of the pleasant surprises of training camp. He is smart, instinctive and tough. So smart, in fact, that he is learning every linebacker position.

Love those tough Montana kids,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. “This young man has a real chance to make it.”

It is still too early to project where Tripp might fit in. Right now it’s about making it through each day and getting used to this level of competition.

It is late one morning last week and, as usual, Tripp is one of the last players to leave the field. With sweat pouring down his face and with his jersey rolled up to let the hot breeze in, No. 57 on your Dolphins roster agrees to tackle 10 questions.

1. Your father played linebacker at Montana. Your grandfather played linebacker there as well. What does it mean to you and to them for you to get this chance?

JT: This is everything my dad taught me when I was a little kid. If you have a dream and a goal you’ve got to take a million steps to get there. You skip a step and you are not going to get there. So I’m keeping what he said in mind and making sure I don’t miss a thing. I talk to my dad all the time. I know this means a lot for all of us.

2. You are a rookie trying to crack a spot on a veteran defense. How do you approach this challenge?

JT: It is not a challenge for me as much as it is an opportunity. I have an opportunity here to play the sport I love. I’m going to maximize every opportunity I get. I’m a lucky guy. I get to wake up every day and play football. That’s something I never take for granted and will never take for granted. You’ll never see me hanging my head. I feel blessed to be out here.

3. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?

JT: I ride horses. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve rode horses. I push cattle. I work on the ranch. I love everything outdoors. I love to fish and hunt. People I guess would expect that with me being from Montana. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to check out everything you can do outdoors down here.

4. For somebody who has never seen you play, how would you describe yourself as a player?

JT: Passionate. Very passionate. Everything I do is with a passion. I’m intense. I’m very instinctive. I try to react at full speed out there.

5. Are you living a dream out here?

JT: Most definitely. As a kid, playing football is all I ever wanted to do. And now I have a chance to do it as a living. You can’t get much more fortunate than that. For me, it’s all about playing my best. That may sound cheesy to you, but my dad always said even if your goals are sky high, you have to concentrate on what’s right in front of you. And that’s how I approach everything I do on the football field.

6. Give us an idea what the top most played songs are on your I-tunes?

JT: The band is Tool. Like them a lot. The song is called Schism. I would say I like H. Yes, it’s called H, also by Tool. Also some Reggae music. I like country. I like Reggae. I have a wide range of music interests.

7. Have you had a welcome to the NFL moment yet?

JT: I was sitting in the film room the other day and I watched Koa Misi just blow up Vonta Leach. I mean he really got him good. That was a “wow” moment for me because Leach is probably the best fullback in the league and for a linebacker to make a play like that was something that really hit home with me.

8. The Dolphins had a fifth-round draft choice at linebacker back in 1996, a guy named Zach Thomas who had an unbelievable career. You are a fifth-round draft choice. Does knowing something like that offer you hope?

JT: There is a first time for everyone. I’m not sure Tom Brady came into the league pointing to another sixth-round quarterback who made it. Everybody is different. Everybody has different skills. I’m sure Zach Thomas was a great player, but right now I’m just concerned with being the best player I can be. When you are here you are here. It doesn’t matter how you got here, just as it makes no difference that I grew up in Montana.

9. Tell us why you feel you can be a productive player in this league?

JT: Preparation and focus. I just have to continue to use the skills I’ve been given and come out here every day with a purpose. I know I can play. I know I can contribute. I just have to prove it every day. I believe I can come out here and help this team. Now it’s just up to the coaches to decide where they want to put me.

10. If you make the 53-man roster, how would you celebrate?

JT: (A big smile). I would call my dad first. He’d be so happy for me. After that, I would start getting ready for the first game. Like I said, it’s all about taking steps and that would be a big step for me.

(On Thursday AC in the AM evaluates the free agents signed by the Dolphins this past offseason.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 19, 2014 at 5:55 am

140819_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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To understand how Bill Lazor got to where he is today, as offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, you have to first go back to Oct. 12, 1991.

Lazor was an untested sophomore quarterback at Cornell, who started that season third on the depth chart. He was so thin that his coach, Jim Hofher, personally put him on a scale to make sure he weighed 170 pounds. “I was surprised he weighed that much,” Hofher said.

Cornell was playing at Stanford that day in 1991. It predictably wasn’t much of a game.

“We were a non-scholarship Ivy League team, a band of merry men travelling across the country,” recalls Hofher. “A mismatch of a game.”

So at halftime, with the game already out of hand, Hofher turned to his young quarterback and gave him his chance. Bill Lazor would start the second half.

Now, the scoreboard says that Cornell was drubbed 55-6 by Stanford. What it doesn’t tell you is that Bill Lazor led his team on its only touchdown drive. Just six points? It was enough to convince Hofher that he had found his starting quarterback.

What he also found in the process was a player as smart as any he had ever coached, a player who would start for the next two-plus seasons, a player who was so impressive in so many ways that Hofher gave Lazor a coaching job right out of college.

That’s how his path to the Miami Dolphins began.

“He was so cerebral,” recalls Hofher, who is now assistant head coach at Nevada. “He would ask questions, the right questions. But he was not only bright, he was industrious and he was firm and he was like that as a young player.”

Hofher rattles off stories about Lazor with pride and admiration. There was the time Lazor audibled to a quarterback sneak against Harvard.

“We were at the 5-yard line,” Hofher recalls. “You wouldn’t think you could run a quarterback sneak from there.”

But Lazor knew exactly what to do, exactly where the crease would be, exactly how his linemen would block on the play. A five-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak? No problem for Bill Lazor.

“He was so much fun to coach,” Hofher says. “There was nothing that was too much for him.”

Like the time against Brown when Cornell had a fourth-and-goal from the 10 yard line on the final play of the game, needing a touchdown to win.  Hofher remembers putting in one of those plays that might have confused most any other quarterback. An unbalanced line to the wide side of the field. A fake handoff. A naked quarterback bootleg to the left. A tight end crossing into the end zone. Lazor could not have executed the play any better.

“The good guys won that day,” Hofher says.

Or maybe Hofher will tell you about the day Lazor passed for 400 yards against Columbia. Or the run of games when he threw 124 straight passes without an interception. Or the 17 school records that he broke, many of them set by Hofher when he played quarterback at Cornell.

But those weren’t the things that Hofher will remember most. What remains most vivid, and will always remain most vivid, is how Bill Lazor used his mind as his most potent weapon.

How many college coaches ask their young quarterback: “What do you think we should run on this play.” And how many college coaches would intently listen?

This is Bill Lazor’s story. So intelligent. So creative. In many ways, so ahead of his time. The perfect mentor for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The perfect architect for this new-look offense.

When Hofher took the head-coaching job at the University of Buffalo in 2001, who do you think he hired as his offensive coordinator? Yep, Bill Lazor. At 28 years old.

“May have been the youngest Division I offensive coordinator in the country at that time,” Hofher says.

A year later, Lazor said goodbye to his old coach and made his move to the NFL. He has worked for some impressive offensive minds through the years – Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs, Mike Holmgren and Chip Kelly – and took something from each of them. Now, he is taking all of that knowledge and applying it to the Dolphins, impressing so many people in his short time here.

But his biggest fan may still be Jim Hofher.

“He has always lived his life with his eyes wide open,” Hofher said of Lazor. “I love him as if he was one of my own.”

And it all really started at halftime of a lopsided loss at Stanford some 23 years ago.

(On Wednesday, AC in the AM plays 10 questions with rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 18, 2014 at 5:55 am

140818_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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With two of the four preseason games complete, with quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore clearly taking to this new offense, with unanswered questions remaining in several important areas and with New England now less than three weeks away, here are some Monday morning morsels to digest:

• I can’t say enough about what I’ve seen from both Tannehill and Moore. Both appear ready for the season to begin. Tannehill has now had two straight sharp performances while Moore probably ended all doubts about any No. 2 quarterback battle with an impressive showing against Tampa Bay. It’s clearly a feel good time for both quarterbacks.

• Wish I could say the same about the running game. There was real concern in Joe Philbin’s words late Saturday night after his starters and key reserves finished the first half at minus 5 yards rushing. That’s unacceptable. You could certainly argue that Knowshon Moreno should return to action next Saturday against Dallas and that will make a difference. But you can’t hide the fact that the No. 1 line lost the battle of penetration and starting back Lamar Miller had 3 yards on 3 carries. I was concerned about this before camp began. I’m just as concerned now.

• What I’m not concerned about are the wide receivers. I can truthfully make an argument for as many as seven to make this team. Unfortunately, there could be as few as four or five. Three have really solidified their status this preseason: veterans Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews and rookie Jarvis Landry. Tough going to keep those three off the field.

• Then there’s the offensive line. I believe we have reached the point in the preseason where Philbin wanted to have a clear starting five. But he has no such luxury at this point. While it appears four of the five spots are relatively secure, the right guard spot remains a concern after Dallas Thomas struggled against the Bucs. It’ll be interesting to see how Philbin handles this. Does he stay with Thomas and look for rapid improvement or does he go with a veteran like Shelley Smith? A tough call. An important call.

The tackling was better against Tampa Bay, but clearly not good enough, especially in the secondary where both Jimmy Wilson and Louis Delmas struggled some in that area. It was, however, encouraging that the linebackers seemed to step up their game.

• The goal line strip by Brent Grimes against Tampa Bay was big-time in every aspect. Grimes never gave up on the play and showed the type of determination that makes this veteran cornerback a special player.

• I want to keep seeing more of rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp.

• Undrafted rookie linebacker Chris McCain keeps making a case for a spot on this roster. Could he be the surprise of the summer?

I like what I see from the pass rush, especially by the defensive linemen. This clearly will be one of the strengths of this team.

• Second-year cornerbacks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor continue to enjoy an excellent summer. Both appear ready for serious playing time.

• I’ve got to admit I came into camp with strong doubts about rookie defensive lineman Terrence Fede. I mean how good can a player from Marist be? Well, we are quickly finding out. Fede is contributing both on special teams and on defense and the upside appears considerable.

• This is an important week of practice. The starters figure to play at least the entire first half Saturday against Dallas and it is important that this team quickly advance into a regular season mode. We’ve seen encouraging signs over the first two preseason games. Now, it’s time to take things to another level.

(On Tuesday, AC in the AM takes a close look at offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

081714-WeekInreviewTraining camp has ended, and now the regular season is fast approaching for the Miami Dolphins after winning the second game of the preseason last night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After last night’s 20-14 victory, the team now resumes a practice schedule more in line with what will occur during the regular season as they get ready for the “dress rehearsal” preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys coming up this Saturday at Sun Life Stadium. But before we move past this week, there was a lot to take in from the final week of camp, and Dolphins.com had wall to wall coverage of it.

For more on the past week with the Miami Dolphins, let’s take a look back and recap the week that was for the team from August 10th through August 17th:

Sunday, 8/10

Grimes Earns Team MVP Award

  • Cornerback Brent Grimes earned the team’s biggest award  as he was selected as the Dan Marino Most Valuable Player in 2013. (More…)

Lazor Looks For Sharpness In Offense

  • Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor spoke to reporters on Sunday to discuss the installation of the Dolphins new offense. (More…)

Monday, 8/11

Knowshon Moreno Working His Way Back

  • Free agent acquisition Knowshon Moreno looks closer and closer to getting his first game action of 2014. (More…)

Polian Breaks Down Tannehill

  • ESPN analyst Bill Polian stopped by The Finsiders studio to discuss Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the outlook for the 2014 season in Miami. (More…)

Coyle Wants Crisp Tackling From Defense

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle spoke with reporters in his weekly press conference about the development of the Dolphins defense. (More…)

Tuesday, 8/12

Dolphins Sign Brady Quinn

  • Miami made a roster move on Tuesday, adding the former 1st round draft pick to compete for a roster spot at the quarterback position. (More…)
  • Quinn was excited to get his chance to prove himself with the Dolpins, after he thought he would’ve been with this team a long time ago. (More…)

AC In The AM

  • Finsiders columnist Andy Cohen got a chance to sit down with Dolphins offensive lineman Daryn Colledge. (More…)

Wednesday, 8/13

Dolphins And Coach Phiblin Accept The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

  • Coach Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins accept the New England Patriots challenge to donate to ALS research. (More…)

Dick Stockton Joins The Finsiders

  • Legendary broacaster Dick Stockton, who announces the Dolphins preseason games on WFOR-TV, spoke with The Finsiders on Wednesday. (More…)

Thursday, 8/14

Dolphins Alumni Respond To ALS Bucket Challenge

  • Answering a challenge from Head Coach Joe Philbin, Dolphins President/CEO Tom Garfinkel, General Manager Dennis Hickey and a group of former Dolphins players led by Hall of Famer Dan Marino got buckets of ice dumped on their head after practice Thursday. (More…)

Dolphins Hold Final Practice Of Training Camp

  • Alain Poupart profiled Miami’s seventh round draft choice this year in former Marist defensive end Terrence Fede. (More…)
  • John Congemi gave his observations from the totality of Dolphins Training Camp. (More…)
  • Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor sat down with Greg Likens of The Finsiders to discuss his training camp and Taylor’s second year in the league. (More…)

Friday, 8/15

Dolphins Kickoff Luncheon

  • The Dolphins Kickoff Luncheon was a chance for Dolphins players and coaches to mingle with fans in a relaxed setting. (More…)

Finsiders Talk Big Picture

  • NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport joins The Finsiders to discuss some of the insight that he gained from his trip to Davie this week as he spoke with Joe Philbin, Dennis Hickey and others within the Dolphins organization. (More…)
  • In an interview with The Finsiders, linebacker Jelani Jenkins was asked about how he plans to make an impact in year two of his NFL career. (More…)
  • In Andy Cohen’s latest columinst, The Finsiders columnist talked about how this preseason is all about growth. (More…)

Miami Makes Roster Move

  • The Miami Dolphins have signed kicker John Potter and waived kicker Danny Hrapmann, the team announced on Friday. (More…)

Saturday, 8/16

Dolphins vs. Bucs

  • Check out complete highlights of the Dolphins’ 20-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right here. (More…)
  • See which players earned game balls from our game analysts from the 20-14 win against the Buccaneers. (More…)
  • Finsiders analyst John Congemi gave us three takeaways from the Dolphins’ victory on Saturday night. (More…)
  • Backup quarterback Matt Moore thrived in Miami’s win on Saturday. (More…)
  • Former Dolphins offensive lineman Keith Sims joined Greg Likens to break down all of the action from Miami’s 20-14 victory over the Bucs. (More…)

TOP VIDEOS OF THE WEEK 

TOP PHOTO GALLERIES OF THE WEEK


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 16, 2014 at 10:45 pm

140816_AC_AMAndy Cohen’s column on Dolphins.com appears at 6 a.m. every weekday from training camp through the season. Occasionally, like today, Andy will also provide some quick hits.). Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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• Always nice to get a victory, even in the preseason.

Ryan Tannehill looked sharp in about twice as many plays as he had in the preseason opener. He completed nine of 14 with one pass dropped. His fumble did not appear to be his fault. Nice to see him building some real consistency.

• And nice to see Matt Moore step up with a “midseason form” performance. His two touchdown drives were textbook material and he clearly showed he’s a valuable asset.  Suffice it to say his shoulder problems are a thing of the past.

• All Jarvis Landry does is keeping making big plays.

• So does Brandon Gibson.

• And on this night, Rishard Matthews may have been the best of all the receivers. Talk about a deep group!

• Guard Dallas Thomas struggled against Gerald McCoy, though I’ve got a feeling plenty of OL will be struggling against McCoy. Still, Thomas needs to play better than that.

Jimmy Wilson misses an open field tackle and the Bucs seemingly score a touchdown. But Brent Grimes makes a huge goal line strip and the Dolphins get the ball. Poor play followed by great play. How special is Grimes? That play shouts of determination.

• But the missed tackles must get corrected.

• On the other hand, the pass rush had some impressive moments.

• Looking for an undrafted rookie to keep your eye on? Check out linebacker Chris McCain.

Dion Jordan forces a turnover. That’s more like it.

• Tough to gauge the competition at running back when Knowshon Moreno, Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee all sit. But I’m hopeful two of the three, and perhaps all three, are back for next Saturday night’s game against Dallas. The running game needs to step up in a hurry.

• Speaking of Saturday night against Dallas, it is the all important third preseason game when the starters often play into the third quarter. That should tell us a lot more about this football team.

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 14, 2014 at 5:55 am

140814_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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Some things are starting to come into clear focus. Other areas remain muddled, far too close to call. There is still time before decisions have to be made, before a starting lineup has to be finalized, before the key reserves are identified. But as each day passes, some of the most intriguing battles of training camp remain in full throttle.

Who will be the starting five on the offensive line against New England? How about the slot receiver? The nickel back? The starting running back? The second tight end? These are the decisions this coaching staff is trying to come to terms with each day. They are crucial decisions that will have so much to do with the fortunes of this team.

So with one preseason game down, with the opener racing toward us, with training camp in sprint mode, let’s take a look at what I believe are five of the most interesting summertime battles. Of course, there are others – there always are – but these are the ones I am paying the closest attention to.

• Starting guards: Barring injury or a sudden change in performance, it seems to me that three of the five spots on the offensive line are secure – tackles Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James and center Samson Satele. That leaves the two guard spots. On the left side, Daryn Colledge has gotten the most first-team reps, but Shelley Smith is also under consideration. On the right side, Dallas Thomas has seen most of the action, but promising rookie Billy Turner isn’t out of the picture. I’ve got a hunch we’ll know a lot more after Saturday’s second preseason game.

• Starting running back: This spot has belonged to Lamar Miller since camp began, but now that Knowshon Moreno is practicing again, things have begun heating up. If Moreno can return to his 2013 form in Denver, he will be tough to beat out. While Miller brings some real big play possibilities, Moreno excels more as a pass receiver and blocker. It is likely new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will take advantage of both of their skills. One thing is certain: We need to see signs, and soon, of an improved rushing attack.

• Slot receiver: I love this competition. In the forefront, you’ve got a talented fifth-year player in Brandon Gibson going up against an electric rookie in Jarvis Landry whose upside is off the charts. But there is so much depth at receiver, I wouldn’t be surprised if others make some kind of move as well. While the slot receiver is important – and, in fact, will start some games – I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Gibson and Landry on the field together in four receiver sets with some combination of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews. But who gets first shot in the slot? Right now, it’s too close to call.

• Nickel Back: This job belonged to Jimmy Wilson for the first few weeks of camp. But once it was announced that safety Reshad Jones would miss the first month of the season, things changed in a hurry. If Wilson moves into Jones’ starting safety spot – the likely scenario – then there are all sorts of alternatives at nickel back. Second-year corner Jamar Taylor has been working there some this week, and offers promise. Perhaps the favorite is veteran Cortland Finnegan who can move to the nickel with Taylor or Will Davis then switching to Finnegan’s spot at corner. I don’t expect to see a final decision on this until the last week of camp.

• Second tight end: Why focus on competition for a back-up position behind Charles Clay? Because two tight end formations have become commonplace in this league and you’ve got to have a pair of good ones. Right now, when healthy, it appears that second-year player Dion Sims has the edge. Sims has had an excellent camp and has clearly upgraded his receiving skills. But among those still in the mix are rookie Arthur Lynch, free agent Gator Hoskins, former third-round pick Michael Egnew and second-year player Kyle Miller, who had an excellent catch in the preseason opener.

Indeed, a summer of important decisions continues – with many of the most important decisions still to come.

(On Friday, AC in the AM takes a close look at Saturday’s second preseason game.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 13, 2014 at 5:55 am

1acam_FansAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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Q. Andy, what do you make of the Dolphins signing Brady Quinn? @rogerdolfan933

AC: First of all, you can never have too many experienced quarterbacks. Second, Matt Moore missed some time in training camp with a sore throwing shoulder and, even though he’s practicing again, you just never know what might happen. Quinn is certainly worth a look as the Dolphins explore different possibilities behind starter Ryan Tannehill. How ironic that he’s now with the Dolphins after so many fans pleaded for Quinn’s selection in the 2007 draft when the first-round selection was Ted Ginn Jr. Strange how this league works sometimes.

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Q. What is the most noticeable difference between Joe Philbin from 2013 to 2014? @phinfan2004

AC: Probably that he is more involved with the players from a communication standpoint than ever before. Not only did he meet with most every player one-on-one prior to training camp, but he has kept those lines of communication wide open during training camp. Why, Philbin even handles bed check at the team hotel. He wants his players to know he’s available and in tune with what’s on their mind. This can do nothing but help.

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Q. Andy, do you think the run defense will be the Achilles’ for this year’s defense and do you think the defense can be elite this season? @docth2000

AC: I am concerned about the rushing defense and I will continue to be concerned until I see evidence of improvement. But to also answer the second part of your question, the run defense, especially from the linebackers, is the only major concern I can see at this time. If they can shore that up, the defense has a chance to be Top 10. Even with both Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones suspended for the first four games, there is plenty of depth both on the line and in the secondary. It’s important, though, that we see it all come together in the next few weeks.

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Q. With Reshad Jones suspended for the first four games, do you see that as an obvious hole in the secondary? @monster_kj

AC: Jones is a very good safety and will clearly be missed. But the Dolphins have some nice alternatives, both with veterans and young players, and I don’t expect there to be a significant drop-off. If Jimmy Wilson takes over the safety role, as I expect he will, I believe the Dolphins will be fine until Jones returns.

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Q. Why do players get suspended for performance enhancing drugs when they know they will be checked regularly? @Kyhem1

AC: Great question. It truthfully baffles me. Players need to be held accountable for whatever they put into their system. If I was playing, I would double and triple check every supplement I considered taking. This is a team sport. You make a mistake like that and it adversely affects your teammates and coaches. There really is no viable excuse for it.

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Q. Do you have a better timetable for Pouncey’s return? @JoshRCCdrum

AC: Mike Pouncey has told people that he is ahead of schedule. But who knows what that really means? I watch him work out on the side at practice and it seems he is moving around without much trouble. But moving around well and being ready to return from surgery are two different things. For now, I wouldn’t count on him being back until sometime in the second month of the season. But I’ve been surprised before on how quickly a player can recover from an injury.

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Q. Andy, do you think the offense will improve enough by Week 1 to beat the Patriots? @devineicarcher

AC: I see a tremendous upside in this offense. I like the new playbook. I like what I’ve seen so far in Ryan Tannehill and I believe the receiving core will be as deep as any in the AFC East. If the Dolphins can add some running balance to that offense, they can beat the Patriots. But I need to continue to see progress over the next three-plus weeks. I believe it will take 24 points to beat the Patriots.

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Q. How much longer until we start moving Dion Jordan to linebacker? @ThemailmanJamie

AC: Jordan was drafted so high because of his pass rushing abilities and I feel like that’s the area he can best help this team. But he does have the quickness and pass coverage ability to play linebacker and I certainly wouldn’t discount that possibility. However, there’s the four-game suspension to deal with first and that suggestion will have to be put on hold until he returns.

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Q. Where do you think Incognito and Jerry would be on this depth chart if not for the scandal? Is there an upgrade in talent on the offensive line? @dolfanrobert

AC: There has definitely been an upgrade in talent. I’m not so sure either Incognito or Jerry could crack this starting lineup. Keep in mind neither player was Pro Bowl material and both had their issues. I like the youth movement we are seeing. This line has a real chance to mature into a quality unit.

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Q. If there were one area, other than the offensive line, that you are most concerned about, what would that be? @Jrn26

AC: I’d have to say linebacker. I need to see both Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler step up their games. I also want to develop a comfort zone with Koa Misi now in the middle. This group has talent, but the missed tackles are a concern and will remain a concern until I see clear improvement.

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Q.  Andy, what are your initial impressions of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor? @dominicrawley222

AC: I’m truthfully having trouble containing my excitement for this new offense. I have seen this team run plays in practice that I’ve never seen a Dolphins offense run before and that has so much to do with Lazor. What I also like about Lazor – and don’t diminish the value of this – is the work he has put in with Ryan Tannehill. They have developed an excellent rapport and I truthfully believe we will see a different Tannehill under Lazor’s tutelage.

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Q. Andy, I saw Jarvis Landry make a couple of amazing moves on that punt return against Atlanta. How good can this guy be? @pablosensor993

AC: Scary good. You simply can’t teach those moves.

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Q. Andy, go into personal your bag of tricks, and tell us the one play you would love to see the Dolphins try. @maryjill294

AC: OK, I’ve been holding on to this one for a while. How about a quick pitch to the running back and a pass back to Ryan Tannehill, who started at receiver in college before moving to quarterback. I don’t think the defense would see that one coming. But given my record as an offensive coordinator – I don’t have one – I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

(On Thursday, AC in the AM takes a look at some of the more interesting camp battles.)

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 12, 2014 at 5:55 am

140812_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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Daryn Colledge had just spent 30 minutes signing autographs along the practice field fence after a grueling 2 ½ hour workout. The heat was pounding down upon him like a hard-charging defensive tackle; his jersey was off and the coolness of the locker room seemed so inviting.

And then I was there to intercept him. “Got a few minutes to play 10 questions with me?” I asked, not knowing what the reaction would be.

This 310-pound man, who will solidify the Dolphins at left guard this season, simply looked me in the eye. “No problem. I’ve got nothing to do right now. Let’s sit down and talk.”

As I exhaled, I led Colledge to a picnic table in the shade and, for the next 15 minutes, he answered every question with great thought, intelligence and candidness. What an impressive man! Now I understand why the Dolphins signed him as soon as they realized more interior help was needed on the offensive line. What I don’t understand is how he could have been available so late in the process. As you read how he answered the 10 questions, you’ll understand what I mean.

1. You never missed a game in your eight seasons. Not a single game. What’s the secret?

DC: A whole lot of hard work. A whole lot of luck. A whole lot of stubborness. You can’t always play this game at 100 percent, but I guess I’ve been lucky enough to do it. My injuries have come close to bye weeks. I always felt I have a responsibility to my teammates and coaches to be out there. If there is any way, I’m going to play. I fractured my leg last year and kept playing. The first couple of weeks I struggled with it, but by week four it kind of numbed up on me and I was fine.

2. You played for Joe Philbin when he was offensive line coach and offensive coordinator of the Packers? Is he much different today as head coach of the Dolphins?

DC: From a lowly offensive line coach to head coach of the Dolphins, he hasn’t changed a whole lot. He’s always a man of principle and that’s what he is today. He’s the kind of guy who wants to do it the right way every time and I think he ingrained that in a bunch of young guys including me. He’s a big reason I have never missed a game. He always said do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

3. What are the things you bring to this offensive line?

DC: I’ve always been an intelligent player. I’ve never been the flashiest or the fastest. I’ve never been the strongest. I find myself in the right position a lot. I’m good at reading defenses and I’m on the field all the time. If I’m going to be here at the beginning of the year, then you should feel confident I’ll be here at the end of the year.

4. There are five new starters on this line. How imposing a challenge is that?

DC: It’s harder on the outside then it is on the inside. Depending on the lineup we have out there, we have a lot of experience on the offensive line. I’ve got a good rapport with the tackles. Coaches are going to keep rotating guys. By week three, I think we will have settled into a clear starting five. Then we’ve got to stay healthy the whole season. If we can keep five guys on the field healthy, we have a chance to be a special offensive line, and I really mean that.

5. Toughest guy you ever blocked and why?

DC: (Laugh). It’s such a cliché, but the toughest guy you go up against every day is yourself. But to answer your question, there are so many talented guys out there. I played against Tommy Harris in his prime. I played against Vince Wilfork in his prime. Kyle Williams in Buffalo is so tough. It is so hard these days, you go up against an All-Pro every week. And the guy who isn’t an All-Pro is trying to become one.

6. Tell us some things about yourself? What are your passions? What are you like away from football?

DC: I’m a big adventure guy. I like scuba diving. I like flying. I’m a snowboarder. I like to ski. I’m as active as I can be. I’ve got a passion for wine. Me and a couple of buddies who played in Green Bay own a small wine label. I’ve got a bunch of hobbies. I’m kind of eclectic.

7. Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times last season. Are there any assurances you can give to Dolphins fans about the protection Tannehill will receive this season?

DC: Everybody guarantees it’s going to be better. We have a better scheme. Ryan is more aware. As an offensive line, we can’t allow 50 sacks. That can’t happen. We’re going to get the ball out faster. We’re going to protect better. Everybody is going to do a better job and we’ll have a better running game, which will take some of the pressure off Ryan.

8. You attended North Pole High School in Alaska. The butt of jokes?

DC: It’s just like you think it would be. It’s North Pole Alaska. We have candy cane light poles. We have Santa Claus everywhere. It was a great place to grow up as a kid with all the fishing, hunting and camping. I don’t know if I’ll ever live there again because it’s a place all on its own, but it was special growing up there.

9. You are 32 years old. How much longer will your body and mind allow you to play?

DC: I really don’t know. That’s a question you’ve got ask yourself every time you go to camp. During the offseason you think you can play five more years. Then by the end of the first week of camp you think you can play only five more days. It’s tough to tell. Very rarely does a guy get to choose his destiny in this league. You just go out and work hard and then one day someone will tap you on the shoulder and say you’re done. Until that day comes, I’ve got enough to keep going.

10. You’ve played with some very good teams. You played on a Super Bowl champion. What do you think is the real potential of this Dolphins team?

DC: This team can make the playoffs. There is no doubt in my mind. Any team that can make the playoffs always has a chance. Don’t forget, my Super Bowl team in Green Bay was a wild card team. We have a great defense here. We have quality special teams and we have an offense that’s heading in the right direction. We have a lot of real good playmakers. I just feel fortunate to be here.

(On Wednesday, AC in the AM answers fans questions.)

 

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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By on August 11, 2014 at 5:55 am

140811_AC_AMAndy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday, except for the bye week, until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

Have a question for A.C.? Submit your questions to Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins

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Let’s take one more look back at the preseason opener and, at the same time, look ahead at the challenges and concerns with less than a month left before the Patriots come to town:

• Yes, Ryan Tannehill looked sharp and poised in one series against the Falcons. But now he must take it another step and show consistency. That’s why this Saturday’s game is important for the third-year quarterback. Let’s see if he can put together two impressive showings in a row.

• Still, how can you not admire Tannehill’s opening act? I mean, six for six and a touchdown? Joe Philbin and Bill Lazor could not have concocted a better drive than that one.

• Speaking of that offense, when it “operates” with that kind of precision, can we call it “Lazor Surgery” after the team’s new offensive coordinator?

• We saw some new looks, some new plays. But don’t expect to see a lot more of that in the preseason. There is something to be said about a surprise attack, and the Dolphins know the Patriots are watching.

• I said it early in training camp and I’ll say it again: I wouldn’t want to be the one having to cut down this group of wide receivers. I mean, you can easily make a case for six or seven of them on the roster and it is sobering to remember that they kept only four in the cut down to 53 last season.

• Yes, the running game didn’t do too much. And that will be a concern until it proves otherwise. Lamar Miller had a nice third down run, but it is his long distance potential that must come to the forefront. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing Knowshon Moreno back in the mix.

• The starting offensive line against the Falcons – Branden Albert and Daryn Colledge on the left side, Samson Satele at center and Ja’Wuan James and Dallas Thomas on the right side – did well, especially protecting Tannehill on that first drive. I was particularly impressed with James who played a lot of snaps and did not commit a penalty or give up a sack. Pretty good for a rookie in his first NFL action. Like Tannehill, that starting five must show they can do it again against Tampa Bay.

• Some of those reserve tight ends can really catch the ball. I was especially impressed with a leaping catch by Kyle Miller and a couple of nice receptions from Brett Brackett. More tough decisions at cut down time.

• Now to the defense: I was concerned about the rushing defense before this game and I am still concerned. The linebackers have to do a better job finishing tackles. It’s that simple and that complicated.

• I liked what I saw in rookie linebacker Jordan Tripp. He’s got excellent instincts and always seems to be around the ball. So far, he’s looking like a pretty good fifth-round pick.

• The defensive line appears to be almost as deep as the receivers, especially with undrafted tackle Anthony Johnson clearly making a case to earn a roster spot.

• Second-year cornerback Will Davis may very well be the most improved player on this team. He plays with a fearless attitude, which is an important part of the job description.

I am disappointed that safety Reshad Jones has been suspended for the first four games for testing positive for a banned supplement. It is puzzling and unfortunate. But I think Jimmy Wilson, his probable replacement, will do just fine in his absence. This secondary, in my humble opinion, has a chance to be really good, especially if veteran Cortland Finnegan continues to demonstrate that his career is back on track.

• What do I want to see this week in practice? I want to see better tackling. I want to see a continued emphasis on less penalties. I want to see the natural improvement one would expect with a full game on tape and the urgency now very real of a regular season rapidly approaching.

(On Tuesday, AC in the AM plays 10 questions with guard Daryn Colledge).

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Click here for more A.C. In The A.M. Columns.


Please Note:
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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