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Saturday, August 14, 2010
Most boring U.S. sports headline of year? Could be! 8/14 Miami Herald: "Miami Dolphins' Sparano's goal in preseason is evaluating his players"
Miami Dolphins' Sparano's goal in preseason is evaluating his players
By Jeff Darlington
Exhibition games aren't for everyone. Not for the established veterans who just want to stay healthy. Not for the casual fans who wish the score would count for something.
But for the coach?
"I have four preseason games right now, and I can't find enough time for some of the players that I have to see,'' Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Thursday.
Balancing between the task of getting starters enough repetitions and evaluating little-known players, Sparano's agenda during Saturday's 7 p.m. preseason opener against the Tampa Bay will be slammed.
While he focuses on the details, fans will get an opportunity to watch some of the bigger themes of training camp play out.
5. CORNERBACK DEPTH
In the wake of cornerback Will Allen's arthroscopic knee surgery, it has become clear that backups Jason Allen and Nolan Carroll are being pegged as the two players capable of filling his role. Carroll is a rookie, and Jason Allen hasn't lit up the world as a cornerback during his career, meaning the upcoming preseason games will provide coaches with the best proof possible to see if their strong training camp is the real deal. Both figure to get plenty of repetitions once Sparano has decided Sean Smith and Vontae Davis have seen enough playing time to justify sitting them down. So just because the starters might wind up seated by halftime, this preseason opener should provide at least a few reasons to watch.
4. SAFETY CHRIS CLEMONS
Five months ago, the Dolphins were in hot pursuit of Steelers free safety Ryan Clark to fill a significant void. But Clark snubbed Miami. How did the Dolphins resolve the issue? By giving second-year safety Chris Clemons a chance to prove his worth. Sparano said Clemons has taken more than 400 repetitions during practice -- and he has only made one mental mistake. As a result, a strong performance against the Bucs will cause Sparano to declare him the first winner of a competition during training camp. Sparano noted that "if it goes well on Saturday, and he gets enough opportunities,'' Clemons will be the guy. "Chris has proven to me right now that I think he's going to be a pretty good player.''
3. INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE
Every time it appears the Dolphins have steered toward a certain combination of players at guard and center, somebody gets hurt. The latest victim of Miami's almost daily injury bug was Nate Garner, who was taking repetitions as the first-team left guard before aggravating a previous foot injury. Center Jake Grove is coming back from a bone bruise on his knee, but Joe Berger is expected to start against the Bucs. Rookie John Jerry is the likely starter on the right side, but the left guard position remains up in the air. It will take more than one game to settle this unit. As the competition plays out, Sparano could take looks at as many as four combinations throughout this game.
2. FRONT SEVEN
If you believe the Dolphins' offense is going to be the catalyst for Miami's overall success this season, then it's important to still realize why a young defense will need to click for any of the rest to matter. Defensive end Jared Odrick and linebacker Koa Misi are slated as rookie starters, linebacker Cameron Wake is trying to prove he's a three-down linebacker and nose tackle Randy Starks is transitioning to a new position. All four will play integral parts in the fate of the defense -- yet none of the four have any extensive body of work during games when it comes to those tasks. The upcoming preseason might be more critical for them than any other group on this roster.
1. HENNE TO MARSHALL
Quarterback Chad Henne is slated to play at least one quarter against the Bucs, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. He could play into the second quarter if the offense isn't on the field enough in the first, which should please fans for one reason: He'll have more than a few opportunities to connect with wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Despite a strong start to training camp, Henne and Marshall struggled in the team's only game-like format -- a scrimmage that took place last week. It was no reason to worry, but an exhibition against the Bucs could be the perfect way to prove it. Chemistry will be critical for the pair to flourish. They are getting along great, and Marshall seems to really like the way Henne throws the ball.
Reader comments from very unsophisticated South Florida football fans who make up for their lack of football smarts and historical knowledge and context by being very opinionated sycophants are at:
After reading this article this morning, I wrote the following and submitted it.
Thank you ladies and gentleman but you can stop sending in nominations now as we already have our most boring sports headline of the year: 8/14 Miami Herald: "Miami Dolphins' Sparano's goal in preseason is evaluating his players"
Actually, the honeymoon of sorts that Dolphin fans have given Sparano will end in late October if he can't start showing that he can actually out-coach someone once in a while.
While we're at it, how come Sparano was never quite able to figure out last year how to create a scenario for a super-talent like Pat White, who has been a legit difference-maker and great teammate his entire college career, where he could have some early success to help his confidence?
Frankly, it often looked to me like the team flat out quit on Pat White, and then his inexperience resulted in wasted opportunities or hasty turnovers. Don't give up on this kid. I still do NOT believe in Chad Henne, whether his self-evident staring-down of receivers or his lack of a 'touch,'Midas or otherwise, on thrown balls.
Far too often, he resembles a statue with a bazooka.
Interesting perhaps to look at in a museum, but his lack of mobility always makes me think he's about two seconds from either a concussion or a fumble.
He could've run for first downs so many times last year, too, yet stayed in the pocket too long, only to over-throw, under-throw or get sacked. His sense of inner timing is problematic, esp. in close games in the 4th Quarter. After I got back early this evening from doing some errands and swinging by the beach to read some newspapers, political direct mail and make some notes and organize my thoughts about some things I need to write about here in the future, I went back to the article above.
The Hectors in Hialeah and Mikes in South Miami do not like critical scrutiny of the Dolphins.
Not that this is a surprise to me, though, as you'll get no argument from me that South Florida sports fans are THE most ignorant in all of the major North American cities having pro teams, and the sports radio here proves it everyday.
Listening is the proof.
There are STILL people defending Randy Shannon everyday who say he should get a few more YEARS as the University of Miami's head football coach before any decision is made.
So after perusing some of the predictably dopey reader comments before the game started, I cobbled together some more thoughts to respond.
It was fun to write but not all of it would fit, but here it is:
Reading the reader comments to my earlier comments has been pretty funny. I could mention that my first Dolphin home game was in 1970, that I first went to summer training camp at the then-Biscayne College 2-3 times a week in '71, that I purchased the first copy of Dolphin Digest -when that was really a new concept- at the mobile snack bar north of the scorching-hot metal bleachers.
That I was at MIA to greet the team with thousands of others after their '71 Christmas Day playoff OT win against the Chiefs, had season tickets for the first time in the '72 Perfect Season, only missed one home game -preseason, regular and playoff in eight years until I left for college.
Or, that I actually got to know some of the players personally who were most responsible for their glory days, even baby-sitting kids from time-to-time whose Dolphin father made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Or that I've forgotten more Dolphin history than 99% of you will ever know. I like him, but if White ends up being a bust with the Dolphins, Y-O-U and the Herald's sycophants have to blame Parcells for wasting an early second round pick, no?
Or that with the easiest schedule in the NFL, the Dolphins made the playoffs but lost, while the Steelers, with the most difficult schedule, won the Super Bowl.
Or that last year, the Dolphins had the worst fourth-quarter defense in the NFL.
But I won't, because that would be taking advantage of people who simply don't know what they are talking about.
I will mention, though, that while at West Virginia, Pat White finished in the top seven for the Heisman Trophy two years in a row, a not-inconsiderable feat, and was personally responsible for some of WVU's greatest victories in school history, including Bowl Game upsets that turned into routs.
Meanwhile, Chad Henne never beat Ohio State while at Michigan and is, in part, responsible for some of the worst games played in Michigan history, and often disappeared in games where he needed to have a strong presence, which perhaps explains why he wasn't an NFL First-Round pick, don't you think? (Oh, and that he often had no "touch" on his passes.)
Now, you kids go back to Los Marlins store on Calle Ocho and admit to your dopey pals that you're a football fraud who doesn't really knows anything about the game before you were born.
Topflight Photography view of Hollywood, Hallandale Beach at Ocean Drive/A1A
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