Well, this is the initial post on the Dolphins Watch blog, and I hope to provide you with analysis, commentary and observations from this Miami Dolphins season. This is a new and exciting venture, and I hope to make the most of it.
Just by way of introduction, my name is Mario Sarmento and I have been a sports writer for the past nine years, in both print and the Internet. I've covered high school, college and pro sports, with the highlight of my career undoubtedly being when I covered Super Bowl XLI two years ago in Miami between the Colts and the Bears.
As far as this blog goes, I will offer commentary of Dolphins' moves and games during the season, with the occasional interview mixed in. If needed, I'll also comment on some of the larger issues in the NFL, and I'll add notes about fantasy football and anything else I think you might find interesting.
Since there are so many other outlets covering the Dolphins and the NFL, I will try to provide a different spin on the team's coverage, while keeping up with and commenting on any team news.
But, enough about what I plan to do, and let's get down to the big news of the day.
As you've probably read elsewhere, the Dolphins made a surprising move today by releasing cornerback Eric Green, who the team signed as a free agent from Arizona.
According to published reports, Green was likely a victim of being too comfortable on a Tony Sparano-coached team.
Like his mentor, Bill Parcells, Sparano believes being comfortable leads to complacency, and complacency leads to losing football games.
Thus, an early message was sent to any malingerers that anyone is expendable on this team (are you listening, Matt Roth)?
The other message this sends is the Dolphins must be very high on rookie cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, both drafted this year, to have made the move at all.
Smith has played well in training camp, and he had an interception in the Fins' 12-9 win over Jacksonville in the opening preseason game Monday night.
Right now, he is the starter opposite veteran Will Allen. But this is the NFL, where change happens quickly.
Davis struggled against the Jags, picking up three penalties -- two on special teams. But, he is a first round pick who will be given every benefit of the doubt in this battle. Expect it to last right up until the end of preseason.
Also, Green was victimized by Jacksonville backups for three straight completions Monday, which apparently was the continuation of a trend started in training camp.
Still, will the Dolphins only rely on the rookies when they have to face Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in division play? Or will the loss of Green hurt when the Dolphins need veteran savvy in the secondary? The answers to those questions will come starting Sept. 10.
As for Roth, the fifth-year player who was supposed to start at oustide linebacker, there are conflicting reports as to his absence in training camp.
Sparano said he failed the team's first conditioning test due to illness, while his agent Drew Rosenhaus said Roth failed because of a groin injury.
Whatever the reason, Sparano has made it clear the team is moving on without him, and Jason Taylor is now starting at linebacker until further notice.
As for the rest of the team, it looks much improved from the 2008 team that shocked observers by going 11-5 and winning the AFC East for the first time since 2000.
The Dolphins overhauled the secondary in an effort to improve a pass defense that only ranked 25th last year, adding the rookies as well as former Oakland safety Gibril Wilson.
Offensively, Miami acquired new weapons in the form of second round pick Pat White, recruited to run the "WildPat," and rookie receivers Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline.
Add those players to reigning Comeback Player of the Year Chad Pennington, third-year receiver Ted Ginn and fellow wideouts Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess, and the offense should improve on last season's pedestrian average of 21.6 points per game.
The problem is, the team may in fact be better than last year, but the Dolphins could end up with a worse record.
Part of that is due to the strengthened AFC East, with Tom Brady back in New England and T.O. taking his show to Buffalo, as well as the new look New York Jets.
The other part is a brutal schedule that sees the Dolphins face six playoff teams, including three straight to open the season.
But, as we all know, preseason expectations are usually hyperbole. After all, no one expected a playoff year in 2008 after the Dolphins won just one game the previous year.
And, if there's anything we've learned in the NFL, it's that each year there seem to be new teams rising to the top. Look at how Atlanta turned its fortunes around last season, and of course, the Cardinals surprised everyone by making the playoffs and advancing to their first Super Bowl.
So, that means we don't know anything at this point, try as we might to prognosticate. And that's the beauty of sports.
Fantasy angle: The Dolphins have the potential to improve this year, but not from a fantasy football perspective. The Dolphins defense may just be the best bet this season, as Taylor and Cameron Wake should complement Joey Porter nicely in the pass rush, and we've already mentioned the secondary upgrades. Offensively, there are a lot of pedestrian fantasy players, with running back Ronnie Brown being the best of the bunch. He's two years removed from ACL surgery, which means he should be back to his pre-2008 self. But I wouldn't spend higher than a fourth round choice on him, unless you are desperate for running backs. Ginn is another possibility, since he is entering his third season and that's when wideouts typically start to flourish. But if you take him, buy low, as I've already mentioned the other receiving options he must compete with. And remember, Pennington likes to spread the ball around, and he prefers to throw short passes. As a deep target, this is not a good fit for Ginn. Pennington and Camarillo also merit consideration as backups.
Misc: Dan Marino is back, but no, it's not what you think. This is not a Brett Favre unretirement. Marino is being featured in this month's McFarlane SportsPicks NFL Legends collection, a group that includes Barry Sanders, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Archie Manning, Bart Starr and Joe Montana. McFarlane has been making NFL figures for the last eight years, and they are incredibly realistic. Marino was already featured in the Legends 3 lineup, wearing his home white uniform and looking like he did as a rookie. This version is the older, bulkier Marino from around 1994 or '95, I'd say. He's wearing his road green jersey, and you can see the bulge in his leg from the knee brace. It's a highly accurate figure, and a good buy at $11.99 for the Dolphins fan in your life. You can pick him up at any retail store that sells toys.
Well, that's it for the initial Dolphins Watch. I'll return with more news and notes later.