South Florida saw some interesting on-, and off-the-field developments this week, despite the Miami Dolphins not actually playing a game themselves.
Big Changes in New England
One of the most interesting development’s over the bye week saw big changes in Foxborough, as the Dolphins’ AFC East rivals oversaw a huge adjustment to their receiving corps.
The New England Patriots decided to part ways with star receiver Randy Moss, in exchange for a third-round draft pick from Minnesota.
The Patriots followed this trade by reacquiring receiver Deion Branch from the Seattle Seahawks, following lobbying from Tom Brady for his signing. Branch returns to Foxborough after a difficult spell in Seattle, and it will be interesting to see whether he can reclaim his past form.
However, Moss’ departure will provide a much-needed boost to the Dolphins in the short term, as it potentially removes a top talent from the schedule altogether over the coming years. Additionally, there will be no Randy Moss when Miami visits New England later this year, in what already looks set to be a must-win game for the Dolphins.
The bad news for Miami has more long-term implications. New England now holds two picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. The rebuilding of the Patriots has clearly begun, and with an excellent history of draft choices, New England could be ready to invest in a team aimed at dominating the AFC East for the next decade.
On a side note, Vontae Davis held Moss to his first reception-less game in New England colours last week, the following day he was traded. Could his departure be attributed to Davis? Hardly likely, but Dolphins need some sort of moral victory after the MNF embarrassment, so we’ll go with it, “Vontae Davis forces Randy Moss out of AFC East.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, in the Big Apple…
The Jets won again, so seeing as that’s the case, let’s get this out the way quick as possible…
New York tops the AFC East at 4-1, followed by the Patriots at 3-1 and Miami at 2-2.
Mark Sanchez didn’t throw any picks. Again. Come to think of it, he hasn’t thrown any all season. It wasn’t supposed to be like this…
Jason Taylor recorded another sack and another forced fumble. Granted, this season, Brett Favre has turned the ball over more than he's texted women lewd photos of himself (allegedly), but, without wanting to keep going on about it, Taylor's release looks more like a mistake as every week goes by.
Some of us are still holding out for news to break that JT is destroying the organization from within though. Please?
(In addition, I only needed the in-form touchdown-machine, Dustin Keller, to get me seven fantasy points to secure the win for my team. He did not. You just can't trust the Jets to do anything right.)
Anyway, that’s that. Painful reading? Hurt just as much to write it.
News from South Florida
Right, finally onto some news from Miami itself. Tony Sparano said there were improvements in the special teams’ performance last week. We’ll gloss right over that fairytale though.
Jake Long has not practiced all week, but before alarm bells start ringing, the Sun Sentinel reported that he is simply resting his knee. There has been a niggling injury problem for Long, which has troubled him since the preseason game in Dallas, and the bye week was seen as the perfect time for the offensive tackle to rest up.
Here’s to hoping that the problem heals itself, and Long will play this weekend. Currently, there is very little information that suggests otherwise.
Long will likely be joined by the returning John Jerry on the offensive line too. The rookie has been out with a mystery illness for two weeks, but has returned to practice, and is likely to start in Green Bay.
On defence, first-round pick Jared Odrick has also returned to training, a month after suffering a fractured fibula in Minnesota. At this stage, it is unclear if he will play against the Packers, but even returning on a limited basis would be a boost for Miami.
And the good news keeps on coming as the long-awaiting return of Channing Crowder could be on the horizon. The inside linebacker has not participated all season, but his return to practice is an indication he may play against Green Bay, even if it is in a limited capacity.
Crowder has been criticized by many fans over the course of his career in Miami, but his absence is telling. Miami has struggled against the run, and both Tim Dobbins and Bobby Carpenter, have done little to help in his place. Crowder will make a difference, and his imminent return provides a much-needed boost to Miami’s defense.
One final note on injuries, and cornerback Will Allen is still not training. Allen was unhappy after being placed on the injury reserve list, and was reported to be seeking his release once fit again. As of today, Allen has not returned to training, though time will tell how long he remains a Dolphin.
Away from the medical center, there are reports that Cory Proctor has taken some first team reps at center in place of Joe Berger, but the Miami Herald has stated that this is only to increase competition between the two, in the hope of improving Berger’s performances. The chances of Proctor replacing Berger as starter are, for now, not great.
With regards to the constant churning of the roster, defensive end Lionel Dotson has been placed on the injury reserve list, having cleared waivers. Seventh-round draft pick, Austin Spitler, has been promoted to the active roster, and Chris Baker has signed to the Dolphins’ practise squad.
Baker, a nose tackle, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2009. He will reunite with former Broncos’ defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, in Miami, who has not been deterred by Baker’s off-field issues. Clearly his upside is enough for Miami to take a chance on him, and he appears to have a fan in Nolan.
On the issue of players with off-field problems, guard Ray Feinga was waived October 4. The following day, the NFL announced that the offensive lineman had been suspended for four days following a violation of the league’s performance enhancing substances.
There has been very little to report on the special teams’ front. After the season they’ve had, here’s to hoping it stays that way.
Injury Crisis in Green Bay
Over in Wisconsin, where the Dolphins head this weekend, the medical center is working overtime. The Packers, who lost starting running back, Ryan Grant, and starting safety, Morgan Burnett, in the first four games, now face an ever-expanding list of ailments.
Linebacker Nick Barnett is out with a wrist injury, while tackle Mark Tauscher is likely out for the season, too. Now, following a loss to the Washington Redskins, the Packers face even more injury problems.
Donald Lee, Ryan Pickett, Derrick Martin and Jermichael Finley, all left the game with injuries. Meanwhile, star linebacker Clay Matthews departed in the third quarter, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion on Green Bay’s final play of the game.
It is still unclear which players will miss the game with Miami, but Rodgers and Matthews appear to have the best chance of game time. However, the Packers’ front office believes their quarterback is a doubt.
Matthews, on the other hand, looks set to play a limited role at the very least.
The Dolphins certainly appear to be making plans for dealing with the versatile linebacker. South Florida media is reporting that Miami’s offensive line opened their lockers today to find a picture of the long-haired Matthews staring back at them.
It looks like the Dolphins are making special plans to stop the first-year star, who currently leads the NFL with eight and a half sacks in just four games. If Matthews is fit, it will take special plans to stop him.
There is no doubt it is a good time for Miami to face Green Bay. Fans will, however, be concerned at the tendency the Dolphins have to play up or down to the level of the opposition on game day. Even an injury-hit Packers team can cause problems, but Miami is desperate to forget two consecutive losses and go 3-0 on the road. If they do, then their playoff bid will be up and running again.
The Week Ahead?
Miami travels to Green Bay to face the injury-hit Packers on Sunday, while New England hosts the in-form Baltimore Ravens for their first game post-Randy Moss.
The Jets travel to Denver to face the Broncos, but may be without Darrelle Revis again. For the second time this season, Revis pulled up with a hamstring injury on a play when he was beaten by his man for a touchdown pass. Not that it means anything, obviously…
The other AFC East team, the Buffalo Bills (remember them?), have a bye week. Not that the Bills’ results matter to anyone outside Buffalo.
Miami may see the returns of rookies John Jerry and Jared Odrick to boost their chances in Green Bay, while the Packers are without several starters, and may be missing their star men, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. It’s a very good time for Miami to face potential Super Bowl candidates, Green Bay; will they be able to capitalize?
One final note, and rapper ‘Birdman’ is claiming to be the newest minority owner of the Miami Dolphins, subject to NFL approval this week. However, the Miami Dolphins’ hierarchy have denied these reports, and it is unclear what will the future hold. The contrasting claims are another development in the…
Oh come on, who really cares?