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NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - INSIDE SLANT
The Dolphins acquired left tackle Bryant McKinnie from Baltimore for a conditional draft pick, a clear acknowledgment that they're desperate to shore up a unit that has allowed 26 sacks on the franchise player, quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Consider this: coach Joe Philbin is a strict law-and-order guy. He absolutely hates off-field publicity. He's jettisoned guys such as wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson because their sometimes outlandish personalities didn't mesh with the team.
Enter McKinnie, 34, who has had several highly-publicized incidents (Minnesota Vikings "Love Boat" episode in 2005, an arrest at a South Beach nightclub in 2008, being sent home from the Pro Bowl in 2010), and is among the biggest party animals in the NFL.
McKinnie, a former University of Miami standout who lost his starting job with the Ravens, said that's his alter ego.
"See, that's Big Mac in the offseason," he said. "Bryant McKinnie is the person who comes to work and handles his business. That is who you'll get right now."
The plan seems to be for McKinnie, who has played left tackle his entire career, to move into a starting role on the left side. Jonathan Martin would flip sides to right tackle, where he played 14 games last season. Tyson Clabo, the current starting right tackle, will be benched.
Martin, a left tackle at Stanford, badly wants to play that position. But he's taking one for the team.
"You can approach this two different ways," he said. "You can go in the tank and be one of those guys who (complains) and moans and is a cancer in the locker room. Or you can be a guy who goes out there and can be a professional, play as hard as I can.
"My mindset is that I'm still going to try better and do whatever I can do help the team win."
Most likely no changes to the starting offensive line will be made this week.
McKinnie, a 12-year veteran, recently had his right knee drained and might take a while to get up to speed on plays, terminology and health. He's also a bit overweight at 364 pounds and admits he needs to lose 10 or 15 pounds.
As for Clabo, the last straw was allowing two sacks to Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams, including the game-changing sack-fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a game-winning field goal with 33 seconds left.
Most likely he'll stay on the roster as a backup. His one-year contract is guaranteed.
"Tyson Clabo is out here practicing just like these other guys getting ready to play New England," Philbin said. "We haven't made any decision as to who those five guys are going to be yet when we line up against New England. He's at work just like the rest of the ball club getting ready to play the Patriots."
SERIES HISTORY: 93rd regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 49-43. New England has won the last six matchups. Miami hasn't won at New England since 2008. Last year the Dolphins got blasted, 28-0, at Gillette Stadium when they were trying to finish with a non-losing record for the first time in four years.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Dolphins might have had a hand in New England's overtime loss to the New York Jets last week.
Two weeks ago the Dolphins lost to Baltimore, 26-23. On Miami's potential game-tying field-goal attempt the Ravens used one player to push another in an attempt to block the kick. That's illegal. The Dolphins sent the video to the league, and the league told referees to watch for such infractions.
It happened with the Patriots when the Jets tried to win the game with a field goal in overtime. The kick was no good but a flag was thrown. The re-kick after a 15-yard penalty was good, and the Patriots lost.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin downplayed his role in the New England loss.
"I'm not going to get into what we turn in to the NFL," he said. "We turn in plays on a routine basis to the league. They do a great job responding. That's really all I'll say on that matter."
--Fans are intrigued by the thought that quarterback Ryan Tannehill is tipping plays with his snap cadence.
The theory goes every time Tannehill says, "Go," it's a running play and when he says, "Go, go," it's a passing play. That bit of information has been floating all around South Florida. Fans contend they hear it and see it clearly on the game broadcasts via the on-field microphones.
Philbin downplayed that idea.
"It sounds like a dance, 'the go-go,'" he said with a laugh.
"I wouldn't know. But we vary our cadence at times. Sometimes we don't, sometimes we do. It's all based on what we think is the best interest of moving the football. I'm not really concerned about it."
--The Dolphins, who are on a three-game losing streak, are facing a tough battle in the next 10 days as they play at New England and four days later host Cincinnati in a Thursday night game. There's a real danger of a five-game losing streak.
"We're realistic with where we're at and the dropoff that we've had," wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "But we're still alive. We're not a dead team. The division is very much for the taking of any team at this point."
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Number of turnovers QB Ryan Tannehill has during the three-game losing streak. He's thrown five touchdown passes in that span.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I usually get up. I'm at the age where I wake up to go to the bathroom." -- Coach Joe Philbin after being asked whether he gets up at night to jot down ideas rattling around in his head.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Brian Tyms was signed by Cleveland from the Dolphins' practice squad. He's the second receiver signed from the practice squad, joining Marvin McNutt, who went to Carolina.
--LB Josh Kaddu was cut, then signed to the practice squad. Kaddu, a fifth-round pick last year, was released to make room for LT Bryant McKinnie. Kaddu cleared waivers and was brought back.
--G/T Nate Garner apparently isn't ready to take over as a starter. Garner, who has been with the team for six years, plays mostly guard nowadays but he started the last four games at LT last season. Still, the team felt the need to sign LT Bryant McKinnie.
--OT Will Yeatman doesn't appear ready to take over as a starter. Yeatman, a converted TE, has been with the team for three years. But he apparently wasn't in the mix to start at RT.
--RB Daniel Thomas could get another start this week. He started last week and had 12 carries for 60 yards. Thomas is regarded as a better receiver and pass blocker than Lamar Miller. Dolphins coaches have consistently said neither player has emerged as a clear starter.
--CB Dimitri Patterson, who returned last week after a four-game absence due to a groin injury, could see regular playing time this week as the slot DB in the nickel (five defensive backs) package.
--CB Nolan Carroll is likely to hold his starting job on the right side. Carroll, who stepped in as a starter after CB Dimitri Patterson went down in Week 2, has played well.
--LB Jason Trusnik could get a second consecutive start at MLB if Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder) isn't ready. Trusnik is good against the run. Rookie Jelani Jenkins handles most of the pass coverage.
--QB Ryan Tannehill has a somewhat disappointing 83.1 passer rating. He had a 76.1 rating last season as a rookie.
--DE Cam Wake continues recovering from his knee injury. He'll likely work in a rotation again this week, possibly only playing in passing situations once again. His presence is needed to pressure Patriots QB Tom Brady.
--LB Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder) was limited. He didn't play last week.
--QB Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) was limited in practice. Tannehill was also limited after the Indianapolis game.
--LT Bryant McKinnie (knee) was limited. He had his right knee drained recently.
--WR Brandon Gibson (shoulder) was limited. He had a hip injury last week.
--CB Brent Grimes (back) had full participation. He was injured in Tuesday's practice.
--LB Koa Misi (knee) had full participation.
--CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) had full participation.
GAME PLAN: The first thing the Dolphins have to do is protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Then they have to rattle New England quarterback Tom Brady. Then they have to contain Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Everything else is filler.
Tannehill has been sacked 26 times. The Dolphins have done a lot of things in an effort to keep him upright -- max protection, three-step dropbacks, rollouts -- but nothing works. And it has to work.
The Dolphins' running game is so bad (they're ranked 25th in the NFL at 78 yards per game) that's it's unreliable.
If Tannehill (11 turnovers, 9 TDs) can get time to throw and have a somewhat decent performance, the offense has a chance.
Now comes the tougher part, defense.
Miami has to get pressure on Brady, make him uncomfortable in the pocket. And they have to keep Gronkowski from crushing them. Gronkowski made his debut last week and had 17 targets and eight receptions for 114 yards. Somehow the Dolphins, who have allowed six 100-yard receivers, have to control Gronkowski.
There are other things the Dolphins have to do, of course. They can't let defensive end Chandler Jones (6.5 sacks) run wild, they've got a find a way to get yards against cornerback Aqib Talib, and coach Joe Philbin has to out-coach New England's Bill Belichick.
That's asking a lot for a team on a three-game losing streak. But if the Dolphins can't do those things firstly, they're going to be on a four-game losing streak.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Dolphins WR Mike Wallace vs. Patriots CB Aqib Talib -- If this matchup goes Miami's way it opens up the entire passing game. The problem is Wallace (27 receptions, 357 yards, 1 TD) and QB Ryan Tannehill are rarely on the same page. If Tannehill is throwing back-shoulder passes to Wallace, Tannehill said that's a good thing. It shows they're in sync. But Talib (4 INTs, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble) is a menace.
--Dolphins pass defense vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady -- This could decide the game. Brady is a master. Disregard his depleted receiving corps. Brady can overcome that. It's crucial the Dolphins put pressure on him so his usually accurate throws are just a bit off target. His receivers, aside from TE Rob Gronkowski, might not be able to make adjustments. That could be all Miami needs to get Brady yelling on the bench in frustration once again.
--Dolphins RB Lamar Miller vs. Patriots LB Brandon Spikes -- If Miller (4.3 yards per carry) can give Miami a running threat it'll greatly help the passing game. The problem is Miller is one-dimensional. He has breakaway speed. He can't elude tacklers or break tackles. That's a problem. Spikes is an animal. He'll be all over Miller if Miller can't break his tackles or make him miss.