NFL: Dolphins in a state of flux
By Armando Salguero
ORLANDO, Fla. — Terrell Owens? No. Brandon Marshall? Nope. You probably figured that based on what the Dolphins historically have done and believed under Bill Parcells.
But did you know Jason Taylor’s Dolphins career is bordering on extinction? Did you know Chad Henne has been anointed the starting quarterback while Chad Pennington will go into camp as the No. 3? Did you know the Dolphins are not publicly ruling out drafting Dez Bryant?
Coach Tony Sparano, guarded as always about his team’s internal opinions and evaluations, nonetheless shared small tidbits of knowledge Tuesday when he talked to the media for the first time since his end-of-season news conference in January.
Sparano declined to comment on whether Taylor would return, even as he praised the experience of having coached Taylor. Sparano spoke of Taylor in the past tense, which would be meaningless except that one club source told The Miami Herald the likelihood of Taylor, an unrestricted free agent, returning in 2010 is not guaranteed.
Taylor is Miami’s all-time sack leader and among the NFL’s active sack leaders. The Dolphins don’t have a player on the roster that is a proven starting outside linebacker.
Miami also doesn’t have a wide receiver on the roster with the credentials of an Owens or Marshall. And it is likely to stay that way for the time being.
“I wouldn’t say, not at this time,” Sparano said when asked if Miami had interest in the enigmatic receivers. “Right now, we’re kind of sitting back and we feel good about where we are right now. We’ll see as this thing goes on if all of a sudden something came to us that were tremendous. But right now I wouldn’t say so. We’re OK where we are.”
When asked if he is happy with his current receivers, Sparano answered, “Yes.”
But that crop likely will change some in the coming months. The Dolphins want to draft a receiver. That is not up for debate. The question is whether troubled Oklahoma State receiver Bryant could be a possibility or whether Miami addresses its need after the first round.
“I just think we need good players,” Sparano said when asked about Bryant. “... We have to be concerned with the other things that are out there, the issues. We have to do our due diligence that way. But we have to take good players. Whether it’s a receiver, whether it’s a defensive back, an offensive lineman, we have to make sure that we take good players for this football team.”
The Dolphins apparently are searching everywhere. They have even done extensive study on former Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams — another troubled wideout who left his team in November perhaps because he was on the verge of being suspended by coach Doug Marrone anyway.
The Dolphins are a secretive team, and to prove it, Sparano declined to say whom his No. 2 quarterback and No. 4 quarterback are as the team is projecting a depth chart before training camp. That raises red flags.
Even as Sparano confirmed Henne is the starter and Chad Pennington is No. 3 because he doesn’t require so many repetitions in practice and doesn’t need to stress his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, Sparano would not say if Tyler Thigpen or Pat White is No. 2.
THIGPEN MOVING UP
It almost certainly is Thigpen. He is more experienced, more accomplished, just as athletic and has a stronger arm than White.
“He’s a great athlete, a great competitor and a good quarterback,” said Buffalo coach Chan Gailey, who coached Thigpen in Kansas City. “He needs to improve his accuracy in the pocket, but has really good accuracy on the move. He has all the tools to be a fine quarterback.”
The team is still working on refining this throwing motion. He needs to learn the offense better. And he needs to prove he’s a viable NFL quarterback to avoid the possibility of losing his spot on the roster.
“At the end of the season there was still work to be done with Pat,” Sparano said. “I don’t think Pat would say anything different. There’s still work to be done... . There’s a bunch of work to be done with Pat, fundamentally throwing the ball.”
Sparano added that White showed “growth” toward the end of the year. But the second-year player must fight to prove he belongs on the team.
“Now, at the end of the day, with the competition out there, whether it’s going to be good enough or not, that really isn’t up to me,” Sparano said. “It’s going to be up to those players.”
The Dolphins began their offseason conditioning program on Monday. Sparano said there was “100 percent” attendance, except guard Justin Smiley, who was told not to report and is about to be traded.
Defensive end Phillip Merling was there despite Internet rumors he might be moved to an outside linebacker spot this offseason.
Merling was 295 pounds, which would eliminate him from playing outside linebacker barring a crash diet.