Miami Dolphins' Head Coach Tony Sparano held a press conference on Sunday, discussing several of the roster moves, both Saturday's cuts to get down to the 53-man roster and the subsequent waiver claims. The press conference covered a lot of the same questions brought up here on The Phinsider when reviewing the roster moves.
Lasting just shy of 16 minutes, the press conference was simply a question and answer session for the media with the Dolphins' Coach. The questions ranged from why roster moves were made, to the difficulty of sending Will Allen to the IR, and when the practice squad would be announced (Monday).
Answering the initial question about the Dolphins' seeming very young, Coach Sparano responded that he feels they have a good mix of young players and veterans.
"I always thought that those 5-6 year guys made up, really, your varsity. You know, they were those guys who, kind of, grew up in your program a little. We've been fortunate now here, because, you know, we have a good group of 3-year guys on the team now, too - you know, Jake Long, and Henne, and Langford, and those people here. So that's a real positive group for us too. I like the makeup of the team - the strengths are good. There's youth and then there's some, you know, certainly some veteran leadership there."
A truer statement couldn't have been made by Sparano. Currently, Miami has 20 players with2 or fewer years of NFL service, along with21 players with 5 or more years of experience. Even as the team looks to move into the playoff contender level, there's still an obvious youth movement as well.
When asked exactly that, if it was a concerted effort to get young, especially with the additions of Clinton Geathers, Jermey Parnell, Joe Reitz, and Robert Rose, couple with the release of Marques Douglas, Charles Grant, and Cory Proctor and the placement on IR of Will Allen, Coach Sparano replied that it was merely coincidental.
"I think one of those things, within the defenisve area, is that you do have, you know, a couple of young, developing players there...We thought highly of them in the draft. This was an opportunity to get a couple of players who were young and developing. What we're finding out is that these interior guys, you know, they're the guys what play the most plays. At the end of this whole thing, it isn't the receivers, it isn't the running backs, it isn't those people; these guys go out there and they're playing 75-80 plays at the level that they have to play, from a physical stand-point, you just don't have enough of them and you would hope that they would be young enough and have enough stamina to do what you need them to do."
So, even if it is a coincidence that the Dolphins released or placed on IR older players while placing claims on younger players, it also seems like it was a deliberate move to ensure the team constantly has fresh talent, ready to enter the game, especially late in the year. There really is no way to argue that logic.
Some of the questions Coach Sparano was asked focused on the bigger names released by the team. When speaking about quarterback Pat White, Sparano stressed that the Dolphins originally drafted White as a quarterback, looking to develop him. That, while the options he brought to the Wildcat formation were, "icing on the cake," it was not the primary reason for his addition. But, he said, that even with the good developmental skills White does possess, the stride Tyler Thigpen had made, along with what Chad Henne and Chad Pennington brought to the team, made Pat White the player who had to be released - basing that decision more on what the other three quarterbacks did, more than what White didn't do.
Sparano also spoke about the difficulty of making cuts, specifically being asked about tight end David Martin. He responded that it's always tough, especially when it comes to guys who have done things he's asked them to do, and guys who have done things for him. He stressed that Martin was one of those guys, and he appreciates everything Martin had done for him, but that he had to make the move.
But, Sparano also spoke about the good part of the day:
"It wasn't a good day, and yet, it was a good day. It was a good day in that once the decisions were made, you know, we were able to move on and really get a good look at this 53-man squad right now. You have excitement and enthusiasm about what lies ahead with this 53-man squad right now. You know, I like the makeup of it."
Matching with that line of questioning, Coach Sparano was also asked about the decision to place cornerback Will Allen on Injured Reserve, rather than waiting to see if he recovers - and if the experience of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith from last season played a role.
"Obviously, knowing more about Sean and Vontae, and seeing the progress of Jason Allen, makes these decisions easier. Getting a surprise - I shouldn't have said that, it's not a surprise - seeing the progress of Nolan Carroll, throughout this whole camp, those kind of guys make that decision a little easier. It certainly isn't an easy decision, though, to be able to do that with a ten year guy."
Just before that question, Sparano had been asked about his comfort with the five cornerbackson the roster. His response, besides stressing the depth that he sees the team has, adds fuel to the rumors that Sean Smith may have lost his starting job to Jason Allen.
"Vontae had a really good camp, so I feel comfortable there. I thought Jason Allen had a really productive camp. I think Sean's gotten better and I know Sean had a couple of rough go's at times in a few ball games. But, I feel the guy's gotten better. He's another one of those 2-year players.
"From that end, and with the addition of Nolan Carroll, I think is going to be a good addition for us there. And Benny. I think those people all help us a little bit. They give us jobs at the game and at the same time, are competitive corners.
"I can remember coming in here my first year, being able to look around at some of those - some of those names we had at that time, and now where we are right now. I mean, we have five corners I feel like can go in a game and compete. We'll see. I mean, I know they are young - but they were young last year too.
Before moving on to Coach Sparano's comments about the offensive line, he was also asked about the 2009 draft, and how just about every pick from that draft is off the team now. He stressed that, while every decision and move is analyzed by the team, they also can't dwell on the what ifs. They are looking at what worked and what didn't through each of the picks, but he also pointed out that they found Chris Clemons in the 5th round of that draft. Stating that they recently felt they had to go out and make an expensive move to find a free safety, Clemons has now made them realize, "maybe there's one there and we got him in the 5th round."
One of the biggest discussion points here on The Phinsider over the last 24 hours has been the moves along the offensive line, specifically the release of guard Cory Proctor, along with the addition of two tackles, Jermey Parnell and Joe Reitz. It was a major focus of the questioning to Coach Sparano as well.
"We're still looking for the right combination of people [for the offensive line]. I think we are a little closer to the right combination of people certainly and the additions of the people we're - that we just added here recently, I think will help us, you know - with Parnell and Reitz....So, from my end, position flexibility some of those things, maybe. Guys who can do a few more jobs, you know, help a little bit. Now, Proctor was one of those guys, he can do some jobs, but, you know, I think there's some other guys here, including a couple of the ones we just brought in, that we feel like can do some of those jobs."
Coach Sparano continued, stressing that he sees both Parnell and Reitz playing both guard and tackle, even comparing Reitz to the injured Nate Garner. When adding in recent trade addition Pat McQuistan, who Sparano pointed out played four of the five line positions (not getting in as a center) during the pre-season, the team feels like they have a good amount of line depth.
Sparano was also asked about several other players, including the keeping of undrafted free agents Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore, Quentin Moses, and Channing Crowder. When answering about Wallace and Moore, Sparano spoke about the experience of keeping and developing Davone Bess as to a big part of why they kept the two rookies. Stating that Bess came in, working hard during training camp, never seeming to let the NFL training camps be too big for him, and making plays in the preseason games - Sparano added that the two rookie receivers came in the same way as Bess.
With regards to Moses, Sparano stressed that Moses adds a big run-stopping capability, along with Ikaika Alama-Francis and Koa Misi, as well as some pass rushing capability. He did, however, point out that Moses needs to improve his special teams play to be a big part of the team.
In the humors moment of the press conference, Coach Sparano was asked if he could give more of an update on Channing Crowder's status. The coach responded
"No more information I'm going to give you today. I believe Wednesday's the first time I really have to do that."
Finally, Sparano was asked about his expectations for the Dolphins' this season. My final comments before allowing Coach Sparano the final words, is that I agree 100% with his expectations. This Miami Dolphins team isn't an elite, Super Bowl contender. But, giving yourself a chance to get there by being in the playoffs, that's reasonable.
According to Coach Saparano:
"To me, the expectation are really high going into the season, no question about it. I think, for us, we want to be in the playoffs. So those are the expectations. Now, some people can stand up there and talk about it, and not really feel like they have a chance to do it, but that's the right thing to say. I really believe we have a chance to do this. So, this football team, walking in the door on Monday knows the expectations clearly. They aren't going to back down from the expectations and that's what I would tell you. The expectations for us are that we continue to improve here and that we get to the playoffs and give ourselves a chance."