Miami Dolphins in Desperate Need of Change

Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald sees what I see when I watch the Dolphins:

“Why are the Dolphins asking [5-10 cornerback Brent Grimes] to do these things?

“Last Sunday, after it was clear to everyone in the stadium [Jets wide receiver Brandon] Marshall was winning [one-on-one against Grimes], why didn’t the Dolphins change things a bit. I mean, that 3-yard TD in which Marshall basically boxed out Grimes in the end zone in one-on-one coverage was predictable to everyone in the stadium the second the offense and defense lined up.

“It is a coach’s job to put a player in a position to succeed. Grimes was not put in a position to succeed there.”

“Compare Grimes to Jamar Taylor who has given up touchdown after touchdown, completion after completion, to the point he’s been benched. That should be and is a bigger concern because while Grimes wins much of the time, Taylor wins very infrequently.

“Compare that to safety Walt Aikens who has blown more coverages and given up more plays than anyone else in the Dolphins secondary this season. He’s benched now, too.”

“That is the bigger concern than a 5-10 guy predictably losing to a 6-4 guy. One-half of the secondary is simply not good enough to even be on the field. And that half is supposed to be the future.”

“Maybe instead of worrying about replacing [Grimes], everyone might want to think about putting him in better positions to succeed.”

Couldn’t agree more. I watch the Dolphins play and my first thought is, “That coaching staff has to go.”

Could it be that the talent wasn’t as good as we thought it was at the beginning of the year? Probably. But I don’t think we were that far off and the guess here is that its the coaching staff isn’t getting it done. They aren’t developing the talent. And they aren’t putting that talent in the best position to succeed. And after ownership tears the house down they aren’t going to have jobs next season.

An Endorsement for Grass Over Turf from the Men Who Know

It happens every year. There will be some game where a team will come to town and the ground at Solider Field will be painted green because they couldn’t get grass to grow and the condition of the field is terrible. That will be followed by a storm of comments and calls from fans demanding that the Bears change the field to artificial turf.

So before the annual calls for artificial turf at Soldier Field start, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at what’s happening in Baltimore where they are switching to grass next year. Via Jeff Zrebiec at The Baltimore Sun:

“[Ravens president Dick] Cass said. ‘… The primary factor was our players really wanted to play on grass and we think that playing on grass is just more consistent with the way football should be played in Baltimore.’

“The decision was well received in the Ravens locker room.

“‘Especially with me [having] two knee surgeries, I just walked off practice and I can tell the difference from practicing on the turf field and outside [on grass],’ cornerback Lardarius Webb said. ‘We’re looking at the numbers. They say injuries happen more on turf than on grass — simple as that.'”

When you come right down to it, this is a safety issue. I’m betting that is the way that Bears ownership views it and, despite the occasionally deplorable condition of the field in Chicago, I’m betting that’s why they haven’t changed to artificial turf.

I’ve long held that this is something that should be up to the players. And though the condition of the grass at Soldier Field almost certainly isn’t as good as the field will be in Baltimore, the bet here is that when push comes to shove, the majority of Bears players would prefer grass because even bad grass is safer than turf. If that’s the case, grass it should be.

Will We See Kevin White? Who Knows?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions yet again:

“What is the latest on Kevin White? Any chance he is activated and plays? — @GreaseMaul from Twitter

“White was involved in practice on Wednesday but I’d say it remains unlikely he is activated. Coach John Fox was asked about how White practiced and he responded that the first-round draft pick was ‘on target.’ When asked what he was on target for, Fox replied, ‘tomorrow’s practice.’ What’s been forgotten by some people is White has been out since early June. I don’t think a handful of practices over this week and next will be enough to get him ready to play this season. I believe he will first set foot on the field for the Bears in the 2016 season.”

kevin-white-chicago-bearsReports have consistently claimed that White won’t be playing this year. But its virtually impossible for them to know for sure without knowing exactly how much White is doing in practice and what he look slike while doing it. I would imagine that’s virtually impossible to determine in the limited time that practices are open to the media, particularly since Fox is probably trying to hide White’s true status.  Reporters are therefore likely getting most of their information from team sources that can’t be completely trusted.

There is something to be said for the question of how much White could help even if the Bears let him back on the field. He was thought to be the least ready of the top wide receivers in the draft, having a great deal of talent but needing a lot of work on things like route running and reading defenses. However, the guess here is that White couldn’t hurt. Even in his raw state, he’s probably better than the likes of Marc Mariani and Marquess Wilson on the outside.

Bottom line, though I’m inclined to think based upon the reports that White won’t play this year, I question the basis of those reports and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they turned out to be wrong. If they are wrong, the Bears will be better for it.

Still a True Need for the Best Available

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers more of your questions:

“How have the areas of need changed from the start of the season to now? Or have they? — @danjnolte

“I don’t know that things have shifted drastically for the Bears since the start of the season. I think the pass rush needs some more juice, and that is something pretty much everyone said when the season began, right? They could use another safety and they have to see what happens with Tracy Porter at cornerback as he will be a free agent. I think they need a good guard and I said that at the start of the season. Defensive end is another position that should be addressed. Inside linebacker too. I think pretty much all of those positions stood out at the end of August but it should be noted the Bears have gotten better play at most of those positions than most people expected.”

The problem with the Bears doing as well as they have been, particularly on defense, is that the good coaching tends to hide the lack of talent that the Bears have all over the field.

My eye tells me the same thing that Biggs’ answer says. The Bears have needs all over the field, particularly on defense. You can make an argument for literally any position on the field, even in the first round, except left tackle, running back and – maybe, depending on the status of Martellus Bennett and Zack Miller – tight end. You could argue cornerback in that list but who really believes that Tracy Porter will remain this healthy?  And I do include quarterback of the future in that if Ryan Pace finds one that he believes in, he can’t afford to pass him up in any round.

It’s worth re-iterating. The Bears have a talent gap. Its big enough to whee they will almost certainly be looking for the best available prospect at any position throughout the draft in 2016.

Doing It All the Time

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Why hasn’t Lamarr Houston been promoted to starter yet? I think he’s proven over the last few weeks that he’s the answer opposite Pernell McPhee. It can’t be because he’s a liability on first and second down, can it? All I heard and read when he came over from Oakland was what a great run defender he is. Not to mention he’s certainly being paid like a starter, as opposed to Sam Acho or Willie Young. — Nicholas D., Birmingham, Ala.”

Biggs points out that Houston’s snaps increased dramatically against the Packers.

“More important than the designation of who is starting is playing time, so that’s worth keeping in mind, too. I don’t think decisions on playing time should be based on money either. When you start putting players on the field because they have a bigger paycheck, that’s when you get in trouble. Young’s contract isn’t shabby either. He’s earning a base salary of $2.45 million this season. I like the way they’re moving guys in and out at outside linebacker and handling McPhee’s knee situation, which is clearly keeping him on the sideline more than anyone would like.”

jimmy-garoppolo-lamarr-houston-nfl-chicago-bears-new-england-patriots-850x560I couldn’t agree more. Both Young and Houston have earned more playing time. I also feel the need to point out that Houston has a bad habit of disappearing until points in the game where the opponent absolutely has to pass and he can go all out after the quarterback without worrying about other responsibilities. I’d like to see him do it at other points in the game before I’ll become a real believer that he’s as good as his recent statistics indicate.

This Week Will Be All About the Running Game

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune goes over the six most telling plays from the Bears victory over Green Bay:

“Lacy’s stampede: On the night’s second snap, Packers running back Eddie Lacy busted off his longest run of the season. Zero in on the 29-yard charge and you’ll see the Bears overpowered up front. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was swallowed by a double team at the snap and Jarvis Jenkins was driven 5 yards backward and dumped on his tail by [Josh] Sitton. Inside linebacker Jonathan Anderson overran Lacy in the backfield. Pernell McPhee couldn’t get off a block. Shea McClellin was overpowered by JC Tretter. And safety Adrian Amos missed a tackle 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. Off Lacy went, headed toward midfield before Kyle Fuller finally pushed him out of bounds. It wasn’t just a fluky moment either. The Packers had their way in the running game all night, piling up 177 yards on the ground with Lacy averaging 6.2 yards on his 17 carries. Over the past two games, the Bears have allowed 347 rushing yards, dropping to 29th in the league against the run. It’s a troublesome weak spot that the Bears will need to patch up in December to keep their playoff hopes alive.”

This point is well taken.

The Bears haven’t done badly stopping the run this year. They kept both Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson down without stacking extra players in the box or doing anything special to stop them. But they need to continue to stop the run if they’re going to continue to win games. The lesson apparently hasn’t been lost on the defense. Via Rich Campbell, also at the Chicago Tribune:

“‘It’s about staying gap-sound and playing with great fundamentals,’ linebacker Pernell McPhee said. ‘When it gets late in the season, people tend to lose those tendencies. But we’re doing a great job this week of stressing that, stopping the run. Hopefully when Sunday comes, we’ll be ready.'”

I believe that they will be, too. The game will depend upon it because its going to be all about the running game. Both of these teams have to find it on offense. The 49ers haven’t had a rushing TD since week 5 and haven’t had a 100 yard rusher since Carlos Hyde in week 1. The Bears running game has been stymied the last two weeks in which, not co-incidentally, they have scored only 34 points.

For once, this game is going to be simple. The team that runs the ball better against the opposing defense will win.