Posts Tagged ‘Lex Hilliard’

Dolphins Preseason News and Notes

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

More often than not, preseason statistics are completely meaningless. Coaches rarely reveal their game-plans, test out new and sometimes faulty plays, and most importantly, give rookies and fringe players a chance to solidify their roles or make the final roster. It’s no surprise then, that through two games, the NFL passing, rushing and receiving yards leaders are Stephen McGee, Stevan Ridley and Chastin West, respectively, while Michael Vick has thrown three interceptions en route to posting a 50.7 QB rating.

With that in mind, the Miami Dolphins have yet to officially name a starting quarterback, have two new running backs to integrate into the offense, and no less than three players vying for the fifth and likely final wide receiver spot.  Let’s take a look at how the position battles have gone so far.

QB Comp Atts Pct Yds Y/G TDs INT Long 20+ Sck Rate
Chad Henne 19 32 59.4 271 135.5 1 2 44T 4 0 71.2
Matt Moore 17 28 60.7 196 98.0 2 1 28T 3 1 90.8
Pat Devlin 0 2 0.0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 2 39.6
  • After a poor preseason opener (4-of-8 passing for 77 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) against the Atlanta Falcons, Chad Henne looked better against the Carolina Panthers (who doesn’t?) in the second contest, completing 15-of-24 passes for 194 yards with no turnovers. His biggest problem so far has come with the deep ball, as he has continued to miss open receivers downfield.
  • Even though Matt Moore outplayed Henne in the opener (11-of-18 passing for 123 yards and two TDs)  and has posted a higher QB rating two games, Coach Tony Sparano has so far made it clear there is no competition for the starting quarterback job. Moore hasn’t played with the first-team offense in the preseason at all, indicating he will enter the season as the primary backup, barring a couple of disastrous outings from Henne.
  • The battle for the third quarterback spot is shaping up to be epic:  Pat Devlin is 0-of-2 with two sacks in clean-up duty, while Kevin O’Connell has more kneel-downs (two) than pass attempts (0).
RB Att Rsh Yd Avg Y/G TD Lng Rec Rec Yd Lng Fum
Reggie Bush 8 48 6.0 48.0 0 17 2 33 17 0
Daniel Thomas 16 57 3.6 28.5 1 10 1 25 25 0
Kory Sheets 17 43 2.5 21.5 0 8 2 5 3 0
Lex Hilliard 8 28 3.5 14.0 1 8 0 0 0 0
Nic Grigsby 10 21 2.1 10.5 0 8 0 0 0 0
  • Playing one half, Reggie Bush had eight carries for 48 yards and caught two passes for 33 yards in his Dolphins debut on Friday. Early reports indicated the coaching staff planned to give Bush, who averaged only nine touches per game over the last two years with the New Orleans Saints, a heavy workload on offense without using him as a punt returner, and so far, the RB looked quicker and more exciting than any RB the Dolphins have had in years.
  • Daniel Thomas has sported an unimpressive 3.6 yards per carry average, busting out just one run of 10 yards.  Expected to be a power-back capable of breaking tackles and moving the pile, he couldn’t get into the endzone on two carries inside the five-yard line early against the Panthers (Lex Hilliard scored on the next play).  Thomas did have a four-yard TD run in the second quarter, and while he’ll need time to get used to the NFL, his workload should increase as the season progresses.
  • Hilliard all but solidified his hold on the number three RB job after scoring at the goal line, while Kory Sheets managed only 43 yards on a team-high 17 carries against second-stringers.
  • The Dolphins released Sheets on Tuesday and unexpectedly signed veteran Larry Johnson, who hasn’t played a down in the NFL since Week 2 of last season with the Washington Redskins. Johnson had five carries for two yards in 2010 and a terrible 3.2 YPC in 2009; at age 31, he makes little sense for Miami.
  • Undrafted rookie Nic Grigsby hasn’t done much (2.1 YPC) to suggest he’s in the team’s immediate future.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Now that the New York Jets have been eliminated from the Playoffs and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, it’s time to think about what’s next for the Miami Dolphins.   Let’s take a look back at where it all went wrong in 2010 and make some very early predictions for 2011 (presuming we’ll actually have an NFL season). In the coming weeks, I’ll break down key free agents who’d look great in aqua and orange next season.

Anyone who watched even a handful of series doesn’t need to look at advanced metrics to know Miami’s offense was dreadful. The Dolphins, expected to be a dominant run-first team after having the fourth-best rushing offense in 2009, tied for 29th in rushing TDs (8) and 21st in rushing yards (1,643), while also coming in 27th in passing TDs (17) and fourth in interceptions (21). While WRs Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline, as well as TE Anthony Fasano (signed to an extension through 2012), form a solid and dependable aerial attack, the same can’t be said for just about every other member of the offense. So who should and likely will be back in 2011?

Chad Henne, QB

2010 Prediction: 4,161 passing yards, 25 TDs, 13 INT
2010 Statistics: 3,301 passing yards, 15 TDs, 19 INT

It turns out I – as well as everyone who threw away money on a Henne jersey – was wrong about the supposed QB of the future. After showing promise at the end of the 2009 season and having a Pro Bowl WR at his disposal, Henne was expected to take a step forward and improve his decision-making. After throwing three picks in a crushing loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, Henne was benched in favor of Chad Pennington, and was then once again pulled for Tyler Thigpen in an embarrassing season-ending loss to the Patriots. Over the last 12 games, Henne threw 12 TDs and 18 INTs, and posted a QB Rating under 60.0 in four of his final eight appearances.

While most Dolphins fans never want to see him on the field again, it’s almost a given that Miami will keep the still 25-year-old QB for another year. It’s even possible that he’ll get a chance to compete for a backup spot with a veteran QB – Kyle Orton? Donovan McNabb? Er, Brady Quinn? – in training camp if the team doesn’t draft a QB in the first round of the Draft. Either way, it’s become clear that Henne is not the long-term solution as the Dolphins starter.

2011 Prediction: 1,127 passing yards, 5 TDs, 6 INT

Tyler Thigpen, QB: Thigpen was horrendous in his lone start against the Bears, a 16-0 shutout at home (albeit he was missing half of his offense), and finished the year with 435 passing yards (53.2% completion percentage), two TDs, and two picks. While he has mobility and can make plays out of the pocket, he’s unlikely to receive anything more than a training camp invite from Miami.

2011 Prediction – signs with Tennessee Titans: 1,630 passing yards, 9 TDs, 7 INT

Chad Pennington, QB: I wish Pennington all the best with his return from a fourth shoulder surgery, but considering that he played two snaps in 2010 before getting hurt again, the odds aren’t in his favor. In an ideal world, he’d become the Dolphins’ QB coach, but I have a feeling he’ll go back to where it all started and take Mark Brunell’s clipboard job in New York.

2011 Prediction – signs with New York Jets: 110 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT


Ronnie Brown, RB

2010 Prediction: 893 rushing yards, 135 receiving yards, 7 TDs
2010 Statistics: 734 rushing yards, 242 receiving yards, 5 TDs

On the surface, my prediction looks fairly accurate, since Brown gained only 58 fewer yards from scrimmage and managed to play all 16 games for only the second time in his career. The problem is that Brown averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt, didn’t have a single 100-yard rushing game, and his 45.9 yards per game were the lowest of any player with at least 200 carries. The soon-to-be-30-year-old is an unrestricted free agent who hasn’t been offered a contract by the Dolphins and has probably already cleaned out his locker

2011 Prediction – signs with Cincinnati Bengals: 697 rushing yards, 213 receiving yards, 4 TDs

Ricky Williams, RB

2010 Prediction: 906 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards, 9 TDs
2010 Statistics: 673 rushing yards, 141 receiving yards, 3 TDs

No one expected Ricky to even come close to matching his gaudy 2009 numbers (1,121 rushing yards, 13 TDs), but 2010 was certainly a disappointing season for the 33-year-old running back. Still, Williams averaged 4.2 yards per carry and busted off a 45-yard scamper, showing he has plenty left in those legs. After he recently bashed Coach Sparano and the organization, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back in Miami next season either, and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t sign with the Jets or Patriots just to stick it to the Dolphins.

2011 Prediction – signs with New England Patriots: 479 rushing yards, 96 receiving yards, 3 TD

Patrick Cobbs / Lex Hilliard / Lousaka Polite, RB:  Forget what I projected — guess who was the Fins’ third-leading rusher last season? Yep, Thigpen with a whopping 73 yards. Short-yardage specialist Polite managed to get 62 rushing yards and his first career TD, while Cobbs and Hilliard played mainly on special teams and combined for exactly zero rushing yards on four carries. The coaching staff reportedly loves Cobbs, and Polite converts on third-and-one situations as well as anyone in the league, so their roles are unlikely to change in 2011.
Hilliard, however, could opt for more playing time, especially with the impending return of the speedy Kory Sheets.

2011 Prediction – signs with New Orleans Saints: 132 rushing yards, 160 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Phins Fantasy Football: RBs

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The addition of Brandon Marshall should help open the run game for the Dolphins, who ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2009 and sport a strong offensive line.  The big question is whether Ronnie Brown, who’ll be motivated to earn a new contract, or the ageless Ricky Williams will reap the most benefits this season.

Ronnie Brown, RB – Brown has been feast-or-famine over the last four years, capable of single-handedly winning any game  or crushing your season.  In 2006, he had his only 1,000-yard rushing campaign (1,008 in 13 games), and in 2008, he made the Pro Bowl while amassing 1,170 yards from scrimmage and 10 rushing TDs (eighth in the league).  But in 2007, Brown suffered a knee injury that cost him the final eight games of the season, right as he was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.  Last year, he was fourth in the league in rushing TDs (8) and 11th in rushing yards until a Lisfranc fracture ended his season in Week 10.  Consider that the last star running back who suffered a similar foot injury was Larry Johnson in 2007, who made the Pro Bowl the previous year but hasn’t been the same since (3.3 yards per carry in 2009).

Hate him or love him, Brown has scored 5 rushing TDs in 9 career games against the rival Jets.
Hate him or love him, Brown has scored 5 TDs in 9 career games against the rival Jets.

A consensus second-round pick in 2009, Brown is being drafted as the 22rd RB and 45th overall (10 spots ahead of Williams) in ESPN leagues.  While he can no longer be counted upon as a number one RB, he’s a solid second back or flex option because he’s always a threat score out of the Wildcat.  He could even end up being the steal of the draft if he can manage to stay healthy — the key word, of course, being “if.”  As someone who’s been burned by Brown, who will turn 29 in December, on two occasions, I’m leaving him on the board for the bigger risk-takers anywhere before the fifth round.

2009 Statistics:  648 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards, 8 TDs (9 games)
2010 Prediction:  893 rushing yards, 135 receiving yards, 7 TDs

Ricky Williams, RB – Last season, Williams improbably rushed for 1,121 yards, setting an NFL record for longest time-span between 1,000-yard seasons (6 years), and totaled 13 TDs.  With Brown out of the picture, he averaged 99.8 rushing yards per game in Weeks 10 through 15 before getting slowed down by minor injuries.  Yes, he’s 33 years old, but thanks to Ricky’s “extra-curricular activities,” he has only 575 carries in the NFL over the last five years – about a third as many as Ladanian Thomlinson, Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, and Thomas Jones.

Still, expectations need to be held in check.  In 2005 and 2008, his previous two full seasons, Williams had 168 and 160 carries, respectively, and isn’t likely to approach the 241 he had on a heavily run-oriented Dolphins team in 2009.  He’s won’t reach 1,000 yards in what’s supposedly his final NFL season, but given Brown’s injury history, it’ll be impossible for Miami to not give Williams significant work all year long. It wouldn’t be a stretch to take Ricky as the first Dolphins RB off the board, and ahead far less consistent players such as Pierre Thomas, Matt Forte, and Joseph Addai.

2009 Statistics:  1,121 rushing yards, 264 receiving yards, 13 TDs
2010 Prediction:  906 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards, 9 TDs

Get used to the WildCobb...
Get used to the WildCobb...

Patrick Cobbs, RB – Cobbs began the season as Miami’s third running back, but suffered a knee injury in Week 5 that cost him the rest of the season.  In 2008, Cobbs averaged an impressive 7.3 yards per carry and caught 19 passes for 275 yards and two TDs, and is a deep sleeper in 2010 if he’s fully healthy.  Cobbs could replace Pat White in Wildcat formations, giving him more scoring opportunities, and has even more value in leagues that count punt and kickoff return yards since he’ll see increased special teams work with Ted Ginn Jr. in San Francisco.  Cobbs is worth a late-round flier, especially as a handcuff for owners of either Brown or Williams (or both).

2009 Statistics:  36 rushing yards, 23 receiving yards, 0 TDs (5 games)
2010 Prediction:  319 rushing yards, 295 receiving yards, 3 TDs

Lex Hilliard, RB - As Williams’ primary backup, Hilliard totaled more than twice as many receiving yards (158) than rushing yards (89), catching a team-high nine passes for 74 yards in Week 16, and vultured a couple of goal-line TDs.  But as the team’s number four RB, his role in the offense will be far too limited to justify a fantasy roster spot.

2009 Statistics:  89 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards, 3 TDs
2010 Prediction:  56 rushing yards, 91 receiving yards, 1 TDs

Kory Sheets, RB – Both the Dolphins and your fantasy team are in serious trouble if they’re counting on fifth-stringer Sheets, who had one carry for five yards last season and should only be a factor on special teams in 2010.

Coming soon:  The biggest fantasy question of the year: which Dolphins’ Tight End is worth drafting as your team’s backup?

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