Dolphins Roundup 8/30/04
By The Source
Aug 30, 2004

Compiled from a variety of sources throughout the day

How many: Five to Six

Sure bet: Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, Derrius Thompson, Antonio Freeman.

Still battling: Sam Simmons, J.R. Tolver, Bryan Gilmore, Ronald Bellamy.

Long shots: Bobby Sippio.

Headed to injured reserve: David Boston.

Waiting for The Turk: Carl Morris.

Summary: Gilmore's special teams prowess and history with wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan may give him an edge over Tolver for a spot as the Dolphins' fifth receiver. Look for Sippio to land on the developmental squad after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

- Despite leading the running backs with 107 yards and displaying breakaway speed on several kickoff returns, rookie back Fred Russell has still not convinced Wannstedt that he's a keeper because of his lack of experience on special teams.

The Dolphins did eliminate one of Russell's chief competitors by cutting veteran wide receiver/returner Terrence Wilkins on Sunday. Wilkins, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury, was one of five players waived as the Dolphins work toward paring their roster to 74 players by Tuesday's NFL-mandated deadline.

"What's different about that position [kick returner] is you could sign a return guy tonight and he could play for you tomorrow," Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt said wide receiver Sam Simmons, who averaged 12.5 yards on eight punt returns for the Dolphins last season but has been hampered by a left ankle injury, will receive a "major workload" at receiver and returning kicks this week.

Others waived were cornerback Kelvin Millhouse, defensive end Josh Mallard, defensive tackle Jerome Stevens and tight end Hart Turner.

Other players who are sweating roster cuts include receiver Carl Morris, fullback Ben Moa, offensive tackle Tony Pape, running back Renaldo Works and quarterback Clint Stoerner. Receiver David Boston is expected to be placed on the injured reserve list either this week or next. The Dolphins roster, currently at 84, will likely be trimmed to 74 because they have nine exemptions from the NFL Europe League.

- Wannstedt said offensive tackle Damion McIntosh, who has been out all training camp with an ankle injury, would return to practice today and begin working on fortifying the left side of the line. McIntosh will eventually begin working at left tackle where he will challenge Wade Smith for the starting job. Smith, criticized by the coach last week, improved his play this week, Wannstedt said.

- Free safety Arturo Freeman met Sunday with Wannstedt to discuss his status with the team. The Dolphins had told Freeman he would rotate quarters with Antuan Edwards against Tampa Bay, but he wasn't inserted until late in the third quarter. Wannstedt said he is still undecided whether Freeman or Edwards will start despite most signs pointing to Edwards. The decision on a starter will be made by next week. ''It may come down to a gut decision,'' Wannstedt said.

- Coach Dave Wannstedt has finally come to a decision in the ongoing quarterback battle between Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley.

After evaluating their play through the first three exhibition games, in which neither has thrown a touchdown pass, Wannstedt has decided that no matter who he picks to start the season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 12, he'll be comfortable.

"There's no hurry," Wannstedt said. "Both are playing good. Jay is playing better than at any other point since he's been here, and A.J. is making progress every time he's on the field. As crazy as it sounds, I'm a lot more comfortable about our quarterback situation now than I was six months ago."

Wannstedt said both quarterbacks will play in Friday's exhibition finale at New Orleans, but he didn't designate the starter.

Although their statistics are similar, it's quite possible that Feeley sealed the deal when he directed the starters to their lone preseason touchdown in the third quarter of Saturday's loss to Tampa Bay.

Finally given good field position after a foiled fake punt by the Buccaneers, Feeley converted a critical third-and-10 situation with an 11-yard strike to Chris Chambers.

On the next play, he displayed exquisite touch by lofting a strike between several defenders for a 21-yard completion to Chambers. Feeley capped the 48-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak.

"We'll continue to evaluate the situation, not just from the games but from the practices and meetings and how they're handling the audibles and checks during the game," Wannstedt said.

- For the first time since Ricky Williams retired, Wannstedt wavered on the identity of his starting tailback, suggesting that the quicker Travis Minor would get more carries against teams who were weaker on the perimeter.

When playing opponents with weaker interior defenses, a slashing Sammy Morris would receive the load.

Morris and Minor have only averaged a combined 1.7 yards per carry (on 33 carries), so the Dolphins are considering adding Dallas Cowboys tailback ReShard Lee through a potential trade or waiver claim.

A converted running back from quarterback while at Middle Tennessee State, Lee has rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries during the Cowboys' first two exhibition games.

- Rookie linebacker Derrick Pope didn't play Saturday because of a hamstring injury but is expected back today.

- Head Coach Dave Wannstedt's Press Conference Quotes -

"I thought we did make some progress particularly in the passing game. I thought both quarterbacks played well. I thought for the most part they made good decisions. The one penalty when Jay (Fielder) was in there forced us to give up a potential nice pass play on the bootleg. The touchdown when A.J. (Feeley) was in there was called back due to a holding penalty. We only had five penalties in the game but those two came a critical time. We are going to have to eliminate mistakes in order to maximize those types of opportunities.

"There�s really nothing new to report from the quarterback situation. They will both play this week how much I�m not sure yet. We will play both quarterbacks in the game this week and will continue to evaluate the situation, not just from the games, but the practices and the meetings. We will evaluate how they are handling the audibles and the checks in the game. There are a lot of things that go into this decision and we�ve got time and they are both getting plenty of work.

"Things are working out pretty well with the receivers. That�s not really a factor for people to say we need to get the timing down with our quarterback. My main concern right now is to get Marty Booker caught up and get Antonio Freeman on the same page and the guys that are going to be playing caught up with the offense and get A.J. and Jay as much work as they can. That�s where the focus is at this point.

"The offensive line did a very good job this week. Much improved over a week ago. I thought our first groups really did a nice job of handling the blitz. That includes not just the offensive line but our tight ends did a good job, Randy (McMichael) did a nice job, Donald Lee did a nice job, Travis (Minor) and Sammy Morris both and Rob Konrad handled the blitz well. We spent some time on that last week and it showed up in the game Saturday night. Both quarterbacks had time to throw the football. There was very few occasions as it has been the first two weeks where they were forced to throw the ball away or make a bad throw due to pressure.

"In the running game, we have work to do there, but we are committed to it. We only ran the ball 21 times. If we come out of a game where we throw it 40 times and run it 20, you�re probably not going to have the results you want. Travis Minor got sick during the game and we took him out and didn�t play him as much as we wanted to. Sammy Morris was kidding after the game he hasn�t carried the ball that much in his NFL career from the tailback position. I think he only has a little over 100 carries. A few of those plays when he bounced it outside and should not have, that�s not his running style. He�ll have a chance to see himself on film for the first time and see what he is doing right and what he needs to correct. We will play both of those guys this week and get them some carries.

"Defensively, overall, we gave up three points. Early on we had a lot of guys trying to make a lot of plays. I think the guys were excited about playing, there�s no question about that. They talked about it all week. We just need to clean a few things up, which are no major things and we�ll be fine on defense. I�m not concerned about that. It was good to get that whole unit out there playing as a group for the first time. We�ll be able to clean some things up just by watching film. At halftime we went in there and guys like Zach (Thomas), Junior (Seau) and Jason Taylor knew what had happened on those certain situations and we made some good adjustments and in the second half we came out and played a lot better. We�ll be fine there.

"On special teams Matt Turk did a fine job. Olindo (Mare) did a nice job. He didn�t get many opportunities, but I�m real pleased with our special teams from the kicking standpoint. This week Sam Simmons will get a major dose of the punt returns and he may even do a couple kick returns. We�re still trying to finalize who is going to be doing the returns and what gives us the best chance. If there is somebody who could make our football team and contribute and do something in the return game for us that is something we would certainly be interested in.

(On making a decision soon on who will start at quarterback) �

"Tomorrow the guys will be out in shells. We will go out and go through some adjustments and clean some things up from the game. The next day we will look at Tennessee some and our division opponents. Wednesday will talk about New Orleans a little and then we will be on our way. There is nothing that we would do this week in practice that would give one quarterback an advantage over the other. Theirs really no rush on this decision. They are both playing well. That�s the good news. Jay (Fielder) at this point is playing better than he�s played since he�s been here. A.J. (Feeley) is making progress every time he is on the field. As crazy as this sounds quarterback might be I don�t want to say least concerns right now, but I�m a lot more comfortable about our quarterback situation right now than I was six months ago."

(On the offensive line) �

"Rex Hadnot made some mistakes that I think you have to give Tampa credit for scheme wise, but I think in his first game really playing the right guard position he made some mistakes that were uncharacteristic of him. On the other hand I was pleased with the way Taylor Whitley played with that first group. Seth McKinney continues to play really well John St. Clair played well. Wade Smith played better. He played the best he�s played in the three preseason games. He needs to play. We are going to play some of our offensive guys a little more this week than you normally would in the preseason. The good news is I see them getting better, they are making progress."

(On T Damion McIntosh�s return from ankle surgery) �

"He will practice tomorrow. We got cleared to put him in drills. He is out there conditioning today. That�s real positive. We are excited to get him out there in pads and working with the other guys. He will start working on the left side tomorrow. It�s not really a matter of where we are going to put him as it is that he�s now out there working. Once he has some contact and we see him take that step and we see him going full speed, then we will slot him in."

(On Marty Booker�s play Saturday) �

"I was surprised how quick he picked up the plays and the assignments. He was in there for an audible and he made the adjustment correctly. He was excited about playing. He is going to be a great addition. I know he and Jerry Sullivan spent a lot time before and after workouts trying to get caught up a little bit. There was a little carry over from Chicago. Our terminology is similar to what they are doing there."

On John St. Clair being the only guy he is comfortable with being a swing guy) �

"As of today, yes. He can play both sides and do a good job. Vernon (Carey) played pretty well. Vernon did a nice job in the game at right tackle. One time, he struggled on a speed rush, but overall, he just needs to stay there and play and get as much work as he possible can."

(On Vernon Carey and being disappointed that he has not moved into the starting lineup) �

"I think that you have to look at (John) St. Clair, and you can look at it two ways. You could say, �Are we a little bit disappointed�, or �Are we really encouraged by how John St. Clair has played?� And that�s how I think that you have to look at it, because it�s legitimate. St. Clair has been as steady a player as we have on the offensive line, and that�s given us a little bit of cushion there, and that�s how it�s worked out. We didn�t know that about St. Clair until we started practicing, so that�s worked out well for us. You can never have enough offensive linemen, particularly offensive tackles."

(On what has impressed him about John St. Clair) �

"His intelligence and his seriousness. He came here, and you talk about situations that guys move from team to team. There might be a guy that gets a bunch of money and is a free agent and goes to a team � you�re almost more nervous about those guys as compared to getting a guy like John St. Clair who was a fourth round draft pick. Rick (Spielman) did a great job of studying his background and made the point that the guy played center, he played guard, he played right tackle, he played left tackle, and he never really got comfortable at one spot. They moved him around about every week because he�s so smart and he�s such a good athlete. We bring him in here and tell him we�re going to put him at one spot and give you a chance to compete. He saw this as a real opportunity and he�s mature and he took advantage of it."

(On what Fred Russell has not done to convince him that he should be the kick return guy)-

"I think he�s done a good job on kick returns, but he did okay on some of the other areas of special teams. I wouldn�t see keeping a guy � I�d like to see him do a little bit more at the tailback position. We�ll try to get him some more carries this week. He has to be more than just kickoffs. Could he line up and be our kickoff return man for the rest of the year? Yes he could. Would he be productive? Yes he could. Are you going to keep a roster spot for a guy who just returns kickoffs? That�s what you have to weigh when you actually get down to your final cut. We tried him in a lot of spots yesterday and he did okay, but a lot of them were first time. He�s never been a flyer in a punt before or covered kickoffs. We had him on punt return, and he�s never done that stuff. When you�re a rookie and the clock is running, it�s tough. It�s not easy."

(On the safety position) �

"I should add also that at the safety position, that is a very difficult situation to evaluate and no decision has been made yet. Antuan Edwards got a lot of work yesterday, but it�s no reflection on Arturo (Freeman). Arturo Freeman has been a starter for us here, we have confidence in him, but we need to find out as much as we possibly can about Antuan. Again, I feel like we have two guys there that we can line up, that can play, and that we can win with. It�s a good situation. They will both play this week, and we�ll make a decision early next week. Arturo really hasn�t done anything from a negative standpoint. Neither one has really had the opportunities to make a lot of plays. It may just come down to a gut � not a gut decision � but something where I just feel like for the situation that our defense is in, this might be the best fit right now."

(On whether Antuan Edwards has played better than Arturo Freeman) �

"Where Antuan was showing up, was last week against the Redskins. A lot of those plays, he was playing the nickel position, and that�s when he was getting a lot of this hits and tackles. He did show up he�s a tough guy and he made plays. He had more opportunities because he was playing safety and the nickel position, where Arturo really wasn�t. When you come out of a game like yesterday, half of the time you can�t even find those guys on the film because they�re 20 yards deep defending the deep safety spot. They didn�t throw any balls down the field, so they don�t have any of passes broken up, they don�t have any interceptions. It�s not like evaluating the corner or the linebacker that every play you have to do something, so it�s pretty easy coming out � you either got the job done or you didn�t. At the safety position, you�re really evaluating what they do in practice where you can script some things and give them some formations and some plays and see how they handle the whole thing as much as in a game."

(On whether there is a serious concern at the punt/kick return positions)-

"We are. (Terrence) Wilkins really didn�t get many opportunities yesterday from the standpoint that it was just how the field position was, and he was hurt prior to that, so he missed a lot of time. Sam Simmons did it last year and did a pretty decent job for us. We need to look at him, but I think that the return position, if � and I preface it by saying if a quality guy were to come available - that�s a position where different than maybe any other position on the team, you could sign a return guy tonight and he could play for you tomorrow. That�s the good news. Now, the bad news is � is there going to be a guy available that we really feel could really upgrade us? You�re guess is as good as mine. Rick (Spielman) and Geroge (Paton) have their list of possibilities, but � they were talking about a couple of guys that they felt good about and then all of the sudden somebody gets hurt and then the guy is eliminated. We�ll just have to wait and see there."

(On Derrick Pope) �

"Derrick Pope didn�t play because of his hamstring. I expect him to play this week. He would have played last week, he wanted to play, and the doctor said no. I expect that he will be back this week."

(On whether he�ll get a chance to evaluate Leonard Henry this week) �

"I hope so. I don�t know. I don�t have an update on that and that�s a shame. As soon as he gets cleared medically, we�ll put him in there and hand him the ball."

(On being unhappy with the redzone work and penalties)-

"The third down stuff � we were horrible we all know against the Redskins. Yesterday, I think, we converted a little over 40 percent, which is excellent. You would like to be in that range every week. The difference was, early in the first half, I thought that the play calling � we really made a conscious effort on offense to try to put ourselves in third down and manageable, as we say, situations. Third down and four�s, third and five, third and six�s, and that�s what we did early on in some of those drives. That gives you a chance to convert. With the third and ten�s, it�s awful tough, and we had a lot of those against the Redskins."

(On whether he thinks Travis Minor is better suited to be a change-of-pace guy) �

"I don�t think he�s really played enough to make that determination. I know we�re going to play all of them for sure. We�re not going to be a one-back team, a one-back offense anymore. I hate to use the word committee, but we�ll play all the backs that are available."

(On whether he�s worried with Sam Simmons and his foot) �

"He told me that he felt really good last night and was really anxious to get in there and play. The few snaps that he got in there at receiver, he did show a lot of quickness. We didn�t get the ball to him, so this will be a big week for Sam. We will give Sam a major workload this week, returning and at receiver."

(On whether Will Poole was struggling out there a little bit) �

"I think it was just really the first time that he got a good amount of playing time, but, no. On the run, things just happen quicker. On that long run, the longest run that they had, we were really in a pretty good defense, and Sammy Knight wanted to get on the line of scrimmage � at which he and Sam Madison do, they�ll switch positions, Sammy will come up and jump on the of scrimmage and Sam will bail out and play the deep half which puts Sammy Knight in a better position to play run support. While Sammy Knight did that, Will Poole was in there, and as Sammy was coming up and telling him, the ball was snapped and Will was retreating deep, and there�s just those things that happen on the spur of the moment that I think he was going through a little bit of an adjustment period."

(On how he determines who he will lead off with at running back) �

"You would like to have a starter, I don�t know if we will or not. A lot has to do with the team you�re playing and what is going to be the emphasis that week. Are we going to be a perimeter team � it�s obvious that Travis (Minor) has more speed than Sammy (Morris). A lot would have to do with the runs that we feel give us the best chance against the opponent and that particular player would probably get more carries. The other guy could come in and be the change-of-pace guy and be maybe the third down guy. That�s the good thing, they can both play third down. If one guy were going to be the focus of most of the carries, than the other guy could do the third down stuff."

(On who the two best run blockers on the line are) �

"I don�t know, Seth McKinney have been playing awful good. I would say that the McKinney is playing right now, he might be playing as good as any of them."

(On whether he would hesitate to put a guy like Travis Minor at return kicks)-

"No, we�ll do whatever we have to do once it starts for real."

(On how David Bowens and Jay Williams played) �

"They played good. David Bowens is doing a nice job, and he�s playing good. Jay Williams, his weight is down about 15-20 pounds from where he was a year ago. He�s in great shape and having a great camp, which is good. This all started because he came in in better shape than he did, so we have three guys right there, and we�re still, as you know, looking for whoever that fourth defensive end is going to be. It�s still up for grabs."

(On whether he more comfortable if that spot were to go to a veteran) �

"You�re always trying to get the best guy. If a guy became available that would upgrade us, then for sure."

(On whether the competition between A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler is really as close as it appears statistically) �

"I feel very comfortable with both guys, I really do. I think that because what you�ve seen in the games is very similar to what has happened in practice. To say that there is a big division just to say it is just not the case. I am as comfortable with both of them � and we�ll just play this week out and see how it goes. It will work out. I don�t know if we�ve gone through a season, or very few teams do, where you don�t need two guys that can play. I am very comfortable right now with both guys, and we�ll see."

(On whether he gets a fair assessment about the running game from preseason stats) �

"You generally get a lot more blitzing by teams in the preseason than what you get in the regular season. There can be a lot of plays that you get negative plays in the preseason that generally don�t come up � a lot defensive coordinators are a lot bolder when the game really doesn�t mean anything, as compared to when it counts. That can distort the numbers a little bit and in our particular case, where we went through a week or two there where we were moving a lot of people around, that can account for a little bit of ineffectiveness I think."

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