Q & A with ESPN’s 760 Ken LaVicka
Welcome to this very special edition of Fins Friday. We are in a very quiet time in the off season and I decided on contacting my good friend Ken LaVicka who is the Dolphins beat reporter for ESPN 760 for a Q & A with the great members of the site. Ken took the time to answer questions for us all that will shed light going into training camp. This is a great opportunity for us here at Finheaven.com and I hope you all enjoy.
FH: Everyone has raved about Clemons improvement, but what about Miami's second best Safety behind Yeremiah Bell last year, Tyron Culver. What are the chances Tyron Culver starts at FS?
KLV: Let's be careful tossing around the word "start", especially when we're talking about the secondary. Nate Jones made several "starts" last year and he was the nickelback. Who's out there depends on the formation. If you want to know about how much Tyrone Culver will be on the field, the answer is: a lot. Sure we're all focused on Clemons, but that's because there are major questions at free safety and he's the guy that the coaching staff gave the most first-team reps to during OTA's. Honestly, that doesn't mean anything. The coaches didn't need to see much of Culver in the offseason camps, they know what he brings. He's the second-most consistent member of the secondary behind YB, a gritty guy who overcomes some lacking athletic ability with some major smarts. Right place, right time. At least to start the year, Culver will, in my opinion, probably see the majority of the snaps at free safety. As Clemons and Jones get more comfortable at free, I wouldn't be surprised if Culver then backs up Bell. Call me crazy, but I also think Culver will see important reps at nickelback. He can play in any set and he's versatile. If Culver had Gibril Wilson's physical attributes he'd be a one of the better safeties in the AFC. Stupid genetics. Speaking of safeties, I like Jonathan Amaya, the rookie out of Nevada. Keep an eye on him...just saying'.
FH: What role do you think each of our QB's is going to play this year, including any lingering trade possibilities?
KLV: I don't think I need to tell anyone that Henne is the unquestioned "guy" this year. He looks the part, acts the part, and has shown he can play the part. As for the other three, it's anyone's guess at this point. Pennington will eventually be the back-up. I truly believe that. His reps were limited during OTA's and mini-camps but once he becomes fully active and feels strong enough, I don't know how you put Thigpen or White ahead of him on the depth chart. I know that there was a story put out there that perhaps the Dolphins were looking to place Pennington on the PUP list. That's definitely a possibility but I think that the team thinks they can avoid that with the frugal way he's been handled so far. Honestly, when you see him throw the ball, he doesn't look that far off. If Pennington is healthy enough to be active by the time that the opener at Buffalo comes around, that could spell trouble for Pat White. I know that the prevailing thought is that he's only going into his second year, so you should be patient. Also, Parcells and Ireland want to save face after selecting one of last year's most controversial draft picks by giving him a chance. The Dolphins don't and shouldn't have to do either. White looks a bit more poised than he did last year (inanimate objects look more poised than Pat did last year) so that's a good sign, but the accuracy is still a major concern, as is his decision-making. Based on what I've seen through the offseason practices, he's still the fourth-best of the four quarterbacks. Don't think the team wouldn't part ways with him. If they decided to cut ties with Gibril Wilson who commanded 8 million in guaranteed coin, why couldn't they do the same with a much cheaper question mark in Pat White? Also, why not try and get something for him while he still has value?
FH: How has tight end Kory Sperry looked at OTAs?
KLV: To be honest, Sperry didn't stand out at all in the offseason workouts. Don't read too much into that, though. I think this team likes Sperry's confidence and 1 million mph approach to the game. Last year I didn't think there was a chance the guy would last more than four weeks with the team. When he was on the practice squad, Kory and I talked several times about how tough of a time he was having fully picking up the playbook, but he kept asking questions and studying until it finally paid off. (When Joey Haynos walked into the locker room in 2008 looking like a high school JV basketball center, I didn't think he'd make it more than a month, either...shows what I know.)
What I find funny is that there hasn't been one question to me about John Nalbone. I think it's indicative of how Dolphins fans feel about the kid: apathetic. I must say, I feel the same way. I see him drop way too many balls and look way too lost for me to feel confident that he'll be on the 53-man roster when all is said and done.
FH: Will we keep 4 running backs this year? And if so, is Sheets or Hilliard more likely to get the 4th?
KLV: Four running backs will depend on how many QB's and WR's the Dolphins keep, but let's assume that they'll keep four RB's. (In case you were wondering, I'm in favor of keeping four RB's.) Let's also assume that Ronnie, Ricky, and Cobbs are locked in already. That leaves, as the question poses, Hilliard and Sheets. Sheets has impressed everyone with his speed so far in the offseason workouts. Why did we not notice this before? Don't forget, Sheets was picked up midway through last year and we aren't allowed to watch anything after individual drills during the season. The guy has tons of speed but unfortunately for him, he needs to be one hell of a kick/punt returner to make this team. Guys like him need to wear "several hats", as Sparano likes to call it, and that's what makes Hilliard such a favorite. Hilliard can occasionally run the football with power, but more importantly, he's an absolute head-hunter on special team’s coverage. Can Sheets do that? No. If Sheets has any shot of beating out Hilliard in 2010 he better kick some ass returning the football in the preseason. In addition to that, he also needs to break some pretty flashy runs in his chances during the four exhibition games.
FH: Is Vontae really getting beat consistently in practice?
KLV: There are times where fans shouldn't take what we in the media say as gospel. The documentations of the offseason workout struggles of Vontae Davis are a good example.
Has he looked a little bit rugged at times? Yes. Is he still a work in progress? Yes. Is there reason for concern? Hell no.
Vontae is a quick learner, a physical freak, and has the shortest memory of any player I've ever been around. If the game is on the line and there is one guy between the ball-carrier and the goal line, I want Vontae to be the guy attempting the stop in the open field. I've been pro-Vontae starting over Will Allen since Day 1 of the offseason. I stand by that.
FH: Does Turner have more of a chance staying with the team? Will he be cut or traded and who do you believe replaces him?
KLV: Like Pat White, Pat Turner has big league questions marks swirling around him right now. Unlike Pat White, Pat Turner has a body that you can't just throw to the scrap heap based on the position that he plays. I need Turner to recover from his surgery and get a few good weeks of training camp under his belt before I start clamoring for his departure from Miami. It's too hard to find size and strength like Turner's at receiver to just give up on him after one year, especially when you knew he'd be a bit of a project when he was drafted.
FH: Who in your opinion is the next player in line for a contract extension from the front office?
KLV: I would be shocked, SHOCKED, if the Dolphins offered up anything significant from an extension standpoint without knowing if a CBA solution was on the way. Therefore, I don't see anything on the horizon. If there was one player that was to receive anything multi-year though, I think it would be Davone Bess. Also, I've got a sneaky suspicion that Bill Parcells will have another one-year Post-It note with Ricky Williams' name on it come September or October.
FH: In your opinion, how much progress do you believe Cameron Wake has made in becoming an "every down" linebacker?
KLV: It's hard to tell. We sit in metal bleachers hundreds of feet from most of the practices that we sit in on. That said, judging by what Sparano and Wake himself say, he's closer but still has a ways to go. I know that that's not what many of you want to hear, but that's the reality of putting faith in a guy who is a CFL gamble. I will say this for Wake. The guy busts his behind in a big way. He is constantly critiquing himself, is always honest with himself and us, and if I were to put money on him ultimately succeeding as an every down linebacker I'd have no problem throwing down a substantial amount of cash. As a raw, unproven experiment last year in limited action, Wake was a monster. 5.5 sacks with the reps he got? Not bad. That interception that Tom Brady threw into Crowder's arms to give the Dolphins the win at home? That was all Wake. Watch the replay. He's still a ways away from becoming an every down option, but he's getting closer. NOTE: I don't necessarily think that Charlie Anderson is a terrible "other" option. I like the way he plays and he tends to find ways to get the job done.
FH: Does Joe Berger have a legitimate shot to become the starting center over Jake Grove?
KLV: I'm not sure about that, but I think he could definitely take reps away from big money Grove. Remember how impressive Berger was in place of an injured Grove last year? I think the coaching staff earned a whole new respect for him after that. Berger has been seeing first team center reps during the offseason so you never know, but I would urge you not to take a ton of stock into who's playing where during OTA's. Also, don't forget about Cory Proctor. He was brought in to push both of these guys and can play both center and guard, just like Berger. It will be interesting to see how the offensive line plays out with names like Berger, Proctor, Grove, Garner, Gardner, Jerry, and Thomas all battling during camp.
FH: How well are the rookie players and vets learning Nolan's defensive packages and schemes? Is their ability to learn and his ability to teach one of the main reasons that we didn't pursue Atogwe because our pass rush got better as well as our free safety play.
KLV: It's tough to tell with the naked eye when the guys are wearing t-shirts and shorts, but veterans and rookies alike have raved about Nolan's approach to the 3-4. I'd take that as a good sign. You're going to see some more creativity under Nolan than you did with Pasqualoni, at least that's what Sparano is banking on. As for why the Dolphins decided not to pursue Atogwe, here's the answer: $$$.
On behalf of Finheaven.com and myself, I would like to thank Ken LaVicka for his time and the great opportunity he has given Finheaven. To follow Ken LaVicka’s work make sure to visit him at http://www.espn760.com .You can also follow Ken on twitter at https://twitter.com/KLV760 . Ken hosts a radio show Sundays at 10 am on ESPN 760 in West Palm. To hear Ken’s show just visit http://www.espn760.com .
Roberto Yanes is a staff writer for FinHeaven and has bee a member of the site for six years under the name FinAtic8480. You can follow his popular commentary on your Miami Dolphins all year long here exclusively at Finheaven!
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