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Gameday: Dolphins first playoff game since ’08 in frigid Pittsburgh

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Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire

The Dolphins 2017 turnaround enters its most important phase this afternoon at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Yes, they’ve won nine of their last 11 games, but for the first time since 2008, Miami will play in the post season. And, in order to advance they will have a tall task in beat one of pro football’s top teams of the 2000’s…the Steelers.

Our Chris Fischer gave his thoughts earlier in the week and believes the Dolphins will combat the chilly temps (teens with the windchill) by getting back to running Jay Ajayi like they did in the regular season win.

But for a franchise that hasn’t won a road playoff game since Dan Marino’s final career win in Seattle in January of 2000, they will have to do a lot more. (Yes, the Fins last road playoff win was so long ago that Seattle was actually still in the AFC West at the time). Anyway, three things to watch:

First the Dolphins will have to stop Pittsburgh on the ground, themselves. And, that means get ready for lots of Le’Veon Bell, especially early. If Suh, Wake and Miami front seven can’t stop him, it’s obviously big trouble. In the last six games he played to close the regular season, Bell carried at least 20 times in all of them and had 100 yards in five of them. Wanna move on in the playoffs? Bell is  getting “The Rock.” Stop him, or else.

Next, will Matt Moore continue playing composed and making the key throws that he has the last 3 1/2 games since replacing Ryan Tannehill. The Steelers have been shaky at times on defense and it’s not as if, Landry. Stills and Parker can’t make some plays, if given the chances. But do the Steelers harass, knock down and even sack, Moore to the point where he throws the critical pick (he has one in all three starts)? That’s something to watch and one or more turnovers will be likely death for Miami.

Finally, Ben Roethlisberger will be under the microscope. After having a tremendous playoff run earlier in his career where he won 9 of 10 games including a Super Bowl win, “Big Ben” has been mortal of late. With four losses in his last five post season starts, he also has a poor five TD five INT stat line in those five games. Again, as mentioned above, if Bell runs well in the cold and the Steelers can harass Moore into mistakes, it won’t matter. But, if it’s a close game in the second half, will Roethlisberger find his “go to” target Antonio Brown for the huge TD or throw the critical pick himself?

If he does and if the Fins pull the upset, don’t think for a second that “Stiller” fan won’t hesitate to pull out his playoff fizzles, recently.

Will the Fins “man up,” give Pittsburgh a game and perhaps, pull off the upset as a double digit underdog?

It’s time to find out.

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Miami Dolphins

Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:

In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.

However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.

As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan

He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.

Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.

In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.

As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.

Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.

It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.

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Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.

The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:

The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.

Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.

Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.

Colorado’s athletic director Rick George said in a statement Sunday night,

“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.” 

The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.

Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.

Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.

Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.

Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.

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