On the Road: Day 20 … with the Dolphins
(Editor’s note: In addition to his team reports, Jason Cole will share some of the off-field highlights of his preseason travel.)
MIAMI – There’s this great scene from the movie “Primary Colors” where Kathy Bates is driving along a causeway and proclaiming that she has arrived in hell. Having lived here for 15 years, I don’t mean this in the same way, but certainly the stifling heat of South Florida at this time of year makes you think that you’re about to meet the devil. It’s unbearably hot. It’s 93 degrees, but feels like 105. Throw in the yummy humidity and you’re officially in a state of being that the weather services call “dangerous.” Somehow, when I was younger (not young, just younger) and covered the Miami Dolphins, I used to play outdoor basketball games at lunch. It would take 20 minutes under a cold shower just to get my body temperature down to hot. Somehow I get the feeling I would die if I were to try that now. Anyway, it’s good to be back in South Florida for a couple of days before heading out to Los Angeles for my high school reunion … yet another reminder of the aging process. I’m officially as old as my mother was when I was a senior in high school. Brutal.
The Dolphins have the look of an 8-8 team. Some people might take offense to that, but it’s a fair assessment of a team that’s still a work in progress. The addition of WR Brandon Marshall(notes) upgrades the offense and gives the team its first real outside threat in probably 15 years (sorry, Chris Chambers(notes) didn’t measure up to Marshall’s level). The more important question is whether strong-armed QB Chad Henne(notes) is going to become a terrific player or just above average. There were times last season when Henne looked really good and moments when he made people wonder. At practice Thursday, Henne worked hard on his touch passes and looked good at it, so that’s a positive. At the same time, the offense hasn’t been particularly sharp in the team’s scrimmage nor in the exhibition opener. … Speaking of quarterbacks, it’s time for Pat White(notes) to give up on that dream and see if he can become a latter-day Antwaan Randle El(notes). White, a second-round pick in 2009, has steadfastly said he wants to be a passer, but he has very little ability to be more than a Wildcat player, and even that is a stretch. With Henne, Chad Pennington(notes) and Tyler Thigpen(notes), White stands almost zero chance of making this team as a QB. … The Dolphins have one of the better offensive tackle combinations in the league with Jake Long(notes) and Vernon Carey(notes). However, the middle of the line is a huge question mark with the likes of guards Richie Incognito(notes), John Jerry(notes) and Donald Thomas(notes) and centers Jake Grove(notes) and Joe Berger(notes). The Dolphins are sorting through plenty of options, but this is unsettling for a team that wants to run as much as Miami. … CB Vontae Davis(notes) has looked terrific in camp this season and has the ability to be among the top 10 in the league very quickly. However, fellow CB Sean Smith(notes) has been wildly inconsistent. Smith appears to have lost a lot of the aggressiveness he showed last season after being a second-round pick. He also hasn’t been tackling very well his limited opportunities.
Making the most of the Everglades
Most people like to take in the beach when they visit South Florida and there’s certainly no problem with that, particularly if you like scantily clad women. However, if you want a little more adventure, take a cool day trip to Shark Valley at the northern end of the Everglades off the old Tamiami Trail. You can either take a tram or ride bikes there. It’s the best place to check out wild alligators in all of Florida. You can literally get within a couple of feet of them and there’s a great observation deck at the end of the tram path where you can see them from above. Beyond Shark Valley, there’s the beautiful Biscayne National Park, which is almost all water with some outer islands where you can take a boat and camp. This is classic old South Florida.
We’ll go with “In the End” by Linkin Park. Yeah, Linkin Park can be rough on the ears that early, but this day I needed a real mind-bender knowing the pending reaction over the Brett Favre(notes) news. After doing roughly 20 radio spots, I was glad to open with something on the edgy side of rock.
From high end to low end, there are few regions in America that match South Florida’s mix of food. About the only thing that’s hard to do is find good Mexican or authentic Chinese. Even then, finding something reasonable is within reach. However, the perfect place to relax, have a beer and a truly great burger is Le Tub on the Intercoastal Waterway in Hollywood. It’s quiet, it’s open-air, it’s open until the wee hours of the morning and the food is terrific.