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NFL Owners Meetings Day 3: Smith And Finnegan Strongly Endorsed By Fisher; Other Notes

Posted Mar 26, 2014

An inside perspective on two ex-Rams thought to be solid free agent pickups for Dolphins from their former coach, Jeff Fisher.

ORLANDO – Ask any NFL coach if he’d like to keep all of his players from one season to the next and he’d almost unequivocally answer in the affirmative. Unfortunately, that never happens.

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher no doubt feels that way about guard Shelley Smith and cornerback Cortland Finnegan, two players the Miami Dolphins signed in free agency. Fisher had a longer history with Finnegan, having drafted him back in 2006 as head coach of the Tennessee Titans and coached him for five seasons there, so he has a deep knowledge of the kind of player Miami is getting.

“Cortland battled injuries off and on both years he was with us, so if he can return to health and have a consistent offseason I think he can return to a high level of play,” said Fisher, who was out of football in 2011 before taking the job with St. Louis in 2012. “I believe he does (have a lot left in the tank). It’s going to be heavily dependent on his commitment to an offseason program and workout, but he left us unfortunately with a few games left because of injuries. Prior to the injuries he still has quite a bit of ability.”

Smith is entering his fourth season in the league and spent the last two with the Rams after being drafted in the sixth round by the Houston Texans in 2011 out of Colorado State. At 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds he has shown impressive mobility and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin and General Manager Dennis Hickey both talked about how well he will fit into the team’s zone-blocking scheme.

During his two seasons in St. Louis, the 26-year-old Smith started eight of the 25 games he played in and was beginning to show his potential as an effective pulling guard. A young player on the rise like that tends to blossom in a new system, but he certainly falls into that category of players his most recent team would have liked to have hung on to.

“Shelley actually came in and played well for over the last two years,” Fisher said. “He didn’t get as many starts as he would have liked but Shelley’s just a quiet, very good teammate who works very hard and is talented. He was developed in the Houston Texans scheme in the run game and is a very good run blocker and obviously is an adequate or above average pass protector. He’s a good football player. We’re happy that he got an opportunity to start and we’re disappointed that he left.”

NEW OC LAZOR LAUDED BY EAGLES’ CHIP KELLY

The Dolphins didn’t only make changes on the active roster this offseason they also hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor, as well as some other new coaches.

>Lazor is coming off of a notable season with the Philadelphia Eagles where he helped develop quarterback Nick Foles into the highest rated passer in the league. Foles threw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions for a rating of 119.2 and Lazor was his quarterbacks coach. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly thinks Miami has got a good one in Lazor running the offense.

“Billy’s very, very intelligent,” said Kelly, who is entering his second season with the Eagles after coaching at the University of Oregon. “I think one of the first things that struck me when we first interviewed him was his intelligence just kind of jumps out at you. He’s an Ivy League guy that has a great way of teaching and has great knowledge in terms of the game. He did a great job with our quarterback position.

“I think everybody’s product of what you see on the field and obviously Nick deserves credit because Nick’s the one who’s playing but Billy was the guy that got him prepared to play so I think Billy did a great job with him. I think he’s got great experience in terms of being a coordinator at the college level but has also coached with the Seahawks and the Falcons and the Redskins, so he’s got lot of NFL experience. I thought it was a great opportunity for him and I think he’s going to do a really good job down there.”

NFL COMMISSIONER PRAISES ROSS’ STADIUM VISION

Dolphins owner Steve Ross’ recent pledge to fund the renovation of Sun Life Stadium with his own money as part of a private-public partnership with Miami-Dade County is being well received by his fellow owners.

Even though this issue was not part of the official agenda as there was no stadium committee meeting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is aware of the details, is supportive of the idea and actually spoke with Ross about it last week.

“I salute him for his commitment to try to make sure he brings a first-class stadium to that area,” said Goodell in his closing press conference. “He is committed to it and I think he’ll achieve that and I think it’ll be great for the area. It’ll be great for the Dolphins, it’ll be great for the NFL and lots of great events will come there as a result of it.”

Of course at the top of that list for the Dolphins and South Florida is another Super Bowl. The Miami area has hosted 10 Super Bowls, tied with New Orleans for the most of any city.

ODDS AND ENDS

Things wrapped up much earlier than expected this morning, as the votes on rules changes and bylaws through the competition committee came fast and furious. Four rules change proposals passed – extending the uprights from 30 to 35 feet, amending the instant replay rule to include reviewing the recovery of a loose ball and having the clock continue to run on a sack and spot enforcement. … The three rules change proposals that failed were – moving the kickoff from the 35-yardline to the 40-yardline, allowing personal foul penalties to reviewed by instant replay and allowing all plays to be reviewed. … The following rules change proposals were tabled – moving the extra point back to the 25-yardline for what would be a 43-yard kick, placing fixed cameras on the goal lines and abolishing overtime in the preseason. The league will experiment with moving the extra point back to the 20-yardline for two preseason games this year.

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