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Red-hot Fasano's status in doubt this week

The Sports Xchange
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Anthony Fasano went from the invisible man earlier this season to the Dolphins' primary red-zone target.

The Dolphins have leaned heavily on the tight end position the past two months, when Fasano's caught four of his five touchdown passes, transforming his worst NFL season into what could potentially be his most productive one.

Fasano is averaging a career-high 15.7 yards per reception on his 28 catches. He needs 89 receiving yards to establish a new career high. He has 440 receiving yards. Last year, he logged a career-high of 528.

But Fasano, who is rated the fourth most productive tight end by ProFootballFocus.com, suffered a mild concussion during practice this week and his status for Saturday's road game against the New England Patriots is in jeopardy.

"He does have a mild concussion that he didn't have yesterday," interim coach Todd Bowles said on Thursday, a day after Fasano was held out of practice with what the team declared as a head injury. "He had a low-grade concussion. They're monitoring him right now. They're taking more tests."

If Fasano can't pass his baseline test on Friday, which is mandated by the NFL for returning to practice and games after suffering a concussion, it's unlikely that he'll travel to New England.

That means the Dolphins would have to either lean on his backups - Jeron Mastrud or rookies Charles Clay and Will Yeatman - to fill the void his absence creates, or play a lot of three- or four-receiver sets against the Patriots.

Mastrud is primarily a blocker. He caught his only NFL pass (for eight yards) in his two seasons against the Chargers in Week 4.

Yeatman, who the Dolphins claimed off waivers from the Patriots in September, was active for the first time last week against the Bills, but he played sparingly on offense.

Clay, the team's sixth-round pick, has started nine games this season, catching 14 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. He leads the Dolphins in yards per reception (16.5) this season. But this former Tulsa standout is more a fullback than tight end, and needs work on his in-line blocking.

"He's made big plays all year. Injuries seem to be bugging everyone in the league," Bowles said of Fasano, who is finishing his fourth season as the Dolphins' starter. "(Jeron) Mastrud or (Will) Yeatman are just going to have to step it up if he doesn't play."

--If the Miami Dolphins' old regime were featured in the television show Survivor then general manager Jeff Ireland would be the last man standing on the island.

The Trifecta, which is what former football czar Bill Parcells, former head coach Tony Sparano and Ireland were called, have been disbanded.

Parcells stepped down before last season, leaving his handpicked apprentices to stand on their own two feet.

Producing the franchise's third straight losing season cost Sparano his job last week, but owner Steve Ross has opted to spare Ireland, for now. And it appears he'll be assisting Ross with the search for the next head coach.

But why is Ireland safe considering he's been part of this franchise's routine overpaying of free agents, and lackluster drafts since 2008, which includes two failed attempts -- Chad Henne and Pat White -- at finding a franchise quarterback?

However, a close examination of Ireland's body of work this season, his one year without Parcells' heavy-handed approach, might explain why Ross granted him a pardon.

During the team's recent surge, which featured the Dolphins following up a 0-7 start by winning five of seven games, Ireland's finds have thrived.

Instead of giving a king's ransom to Denver for Kyle Orton, the Dolphins signed Matt Moore, who has blossomed since replacing Chad Henne as the starter, completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,081 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Moore, who has the 12th best passer rating in the NFL, is 5-5 as a starter, and provides a rare blend of big plays, minus the costly turnovers.

Then there's the addition of tailback Reggie Bush. The Dolphins pulled out of the high-stakes bidding for DeAngelo Williams and Ahmad Bradshaw and traded a conditional draft pick for a supposedly washed-up, injury-plagued scatback.

Despite a slow start, where the coaching staff struggled to use him properly, Bush has silenced most of his critics by producing a career season. He's 27 yards away from rushing for 1,000 and has scored a team-leading seven touchdowns, proving he can be a featured back.

The Dolphins wanted to upgrade on Channing Crowder, finding a playmaking inside linebacker to pair with Karlos Dansby. Kevin Burnett was signed, and like Bush, Burnett got off to a slow start but has delivered 80 tackles, two sacks, and an interception on which he scored.

Parcells banished Jason Taylor from South Florida, sending him into the arms of the hated New York Jets. Sparano lobbied to re-sign the NFL's active sacks leader and Ireland got it done. Taylor's second on the team with six sacks.

Not all of Ireland's moves have been home runs. Marc Colombo was washed up when Dallas dumped him, and the team's starting right tackle hasn't done much to redeem himself with the Dolphins this season, allowing eight sacks and 32 pressures.

But most of Ireland's free-agent decisions have been solid, and so has the 2011 draft class, which somewhat explains why he's survived the housecleaning.

SERIES HISTORY
90th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 49-40. New England defeated Miami 38-24 in the season opener in a game where both offenses put up prolific numbers, combining for the most passing yards in NFL history with 906. The Patriots swept the season series in 2010, but these two teams have split the series the previous two seasons.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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