May 25, 2015

Dolphins battles brewing as OTAs begin; UM baseball

Most Dolphins players have been sweating through workouts and either learning or brushing up on the team’s offense and defense for several weeks.

But in some ways, competition for jobs begin in earnest when the Dolphins on Tuesday hold the first of 10 voluntary “organized team activity” practices.

The team also will hold three mandatory mini-camp practices in mid-June before taking a six-week break until training camp.

Battles are brewing at nearly every position, some at the top of the depth chart, others merely for roster spots. Among the more interesting ones:

### The cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes. Jamar Taylor enters as something of a front-runner but will be challenged by former Giants starter Zack Bowman and potentially Will Davis, who’s expected back from an ACL injury by the start of training camp.

“Taylor and Davis have a talented skill set,” Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey told WQAM-560. “Zack bring length [he’s 6-1] and a veteran presence.”

Though coach Joe Philbin has said the Dolphins envision free-agent pickup Brice McCain as a slot cornerback, the 5-9 McCain also has experience playing on the boundary. And rookie Bobby McCain will get practice snaps at slot corner behind Brice McCain.

“We like the depth there; you look at the teams we have to play, depth at corner is important,” Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ president/football operations, told WMEN-640 last week. “Some of those young guys are going to have to play for us.”

### The starter at left guard. Billy Turner is considered the front runner for the right guard spot, but the left guard job is a tossup between Dallas Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas.

Tannenbaum said “three young guys are competing for two spots.”

That would suggest that free agent pickups J.D. Walton, Jeff Linkenbach and Jacques McClendon are viewed merely as depth, with McClendon in particular far from a cinch to make the roster. Walton projects as Mike Pouncey’s backup at center.

Offensive tackle Jason Fox, filling in at left tackle while Branden Albert works his way back from an ACL injury, also has been getting work at guard, according to the Dolphins.

### The starting linebacker job alongside Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. The Dolphins could opt to start Chris McCain, who showed flashes in limited playing time as a rookie, at strong-side linebacker or could go with middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who has started 32 games in four seasons.

If Sheppard ends up starting, Misi could shift outside.

The Dolphins also want to get a long look at four undrafted linebackers: Jeff Luc, Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt and Zach Vigil, as well as second-year player Jordan Tripp.

“All are productive, all tough and competitive,” Hickey said of the four rookies.

### Roster spots at running back. Jay Ajayi is the front-runner to back up Lamar Miller and could eventually challenge Miller for a starting job.

“He’s kind of underrated; had 50 receptions as well,” Tannenbaum said of Ajayi. “Hopefully he has the ability to be a three-down player.”

But don’t discount Damien Williams; Philbin has praised his work this offseason.

LaMichael James and Mike Gillislee (who spent last season on injured reserve with a hamstring issue) also are competing for what could be one more job, if the Dolphins keep four backs.

### Sorting out defensive tackle. Earl Mitchell is the likely starter alongside Ndamukong Suh, but there’s competition for the No. 3 job among second-rounder Jordan Phillips, Anthony Johnson and A.J. Francis.

“We were very comfortable with Jordan to get him where we did,” Tannenbaum said of the second-round pick who had an inconsistent motor at Oklahoma.

“We were really excited. We think he’s going to come in with Earl Mitchell, Ndamukong Suh — Kamal Johnson is here, Anthony Johnson’s here. We think there’s really good depth there with a chance to earn playing time. But there’s no doubt when you watch [Phillips], he has a ton of ability.”

### Receiver pecking order. It’s clear who the Dolphins’ top four receivers will be: DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings.

What must play out is the order; the player who ends up the fourth receiver figures to play less than he’s accustomed.

Rishard Matthews, the No. 5 receiver, is missing voluntary workouts after asking for a trade.

His chances of getting his wish might improve if Matt Hazel, LaRon Byrd or one of several others (such as Alabama’s Christion Jones) has a dynamic next four months.

“I like our depth there; you have to pass to score in this league,” Tannenbaum said.

### Battles for other backup jobs. There’s competition everywhere, from the No. 3 quarterback position if one is even kept (Josh Freeman, McLeod Bethel-Thompson), the No. 3 tight end job (Arthur Lynch, Gerell Williams, Jake Stoneburner, 6-8 rookie Tim Semisch), the fourth safety job (Walt Aikens, Don Jones, Jordan Kovacs, rookie Cedric Thompson), among others. Aikens also has been getting some work at cornerback.

### Kicker: Andrew Franks, a strong-legged rookie from RPI in New York, is Caleb Sturgis' latest challenger.

UM BASEBALL

Check out Manny's UM blog for more details on UM's baseball regional.

This was a good day for the Hurricanes: They got a good seed (fifth nationally, ensuring they will play all their games at home before the College World Series) and a good draw, both from an attendance standpoint (UM-FIU should draw a sizable crowd at 7 p.m. Friday) and from a competitive standpoint.

UM (44-14), on paper, is clearly better than the other teams in their regional (29-29 FIU, 31-15 Columbia and 40-20 East Carolina).   

If UM wins this weekend, it would host the winner of the Dallas regional featuring top seeded Dallas Baptist, Oregon State, Texas and VCU.

"We've got a lot of good hitters," UM slugger David Thompson said. "If one guy doesn't have a good game, someone will pick them up. We've put ourselves in good shape, being a national seed."

UM hasn't made the CWS since 2008. "It's been time for a while," Thompson said today. "Hopefully, this is the year to finally get back."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 23, 2015

Can Suh make others around him better? Exploring the issue; Dragic, Marlins, Canes

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

LeBron James makes players around him better.

But in a sport with 11 on the field instead of five, can the NFL’s best defensive tackle raise the performance of his defensive teammates?

Dolphins players believe Ndamukong Suh will do just that.

“Just his presence alone, the fact the offense has to focus on him is going to free everybody else up and make everybody else better around him,” Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins said last week.

As safety Reshad Jones put it: “Hopefully it will make everybody's job a lot easier when you have a dominant force like that in the middle. It makes the linebackers able to flow and run and make plays. It should be a lot easier for guys.”

So how realistic is it to expect Suh to actually boost the performance of teammates? A few points to consider:

### Detroit finished second in total defense last season, but in Suh’s first four seasons, the Lions’ defense ranked 21st (2010), 23rd, 13th and 16th. That means Detroit's defense was average to below average in three of his five seasons --- certainly not a reflection on Suh but an indication that Suh cannot mask a team's glaring defensive weaknesses.

### As far as run defense, Detroit was first last season and sixth in 2013. But in Suh’s first three seasons, the Lions were 24th, 23rd and 16th against the run.

So is Suh’s presence enough to raise Miami from 24th against the run in 2014 to top five in 2015?    

“I don’t know if a top five run defense is within their grasp,” ESPN.com analyst and former Browns scout Matt Williamson said. “He will vastly improve it, so top 10 is realistic. He’s not an A plus run defender and he’s a better pass rusher than run defender, though he’s capable of being very good against the run. Last year, Detroit changed their scheme and he was better against the run. His presence will demand double teams and free up linebackers.”

### It’s notable that three current or former Lions front-seven players (George Johnson, Jason Jones, Justin Durant) were more productive playing with Suh than they were playing elsewhere, which is an encouraging sign for Miami.

Johnson, who didn’t have a sack in 11 previous career games for Minnesota and Tampa, had six for Detroit in 2014 without starting a game. The attention Suh commands was obviously a factor in that. Stephen Tulloch, a very good inside linebacker, was similarly productive with Tennessee and Detroit.

Three productive front seven defenders --- DeAndre Levy, Ezekiel Ansah and Nick Fairley --- have played only with Detroit (Fairley recently joined the Rams) --- so it’s difficult to assess whether Suh helped make them substantially better than they would have been elsewhere.

### Since he entered the league in 2010, Suh leads all defensive tackles in sacks (36), disrupted dropbacks, total snaps and is third in tackles. So is Suh worth the largest contract ever for a non quarterback (six years, $114 million)?

“He makes a great impact on the game [but] to give that much money to somebody, I want him to touch the ball,” former Dolphins and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. “In today’s game, you have to score points. [But] I'm not negative toward it. He's the best in the league. The other 10 players will be that much better around him. Every team that lines up against the Dolphins must work on the scheme all week long on how they’re going to block him. Every team will have a different game plan against Miami than what they normally have.”

But former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly wonders: “How can we stay competitive paying a defensive tackle that much money? I’m not sure Earl Mitchell is a star [next to him]. Their defensive ends are undersized and that remains a problem. Linebacker remains a problem outside of Koa Misi. There are a lot more parts that just him.”

Williamson frames it this way: “You gain Suh but you also lost Jared Odrick and Randy Starks. It wasn’t like they’re nobodies. Yes, you are a lot better at defensive tackle and Tom Brady hates interior pressure.

“Is he worth that money, a $26 million cap hit next year? Nobody is worth that money [except] maybe J.J. Watt. In the end, they are going to say this is a restrictive contract.”

### The Dolphins are neither surprised nor angry with Suh for skipping much of the offseason program. Players, generally, aren’t either, though one questioned the wisdom of Suh’s decision to skip part of the on-field installation of the defense, considering he’s new here.

Dolphins president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum told WMEN-640’s Sid Rosenberg last week that “in a cap system players who take up a big part of your cap have to do more than just play well…. I challenged Ndamukong.” Tannenbaum wants him to help the team’s young players.

“We have a lot of young players not only on the defensive line, but on our team,” Tannenbaum said. “If we were sitting here in 10 years and Jordan Phillips is talking about hopefully the career he’s having, I’d love for him to say that in his formative years Ndamukong Suh impacted him.”

CHATTER

### Heat guard Goran Dragic, an impending free agent, feels strongly that the Heat must play faster and has been assured that’s a key part of the Pat Riley/Erik Spoelstra master plan, according to an an associate.

We’re told Dragic very much likes Spoelstra and Riley and nothing to this point has changed regarding the Heat’s status as front-runners to keep him. The Lakers, Knicks, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Sacramento are all expected to have interest

### We hear the Marlins gave Dan Jennings a raise when he decided to move from the GM job to the manager's job. So that means they are, in fact, paying three managers. 

The Marlins still must pay Mike Redmond nearly $3 million --- more than they’re paying five of their starting position players this season. The Marlins also also are paying close to $2 million to Ozzie Guillen this season.

Six teams already have reached out to Redmond about potential employment (non-managing jobs), but Redmond is laying low and spending time with his family in Spokane.

### Three scouts all prefaced their comments about Jennings last week but saying how much they like and respect him. “He’s very convincing,” one National League scout said. “He could sell ice to Eskimos.”

But two mentioned how incredulous some people in baseball are about appointing a manager with no on-field experience beyond high school.

“That’s a slap in the face of every big league manager,” one scout said. “That’s ridiculous. He’s going to be second guessed every night.”

One of the scouts said that experienced managers could get away with doing what Jennings did Tuesday --- leaving in lefty Mike Dunn to pitch to Arizona’s AJ Pollock, whose two-run homer gave Arizona the win, instead of going to right-hander Bryan Morris.

“But Jennings going to be killed [publicly] for stuff like that,” even though Dunn has been far better against right-handed hitters than Morris has been this season.

Jennings might have more job security than any Marlins manager since Jack McKeon, because Jeffrey Loria really likes him and can return Jennings to the GM job if this doesn’t work out.

When baseball people criticize Loria in private conversations, Jennings has consistently defended Loria and said Loria is misunderstood, according to an executive with another team. And Loria values that unwavering loyalty and Jennings’ eye for talent.

### Even with his team losing, Jennings opted for positive reinforcement instead of chewing out his players (at least entering the weekend).

“He wants to create an atmosphere we’ve never had,” reliever Steve Cishek said. “He’s putting speakers in the clubhouse [to play music]. He put in this machine to help us with our [physical] recovery.”

### The Marlins are puzzled how Mat Latos, one of only five pitchers to make at least 15 starts and produce an ERA of 3.50 each of the past five seasons, could be struggling like this (6.12 ERA). They believe knee inflammation is contributing to the ineffectiveness; he was placed on the disabled list Saturday.

“It’s heartbreaking to be going through this,” Latos said. "Mechanically, I’m fine. My velocity is there. I’m tired of embarrassing myself.”

### According to a UM football source, the Hurricanes football staff privately wants a new stadium just as much as the administration does, believing Sun Life is too big and doesn’t create enough of a homefield advantage.

UM was happy how Friday's meeting went with the Beckham group but there's no clarity on UM's potential participation in a joint stadium project.

Whether UM moves forward would depend partly on Stephen Ross' willingness to negotiate a buyout with the university. UM has 17 years left on its Sun Life lease.

Dolphins management declined to say Friday whether it would be willing to give UM a buyout. But the Dolphins believe they have treated UM well and aren't pleased that the Hurricanes are interested in bolting.

### If you haven't read it and are interested in such things, please see the last three posts for my three-part series on the biggest busts in South Florida sports history... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Part 3 of our 3-part series: The biggest trade busts in South Florida sports history

Third in a three-part series. Please see the previous two posts for parts 1 and 2 of this series.

Picking the worst trade bust in South Florida sports history can be a difficult exercise.

There are four prime candidates:

Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, the centerpieces of the package that the Marlins acquired from Detroit for perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera; Daunte Culpepper, the quarterback Nick Saban decided to snag for a second-round pick instead of signing Drew Brees as a free agent; and Todd Bertuzzi, the key piece in a regrettable trade that jettisoned popular All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver for nine years before his return.

In the past 2 posts (and 2 days in the newspaper), we’ve explored the biggest South Florida sports busts acquired via the draft and free agency.

Here’s a look at the 10 biggest busts added through trades:

1. Maybin/Miller. Unable to afford Cabrera longterm, the Marlins dealt him to Detroit in 2007 for six players: Maybin, Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo and Dallas Trahern. But Maybin and Miller were considered the jewels of that group, Maybin a five-tool outfield prospect and Miller the best pitching prospect in baseball.

Both bombed in Florida. Miller went 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA in three years here. Maybin also lasted three seasons, hitting .257, with 43 RBI in 144 games. Miller was traded to Boston in November 2010 for relief pitcher Dustin Richardson and has pitched much better since leaving Miami. Since departing Florida, Maybin has been generally mediocre for San Diego and now Atlanta.

Cabrera? He has solidified his Hall of Fame credentials, hitting .325 with 874 RBI in eight years with Detroit.

2. Culpepper. The Dolphins, operating on the advice of their medical staff who thought Culpepper’s knee was a safer long-term bet than Brees’ shoulder, traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for him in March 2006, believing they were getting the duel-threat Culpepper who made three Pro Bowl appearances for the Vikings in his five previous seasons.

But Culpepper was never the same after an October 2005 knee injury, played in only four games for Miami and underwent knee surgery in late November.

He asked to be traded the following June when Miami acquired Trent Green, was banned from Dolphins practice and released July 17, 2007. As for Brees, he would win a Super Bowl and earn eight Pro Bowl appearances as a New Orleans Saint. The choice of Culpepper over Brees stands as arguably the worst personnel decision in Dolphins’ history.

3. Bertuzzi. The Panthers’ June 2006 trade of Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick for Bertuzzi, goaltender Alex Auld and defenseman Bryan Allen is considered among the worst in NHL history, and much of the blame falls on Mike Keenan (who made the deal for Florida) and Bertuzzi.

The Panthers thought they were getting the dangerous scorer who produced 188 goals in eight seasons for the Canucks. Instead, Bertuzzi played in just seven games for the Panthers because of back problems, then was traded to Detroit for Shawn Matthias. Meanwhile, Luongo spent nine productive seasons with the Canucks, earning invitations to three All-Star games, before the Panthers reacquired him last year.

4. A.J. Feeley. Looking for an upgrade on Jay Fiedler, general manager Rick Spielman dealt a 2005 second-round pick to Philadelphia for Feeley in March 2004. With both quarterbacks sharing playing time, the Dolphins opened 1-9 and Dave Wannstedt was dismissed. Feeley finished the 2004 season as the starter, produced a meager 61.7 rating, was beaten out by Gus Frerotte the following year, then was dealt to San Diego in October for Cleo Lemon.

5. Chris Wells. In November 2006, former Panthers GM Bryan Murray tried to shake up his team after a slow start by acquiring Wells, a strapping 6-6 center who was a big scorer in the minor leagues. So he traded two productive players to Pittsburgh, Stu Barnes and Jason Woolley, for Wells, who scored just seven goals in 141 games for the Panthers over four seasons.

6. Pete Johnson. Needing help at running back early in the 1984 season, Don Shula sent a second-round pick (55th overall) to the Chargers for Johnson, who was the Bengals’ leading rusher for seven seasons. But he averaged 2.3 yards per carry for Miami and was gone after one season, his career over at 30.

7. Robin Sendlein. In August 1985, the Dolphins needed defensive help and thought enough of the former second-round pick from Texas to send the Vikings the rights to potential star receiver Anthony Carter in return for Sendlein and a second-round pick, which was later dealt to TampaBay for Hugh Green. Sendlein played only one season for Miami (three starts) and never appeared again in the NFL. Carter caught 486 passes in an 11-year career.

“We consider our needs on defense to be paramount,” Don Shula said at the time. “You hate to give up a player of Anthony Carter’s potential, but we feel good about our receivers, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton.”

8. Martin Muursepp. The Heat dealt a 2000 first-rounder to Utah during the 1996 draft to acquire the Estonian forward, who was selected 25th. Muursepp scored 17 points in 10 games in his only season for the Heat. In the process, he soured Pat Riley on drafting another foreign player for many years to come.

9. Alec Kessler and Brent Barry. Two Heat trades that didn’t work out: dealing draft picks Dave Jamerson and Carl Herrera to Houston for Kessler, the 12th overall pick in the 1990 draft, and shipping Ike Austin, Charles Smith and the 22nd pick of the 1998 draft to the Clippers for Brent Barry, who wasn’t a good fit.

Barry averaged 4.1 points in 17 games for Miami and wasn’t retained after the 1998-99 season. Kessler averaged 5.2 points in four seasons for the Heat and never played in the NBA again. He died of a heart attack when he collapsed in a pickup basketball game in Gulf Breeze, Fla., in 2007.

10. Jason Grilli and Nate Bump. Two years after he was named MVP of the World Series, the Marlins traded pitcher Livan Hernandez to San Francisco for two of the Giants’ top pitching prospects. Grilli appeared in only seven games for Miami, posting a 5.94 ERA, but has had a credible career since leaving. Bump had a 4.68 ERA in three undistinguished seasons for the Marlins. Hernandez went on to win 130 more games. 

Honorable mention: Dave Wannstedt traded a third round pick to St. Louis in 2004 for Lamar Gordon, who ran for just 64 yards on 35 carries in his one season for the Dolphins.

Please see the last two posts for previous installments in the series… Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Part of 2 of 3-part series: The biggest free agent busts in South Florida sports history

Second in a three-part series. Please see the most recent post for Part 1 and the next post for Part 2.

From American League catchers with a penchant for strikeouts, to underachieving offensive linemen, to a point guard who squabbled with a parking lot attendant, South Florida teams have paid a fortune for players who imploded or simply didn’t measure up once they arrived.

In our last post, we sized up the 25 biggest draft busts in South Florida sports history. Today, we rank the 20 biggest free agent busts. Later today, we’ll rank the 10 biggest trade busts.

This list does not include several Marlins who signed big-money deals (Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, etc.) who played well here but were shipped off as part of payroll dumps. Nor does it include players who signed here at minimum money at the end of their careers (Chad Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Tim Raines, among others), because not much was expected, so they cannot be considered busts:

1. Heath Bell. Signed to a three-year, $27 million deal during Miami’s wild spending spree in the months before the opening of Marlins Park in 2012, Bell was an excuse-making disaster from the start, blowing four of his first seven save opportunities. He ended up squandering eight of 27 save chances, with a 5.09 earned-run average in his one season in Miami. The Marlins shipped him to Arizona but were forced to cover $8 million of the $18 million he was still owed.

2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Months after winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, the veteran catcher signed a three-year, $21 million contract to play not far from his home in West Palm Beach. But he led all catchers in errors and hit just .220 in 2014, then started 2-for-29 this season before the Marlins designated him for assignment.

3. Gibril Wilson. Impressed by his work with the Giants and Raiders, the Dolphins gave the veteran safety a five-year, $27 million contract, including $8 million guaranteed, before the 2009 season. But Wilson was horrendous in pass coverage, had no interceptions, and was released after one season.

4. John Buck. Deceived by his one excellent season with Toronto (.281, 20 homers), the Marlins bestowed Buck with a three-year, $18 million deal before the 2011 season. Buck flopped, hitting .213 with 28 homers in 246 games for Miami over two seasons, then was dealt to Toronto.

5. Jake Grove. Bill Parcells gave the former Raiders center a four-year, $28 million contract in 2009, including $14.5 million guaranteed. He made only 10 starts in his one season for the Dolphins, then was cut the following year when Joe Berger beat him out.

6. Eric Green. Green landed a six-year, $12 million contract from Don Shula in 1995, making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history to that point. He caught 43 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns in his one season here. But he had weight issues and a dubious work ethic, prompting Jimmy Johnson to release him when he took over for Shula.

7. Al Leiter. The veteran left-hander signed a one-year, $8 million contract before the 2005 season, but his second stint with the Marlins was a disaster: 3-7, 6.64 ERA, 144 base-runners in 80 innings. He was shipped to the Yankees in July and finished out his final season in the big leagues. (Thankfully, Leiter was terrific in his first stint with the Marlins, helping them win the 1997 World Series.)

8. Ernest Wilford. Parcells gave the former Jaguars receiver a four-year, $13 million package, including $6 million guaranteed, before the 2008 season. He responded with a measly three catches for 25 yards, thus earning about $2 million per reception before his release.

9. Dannell Ellerbe/Phillip Wheeler. Neither linebacker was a complete disaster but they were vastly overpaid, with then-general manager Jeff Ireland giving Ellerbe five years and $35 million, with $20 million guaranteed, and Wheeler five years and $26 million, with $13 million guaranteed. In recent months, Wheeler was cut and Ellerbe was traded to New Orleans.

10. Richard Marshall. The veteran cornerback signed a three-year, $16 million contract in 2012 but played in just four games before a back injury. He was subsequently released.

11. Reggie Torbor. The Dolphins gave the former Giants linebacker/defensive end a four-year, $14 million contract in 2008, but he started three games over two seasons and contributed only 40 tackles.

12. Justin Smiley. One of the first signings of the Parcells regime, the veteran guard was given a bundle (five years, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed) but lasted only two years before being cut.

13. Michael Doleac. The former pre-med student at Utah was one of the most intelligent players in Heat history but didn’t do much to justify the four-year, $12 million contract he signed in 2004. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in three seasons, starting 11 games.

14. Rafael Furcal. The Marlins believed he would be their solution at second base last season. But he couldn’t stay healthy and played in just nine games, going 6 for 35. A wasted $3 million. He retired May 19.

15. Smush Parker. The veteran guard, given a two-year, $4.6 million deal by the Heat before the 2007 season, ended up playing just nine games before going on leave after a November altercation with a parking lot attendant. The Heat waived him in March.

16. Filip Kuba. The Panthers signed the defenseman to a two-year, $8 million deal to replace Jason Garrison in 2012, but he had only one goal in 44 games, and the Panthers were outscored by 19 goals with Kuba on the ice.

17. Garrett Jones. The Marlins, hoping he would be an upgrade at first base over Logan Morrison, signed the former Pirate to a two-year, $7.5 million deal before the 2014 season. But Jones hit just .246, led all first basemen with 13 errors and was dealt to the Yankees last December.

18. Damion McIntosh. In 2004, then-Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman signed McIntosh to a six-year, $23 million contract, convinced he would be the answer at left tackle. Alas, McIntosh was a disappointment and was released three years into the deal.

19. LaPhonso Ellis. Averaged 6.2 points and shot 40 percent for the Heat in two seasons after signing for three years and $10 million in 2001. It was a significant decline and Ellis wouldn’t play in the NBA again, done at 32.

20. Greg Oden/Eddy Curry. The Heat took low-risk chances on two once highly-regarded veteran centers who were still in their 20s at the time. But neither could rejuvenate their careers in their lone season here, or anywhere subsequently.

Honorable mention: Marc Colombo. Ireland envisioned him as the stop-gap solution at right tackle in 2011. The $2 million salary was palatable but the performance wasn’t (nine sacks allowed).

Twitter@flasportsbuzz

Part 1 of 3-part series: Biggest draft busts in South Florida sports history

PART 1 OF 3 PART SERIES

When the Marlins parted ways with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the NFL suspended Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan on consecutive days last month, they joined the long list of busts that have littered the rosters of South Florida’s professional teams.

We’ve endured more than our fair share of flops: three Marlins top-10 draft picks who never made it to the majors, a Heat player dubbed “Baby Jordan” who never came close to justifying that nickname, and numerous regrettable Dolphins draft choices. And that’s just the start.

So we got to thinking: Who would comprise a list of the biggest busts in South Florida sports history?

We separated the names into three lists: draft choices, free agent signings and trades.

The draft pick list, which follows below, factors in how high a player was selected and his overall body of work here. Several were paired together for natural, albeit unfortunate, reasons:

1. Jordan. He still has a chance to salvage his career, following a third NFL substance-abuse violation that will cost him the entire 2015 season. But for now, he holds the No. 1 spot on our list considering how high he was picked (third overall in 2013), how much the Dolphins gave Oakland in a trade to land him (the 12th and 42nd picks) and how minimal the contribution has been (46 tackles, three sacks, one start in two seasons).

2. Yatil Green. The Dolphins drafted the receiver 15th overall in 1997 despite modest production in three seasons at the University of Miami (84 catches, 1477 yards). But Green sustained season-ending ACL injuries during his first two training camps, then caught only 18 passes for 234 yards in his third season before the Dolphins released him.

3. Sammie Smith. The former FSU running back, selected ninth overall in 1989, averaged 3.6 yards and fumbled 17 times in three seasons for the Dolphins. He played only three more NFL games after that point (for Denver) and in 1996 was convicted of two counts of possession and distribution of cocaine.

4. Josh Booty. The Marlins selected the star high-school shortstop fifth overall in 1994, passing on Todd Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and others, and gave him a $1.6 million signing bonus, at the time the largest ever for a player selected in baseball’s amateur draft. But Booty had only 26 big-league at-bats over three seasons, then quit to pursue a football career.

5. Two Marlins flops drafted sixth overall. Outfielder Jaime Jones in 1995 (played 10 seasons in the minors; never made it to the big leagues; Todd Helton was selected two picks later) and catcher Kyle Skipworth in 2008 (.214 career hitter in the minors and 0 for 3 with the Marlins; now in the Reds’ organization).

6. Petr Taticek. Selected ninth overall by the Panthers in 2002, the strapping center played only three games for Florida, then was traded to Pittsburgh for Richard Jackman, whose Panthers career included just two goals and 22 games. In drafting Taticek, the Panthers passed on high-scoring Alexander Semin.

7. Jeff Allison. The Marlins drafted the high school Player for the Year 16th overall in 2003 and gave him a $1.85 million signing bonus. But the right-handed pitcher from Massachusetts had two heroin overdoses and two arrests during his pro career and never rose above Double A in six seasons. His final minor league numbers: 31-38, 4.68 ERA.

8. Harold Miner. The guard, dubbed “Baby Jordan” at Southern California, was picked 12th overall by the Heat in 1992 (ahead of Bryant Stith, Latrell Sprewell and others), averaged 9.6 points and started just 47 games in three seasons before being shipped to Cleveland, with a second-round pick, for another second-rounder. “I always felt the worst thing to happen to Harold was the Baby Jordan tag,” said his former college coach, George Raveling.

9. Jackie Shipp. The Dolphins took the linebacker 14th overall out of Oklahoma in 1984, ahead of eventual All-Pro receiver Louis Lipps, among others. He played in 44 games for Miami, with no starts, one sack and one interception.

10. Ted Ginn Jr. It was bad enough that the Dolphins took Ginn (and his family) ninth overall in 2007. Even worse: Miami passed on Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch and Darrell Revis. Ginn caught 128 passes for 1664 yards in three seasons before being shipped to the 49ers for a fifth-round pick.

11. Jamar Fletcher. Selected 26th overall by Miami in 2001, Fletcher was picked ahead of Reggie Wayne, Drew Brees and Chad Johnson. The former Wisconsin cornerback started only six games in three seasons (two interceptions) before being traded to San Diego for receiver David Boston, whose Dolphins career included just five games and four receptions.

12. John Bosa and Eric Kumerow. They’re lumped together because they were both defensive ends drafted 16th overall by the Dolphins in consecutive years (1987-88). Both had short, disappointing careers. Bosa had seven sacks in 31 career games for Miami; Kumerow had five in 42.

13. Pat White and John Beck. They’re paired together because they’re the first two second-round picks on this list and the two biggest quarterback draft busts in Dolphins history. White, inexplicably selected 44th in 2009, failed to complete any of five career passes, while rushing for 81 yards on 21 carries, in his only season for Miami before being waived. Beck, taken 40th in 2007, played in five games for Miami and just nine in his NFL career.

14. John Avery. Jimmy Johnson regrettably selected the running back 29th overall in 1998, but he averaged only 3.5 yards on 143 carries in two seasons for Miami before being dealt to Denver for receiver Marcus Nash, who never appeared in a regular-season game for the Dolphins.

15. Jason Allen. Nick Saban drafted the Tennessee cornerback 16th overall in 2006 – ahead of Antonio Cromartie, Chad Greenway and others --- but his play was wildly inconsistent. He started 19 games in five seasons.

16. Eddie Blake. Don Shula snagged the defensive tackle from Auburn, dubbed “Eddie Earthquake Blake,” 43rd overall in 1992, but he reported to camp topping 350 pounds and never appeared in a game in his two seasons in Miami, according to profootballreference.com.

17. Eddie Moore. Dave Wannstedt regrettably took the linebacker 49th in 2003 instead of Anquan Boldin or Osi Umenyiora, insisting Moore was the best available player on the board. He appeared in 18 NFL games.

18. Charles Smith and Tim James. Two mid-20s Heat draft picks who achieved little. Smith, picked 26th in 1997, scored 10 points in his only Heat season. James, the former UM star selected 25th in 1999, scored 11 points in his lone Heat season. Both were traded.

19. Michael Beasley. Where to place him on this list was a conundrum, because he wasn’t a disaster. He averaged 14.4 points in his first two pro seasons for the Heat, before being jettisoned to Minnesota in 2010 and subsequently returning for two additional stints with Miami. But Beasley, selected second overall in 2008 --- ahead of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love --- hasn’t come close to fulfilling expectations. So he’s on the bust list even though he wasn’t a total bust.

20. Denis Shvidki. Selected by the Panthers 12th overall in 1999, he played just 76 games for Florida (11 goals), shuffling between the AHL and NHL. The Panthers passed up All-Stars Nick Boynton and Martin Havlat to take him.

21. Wayne Simien. Chosen 29th by the Heat in 2005, the former Kansas forward appeared in just 51 games in two seasons and averaged 3.3 points. Two-time All-Star David Lee was drafted by the Knicks immediately after Miami took Simien.

22. Jonathan Martin. The 42nd pick of the 2012 draft, Martin flopped as a right tackle for the Dolphins and ultimately brought the franchise great embarrassment by fleeing the team and going public with details of his locker-room harassment. (Let's be clear here: Richie Incognito's behavior was reprehensible and he's ultimately to blame for Bullygate. But Martin would have saved the franchise embarrasment if he had gone to Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland and allowed them to deal with the matter.)

23. The 1995 Dolphins draft. An unmitigated disaster. It was topped by offensive tackle Billy Milner (picked 25th overall; started nine games for Miami as rookie, then traded to St. Louis for tight end Troy Drayton) and guard Andrew Greene (53rd pick; only 10 career games, including six for the Dolphins). No player from that draft even played double digit games for Miami; like Milner, fifth-rounder Norman Hand also played five.

24. Marlins’ first-round pitchers Aaron Aiken and Chad James. Neither Aiken (selected 12th in 1997) nor James (18th in 2009) rose above Single A. Aiken was selected ahead of Lance Berkman and Jason Werth, James ahead of Shelby Miller, who nearly no-hit the Marlins recently.

25. Two mid-1970s Dolphins first-rounders with legal problems. Defensive end Don Reese, picked 26th in 1974, played three seasons before he was sentenced to one year in prison for selling cocaine; Miami promptly released him. Offensive tackle Darryl Carlton, selected 23rd in 1975, played two seasons before his career derailed after multiple run-ins with the law, including a marijuana arrest.

I'll post parts 2 and 3 later this afternoon.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 22, 2015

Three scouts assess Marlins' roster, whether talent was overestimated; Dolphins (Jordan, Tannehill, guards); Heat; Canes

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

In changing managers this week, there was one point Marlins management kept making: Talent is not the problem.

“I still believe and everyone believes this is a good team,” Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president/baseball operations, said Monday. “Ultimately, if that's wrong, that's on me. That's on me and DJ [Dan Jennings], but now he's the manager. That's on me if we misevaluated, but I don't believe that. In my heart, we believe in that roster.

“We're [13th] in batting average. We just haven’t hit when we needed to hit. We're leading the league in defense. Pitching wise, we’ve faltered."

Several pundits --- including former general managers we quoted earlier this spring --- agreed with Hill that this is a better-than-average roster.

But in retrospect, with the Marlins at 16-26, losers of seven in a row and last in the National League East, did they overestimate their talent?

On Wednesday, we posed that question to three longtime, respected big-league scouts who have evaluated the Marlins this season for other teams.

Two said they do not believe the Marlins significantly overestimated their talent (but that they instead have underachieved), adding that the decline of the bullpen couldn’t have been envisioned. Look at the jump in batting average against three key Marlins relievers: Steve Cishek (.237 in 2014 to .308 in 2015), Mike Dunn (.220 to .268), Bryan Morris (.248 to .333).

“It’s a deflating thing when you bank on your closer and he doesn’t deliver,” one of the two scouts said, noting blown leads can skew the perception of a team’s ability.

“Remember, they’re missing Jose Fernandez and they were without Henderson Alvarez for a while. That said, they might have overestimated Christian Yelich [hitting .180]. Nothing with Yelich jumps out that he is going to be a star. And Michael Morse [hitting .206] has been a bust; in San Francisco, he had more of a veteran lineup to protect him. Casey McGehee has struggled in San Francisco [.196], but they miss what McGehee gave them last year, the good professional at-bats.

“But even with all that, they should be ahead of the Phillies. They should be playing .500 until Fernandez gets back.”

The other scout said that on paper “it's a good team. You couldn't have expected Cishek to be down [three] miles per hour and not be able to get left-handed hitters out. Mat Latos [6.12 ERA] has really declined; he looks like an old guy and doesn’t have crispness to his stuff. That big two-handed caveman swing has caught up with Mike Morse, but I don’t know what else they could have done at first.”

But the third scout, who has seen the Marlins a lot, was adamant that Miami overestimated its roster.

“They thought they had a great outfield and that was a terrible overestimation,” the scout said. “Marcell Ozuna has gotten fat and doesn’t move as well offensively or defensively. Yelich is a decent player but it was unrealistic to think that he would all of a sudden become a .300 hitter. For them to enter this season counting on [since-released] Jarrod Saltalamacchia to turn it around was ridiculous.

Steve Cishek got by for years not only on angle ability but the fact he could throw hard from that angle. Now that he’s lost his velocity, he’s much easier to track and there’s not much difference between his off-speed stuff and fastball. Mike Dunn is a power guy that can’t locate and doesn’t have as much power as he used to. I thought Bryan Morris would be better than this, but there’s a reason Pittsburgh lets guys go.

Jarred Cosart is a bottom of the rotation guy, nothing special. Coming home was the worst thing that could happen to Mat Latos, with his friends telling him how good he is. He isn’t the pitcher he was. He thinks throwing hard is the answer and it’s not; good hitters can hit fastballs if you don’t locate. Henderson Alvarez’s stuff isn’t good enough to be a No. 1 starter. He’s a two or three.”

That third scout said owner Jeffrey Loria mistakenly “judges guys off their best possible years and overlooks their bad years,” citing John Buck and Saltalamacchia, among others.

“They need more contact hitters,” that scout said. “You need some guys to get on base consistently, move runners over. Dee Gordon obviously can do that and Martin Prado is very good at that. But they don’t have enough guys who can do that. Quality pitchers can get Giancarlo Stanton out. [He’s hitting .239.]

"Morse is a mistake hitter. We talked about Ozuna. They need to play [catcher] J.T. Realmuto [.219] but he’s going to be an average player. It’s an easy lineup to pitch to. They have to self-examine how they build a team.”

And keep this in mind: With the Dodgers’ covering the combined $12.5 million due Dan Haren and Gordon, the Marlins’ out-of-pocket payroll ($68 million) is lowest in baseball. They had interest in Francisco Rodriguez in February but didn’t want to match the Brewers’ two-year, $13 million offer and obviously didn’t know Cishek would implode. Rodriguez is 8 for 8 in saves with a 1.20 ERA. But then again, Houston – which leads the AL West – is 29th in payroll at $70.9 million.

CHATTER

### Not only have the Dolphins distanced themselves from Dion Jordan, who is suspended for the 2015 season, but Jordan also has distanced himself from the Dolphins. “It’s a [expletive/rhymes with ditty] situation,” defensive end Derrick Shelby said. “I’ve texted him a few times but got no response.”

### Ryan Tannehill’s new deal –-- which has $21.5 million guaranteed (according to cap guru Joel Corry), not $45 million as initially reported by national outlets --- dropped his 2016 cap number by $4.5 million to $11.6 million.

But with $155 million in cap commitments (including a $28.6 million hit for Ndamukong Suh in 2016), Miami already is about $3 million over the projected 2016 cap, with Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller entering free agency next year. So tough decisions await next spring.

As Corry noted, here are Tannehill’s cap numbers in the six years: $4.9 million, $11.6 million, $20.3 million, $19.8 million, $21 million and $19.5 million.

### Even Tannehill’s agent, Pat Dye, said this week that the “Dolphins have to get a little better inside play. We represent Dallas Thomas, too. So Dallas, I’m challenging you.”

Mike Tannenbaum told WMEN-640’s Sid Rosenberg that “we have three young guards competing for two spots” --- front-runner Billy Turner, Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas.

### Tannehill, speaking to Pro Football Talk Live this week on DeVante Parker: "I like what I see so far. He’s an athletic guy. Fast, strong hands, adjusts to the ball really well. He’s a natural pass catcher, he doesn’t fight the ball and it’s easy for him to make the tough catch. A guy with that range, his body size and natural pass catching ability, I’m really excited to have him and like what I’ve seen thus far.”

### During a Thursday workout Santa Barbara, Cal., Pat Riley and executives from other teams checked out three players in the mix for its pick at No. 10 should Miami not trade it (Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson, Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre and Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky)…. For the first time since 2008, the Heat has no player on any of the top three All-NBA teams. Dwyane Wade got two votes for the third team.… The Heat’s preseason opener was set: Oct. 7 vs. Orlando in Louisville.

### Harry Rothwell, GM of the All-Canes shop near UM’s campus, said Adidas’ five UM football jerseys for this season include, for the first time, a black jersey that UM will wear at least one game.

The new uniforms will be available for fans to purchase in late August and be unveiled to the public in July. Rothwell, who met with Adidas this week, expects the team to wear primarily orange and green at home but said the uniforms naturally will look different than Nike’s.

Please see the last post for details on the possible UM/MLS stadium venture.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

May 21, 2015

A few other details on potential UM/MLS stadium project and their Friday meeting

As we first reported in this space in February 2014, UM has strong interest in moving into David Beckham's proposed MLS stadium, presuming it's at an attractive location. And as our Michelle Kaufman first reported today, Beckham and MLS commissioner Don Garber will meet with UM president Donna Shalala on Friday to discuss a potential stadium partnership.

A few points:

### The site that's on the table that appeals to UM is the one near Marlins Park. That site is naturally appealing to UM because it's very close to the site of the old Orange Bowl.

UM is much less interested in two other sites that also have been receiving consideration: an Overtown site and another near the old Bertram Yachts boatyard near Miami-International Airport. Still, UM hasn't completely ruled out joining MLS at another site if the Marlins Park one doesn't materialize.

### David Beckham's group hasn't made a financial proposal to UM, but a source close to Beckham said his group naturally would love for UM to contribute toward construction costs. We're told UM would at least consider contributing toward construction costs if asked.

Beckham's group would love to have UM as a partner. But a 40,000-seat stadium would be substantially more expensive that a 25,000 seat stadium, which is typically MLS' preference. It's natural that UM would be asked to cover some of those costs.

### UM has 17 years left on its Sun Life Stadium lease and has not asked Stephen Ross or his management team whether it could hypothetically escape that lease.

A very high-ranking Sun Life official has said Ross wouldn't want to allow UM to bolt, but neither Ross nor his executives have ever said that on the record. And that's telling, because it suggests to me that Ross would consider it if UM offers a big enough buyout.

### UM has conveyed to Beckham/MLS several requirements for the Hurricanes to consider moving into a joint facility: There must be at least 40,000 seats. There must be enough locker-room space. Parking must be adequately accommodated. And there must be enough suites, with UM obviously getting a large chunk or all of that revenue.

### UM wants no fewer than 40,000 seats because it has about 30,000 season-ticket holders and allots 6000 seats for students and another 4000 to sell to the visiting team.

### Though some city officials have said the Marlins Park site would be a tight squeeze for 40,000 seats, I haven't heard anyone say it's impossible.

### UM is interested in moving because, as Shalala told AP recently, Sun Life Stadium is "too big and cavernous for a college our size."

### As Michelle noted, others expected at the meeting Friday (besides Shalala and and Beckham and Garber) include Beckham’s business partner Marcelo Claure and his other representatives. New UM president Julio Frenk doesn't start until Sept. 1.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mls/article21612270.html#storylink=cpy

 

Wade addresses several topics on TV tour; Diamondbacks manager on why Marlins' managerial move is frustrating

The last four years, Dwyane Wade spent May 20 immersed in the Eastern Conference Finals. With no playoffs, he spent this May 20 on a network TV tour in New York and promoting his new tie collection and Heat Safety Awareness Week. 

And while a lot of Heat fans are rooting against Cleveland, Wade suggested he’s rooting for the Cavaliers because of his friendship with you-know-who.

In a late Wednesday/early Thursday morning appearance on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, Wade said: “At the end of the season, we talk about the season; we say get away from basketball, don’t watch the playoffs. ‘I’m not watching it, I don’t care what’s going on.’

“Game 1, I was in front of it with my popcorn. I’m a fan. I could not miss the Clippers-Spurs series. I would have felt left out. That first round series was like a Finals series. It was phenomenal.”

“Biasedly, I wanted Chris Paul – Chris Paul is one of my good friends --- I wanted Chris Paul and the Clippers to be in the Western Conference Finals and I wanted them to be in the Finals and play against Cleveland. LeBron is one of my friends. Let them go at it. That ain’t happening.”

Asked by Meyers if he’s too political to make a pick, Wade said: “Yes. Your show has a lot of ratings so it’s going to get out whatever I [say]. Everyone knows who I’m going to pick but I can’t.”

Meyers asked him about his interest in fashion. Growing up, “I cared about it,” he said. “[But] I didn’t have money. It’s hard to be into fashion with no money.

“Every Friday, my dad used to dress up and iron his clothes. I said, ‘One day, I want to be that.’… Now to have my own tie-line and sock-line, to be able to be a designer myself is pretty cool.”

Meyers asked Wade about his and Gabrielle Union’s wedding last September.

“I was into small details,” Wade said. “I know my wife doesn’t care about small details. I was a detail guy. Plus, I was paying for the wedding. I was a little over the top. But it was worth it.”

Wade cracked that he and Union --- who can be quite demonstrative at games --- “just left a tournament with our kids in Orlando and I was about to go sit on the other side because she’s crazy. I was embarrassed.”

Wade had two TV appearances Wednesday (he was also on ABC’s Good Morning America) because he’s among several stars (a group also including Serena Williams, Jimmie Johnson, Reggie Bush) who are  promoting their support of Heat Safety Awareness Week. (Mission AthleteCare is donating $1000 worth of EnduraCool Instant Cooling products to high schools that sign the Heat Safety Pledge and follow the Korey Stringer Institute’s Heat Safety Guidelines.)

MARLINS ITEMS

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale, whose Diamondbacks extended the Marlins’ losing streak to six tonight, said the Marlins’ decision to move Dan Jennings to the dugout is “frustrating” for experienced managers.

Hale spent six years managing in the minors and several years as a coach in the big leagues before getting the Diamondbacks job last October.

On SiriusXM’s MLB Network radio channel, Jim Bowden asked Hale what he thought about Jennings moving to the dugout despite having no coaching or managing experience beyond high school.

Said Hale:  “I think it’s frustrating in a way for guys who’ve done it.  I’ve said this before, when you finish playing or get into Major League Baseball on the minor league level you say, ‘Ok, what do I want to do?  Ok, I want to manage in the big leagues.  What do I have to do?  I’m going to go back, I’m going to bust my hump coaching and teaching and become the best manager at the minor league level that I can, then get to the big leagues, do your job coaching and hope to get an opportunity to do this.'

“It’s not looking like that track is going to be the way to go anymore," Hale added. "And I think the Jennings hire is different because I think it is just sort of them trying to put a fire under these guys.  This is the guy who basically put this team together.  I think the track we’re seeing more of is the [Brad] Ausmus, the [Mike] Matheny, the [Robin] Ventura where you’re getting guys who are just getting done playing and put them in.  It’s almost like the NBA.  So that’s a track that seems to be a little bit more common than this one.  I don’t know how often you are going to see this.”

### The Marlins are now 0-3 under Jennings after tonight’s 6-1 loss. "No one is going to feel sorry for us," Jennings said. "We're hitting a lot of balls hard -- only two strikeouts tonight and a lot of at 'em balls. ... This is gonna turn. We're in a storm right now. It's frustrating, but these guys are working diligently."

Incidentally, Dee Gordon slipped below .400 for the first time since April 28. Gordon, whose average had climbed as high as .439, is 3 for his last 23.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 19, 2015

Coyle, D'Onofrio making adjustments, but will it help?; Dolphins nuggets; Heat lottery postscripts; Marlins managerial fall-out

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

It isn’t necessarily easy for coaches to change their approach, especially two as headstrong as the defensive coordinators of the Dolphins (Kevin Coyle) and Hurricanes (Mark D’Onofrio).

But players said some change is afloat with how both of them operate. The question is how much will it help.

In Coyle’s case, coach Joe Philbin asked him to “simplify” the defense.

“What happened is we had too many personnel packages, too many combinations,” Philbin said. “You want to take advantage of the strengths of your personnel. Sometimes it's hard to get the preparation down and get these guys confident in all their assignments.

"We have to shrink our personnel packages and we have to get better at our core defense. We have to have some things to hang our hat on. We have to do a better job coaching. We have to do a better job of demanding it. We're simplifying personnel wise and condensing our packages a bit."

Players have embraced the change, although those who play less as a result will not be so thrilled. 

Safety Reshad Jones said it is “definitely” a smart new approach. 

“It will be a lot simpler," Jones said last week. "We have a lot of Pro Bowl guys that can make plays on our defense. That's the key; make it a lot simpler for guys to just run to make plays.”

As safety Michael Thomas said: “Coach Coyle is trying to make it where we're just going out there and playing fast.”

In UM’s case, defensive end Ufomba Kamalu said D’Onofrio made some tweaks to create “more of an aggressive defense” and that the defensive ends are being “asked to get in the backfield sooner” and “just have to worry about your gap now” instead of the two-gap approach that UM has played a lot in the past.

The two-gap requires defensive linemen to line up head up against an offensive lineman and assume responsibility for the gaps on either side.

The parent of a prominent UM player said “speaking to the players, they say the defensive scheme will change [some]. You’ll see a lot more pressure that what we’ve been seeing.”

It's expected UM will continue to play both the 4-3 and the 3-4.

Without discussing specific strategic adjustments, D’Onofrio said: “We wanted to focus the group on making more progress toward the quarterback. We want to keep collapsing the pocket, keep making progress toward the quarterback.”

He said new defensive line coach Randy Melvin has done a good job conveying that new emphasis, as well as the technique needed to execute it.

But whether D’Onofrio makes any fundamental schematic changes in his defensive backfield remains to be seen; some critics believe that’s needed.

D’Onofrio has said in the past that perceptions of his defensive approach aren’t necessarily true, that UM plays more man defense with its cornerbacks than many perceive. Two players privately have said they wish D'Onofrio played more man defense.

Al Golden has strongly disputed the notion that UM at times plays its safeties too deep, though video evidence from the Georgia Tech game suggests otherwise.

Golden has said publicly several times this offseason that there will be changes in UM's approach. Coconut Creek receiver Binjimen Victor told Canesport.com recently that "they are going to change the way they do things,... but didn't say how."

Anything that better capitalizes on the pass-rushing skills of UM's talented group of defensive ends is a good start. But regardless of what Coyle and D'Onofrio change about their approach, the onus ultimately falls on the players to execute it. 

DOLPHINS CHATTER

### The standout quarterback whose second and third pro seasons were very, very close statistically to Ryan Tannehill’s?

Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who received a contract worth $20.8 million a year and $59 million guaranteed from Atlanta in 2013. Tannehill will end up being cheaper at $16 million on average (or $19.2 million, over the last four years of the deal) and $45 million guaranteed.

Tannehill had 81.7 and 92.8 ratings in years two and three; Ryan 80.9 and 91.0.

But Ryan, while obviously a top-half-of-the-league quarterback, might have plateaued, with passer ratings of 89.6 and 93.9 the past two seasons.

If Tannehill is another Ryan longterm, that would be OK, but the Dolphins believe there’s another step Tannehill will take.

### Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews, who has been catching passes from former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn because he’s skipping Miami’s offseason program in hopes he will be traded, tweeted: “Anyone [who] thinks I am afraid of competition has no idea who I am. I’m a seventh rounder, which means I wasn’t given anything.”

At this point, the Dolphins have no incentive to deal Matthews. but they might consider it if Matt Hazel or Christion Jones has a terrific camp and emerges as a viable No. 5 receiver.

The Dolphins love the punt/kickoff return skills of Jones, the former Alabama receiver who went undrafted. He will have a legitimate chance to win those jobs.

### The Dolphins, under Dennis Hickey, have been very respectful to veterans by informing them of some impending personnel moves that would affect them.

Before the draft, defensive line coach Terrell Williams invited the defensive linemen into a room, showed them tape of five defensive line draft prospects (including the player Miami would end up selecting, Jordan Phillips), asked their opinion (Phillips got good reviews from the players) and said Miami likely would address that position in the draft.

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### With the Heat securing the 10th pick in the draft tonight, the question is whether Miami will be tempted to opt for a wing player (its clear need) even if the top player on its board at 10 happens to be a power rotation player, where Miami seems pretty well set.

Shooting guard Devin Booker (perhaps the best three-point shooter in the draft; 41.1 percent last season for Kentucky) and small forwards Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Kelly Oubre (Kansas) and Sam Dekker (Wisconsin) all warrant very strong consideration at No. 10.

Depending on their pre-draft workouts, so might Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter and Murray State point guard Cameron Payne (who would be undersized to be a shooting guard at 6-2; drafting Payne might not send a good message to Goran Dragic).

Duke's Justise Winslow and FC Barcelona's Mario Hezonja, who could be longterm solutions at small forward, aren't expected to fall to No. 10. 

If Pat Riley doesn't have a conviction about any of the wing players available at No. 10, bigs expected to go in that range include Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, Kentucky's Willie Cauley Stein and Trey Lyles, Texas' Myles Turner and perhaps Arkansas' Bobby Portis.

### The Marlins thought of the idea of trying to re-hire Jim Leyland, who led them to the 1997 World Series and in his words, hasn’t completely retired. So why didn’t they pursue it?

 “Jim Leyland, Dusty Baker, Ron Washington, Ron Gardenhire -- all those guys were thought of but none of them were strongly considered,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill told me.

“We were in season and wanted someone who was intimate with our roster and had a relationship with our players. We didn't feel anyone coming from the outside had those attributes. With in-season change, that was very important.”

### When Dan Jennings told Jeffrey Loria that he was sorry he couldn’t get him a win in his first game as manager, Loria (within earshot of reporters including our Manny Navarro) told Jennings not to worry, that he managed the game exactly the way Loria would have managed it and that Loria hadn’t been able to say that in a long time.

According to two people not mentioned in this piece, some Marlins people were critical of Mike Redmond’s in-game adjustments and lack of aggressiveness.

### Though there's some skepticism around baseball because of Jennings’ lack of managing experience, Steve Cishek said Jennings' move to the dugout “is not looked at cynically [in the clubhouse] because he knows what makes us tick, knows us personally and knows this team better than anybody.”

### Jennings solicited advice from two people: longtime friend Bill Parcells (who told him to “do it your way” and be a leader) and Jennings' father (a successful high-school football coach in Alabama).

### Hill said Jose Fernandez is on track to be back pitching in the big leagues between late-June and mid-July if he has no setbacks. He will pitch a bullpen session on Wednesday, followed in the coming weeks by two simulated games, an appearance in extended spring training and an undetermined number of starts in the minors. That would take us to late-June, barring setbacks....

The Marlins, who overcame a 3-11 start to get to .500, are now back to eight games under .500 (16-24) after tonight's 4-2 loss to Arizona, dropping Miami to 0-5 on this homestand. The Marlins have scored 10 runs in those five games.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 18, 2015

Monday night: Tidbits on Tannehill and new deal; UM football adds player; Heat; Marlins

A dozen Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Canes notes on a Monday night:

### If both continue to play the way they did last season, Ryan Tannehill’s six-year, $96 million contract will end up being better value than Colin Kaepernick's six-year $126 million deal.

ESPN says Tannehill's deal has $45 million in total guarantees, but CBS said it's actually $45 million in injury guarantees and that he won't get nearly that much money if he's released.

Kaepernick's guaranteed money has been reported at $61 million but might actually end far less than that for reasons that would make all of our heads explode if we attempt to explain it.

Among quarterbacks who threw at least 200 passes last season, Tannehill ranked 12th in passer rating at 92.8. Kaepernick was 17th at 86.4.

Andy Dalton was 20th at 83.5. We bring up his name because his contract could be worth $19 million more than Tannehill’s if he meets all playoff incentives (highly unlikely) and about equal otherwise (unless the Bengals part ways with him, which can’t be ruled out if he continues to implode in the playoffs).

Tannehill threw 27 TDs, 12 picks last season. Kaepernick had 19 and 10.

Tannehill threw for 4045 yards, Kaepernick 3369.

### If you eliminate Tannehill’s $2.1 million salary for the 2015 season (which was already established as part of his rookie deal), then it’s a five-year deal averaging $19 million. And that average salary would rank sixth among quarterbacks.

### CBS' Jason LaCanfora said the Dolphins will pay Tannehill $21.5 million over the next two seasons, as opposed to the $18.5 million he would have made otherwise, and that Miami can walk away after two years or anytime after that in a deal that he describes as heavily back-loaded.

### Glass half-full-view: Tannehill, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford are the only quarterbacks whose passer ratings increased from 2012 to 2013 and from 2013 to 2014…. His 92.8 passer rating last season was the fifth-best in any season in Dolphins history…

His 66.4 completion percentage was the second-highest in a season in Dolphins history…. What’s more, Tannehill has thrown for 11,252 yards in his first three seasons --- sixth-most in NFL history behind Luck, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Dalton and Cam Newton…. Tannehill was 11th overall last season in passing yards (4,045) and 12th in touchdowns (27).

### Glass half empty view: NFL Net’s Albert Breer noted Tannehill is the only QB among the 15 highest paid to have never made the playoffs or finished above .500.

### Tannehill’s reaction, to the team’s Finsiders website: "You look back at all the great players over the years, and most of them spent a significant amount of time in one place. I didn't know it was going to come this year. I had no expectations, but so fortunate, so blessed to be in this position and to be able to have the opportunity to stay here for the next six years….

Steve Ross and the rest of the organization have faith in me and kind of put it out there that they have faith in me. I’m only getting more and more excited the closer we get.”

### Former Eagles/Redskins personnel man Louis Riddick, now with ESPN: “Doesn’t matter what you think of Tannehill’s on-field value or how Dolphins management valued him. Fact is the quarterback demand far exceeds supply and just before you say I wouldn’t have paid him, I will say good luck finding and being able to acquire and develop a better one.”

### Longtime former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt: “I feel strongly this will be a good deal for both parties.”

### The Marlins mustered just six hits in 13 innings in a 3-2 loss to Arizona, ruining Dan Jennings' managerial debut and sending the Marlins to their seventh loss in eight games.

"Tough loss," Jennings said. "Lot of positives. Tremendous, tremendous start by Dan Haren. Eight innings, pitched beautiful. Very pleased with the bullpen. We hit a lot of balls hard. Unfortunately, they didn't fall when we needed them to. Great to see [J.T] Realmuto with his first home run. There's great energy in the dugout."

Jennings said he pitched Steve Cishek in the 12th and 13th because he believes he has made some mechnical adjustments that will shake him out of his recent slump.... He indicated he had no problem with Giancarlo Stanton trying to steal second in the 12th; Stanton was thrown out.

"It was surreal," said Jennings, who had never managed above the high-school level but has been a longtime scout and front-office executive. "Definitely moves quicker in the dugout than it does in the suite," he said.

Ichiro put a tie on Jennings in the dugout before the game. "It was a special moment, coming from a Hall of Famer," Jennings said. "He said you've been the GM; you can put on the tie. You can shake hands with everybody, take off the tie and be our manager."

### Jarred Cosart is going on the 15-day DL with vertigo, the result of an inner ear infection. Tom Koehler will replace him in the rotation after making one appearance out of the bullpen.

### If the Heat falls below 10th during Tuesday’s draft lottery, it would mean relinquishing the pick to Philadelphia but would also represent an unusual turn of events.

Since the NBA implemented the current lottery format 20 years ago, only one team that entered the proceedings with a 10th seed has fallen to 11th: Cleveland in 1999. That happened because Charlotte jumped from 13 to 3.

Alonzo Mourning will represent the Heat on stage at the lottery, which will be televised by ESPN at 8:30 p.m. As most of you know, Miami has an 87 percent of picking 10th, a four percent chance of selecting first or second or third, and a nine percent chance of falling below 10th and thus losing the pick. 

### Deerfield Beach three-star prospect James Pierre, a 6-2 safety, today became UM’s 21st oral commitment for 2016. All 21 of those players live in Florida.

Pierre’s other especially attractive offers were from Wisconsin, West Virginia and North Carolina. He had 10 picks combined over the past two years.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz