August 27, 2015

Thursday Dolphins notes: Hurricane Erika plans; Coyle opines; Dallas Thomas ready for switch; Another local radio shakeup

With South Florida at risk of being impacted by a hurricane early next week, the Dolphins have examined the possibility of moving practice to an undisclosed location elsewhere, potentially on Monday and Tuesday.

“We’ve discussed a couple different scenarios,” coach Joe Philbin said. “We’ll be ready if we need to. Everything is on the table. We have to get our team ready to play in the regular season.”

Philbin declined to say where practices might be moved.

According to projections released Thursday afternoon, Tropical Storm Erika is expected to reach hurricane status with 75 mph winds as it approaches South Florida on Monday. It’s too early to tell whether South Florida will get a direct hit.

The Dolphins say there are no plans to move Saturday’s home game against Atlanta. And the storm is expected to have passed before next Thursday’s preseason finale against Tampa Bay at Sun Life Stadium.

### Dallas Thomas said he’s prepared to play some left tackle on Saturday in the absence of Branden Albert (knee) and Jason Fox (concussion). Thomas has been working with the first team at tackle this week.

“He’s a good athlete; one of the things that intrigued us when we watched his college film was his position flexibility,” Philbin said of Thomas.

But Thomas allowed seven sacks when he played tackle last season. “I remember it all: the good, bad and ugly,” Thomas said Thursday, smiling.

Thomas has worked mostly at left guard this summer and is the likely starter there.

Asked if moving to tackle is disruptive, he said, “It can be if you let it and say, ‘Man, I’ve been doing so good.’ [But] you have to do what’s best for the team.”

### Philbin, on the situation at guard: "We're not necessarily locked and loaded at that position. Still a lot of evaluation going on."

Thomas appears the likely starter at left guard and either Billy Turner or Jamil Douglas figures to start at right guard, with Turner the front-runner.

COYLE’S THOUGHTS

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle confirmed what had already become clear: Walt Aikens is the “leading candidate” to replace injured Louis Delmas as the starter at safety, alongside Reshad Jones.

“Even prior to Louis’ [season-ending knee] injury, Walt was one of the most improved players on our team throughout the spring, throughout training camp,” Coyle said. “He’s a very, very good athlete. He needs experience and he’s getting that. Hopefully will make an impact on the defense.”

In Delmas’ absence, Michael Thomas’ role also “has increased,” Coyle said. “Mike is a guy you can rely on. Very capable, very steady, confident back there.”

### Coyle said “a final decision has not been reached” on middle linebacker, but the Dolphins worked all week with Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker, flanked by Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi.

Sheppard clearly is the front-runner for the job, in part because the Dolphins want more consistency from Chris McCain, who would be the likely starter if Misi played middle linebacker and Sheppard came off the bench.

“It’s not an issue we lay awake at night worrying about,” Coyle said of middle linebacker. “We’re confident we have the right mix of guys who can get the job done. You are looking for an instinctive player that likes to take charge and communicate. Kelvin Sheppard has done a very good job. Koa has made great strides in that capacity. He’s going to have opportunities to show that.”

### On McCain, Coyle said: “Chris is a guy that flashes tremendous athleticism. You love his height. You love his range. You love his length. He can do a lot of different things.

“But the consistency down in and down out is something [we want]… I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Chris to this point. We know what he’s capable of doing. He can be better. He can be more impacting both as a linebacker and as a rusher. I hope we start to see that.

“I talked to Chris walking off the field today – I want to see him go out there Saturday night and cut it loose and be the athlete he’s capable of being. Don’t think too much.”

### Among the rookie linebackers, Coyle said: “Zach Vigil has really stepped up. Jeff Luc has stepped up.”

### Jamar Taylor, a likely starter, expects to return from a quad injury by the regular-season opener, and Coyle said there’s “still a lot of competition at the corner spot.

“Jamar started the [Carolina] game very well. It was an outstanding interception he made…. It was textbook, clinic. Between Jamar and Brice McCain, we’ve got two. In the NFL, when you say starting corners, people make a big deal who are the two starting corners.

Three of them are going to play 65, 70 percent, some games even more of the snaps. You really have three starting players, and we have those kind of guys.

Zack Bowman is getting good work. Bobby McCain has had an opportunity to show what he can do. Tony Lippett has done well on the outside. We’re building up some depth on the perimeter. We kind of know what [Brent Grimes] brings to the table.”

### Coyle, on his defense: “The expectation level is as high as it has ever been, since I’ve been here.”

### Besides Fox, Jamar Taylor (thigh), DeVante Parker (foot) and Jordan Tripp (ankle) also sat out Thursday’s practice.

### Bill Lazor also spoke today, and Adam Beasley will post those comments shortly in a story on the home page.

RADIO NEWS

This has been a highly tumultuous summer for South Florida sports radio, and that continued today when WMEN-640 dropped longtime local personality Hank Goldberg, who had been hired in April to handle the 3-6 p.m. time slot.

“I was surprised,” Goldberg said. “I’m disappointed. I thought it was a quality show. I thought I brought something unique” in terms of experience, perspective and a Rolodex full of contacts.

Goldberg had scheduled Dave Dombrowski, who recently joined the Red Sox as their top baseball executive, as a guest on Thursday’s show.

But Goldberg, informed of his dismissal on Wednesday night, was yanked from the air immediately and was told that Joe Raineri will replace him.

Raineri had been hosting the show before Goldberg, from noon to 3 p.m. WMEN intends to air Colin Cowherd’s new Fox show from noon to 3 p.m.

Sid Rosenberg remains the station’s morning-drive host.

### Barring an unforeseen hiccup, Dan Le Batard’s new 10 a.m. -1 p.m. show on ESPN Radio is expected to debut Labor Day week.

Le Batard also is expected to do a local hour from 9 to 10 a.m. on 790 The Ticket.

Nothing has been announced, pending the finalizing of contracts.

The Ticket is still mulling how to replace Le Batard on afternoon drive and is considering options beyond Ethan J. Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez, who had been the early favorites based on station feedback. Skolnick, Gutierrez and many others remain under consideration.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 26, 2015

Wednesday afternoon report: 10 Dolphins notes: Parker, Albert, more clarity on LBs and more; Canes notes

Some Wednesday Dolphins tidbits:

Though the Dolphins remain hopeful that receiver DeVante Parker will be available for the regular-season opener Sept. 13 at Washington, Parker was non-committal on Wednesday, while adding that he is about where he expected as he works his way back from June foot surgery.

Parker was dressed for practice on Wednesday but did not participate. He is now able to run at full speed, without discomfort, on that surgically-repaired left foot and said he believes he is close to being cleared for practice.

“I don’t have a timetable right now,” he said. “They don’t want me rushing back.” But the foot “is feeling pretty good.”

Coach Joe Philbin said “the reports are positive” on Parker’s foot. “We would love to see him get out here as quickly as we can.”

Asked if he can contribute immediately if he doesn’t play in preseason, Parker said: “That’s the plan but you never know.”

Parker said he’s “really excited to return. When I was out here for OTAs, we had a good connection with [Ryan Tannehill]. I’m looking forward to being back out there again with all of them.”

### Besides Parker, three others sat out practice on Wednesday: offensive tackle Jason Fox (concussion), cornerback Jamar Taylor (thigh) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (ankle). Taylor expects to be ready by the regular-season opener, if not sooner.

### Amid Fox’s concussion and Branden Albert still working his way back from knee surgery, the Dolphins this week gave left guard Dallas Thomas a lot of snaps at left tackle.

Thomas, the strong front-runner to start at left guard in the regular-season opener, could be Miami’s best option at left tackle on Saturday against Atlanta, even though Thomas allowed seven sacks when he played tackle last season.

Jamil Douglas would play left guard in that scenario, with Billy Turner at right guard. Turner, competing with Douglas to start at right guard, said he has been getting a lot but not all of the first-team snaps at right guard in practice.

### Albert, who was fully involved in Tuesday’s practice for the first time since the knee injury, said he made it through unscathed.

“It felt good,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it’s going to come with time. I didn’t expect to be perfect. I was lagging; guys are moving faster than me. But it was productive… [and] as long as I’m not hurting…”

Albert said he doesn’t know if he will be ready for the opener and must be 100 percent before he’s comfortable playing in a game. But the Dolphins remain optimistic that will happen.

### Koa Misi said he lined up at strong-side linebacker on Tuesday, with Kelvin Sheppard getting the first-team snaps at middle linebacker and Jelani Jenkins at weakside.

Chris McCain, who had been competing for a starting job at strong-side linebacker, said he got no first-team work at linebacker Tuesday.

“It’s still open [competition],” McCain said. “I had a rough first two games. I have to execute more.”

Misi played outside linebacker for Miami before shifting to middle linebacker in 2014. “I told coaches I will play anywhere.”

### Though the Dolphins had some interest in Denver-bound guard Ethis Mathis, Philbin made clear that Miami likes the players it has at that position.

“There are implications of every decision and we always do in our minds what’s best for the organization,” Philbin said.  “We feel good about the players we have on our roster.”

### Tannehill was not available to reporters Wednesday, a day after Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett took an unsolicited shot at the Dolphins quarterback on a Seattle radio show.

"Quarterback is the only position in the NFL where you could be mediocre and get paid. At every other position, you can't be mediocre," Bennett said. "If I was Ryan Tannehill and the most games I ever won was seven, how could you get a $100 million for that? I guess that's the value of the position….There's some mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL that make a lot of money…

 "You take a guy like Sam Bradford -- he's never played really in the last three years, but he's made more money than most guys in the NFL."

Bennett was wrong on two of his facts. Tannehill actually has won eight games the past two seasons. And his contract wasn’t quite $100 million; it could be worth as much as $96 million for six seasons.

### Philbin said LaMike James “played much better the other night” against Carolina… Philbin said “the chemistry of this team is better than it has ever been since we’ve been here.”

### Caleb Sturgis remains the front-runner to start the season as the Dolphins’ kicker, barring a collapse the next two weeks, but other options are becoming available.

Denver on Wednesday release Connor Barth, who was 15 for 16 on field goals last season and is 85.8 percent in his career, including 40 for 49 (coincidentally) from 40 to 49 yards and 13 for 20 from 50 plus. [10:35 PM UPDATE: TAMPA AGREED TO TERMS WITH BARTH LATE TONIGHT.]

Meanwhile, former MLS goalkeeper Josh Lambo is seriously challenging for the kicker’s job in San Diego, where he could unseat Nick Novak, who connected on 34 of 37 and 22 of 26 field goals the past two seasons.

### Here’s who will be keeping you company for the first four Dolphins games this season: CBS assigned No. 2 team Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts to the Dolphins-at-Redskins opener as well as the Week 4 Jets game in London.

Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein – CBS’ No. 6 team --- will work the Week 2 Dolphins-Jaguars game. Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots, CBS’ No. 5 team, call Miami’s Week 3 home opener against Buffalo.

COUPLE QUICK CANES NOTES

### Al Quadin-Muhammad, one of UM's most ballyhooed recruits in the 2013 class, seems poised to start the season as a backup unless something changes in the next 10 days.

Al Golden lavishly praised Trent Harris today and Harris is the front-runner for the rush end job.

But defensive coordinator D'Onofrio said "there's no disappointment [in Muhammad] because he keeps getting better and Trent keeps getting better."

### D'Onofrio also said Demetrius Jackson is "right there in the mix" at rush end.

Ufomba Kamalu, Chad Thomas and Jelani Hamilton are competing at the other defensive end spot. Linebacker Tyriq McCord, trailing Darrion Owens for a starting linebacker job, also continues to get some work at defensive end.  

### Though offensive coordinator James Coley expressed some disappointment in Trayone Gray's play in Saturday's scrimmage, Golden today called the sophomore running back "one of the most improved guys in his process and play."

### If you missed our last post, please check it out to find out how UM is addressing the question about what Al Golden needs to do to keep his job, plus what Hurricanes standouts say should be the bare minimum required to retain him.... Please see the last post for Heat and Marlins... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 25, 2015

UM addresses Golden/minimum win question and what ex-Canes say he needs to do; Dolphins; Heat trade notes; Dontrelle mystifies Marlins

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Already, lots of people are asking the question: What’s it going to take for Al Golden to keep his job beyond this season?

Athletic director Blake James made clear Tuesday there “is no minimum win total or anything like that” required for Golden to stay beyond 2015.

“We have to look at the season from a wholistic approach,” James told me today.

Last month, James told me, among other things: “Al knows he needs to win. Our guys know we need to win. I know we need to win.”

If Golden wins, say, 9 or 10 games and UM captures the Coastal Division title, Golden is clearly staying. But there are scenarios in which he could stay while accomplishing less.

What if UM gets to seven or eight wins but the season derails because of major injuries to its best players? What if the Hurricanes start slowly but finish on a significant winning streak?

That’s why the UM administration enters this season with an open mind but also fully prepared to make a change if there’s no clear progress, with a high-level trustee saying the buyout on Golden’s contract (which runs through Feb. 1, 2020) is no longer an impediment.

“What I want to see on field is results,” James said earlier in August. “You want to see improvements in all areas.”

Golden’s strong recruiting class also wouldn’t save the coach if this doesn’t get turned around.

“I’m not a big follower of that,” James said of oral commitments.

St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, perhaps UM’s top 2016 oral commitment, said he will re-open his recruitment if Golden is fired.

A UM Trustee who spoke to new president Julio Frenk said the decision on Golden’s future will be made by James and that Frenk will defer to James on sports issues, at least early on. Another Trustee who spoke with Frenk says Frenk has interest in athletics but James will make the decision on the coach.

Now if Frenk gets bombarded with emails from angry fans, perhaps he gets more involved. 

With all of this in mind, we posed this question to several high-level Trustees and former Hurricanes players: What should be the minimum that Golden should achieve this season for UM to want to go forward with this coaching staff? Some of the opinions expressed:

### One high-level trustee who likes to give his opinion to the administration: “I personally think he needs to win eight games. It’s embarrassing to be as low as six or seven.”

### Another respected longtime trustee: “I think he must start winning nine or 10 games minimum to earn the right to stay. Eight wins isn’t going to satisfy anyone. I’m sorry. That should have been a 9-4 team last year. The talent is obviously better than they’ve showed and something is wrong.”

### A UM administrator with some involvement in the school’s athletics program: “If we have another mediocre season and can’t close out games, he’s done. At minimum, you want a winning season and a reasonable bowl opportunity.”

### Former offensive line standout Joaquin Gonzalez: “Win the games we’re supposed to win and have a shot at winning the tougher games. We should be beating Virginia, Pittsburgh and Duke; I don’t care how good those schools are becoming.”

### Former offensive line standout Vernon Carey: “Eight or nine wins. Time is running out. Just getting to a bowl is not good enough. Coaches tell me things are going to change. There were a lot of ‘me’ guys on the team last year but they’re changing the culture.”

### Former UM linebacker DJ Williams: “They need to win the ACC. That’s what we should expect every year.”

### Former standout linebacker Jonathan Vilma: “A Coastal title. Play in the conference championship. You don’t even need to win it; I just want to brag that we’re in the game. And I would like to see us cater to the strengths of our players.”

### Former star cornerback Duane Starks: “Don’t just win the games you are supposed to win. Win games that make a difference. And I want to see them make adjustments at halftime and not have only the other team make adjustments.

“They get out-coached and they don’t make adjustments, and the biggest adjustment they need to make is putting guys in the right position, in the right place to defend different formations that come up during games. They need to be prepared with situational football. They need to understand football more than they do now. Last year, we didn’t make halftime adjustments on either side of the ball.”

### Former star receiver and WQAM pregame analyst Randal Hill: “Not only win games, but look good doing it. And beat people you’re not supposed to beat.”

CHATTER

### Whereas the Dolphins are pleased with left guard Dallas Thomas, we hear there is some disappointment internally with right guard Billy Turner and a concern about the number of times he has been beaten and the consequences of those breakdowns.

Rookie Jamil Douglas is being given an opportunity to challenge Turner. The front office entered the offseason fully expecting Turner to be a quality starter, but he will need to show more to keep the job all season, even if he opens the season as a starter.  

The Dolphins liked Evan Mathis, who signed with Denver today, but only at a certain price. They weren't willing to pay as much as Denver did.

### Joe Phibin said Walt Aikens did a "good job" in his first game starting since Louis Delmas' season-ending injury... .Philbin, on Gerell Robinson, who has the edge in the battle for the No. 3 tight end job: "He’s a good athlete, a good target, runs well, catches the ball well and he seems to have a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverages. He seems like has the ability to separate. He’s probably further along in the passing game than the run game. He’s done some good things.”

### This could help in creating a better home-field advantage at Dolphins and UM games: Under Sun Life Stadium reconfigurations, 2225 seats will be situated between 60 and 88 feet from the field. Last year, there were none within 88 feet. 

Capacity has dropped from 76,018 to 65,326.

### Though there is no absolute edict from owner Micky Arison to trim payroll (and that's beyond Miami's control to a large extent anyway), we're told the Heat still would prefer to lower its looming tax bill, which would be around $23 million if Miami closes the upcoming season with this current roster.

Miami remains willing to dealing Chris Andersen (due $5 million) but hasn’t found much of a market for him, according to an NBA official who has been in contact with the Heat. There has been no evidence/confirmation that the Clippers are considering a Jamal Crawford-Andersen swap that has been raised only as a logical hypothetical by a couple of NBA media members. And though Crawford can't be ruled out for Miami, the Heat is happy with its perimeter depth.

The Heat expects to bring Mario Chalmers to training camp (as opposed to trading him first) but hasn’t ruled out trading him in October or beyond if it can find a taker, something it hasn't been able to do to this point.

### A bunch of Heat players have been training together on court in Los Angeles (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and others), and Erik Spoelstra has now joined them to observe.

### Michael Morse, who batted .213 in 53 games for the Marlins before being dealt to the Dodgers (who released him), is back in his native South Florida with Pittsburgh this week and said of his short stay in Miami:  

“I came out really bad [but] I wish they would have given me more at-bats just to prove myself.  I really never got a chance to play much every day and it was weird because in spring training we had quite a good thing going and a steady lineup.

“When you sign as a free agent, you expect to play on that team those years and you expect to get at least some time to play. But I got this opportunity to come to an amazing ball club [Pittsburgh]. It's a gift and a curse.”

He appreciates that owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson called him when he was traded: “I made two friends for life with those guys.”

### The Marlins honored Juan Pierre and Dontrelle Willis on Sunday, but only Pierre attended and the Marlins aren’t happy that Willis didn’t show up and wouldn’t tape a video for the ceremony, either.

Willis broke his long-standing commitment to attend the Marlins' event when he got a chance to fill in as an analyst, replacing an ailing Frank Thomas, on Fox Sports 1, where he does studio work.

“We were disappointed fans didn’t have the opportunity to thank him in person,” Samson said. “We [then] asked him to do a video and were flummoxed by the fact he didn’t record a video for the fans.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 24, 2015

Dolphins injury update; Marlins management addresses state of franchise, stands by core and considers offensive options; Dolphins, Canes notes; Whiteside

Quick Monday night Dolphins injury update:

The injuries suffered by two Miami cornerbacks on Saturday were not especially serious, but Miami will be cautious with both. Jamar Taylor has a quadriceps injury but no structural damage. Bobby McCain has an ankle sprain and has been wearing protection on it, but it's not a high-ankle sprain and there was no break. 

Both will be on the team this season, so there's no urgency for them to play Saturday if they're still in discomfort.

The reason Olivier Vernon sat out Saturday was because of a groin injury.

Branden Albert (knee) and DeVante Parker (foot) hope to do more work this week.

Jason Fox will need to pass a concussion protocol test to be able to practice this week, as Armando notes.

The Dolphins were off today and resume practicing Tuesday. But the team has gone to regular season media rules, meaning open locker-room but no viewing of practice beyond the first 30 minutes.

############################################################################

BUZZ COLUMN

 

Usually, when a team is on pace for 95-plus losses and is in serious contention for the worst record in baseball, major changes are expected.

But if there’s one thing the Marlins have been steadfast about, it’s this:

“We are only one or two pieces away to go with these really talented kids,” manager Dan Jennings insisted.

Team president David Samson put it this way: “The core of our team we still believe in. The core is here. It’s a crazy game. Baseball is a hard sport. You can’t account for injuries. You can’t account for performance. You just put together a team you think can win.”

Which all leads to this question: Should the Marlins (50-74 entering Monday) really be so committed to this core?

Yes, injuries have been a major factor. But even before Giancarlo Stanton was sidelined in late June with a hand injury, the Marlins were lagging well below .500. And even with Stanton, this lineup’s production was mediocre.

So why are the Marlins convinced this core is good enough to be a playoff contender?

“The record, in our mind, doesn’t change the evaluation,” Samson said. “It’s hard not to believe [you have a playoff-contending core when] you have one of the top three pitchers and one of the top three position players in baseball on one team. That’s hard to find. We may be the only team that has that.”

Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said: “You look at those position players. You’re talking about 23, 23, 25, 24 --- young players who are going through the ups and downs of a major-league career. There’s no less confidence in any of them."

The Marlins plan to add two starting pitchers this offseason. That’s a good first step. But they also appear committed to this starting lineup, with the only questions being center field (more on that later) and first base. Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich are the internal first-base options internally, but an outside solution remains a possibility.

But the results suggest the Marlins need more hitters that not only are run-producers but can consistently get on base. Consider:

### The Marlins are 28th in runs, just seven ahead of Atlanta, which entered tonight having scored the fewest runs in baseball.

### Even though they play in a spacious park that should lend itself to doubles, the Marlins rank last in baseball in that category, and by a wide margin.

“It’s been the frustration with our overall offense ---- doubles are a part of it,” Hill said. “The bigger surprise is our [inability] to score runs consistently,” Hill said recently.

### Their 89 homers rank 29th, though that would be much higher if Stanton hadn’t been sidelined since late June.

### Though the Marlins are 10th in average at .256, they’re 20th in on-base percentage and 28th in slugging percentage.

“Our average with runners in scoring position is well below our batting average and you would hope that would level out and it has not,” Samson said.

### Even when Stanton was healthy, the Marlins didn’t have enough behind him. Their No. 5 hitter has driven in the fewest runs in baseball.

But how to improve this lineup is a quandary; the Marlins don’t have much to offer in a trade, considering the Marlins’ limited remaining assets in their minor-league system after dealing Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani and others last winter.

The free agent first-base class is awful, with Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Milwaukee’s Adam Lind ($8 million team option) the only above-average corner infielders potentially available. None of the other free agent first basemen (led by declining Mike Napoli) are necessarily any better than Bour or Dietrich.

And even though the Marlins would benefit from having a better run producer than Martin Prado (38 RBI) at third base, trading him would be very risky, because there’s no clear replacement available in free agency.

The Marlins justifiably are committed to Dee Gordon at second base, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop (both under team control through 2018) and J.T. Realmuto at catcher. Thankfully, there’s no thought to dealing Stanton.

So that leaves two areas to improve offensively beyond first base: left field or center field. Christian Yelich has been a disappointment; his 29 RBI ranking among the lowest for left fielders. But the Marlins believe he’s going to be a quality player and lean strongly against trading him.

Marcell Ozuna’s situation is more complicated. There’s some thought internally to trading him for a starting pitcher under team control and signing a free agent outfielder to replace him.

But several Marlins officials still believe he’s going to be a very good player, despite the regression from 23 homers and 85 RBI in 153 games in 2014 to six and 29 in 85 games this season, with a 5 ½ week minor-league stint recently ending.

“Sometimes the best decision when you’re dealing with young players is just let them continue to grow and become the players [you expect],” Hill said. “You don’t become a perennial contender overnight. There’s a process. There’s patience involved, because you’re dealing with human beings.”

Here’s one thing that could help the team’s offensive numbers: The Marlins are giving serious thought to bringing in the walls at Marlins Park and perhaps shortening the fences. “It’s under discussion,” Samson said.

But at some point –- next year, specifically –- this core needs to produce, or it will be time to rethink management’s commitment to them, if it isn’t time already with a couple of them. And outside-the-box thinking will be needed this winter.

"We need a lot of changes," Stanton said.

CHATTER

### UM coach Art Kehoe named his likely offensive line starters on WQAM today and there was only one surprise: Sunny Odugwu ahead of KC McDermott at right tackle. The line, from left to right: Trevor Darling, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora and Odogwu.

Kehoe said McDermott, Hunter Knighton, Joe Brown and Hunter Wells should get playing time off the bench.

### Some NFL and UM people believe junior Artie Burns can become a high-end NFL prospect if he puts everything together, and Al Golden is pushing him so hard to be great that Burns admitted: “Sometimes I want to fight with him. But I know he just wants me to get better. He’s always head-butting me [figuratively] to get better. I’ve been working on everything, looking at tape of Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson.”

### UM’s concern about having only three experienced cornerbacks has been eased because freshman Sheldrick Redwine has been so impressive in practice. “Physical, long arms and great instincts,” receiver Tyre Brady said.

### Look for Herb Waters to replace Indianapolis Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett as UM’s best deep threat. He timed as UM’s fastest player, with a 4.36 in the 40. Burns and Jermaine Grace tied for second-fastest at 4.38. Gus Edwards timed as UM’s fastest running back.

### The Dolphins released receiver Michael Preston after it became clear he wouldn't make the team. Miami has 89 players now, one under the league maximum for this week. Teams must get down to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 by Sept. 5.

### How serious are the Dolphins about their incredibly detailed sports sciences program? Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum told Sirius Radio's Alex Marvez that when Dolphins players come off the field, all 90 are given “custom-made” recovery drinks.

The Dolphins later told me they do indeed prepare 90 different drinks for 90 different players because each of their body compositions are different.

### Hassan Whiteside averaged just 23.8 minutes last season, 26th among centers, and Heat assistant Dan Craig cautions that number might not increase much.

“You might see his minutes jump up when we're playing Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan. But if we're playing a team that likes to play small ball, you'll probably see his minutes around 20 or 25,” Craig said.

Whiteside recently tweeted a picture of himself working out at 3:40 in the morning at American Airlines Arena. The Heat wants to play faster, and “he can play that game,” Craig said. “That's one thing we're challenging him with his skill development this summer and he's done a good job. He sees where the game is going. It’s small ball so he's adjusting as well.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz       

August 23, 2015

Dolphins notes, thoughts on every position following loss to Carolina; UM scrimmage postscripts; Marlins mull change

Position by position postscripts on tonight’s Dolphins’ 31-30 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, plus some Marlins news and lots of UM scrimmage reaction:

### Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill’s preseason couldn’t have gone any better so far. He was 12 for 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown pass (11 yards to Damien Williams) in three series, finishing with a rating of 117.2. In two preseason games, he’s 18 for 22 for 158 yards, two TDs and no picks, and a 126.9 rating.

Though he overthrew a deep ball to a well-covered Kenny Stills, his deep pass to Jordan Cameron was plenty good enough; Cameron let it slip through his fingers. He also ran for 11 yards on a read option; that play should continue to be effective in doses this season….

Matt Moore posted a 2.1 (2.1!) passer rating in the first half but orchestrated a scoring drive in the second half, throwing four yards to Matt Hazel for a touchdown and closing 6 for 11 for 55 yards and a 60.8 rating… McLeod Bethel Thompson (5-6-46 yards) was better than a week ago… Josh Freeman threw a horrible interception deep in Dolphins territory late in the game, leading to Carolina’s go-ahead touchdown, rallied to complete a 56-yard scoring play to Gerell Robinson (it was a 10-yard pass and 46-yard run), but couldn’t make a play on the two-point conversion. Freeman finished 1 for 5, with a 73.8 passer rating.

### Running back: LaMike James made a strong case for a roster spot, rushing 6 times for 45 yards (7.5 per carry), returning two punts for 28 yards and one kickoff for 31 yards…

Damien Williams’ otherwise good night (two touchdowns) was seriously tarnished by a fumble near the Carolina goal line, resulting in a turnover after a foolish Joe Philbin challenge. Williams began the night as the No. 2 back, but James is pushing him. Williams once again averaged less than four yards per carry (4 for 14, 3.5 average)…

Lamar Miller, the unquestioned starter, mustered just five yards on three carries but had a terrific 36-yard catch and run (mostly run)…  Jay Ajayi, who hasn’t shown much, missed another game with a hamstring injury…. Mike Gillislee again didn’t make much of an impression (7 carries, 16 yards).

### Receiver: Rishard Matthews continues to capitalize on every opportunity he’s given. He had receptions of six and 17 yards from Tannehill on two 3rd and six situations…. The Dolphins gave Greg Jennings the night off… Kenny Stills made his preseason debut with one catch for five yards… Hazel had a good night (4 for 47), but the only chance he makes this team is if Miami keeps six receivers to start the season, which seems excessive unless DeVante Parker isn’t healthy…

DeMarr Aultman, a long shot, had a 31-yard reception from Bethel Thompson…. Christion Jones had a 46-yard return on a kickoff late in the game and warrants a longer look as a returner. Remember, he returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns at Alabama.

### Offensive line: The pass protection was shaky, due largely to breakdowns by tackles Jason Fox (who left with concussion symptoms), Jeff Linkenbach, Aundrey Walker and Donald Hawkins… Kony Easley beat tight end Dion Sims early in the game, forcing a Tannehill fumble…

Billy Turner whiffed on a couple of blocks but wasn’t awful. Jamil Douglas, in competition with Turner, played right guard in the second half… Left guard Dallas Thomas was solid for a second consecutive week… According to Fox, Evan Mathis had a  good visit to Seattle today but did not sign….

Interesting that the Dolphins used Jacques McClendon as their backup center and Sam Brenner as a backup guard. Walker, Linkenbach and Douglas also played with the second team o-line.

### Tight end: Sims had the breakdown in pass protection and Cameron dropped a potential touchdown. Cameron had one catch for no yards, Sims no catches. But Robinson got a clear leg up on the battle for the No. 3 tight end job, scoring on a 56-yard catch and run late in the game.

### Defensive line: Terrence Fede started in place of Olivier Vernon and the Ndamukong Suh-led defensive line was stout early on, with Carolina gaining just eight yards on its first seven plays (covering three series), before a long Panthers drive ended with a terrific goal-line stand, with Carolina failing to score despite having a first-and-goal from the Miami 2. On the Panthers’ fourth attempt on that series (from the Dolphins’ 1-yard line), Suh forced Cam Newton out of the pocket and Derrick Shelby made the tackle….

Jordan Phillips had an up-and-down night, getting penetration on one play but also missing a tackle on a touchdown run… Defensive tackle AJ Francis had a sack and a tackle for loss, keeping alive his hopes in his uphill climb against CJ Mosley and Anthony Johnson for a roster spot…. Francis and Emmanuel Dieke had Miami’s only sacks.

### Linebacker: Zach Vigil again made an impression; it’s difficult to see him not making this team…. Chris McCain was beaten by Greg Olsen for a 10-yard gain in coverage but also was credited with a PD (pass defensed). His run defense needs to become more consistent. But McCain and Kelvin Sheppard each had a hand in two stops on that great goal-line stand when Carolina couldn’t score on a 1st and goal at the 2….

Vigil, Neville Hewitt and McCain started the second half at linebacker. Hewitt is intriguing, but can the Dolphins possibly keep both Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger (who was one of the Giants’ best special teams players the past four years)?

### Cornerback: The night was marred by two injuries: Jamar Taylor left with a quad issue, not long after he stepped in front of Olsen and returned a pick 22 yards to the Carolina 3, where he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. Taylor told reporters afterward (including our Adam Beasley) that he will know more about the injury after having the quad checked medically on Sunday but that he feels "all right."...

Bobby McCain sustained an ankle injury early in the second half but doesn't believe it's serious. Neither he nor Taylor returned to the game…

Tough night for Will Davis, who allowed completions on consecutive throws and then committed a pass interference penalty… Brent Grimes had the night off… Zack Bowman, who’s on the bubble, made a couple of nice plays in coverage…. Tony Lippett knocked away a pass but also was beaten in coverage and remains a work in progress.

### Safety: Reshad Jones had two terrific plays early and seems poised for a big year. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas, trying to win a starting job after Louis Delmas’ season-ending injury, both had a few good moments.

Each had a role in stops on that great first-half defensive stand on the Miami goal-line. Each was involved in separate pass-breakups. Both were solid overall, but neither distanced himself from the other tonight, and Aikens was out of position a few times.

Another tough night for fifth-rounder Cedric Thompson. Damiere Byrd beat him for an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and Joe Webb eluded his tackle for the game-tying two-point conversion.

### Specialists: The Brandon Fields/Matt Darr battle remains competitive. Each averaged 53 yards per punt; each had a long of 56. Fields had three punts, Darr two… Caleb Sturgis kicked a 49-yard field goal and remains the front-runner over Andrew Franks, who made two first-half extra points.

UM SCRIMMAGE REACTION

UM held its second scrimmage tonight (closed to the media) and one of the highlights was a long touchdown catch from Stacy Coley. Also, Chad Thomas said Anthony Moten had two sacks and UM said Ufomba Kamalu also had two sacks. Gus Edwards and Mark Walton scored on short runs, and UM said Darrell Langham and David Njoku scored on receptions. Quarterback Malik Rosier scored on a short run.

Also notable: Danny Isidora moved from first-team right guard to first team right tackle, and Joe Brown played with the first team at guard.

Courtesy of UM, here’s some of what Al Golden, offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterback Brad Kaaya had to say:

Head Coach Al Golden
On how happy he was to be able to get the scrimmage in with inclement weather looming
“It was good. We got a full third quarter in, and we got the number of reps we wanted to get - not quite a full game. I’m really happy where we are. We didn’t get anybody banged up.”

On if the team was able to accomplish everything it planned to in the scrimmage…
“We did. We didn’t miss anything. We got it all in.”

On what he knows after the scrimmage that he might not have known before…

“In one play, we came up a yard short on a route on 3rd & 5. We didn’t run the requisite depth. Those situations, the kids need to learn from. We had a 3rd & 13 on defense, and we had somebody who was supposed to be backed up but played close to the line of scrimmage. Guys have to make sure they have situational awareness, that’s all.”

On which freshmen stood out in the scrimmage…

“We played a lot of them. We’ll look at the tape, but I’m pleased with that group overall. Good number of them got in – I would say probably 11 or 12 of them played.”

On if setting the depth chart will be tougher or easier than he anticipated given the results of the scrimmage…

“There’s going to be some tough decisions, there’s no question. I think back to last year, Nick Linder and Trevor [Darling] were on the scout team, and six weeks later, they’re both starting. We have a long, long way to go here. Everybody needs to improve – coaches need to improve, players need the improve."

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach James Coley

What do you know now that you didn’t know yesterday?

"We got four quarterbacks… that can go into the game and play. I didn’t see a lot of mental errors. I saw guys who were aggressive with their throws, make good decisions and move really well in the pocket. I’ve very high on the group right now."

What did you think about the offensive line?

"I thought the ones played very well. They’re going against that one defense – that one defense is good. They got really good players up front and we have to scrap and when we scrap with those guys, every now and then, we get some bad ball. Meaning, we have some penalties. Because we have to really grab those guys because their big, they’re strong and they’re fast. So, that hurt us a little bit – some of the penalties. The twos are still learning. You’re talking about a whole unit with the twos, but they’ve gotten better from last scrimmage, so I’m encouraged."

Are you still working with the one unit or do you have your five [starters] at this point?

"I think we’ll release the depth chart after watching this film…I believe so. But, we got an idea of the rotation. You guys are kind of seeing it; Danny [Isidora] at guard… at tackle, Sunny [Odogwu]’s in there, Kc [McDermott]’s in there, Joe Brown’s in there in the mix too. So that’s what we’re looking at."

Coley, by the way, said Isidora looked good at tackle and Brown --- who has really been turning heads, as we noted on Tuesday --- looked good at guard.

Other highlights?

"We had a couple of big runs by Mark [Walton] down the field and Njoku had a couple of nice big plays," Coley said. "Herb Waters had three or four phenomenal catches.... Gus showed some tough running. He's a big back."

Brad Kaaya

On how the offense performed overall…
“It went pretty well, pretty good. I feel like we executed pretty well, and we’re just moving the ball fast. I feel like we’re cutting down on a lot of our penalties and turnovers. Just bad football, we’ve cut down a lot.”

On how he feels about the offense with two weeks to go before the season opener…
“I’m as confident as I can be after camp. Everyone’s touching the ball. We’re a hard team to scheme [against] right now. A lot of guys making plays. That’s what I’m confident about – our personnel, and the fact that everyone is on the same page.”

On the performances of wide receivers Stacy Coley and Herb Waters…
“They had really good days. A lot of clutch catches on third down. Stacy caught a touchdown. They looked pretty good today.”

On how the offensive line did as a unit…
“Our offensive line played good. They only gave up one sack today. There are still guys switching around, but as of now, the offensive line looks pretty set. Joe Brown has been making some good plays – he’s on second team right now, but Joe is a guy who has stepped up a lot this past camp. Overall, the offensive line is really coming together well.”

On the touchdown pass to Stacy Coley and who else had touchdowns…
“It was pretty long. I don’t know how long. Darrell Langham did, Mark [Walton] did, Malik [Rosier] ran one. We had a lot. I think a majority of our drives were coming away with points, either field goals or touchdowns. That’s what I like.”

COUPLE MARLINS NOTES

### The Marlins tell us they’re considering bringing in the fences and possibly lowering the walls at Marlins Park next season. David Samson confirmed the team has been discussing the possibility.

### Giancarlo Stanton made clear that he wants to see roster upgrades. “We need a lot of changes,” Stanton said, “and that’s as much as I’ll get into that.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 22, 2015

Dolphins news, notes, views on every position after loss to Carolina; Golden, Coley on UM's Saturday night scrimmage; Marlins news

Position by position postscripts on tonight’s Dolphins’ 31-30 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, plus some Marlins news and lots of UM scrimmage reaction:

### Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill’s preseason couldn’t have gone any better so far. He was 12 for 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown pass (11 yards to Damien Williams) in three series, finishing with a rating of 117.2. In two preseason games, he’s 18 for 22 for 158 yards, two TDs and no picks, and a 126.9 rating.

Though he overthrew a deep ball to a well-covered Kenny Stills, his deep pass to Jordan Cameron was plenty good enough; Cameron let it slip through his fingers. He also ran for 11 yards on a read option; that play should continue to be effective in doses this season….

Matt Moore posted a 2.1 (2.1!) passer rating in the first half but orchestrated a scoring drive in the second half, throwing four yards to Matt Hazel for a touchdown and closing 6 for 11 for 55 yards and a 60.8 rating… McLeod Bethel Thompson (5-6-46 yards) was better than a week ago… Josh Freeman threw a horrible interception deep in Dolphins territory late in the game, leading to Carolina’s go-ahead touchdown, rallied to complete a 56-yard scoring play to Gerell Robinson (it was a 10-yard pass and 46-yard run), but couldn’t make a play on the two-point conversion. Freeman finished 1 for 5, with a 73.8 passer rating.

### Running back: LaMike James made a strong case for a roster spot, rushing 6 times for 45 yards (7.5 per carry), returning two punts for 28 yards and one kickoff for 31 yards…

Damien Williams’ otherwise good night (two touchdowns) was seriously tarnished by a fumble near the Carolina goal line, resulting in a turnover after a foolish Joe Philbin challenge. Williams began the night as the No. 2 back, but James is pushing him. Williams once again averaged less than four yards per carry (4 for 14, 3.5 average)…

Lamar Miller, the unquestioned starter, mustered just five yards on three carries but had a terrific 36-yard catch and run (mostly run)…  Jay Ajayi, who hasn’t shown much, missed another game with a hamstring injury…. Mike Gillislee again didn’t make much of an impression (7 carries, 16 yards).

### Receiver: Rishard Matthews continues to capitalize on every opportunity he’s given. He had receptions of six and 17 yards from Tannehill on two 3rd and six situations…. The Dolphins gave Greg Jennings the night off… Kenny Stills made his preseason debut with one catch for five yards… Hazel had a good night (4 for 47), but the only chance he makes this team is if Miami keeps six receivers to start the season, which seems excessive unless DeVante Parker isn’t healthy…

DeMarr Aultman, a long shot, had a 31-yard reception from Bethel Thompson…. Christion Jones had a 46-yard return on a kickoff late in the game and warrants a longer look as a returner. Remember, he returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns at Alabama.

### Offensive line: The pass protection was shaky, due largely to breakdowns by tackles Jason Fox (who left with concussion symptoms), Jeff Linkenbach, Aundrey Walker and Donald Hawkins… Kony Easley beat tight end Dion Sims early in the game, forcing a Tannehill fumble…

Billy Turner whiffed on a couple of blocks but wasn’t awful. Jamil Douglas, in competition with Turner, played right guard in the second half… Left guard Dallas Thomas was solid for a second consecutive week… According to Fox, Evan Mathis had a  good visit to Seattle today but did not sign….

Interesting that the Dolphins used Jacques McClendon as their backup center and Sam Brenner as a backup guard. Walker, Linkenbach and Douglas also played with the second team o-line.

### Tight end: Sims had the breakdown in pass protection and Cameron dropped a potential touchdown. Cameron had one catch for no yards, Sims no catches. But Robinson got a clear leg up on the battle for the No. 3 tight end job, scoring on a 56-yard catch and run late in the game.

### Defensive line: Terrence Fede started in place of Olivier Vernon and the Ndamukong Suh-led defensive line was stout early on, with Carolina gaining just eight yards on its first seven plays (covering three series), before a long Panthers drive ended with a terrific goal-line stand, with Carolina failing to score despite having a first-and-goal from the Miami 2. On the Panthers’ fourth attempt on that series (from the Dolphins’ 1-yard line), Suh forced Cam Newton out of the pocket and Derrick Shelby made the tackle….

Jordan Phillips had an up-and-down night, getting penetration on one play but also missing a tackle on a touchdown run… Defensive tackle AJ Francis had a sack and a tackle for loss, keeping alive his hopes in his uphill climb against CJ Mosley and Anthony Johnson for a roster spot…. Francis and Emmanuel Dieke had Miami’s only sacks.

### Linebacker: Zach Vigil again made an impression; it’s difficult to see him not making this team…. Chris McCain was beaten by Greg Olsen for a 10-yard gain in coverage but also was credited with a PD (pass defensed). His run defense needs to become more consistent. But McCain and Kelvin Sheppard each had a hand in two stops on that great goal-line stand when Carolina couldn’t score on a 1st and goal at the 2….

Vigil, Neville Hewitt and McCain started the second half at linebacker. Hewitt is intriguing, but can the Dolphins possibly keep both Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger (who was one of the Giants’ best special teams players the past four years)?

### Cornerback: The night was marred by two injuries: Jamar Taylor left with a quad issue, not long after he stepped in front of Olsen and returned a pick 22 yards to the Carolina 3, where he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. Taylor told reporters afterward (including our Adam Beasley) that he will know more about the injury after having the quad checked medically on Sunday but that he feels "all right."...

Bobby McCain sustained an ankle injury early in the second half but doesn't believe it's serious. Neither he nor Taylor returned to the game…

Tough night for Will Davis, who allowed completions on consecutive throws and then committed a pass interference penalty… Brent Grimes had the night off… Zack Bowman, who’s on the bubble, made a couple of nice plays in coverage…. Tony Lippett knocked away a pass but also was beaten in coverage and remains a work in progress.

### Safety: Reshad Jones had two terrific plays early and seems poised for a big year. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas, trying to win a starting job after Louis Delmas’ season-ending injury, both had a few good moments.

Each had a role in stops on that great first-half defensive stand on the Miami goal-line. Each was involved in separate pass-breakups. Both were solid overall, but neither distanced himself from the other tonight, and Aikens was out of a position a couple of times.

Another tough night for fifth-rounder Cedric Thompson. Damiere Byrd beat him for an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and Joe Webb eluded his tackle for the game-tying two-point conversion.

### Specialists: The Brandon Fields/Matt Darr battle remains competitive. Each averaged 53 yards per punt; each had a long of 56. Fields had three punts, Darr two… Caleb Sturgis kicked a 49-yard field goal and remains the front-runner over Andrew Franks, who made two first-half extra points.

UM SCRIMMAGE REACTION

UM held its second scrimmage tonight (closed to the media) and one of the highlights was a long touchdown catch from Stacy Coley. Also, Chad Thomas said Anthony Moten had two sacks and UM said Ufomba Kamalu also had two sacks. Gus Edwards and Mark Walton scored on short runs, and UM said Darrell Langham and David Njoku scored on receptions. Quarterback Malik Rosier scored on a short run.

Also notable: Danny Isidora moved from first-team right guard to first team right tackle, and Joe Brown played with the first team at guard.

Courtesy of UM, here’s some of what Al Golden, offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterback Brad Kaaya had to say:

Head Coach Al Golden
On how happy he was to be able to get the scrimmage in with inclement weather looming
“It was good. We got a full third quarter in, and we got the number of reps we wanted to get - not quite a full game. I’m really happy where we are. We didn’t get anybody banged up.”

On if the team was able to accomplish everything it planned to in the scrimmage…
“We did. We didn’t miss anything. We got it all in.”

On what he knows after the scrimmage that he might not have known before…

“In one play, we came up a yard short on a route on 3rd & 5. We didn’t run the requisite depth. Those situations, the kids need to learn from. We had a 3rd & 13 on defense, and we had somebody who was supposed to be backed up but played close to the line of scrimmage. Guys have to make sure they have situational awareness, that’s all.”

On which freshmen stood out in the scrimmage…

“We played a lot of them. We’ll look at the tape, but I’m pleased with that group overall. Good number of them got in – I would say probably 11 or 12 of them played.”

On if setting the depth chart will be tougher or easier than he anticipated given the results of the scrimmage…

“There’s going to be some tough decisions, there’s no question. I think back to last year, Nick Linder and Trevor [Darling] were on the scout team, and six weeks later, they’re both starting. We have a long, long way to go here. Everybody needs to improve – coaches need to improve, players need the improve."

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach James Coley

What do you know now that you didn’t know yesterday?

"We got four quarterbacks… that can go into the game and play. I didn’t see a lot of mental errors. I saw guys who were aggressive with their throws, make good decisions and move really well in the pocket. I’ve very high on the group right now."

What did you think about the offensive line?

"I thought the ones played very well. They’re going against that one defense – that one defense is good. They got really good players up front and we have to scrap and when we scrap with those guys, every now and then, we get some bad ball. Meaning, we have some penalties. Because we have to really grab those guys because their big, they’re strong and they’re fast. So, that hurt us a little bit – some of the penalties. The twos are still learning. You’re talking about a whole unit with the twos, but they’ve gotten better from last scrimmage, so I’m encouraged."

Are you still working with the one unit or do you have your five [starters] at this point?

"I think we’ll release the depth chart after watching this film…I believe so. But, we got an idea of the rotation. You guys are kind of seeing it; Danny [Isidora] at guard… at tackle, Sunny [Odogwu]’s in there, Kc [McDermott]’s in there, Joe Brown’s in there in the mix too. So that’s what we’re looking at."

Coley, by the way, said Isidora looked good at tackle and Brown --- who has really been turning heads, as we noted on Tuesday --- looked good at guard.

Other highlights?

"We had a couple of big runs by Mark [Walton] down the field and Njoku had a couple of nice big plays," Coley said. "Herb Waters had three or four phenomenal catches.... Gus showed some tough running. He's a big back."

Brad Kaaya

On how the offense performed overall…
“It went pretty well, pretty good. I feel like we executed pretty well, and we’re just moving the ball fast. I feel like we’re cutting down on a lot of our penalties and turnovers. Just bad football, we’ve cut down a lot.”

On how he feels about the offense with two weeks to go before the season opener…
“I’m as confident as I can be after camp. Everyone’s touching the ball. We’re a hard team to scheme [against] right now. A lot of guys making plays. That’s what I’m confident about – our personnel, and the fact that everyone is on the same page.”

On the performances of wide receivers Stacy Coley and Herb Waters…
“They had really good days. A lot of clutch catches on third down. Stacy caught a touchdown. They looked pretty good today.”

On how the offensive line did as a unit…
“Our offensive line played good. They only gave up one sack today. There are still guys switching around, but as of now, the offensive line looks pretty set. Joe Brown has been making some good plays – he’s on second team right now, but Joe is a guy who has stepped up a lot this past camp. Overall, the offensive line is really coming together well.”

On the touchdown pass to Stacy Coley and who else had touchdowns…
“It was pretty long. I don’t know how long. Darrell Langham did, Mark [Walton] did, Malik [Rosier] ran one. We had a lot. I think a majority of our drives were coming away with points, either field goals or touchdowns. That’s what I like.”

COUPLE MARLINS NOTES

### The Marlins tell us they’re considering bringing in the fences and possibly lowering the walls at Marlins Park next season. David Samson confirmed the team has been discussing the possibility.

### Giancarlo Stanton made clear that he wants to see roster upgrades. “We need a lot of changes,” Stanton said, “and that’s as much as I’ll get into that.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 21, 2015

Heat adds NCAA's top 3-point shooter; 104.3 FM's format changes; James Coley addresses issues

The Heat on Friday signed undrafted rookie Corey Hawkins, a 6-3 shooting guard from Cal-Davis who led the nation in three-point shooting percentage last season at 48.8 percent.

Hawkins, who made 81 of 166 three-pointers, was seventh in the nation in scoring at 20.9 per game and was named Big West Player of the Year. He also averaged 4.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals but 3.0 turnovers.

Hawkins, the son of former NBA guard Hersey Hawkins, gives the Heat 17 players under contract, three under the league maximum for training camp.

Three of those players --- forward James Ennis, center Keith Benson and Hawkins --- have non-guaranteed deals.

Tyler Johnson’s contract is partially guaranteed. Teams can keep no more than 15 players once the regular season starts.

The Heat would like to keep Hawkins for its Development League team in South Dakota if he doesn’t make Miami’s roster.

Hawkins averaged 19.7 points and shot 47.3 percent from the field and 41.3 percent on three-pointers in three seasons at UC-Davis. He twice led the Big West in scoring after transferring to UC-Davis from Arizona State, where he never played.

Hawkins was on the Sacramento Kings’ summer league roster but was sidelined by an ankle injury.

“Corey in the training camp shot the ball very well,” Kings assistant coach John Welch told The Sacramento Bee. “He’s a natural scorer. He knows how to get to the free-throw line, get guys off balance, kind of an old-man game.”

RADIO CHANGE

Listeners tuning in to 104.3-FM The Ticket on Friday got a surprise: Without warning, the station switched permanently to an alternative rock format.

That means all of the sports programming that had been simulcast on both 104.3 FM and 790 AM will now air on only 790. That 790 lineup is highlighted by Heat games and Dan Le Batard’s program, which is expected to move from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. in a few weeks.

Entercom, which last month completed its purchase of both stations from Lincoln Financial, believes a music format will generate more revenue that an FM sports format.

The switch happened at 11 a.m. Friday, without any public announcement in advance, and stunned station employees, including the marquee hosts.

So why make the move?

“The FM didn’t put us so far over the top that everyone stopped doing sports; it didn’t give us this big huge victory,” general manager Doug Abernathy said.

“The data shows that everyone calls it 790 The Ticket. That’s the brand. There was this gaping hole in [ages] 18 to 49 that was being under-served --- music in general. You have five, six stations doing pop, hip hop in the market. We’re serving up something that is sorely missed in the marketplace.”

But why not announce it sooner than minutes before?

“With social media today, you don’t need three or four days of let’s tease this thing,” he said. “We launched at 11 a.m. By 3 p.m., we’re No. 3 trending on Twitter. Every, every other song [on 104.3], we’re making reference to 790.”

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale market hasn’t had a rock station since 93.9 FM in 2012.

The 104.3 FM signal has been simulcasting 790’s programming since August 2012 and drew more listeners than the AM signal did.

The elimination of one of The Ticket’s signals will give WQAM-560 an opportunity to make inroads in its ratings battle against the Ticket, which has been winning in most dayparts.

COLEY’S THOUGHTS

Some snippets from UM offensive coordinator James Coley from his session today with WQAM’s Joe Rose:

### On Stacy Coley: “He started in January, said to himself, 'I cannot come into training camp 168 pounds.' [Now] he’s 195 pounds.

"He came in really light [last year], had wisdom teeth pulled out, had a back injury, had a shoulder injury. Was never 100 percent coming into [last] season. He attacked the training [this year]. He’s had one drop the entire camp. He’s stronger. He’s got confidence. Being stronger, the weight, and not hurting built that confidence. He’s in that feed-the-beast category.”

Coley said he wants to get Coley the ball more down the field, as opposed to merely bubble screens. “We like to chuck the ball, throw the ball downfield, and he and Herb Waters have to replace a Phillip Dorsett and stretch the field like Phillip did.”

### On getting enough touches for the receivers: “It’s a very unselfish bunch. Kevin Beard, our receivers coach, has done a phenomenal chance, has gained the trust with his knowledge of having played the position. They’re trusting everything he says. It’s not really a 'me' group….

"What’s really complicated is we have tight ends who can come into the slot or [be] receivers and not be traditional tight ends. David Njoku, at 6-5, can stretch the field. What personnel groupings are you going to put other there?... Everybody is going to get the opportunity to catch the ball.”

### On the rotation at running back, which is challenging with four backs warranting carries (Gus Edwards, Joe Yearby, Mark Walton and improved Trayone Gray): “That’s probably the hardest job on offense and that’s why coach Ice [Tim Harris] has it. He’s got a great feel for it. He coached me in high school so I’ve got to shut up.

"We have a plan on how the game plan is going. When you have four backs, you have to continue to ask that question: Who’s getting the majority of the carries? Who’s giving him the break? Is it always this guy or is it another guy?”

### On Walton: “He picked up the system fast. He’s shown he can play at this level this year and play big.”

### On the offensive line: Coley said the group is not yet set.

It appears Nick Linder is the likely starting center; Trevor Darling likely will be one of the tackles; and Danny Isidora should start at guard unless he’s moved to tackle. Kc McDermott and Alex Gall also have decent shots to win jobs, but Jahair Jones and Sunny Odogwu and Joe Brown are pushing.

“This unit made a commitment to be the tightest group on the team,” Coley said. "They’ve responded. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. Everybody is saying we may be the weak link. I’m excited about the group.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 20, 2015

Friday 11am: Another major media change; Media column: The thinking behind Le Batard's expected move to mornings and the wide-ranging consequences; Media notes

MEDIA COLUMN 

South Florida’s sports radio landscape, marked by turnover and tumult all summer, is on the verge of undergoing its most seismic change yet:

At ESPN’s urging, Dan Le Batard is expected to move to the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot, replacing Fox-bound Colin Cowherd, provided ESPN Radio agrees to contractual terms with Le Batard’s on-air partner, Jon Weiner.

Though Le Batard is on board with the move, the network must still negotiate with Weiner, known to most of the country as Stugotz. Le Batard naturally wants his friend to be taken care of, so that small hurdle remains.

ESPN President John Skipper is a big fan of Le Batard and the top ESPN executives all advocated his move to mornings, partly because more affiliates carry ESPN Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (morning drive on the West Coast) than from 4 to 7 p.m.

There has been no decision on whether Fusion television will continue simulcasting Le Batard's show; discussions are ongoing.

Presuming the deal gets done --- and all parties are declining comment --- here are the wide-ranging ramifications:

### Though no final decision has been made, former Miami Herald sports writers Ethan J. Skolnick (most recently of Bleacher Report) and Israel Gutierrez (who works for ESPN) are considered top candidates to fill Le Batard’s afternoon slot locally on 104.3 The Ticket but not nationally on ESPN Radio.

Under that scenario, there would be some consideration to adding a third person in a traffic-cop type host role, but that decision hasn’t been made. Chris Wittyngham and Josh Friedman would be capable options for that position, but station management prefers not to break them up, which seems sensible because of their strong chemistry.

Adam Kuperstein, who would like to resume doing local radio after being dropped by WQAM-560, cannot do a late afternoon show because of NBC-6 commitments. Friedman, Brian London and Eric Reed would be internal options.

The program would run from either 3 to 7 p.m. or 4 to 7 p.m. There is some thought being given to airing a “Best of Le Batard” show, with highlights of his morning program, from 3 to 4 p.m.

Even a taped Le Batard hour probably would be a stronger lead-in to Skolnick and Gutierrez (should they land the gig) than a live show hosted by someone else.

Over the past three years, Skolnick has appeared regularly during the 1 to 3 p.m. slot with Reed and former NFL player Leroy Hoard. Gutierrez appears twice a week on The Ticket’s morning show with Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor.

### Le Batard and Weiner have expressed a willingness to do a “local hour” from 9 to 10 a.m., similar to their current 3-4 p.m. hour that airs only The Ticket.

Joe Rose has been the most competitive of any WQAM host in the ratings battle against The Ticket, with Rose and Zaslow/Taylor each winning multiple ratings books against the other over the past few months. A Le Batard hour at 9 a.m. might draw some listeners from the final hour of Rose.

### Wittyngham and Friedman, who shifted to mornings following Cowherd’s departure last month, likely would return to 7 to 10 p.m., unless the station decides to shift them to afternoon drive.

### Bomani Jones, who hosts a 9-11 p.m. show on ESPN Radio, is the front-runner to replace Le Batard nationally from 4 to 7 p.m. But The Ticket --- which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald --- prefers to air local programming during those hours.

ESPN Radio is expected to ask The Ticket to air an additional ESPN program besides Le Batard’s, but the station’s contract doesn’t explicitly require that.

### Marc Hochman, whose WQAM show recently moved up an hour (to 2 p.m.) and added Channing Crowder, would no longer be competing with Le Batard, whose program Hochman previously produced. Le Batard generates the market's highest sports-talk ratings.

Le Batard's shift to mornings could give the personable Hochman a chance to make inroads in the ratings, though a potential Skolnick/Gutierrez pairing also would have wide appeal and name recognition inside the market.

### One other notable local media change that has nothing to do with Le Batard: Former UM All-American safety Bennie Blades will be WQAM-560’s new analyst on Hurricanes postgame shows, replacing Duane Starks, who has been working as a Baltimore Ravens scouting intern.

Those UM postgame shows have increasingly become a vent-and-bash-the-coaches session after losses and even after unimpressive wins. Blades was critical of UM coaching in an interview with Kuperstein last week. Randal Hill, who’s running for U.S. Congress, will remain WQAM’s pre-game analyst.

AROUND THE DIAL

### Even though HBO’s Miami-based Ballers often mentions the Dolphins, the fictional series’ first season --- which concludes Sunday night --- has featured more current Marlins and Heat players (Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Andersen) than current Dolphins players, though Will Davis filmed a scene.

There were several former Dolphins who had cameos: Larry Csonka and Jared Odrick, as well as legendary coach Don Shula. Ballers has generated ratings higher than HBO’s Entourage and was recently renewed for a second season.

### Interesting to hear Texans coach Bill O’Brien encourage his players to use mindless clichés during HBO’s Hard Knocks this week.

“Remember guys, [reporters] have a job to do,” O’Brien said. “We’re very respectful of their job. They’re a conduit to the fans. In the end you’re in the control of the interview.

“If you’re asked a question,” O’Brien said, “and you really don’t understand the question or you really don’t want to answer the question, here’s some suggestions: ‘I’m working hard.’ ‘I’m trying to be a good teammate.’ ‘I’m trying to go out there every day and do my job.’ ‘I’m taking it one day at a time.’

““Don’t comment on other players… When you talk to the media, you just worry about speaking for yourself.”

O’Brien then provided this example:

“What’s your impressions of Brian Cushing so far as a player?”

O’Brien’s suggested answer: “I’m just here trying to make the team better.”

C’mon Bill; there are only about 100 ways to answer that question without saying anything controversial or divisive.

### Former ESPN analyst Craig James filed a lawsuit against Fox, alleging religious discrimination led to his firing from FS Southwest after he previously voiced opposition to gay marriage in an unsuccessful run for a U.S. Senate seat and urged Christians to “stand up” on the issue. Fox denies that was the reason for his dismisal.

### Fox Sports 1 will simulcast Cowherd’s Fox Sports radio show, which will air from noon to 3 p.m. starting Sept. 8. Cowherd also will appear on the new 11 a.m. to noon hour of the Fox NFL pregame show that debuts this season…

Andy Roddick left Fox Sports 1 after having a prominent role as a general sports commentator on Fox Sports Live when the network launched in 2013.

### Please see the last post for my "media" segment of our Dolphins 50th anniversary package.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 19, 2015

Wednesday UM football notes (WR, safety, RB); Louis Delmas fallout; Sun Life Stadium news; Dolphins historical timeline and their announcers over the years

A Wednesday night six pack:

### UM coach Al Golden today was asked if anyone has solidified himself as a starter on offense. He mentioned Brad Kaaya, then stopped and said only one more name, perhaps one that not many people would have expected: receiver Herb Waters.

“Herb Waters has had a tremendous camp. I’m really proud of his consistency right now,” Golden said.

Rashawn Scott, Stacy Coley, Waters and Braxton Berrios --- in no particular order --- are expected to be UM’s top four receivers, with Malcolm Lewis trying to hold off Tyre Brady, D'Mauri Jones, Lawrence Cager and others for the fifth job.  

“Cager looks real good,” Tracy Howard said today.

Artie Burns said Coley and Waters are the most improved receivers: “They’re killing us right now.”

Waters and Scott opened with the first team Wednesday, with Berrios sidelined by an injury.

### Safety Jamal Carter is making fewer mental mistakes and is immersed in a battle to start at safety. Two among Carter, Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins and Dallas Crawford will start.

“Jamal’s effort every day is insane,” Golden said.

### UM is alternating first-team carries among all four running backs: Gus Edwards, Joseph Yearby, Mark Walton and Trayone Gray.

The top three are all expected to play a lot this season and Gray has made an impression on coaches by running less upright and fumbling less.

On Walton, Edwards said: “I like everything I’ve seen so far. He’s making very few, no mistakes. For a young guy, he’s catching on so far.”

Edwards said today that he expects to be the team’s short-yardage back.

### Dolphins safety Louis Delmas is expected to miss the season after being diagnosed with a torn ACL in an initial test. So Walt Aikens gets his chance to prove he's a starting NFL safety, alongside Reshad Jones.

The front office is very high on Aikens, a fourth-round pick last May. Aikens had a few maturity-related issues last season, including one incident that resulted in him being deactivated for a game late in the season. But Dolphins defensive players, including Michael Thomas, have been complimentary about his improved maturity and increased attention to detail.

"Walt has been doing a great job," Jones said last week. "He has all the ability. Big, physical, can run well. He just needs to continue to work on his craft and get more in the playbook and learn the defense in and out. He can help us on defense."

And he will be needed to help more than anyone imagined a week ago.

Michael Thomas becomes the No. 3 safety, with a potentially larger role if Aikens doesn't seize the opportunity.

Cedric Thompson and Jordan Kovacs are competing for the No. 4 job. And Don Jones, activated off PUP today, is still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

Among veteran safeties who are unsigned: Thomas DeCoud, DeWan Landry, Quinton Carter, Bernard Pollard, Delano Howell, CJ Spillman and LaRon Landry

### A comfort level is growing with this offensive line.

Said Ryan Tannehill today: “I sensed it in the beginning that they had some work to do, but the more that those guys play together, the more consistent they get.”

### Sun Life Stadium is bidding to host college football's championship game following the 2017 season and four top executives from the College Football Playoff toured the facility on Tuesday and had lunch
with community officials in the Dolphins' locker-room.

Gov. Rick Scott and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was among those at the luncheon. Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel conducted the stadium tour, with the CFP contingent including executive director Bill Hancock.

College Football Playoff officials are touring the more than half dozen sites who have applied to host the championship games that will follow the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The Orange Bowl and Sun Life are bidding for only the January 2018 game because the stadium is focusing on luring the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020 and because the OB has a 2019 national semifinal.

A decision on the January 2018 College Football Playoff title game is expected in November.

### Outstanding job by my colleagues (writers, editors, designers) on our Dolphins 50th anniversary project, which is currently available on line.

Here are links to my two contributions:

1) A timeline on key moments during each of the team's first 49 seasons:
 
2) A look at announcers and writers who have covered the team over the yearshttp://media.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2015/fins-at-50/journalists/index.html
 
Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 18, 2015

Several Dolphins veterans stand at risk; Dolphins, Marlins notes; More UM changes

 

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

J.D. Walton, Zack Bowman and Spencer Paysinger combined to start 22 games for the New York Giants last season. Now, all three are fighting simply to make the Dolphins roster, as are punter Brandon Fields and more than a half dozen other fairly prominent veterans.

With 2 ½ weeks before the roster must be sliced to 53, here’s what we’re hearing on Dolphins veterans at risk:

### Of those three Giants signed in free agency, Paysinger has the best chance to make the team at the moment, with the situation obviously fluid based on preseason performance.

There’s some strong sentiment to keep Paysinger because of his experience (14 starts in four seasons for the Giants) and special teams acumen. He was one of the Giants' top three tacklers on special teams the past three seasons, and Miami needs someone to fill ex-Dolphin linebacker Jason Trusnik's former role on special teams.

Bowman, we’re told, is very much on the bubble. Keeping him likely would mean keeping seven corners, because the front office sees considerable upside in Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain and Will Davis. Bowman, who started five games for the Giants last season, helped his chances by grading out well internally against Chicago.

Both Paysinger and Bowman would earn $745,000 if they stick --- palatable numbers for Miami.

Walton, who started every game at center for the Giants last season, trails Sam Brenner in the battle for the backup center job. At $510,000, Brenner is slightly cheaper than Walton ($750,000).

### Most teams prefer to keep four defensive tackles, and it would be surprising if Miami keeps five, because ends Derrick Shelby and Terrence Fede can also play tackle, coaches have said.

But Miami hasn’t made a final decision on that.

In that four-tackle scenario, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Johnson would be competing for one spot.

Mosley has been working with Jordan Phillips on the second team, having leapfrogged Johnson, who fell to the third team and then committed three neutral zone infractions against Chicago.

But if Johnson outplays Mosley over the next three weeks, Johnson could stick. Johnson, at 22, is 10 years younger than Mosley and cheaper ($510,000 to $970,000).

### The Dolphins view Tennessee rookie Matt Darr as an NFL-quality punter and he has a legitimate shot to beat out Brandon Fields, who fell to 11th in average and 25th in net average last season.

Whereas Darr would make $435,000 this season, Fields – even after taking a pay cut a few months ago --- would earn $1.6 million this year and $3.5 million next (with a $4.3 million 2016 cap hit).

Darr averaged 44.3 yards on three punts in the Bears game; Fields averaged 37.3, with a shorter field, but unlike Darr placed all three of his punts inside the Bears’ 20.

“I expect [to win the job] because I will earn it,” Fields said Monday.

### Kicker Caleb Sturgis remains the front-runner over strong-legged, unpolished rookie Andrew Franks but is expected to have a short leash if he struggles early in the season. And if Sturgis falters the next three weeks, Miami will consider waiver options.  

“The last two years haven’t been good enough,” he said. “I need to be a bigger contributor to this team.”

### Elsewhere: Though there is thought to keeping four running backs instead of three, the Dolphins aren’t sure what they ultimately will do. Damien Williams and Jay Ajayi are essentially automatic behind Lamar Miller. LaMike James must play a lot better than he did on Thursday to make a case to stick and Mike Gillislee is a long shot…

One among veteran receivers LaRon Byrd, Cobi Hamilton, Matt Hazel and Michael Preston could stick initially only if concerns about DeVante Parker’s health compel Miami to start the season with six receivers instead of five. If Miami keeps five, it’s almost impossible to see any of those aforementioned four making it.

Jeff Linkenbach has the edge over Jacques McClendon for what could be the ninth and final offensive line job, but that’s fluid based on preseason performance….. Josh Freeman and McLeod Bethel Thompson assuredly will be cut before Sept. 7… Resourceful Jordan Kovacs, who has played in 17 games for Miami, remains an underdog; he must clearly outplay rookie Cedric Thompson to have a chance to win the fifth safety job if Miami even keeps five.

CHATTER

### Jordan Phillips’ penetration against Chicago was encouraging, and he seems to have corrected his college shortcoming of taking plays off. “There were too many people saying I was lazy, so I said I’ve got to fix it,” he said.

### Two Dolphins players cut in the past three days were claimed by other AFC East teams: tight end Arthur Lynch by the Jets and offensive tackle Chris Martin by the Patriots.

Marcus Thigpen told me that two Patriots assistant coaches asked him for information on the Dolphins last September after Miami cut him and New England claimed him.

### UM players have been buzzing about the creative wrinkles that have been added to the offense. “The personnel will be exotic. We'll have players playing positions they shouldn't but for us it works,” backup quarterback Malik Rosier said. “When people try to scheme us, we will find ways to expose them.”

One key to all of this, Rosier said, is speedy 6-4 tight end David Njoku.

Rosier said Njoku --- who also can play receiver and H-back --- will “exploit” defenses because “he’s a big mismatch. If they put a linebacker on him in the slot, it’s like taking candy from a baby.”

### Rosier said he expects to play a handful of plays a game and has been studying tape of how Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota and Michael Vick have run the zone read. Rosier said his runs on zone reads have been successful in practice.

“I can get a couple of big explosive plays with it,” he said. “The first time I ran it last spring, the defense didn’t know what we do. The defense kind of hates it during practice because it’s so hard. But for us it’s going to pay off because when we play Clemson, they run the zone read. [FSU’s] Everett Golson will run some zone read packages.”

### Feedback we’ve gotten internally from UM’s closed practices: defensive end Chad Thomas has been very productive and is winning a lot of one-on-one battles; freshman defensive tackle Kendrick Norton is too good to keep on the bench this season; Joe Brown is making a strong push at guard; Stacy Coley has been very impressive and his route-running is much improved;  running back Trayone Gray has made considerable strides; and under-the-radar tight end Chris Herndon is going to surprise people in the passing game.

### Please see the last post for more UM notes from Tuesday.

### With David Phelps out for the season with a stress fracture in his right forearm, the Marlins now are without six of the pitchers they thought would be their seven best starters this season: Mat Latos and Dan Haren were traded; Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, Henderson Alvarez and Phelps are unavailable for health reasons. Only Tom Koehler has survived the season unscathed.  

### Remember that custom-designed jet the Marlins were going to lease to shepherd players around the country, making road trips easier? It’s off the table.

The Marlins were supposed to have that Boeing to start this season but retrofitting problems and other issues caused repeated delays and the Marlins decided not to lease the plane but instead continue with charter flights. One prominent player has been complaining about this because players were looking forward to the extra large seats, couches and massage table.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz