Monday afternoon: Philbin, Coyle, Lazor address issues; Dion Jordan returns; 20 Dolphins notes

Twenty Dolphins tidbits, including notable comments this afternoon from Joe Philbin, Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle:

### The big personnel move of the week will be Dion Jordan’s return from a six-game drug suspension, which was really two suspensions merged into one extended absence.

The Dolphins, who will need to make room for Jordan on the 53-man roster, haven’t been able to interact with him in person, per league rules. The Dolphins didn’t practice Monday but Jordan will rejoin team activities on Tuesday.

"We will have to get him on the field and start working with him, see where he’s at,” Philbin said. “It’s great to have him back. But we have to take it one game at a time.”

Will incorporating him be difficult because the Dolphins are deep at defensive end?

“It won’t be tough,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “You have good players, you find ways to utilize them. He’s a very talented guy.”

Coyle expects Jordan to return in good physical condition. “I envision he’ll be in good shape. Dion can run all day. We’ve never had issues with him being in shape,” Coyle said.

### More on Jordan, from Coyle: “I am very close with Dion. We will speak with him. We’ve had some sit down conversations in the past and will continue to do that not just with Dion but with all the players.

"That’s one thing we pride ourselves on as coaches; it’s not just a work relationship. We try to do the best job we can to give them guidance, to mentor them. These are young guys. Some of [the coaches] are old guys. Some of the things we’ve been associated with can help them.”

During his suspension, Jordan received treatment for a substance-abuse issue.

### Philbin indicated that the decision to de-activate receiver Brandon Gibson and guard Shelley Smith, two former starters, on Sunday had nothing to do with injury and was simply a case of playing the best 46.

It wasn’t surprising in Smith’s case, because the Dolphins keep only two backup offensive linemen active on game days, and Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas offer more position versatility than Smith.

It was surprising in Gibson’s case because the Dolphins instead kept active receiver Damian Williams, who --- according to nfl.com’s account of the game --- did not play a snap, not even on special teams.

### How well has Ryan Tannehill played since he became angry when Joe Philbin declined to publicly name him the starter before the Oakland game?

Over his past three games, Tannehill has completed 72 percent of his passes (68 for 94) for 799 yards, six touchdowns and three picks --- equating to an excellent 105.7 passer rating. He also has 132 yards rushing over those three games.

### On Sunday, Tannehill set a career high in passer rating at 123.6, barely eclipsing the 123.2 against Jacksonville as a rookie.

“There are some specific signs of him getting better,” Lazor said. “There are some specific signs of him maybe not taking the next step. I saw anticipation improve. I saw some good pocket presence. I think the guy is getting better. I’m excited about where he can go.”

### The read option continues to be an asset for Miami’s offense, with Tannehill gaining 48 yards on six carries against Chicago.

“Every single day, he gets better at it,” Lazor said. “He’s confident in it. It helped us win the game.”

Philbin said: "We didn't think we would get as many runs yesterday as we did."

### According to NFL.com, Tannehill became the third player in history with at least 275 passing yards, at least 45 rushing yards, and a completion percentage of 78 percent or higher in a single game.

### Even though the Dolphins scored 27 points --- eclipsing their season average by 2 ½ - neither Philbin nor Lazor was content.

Philbin said the Dolphins should have scored more points and he “didn’t feel like it had to be that close at the end of the game. There are explosive plays on offense we have to make more of.”

Lazor said: “I was very disappointed with a lot of the play yesterday.”

### Philbin warned that Sunday’s opponent, Jacksonville, not only “beat a good Cleveland team, 24-6” but has been stout defensively the past three games.

### On Sunday, Jelani Jenkins played all 53 defensive snaps and Koa Misi 38, but Philip Wheeler just 11.

Why? Coyle said Chicago “came in with a lot of three receiver groups, so we didn’t play as much base defense as we sometimes do.”

The defensive package that the Dolphins used for much of the game featured a lineup with two linebackers and an extra defensive back. Michael Thomas (26 snaps) got many of those extra defensive back snaps.

Coyle said that package also explains why Jared Odrick (50 snaps) played much more than Randy Starks (25) and Earl Mitchell (18).

### Philbin said “the one thing that’s encouraging to me is we’re practicing better. We’re not spending a lot of extra time on the field. We’re not repeating plays.”

### Even though the Dolphins allowed four sacks, “there were pictures in the film where our pocket protection was as good as it has been all year against a team with a very good pass rush,” Philbin said.

According to Pro Football Focus (which doesn’t always grade plays the same as the Dolphins do), Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey were responsible for two of the sacks and Tannehill for the other two (for holding the ball too long).

### The Dolphins’ depth has improved to the point where two former starters (Smith and Gibson) couldn’t even get on the active roster on game day, former third-round pick Will Davis has gone from the No. 3 cornerback to not playing at all on defense Sunday. Also, Coyle will need to be creative to find snaps for Dion Jordan.

“It helps,” Philbin said of the added depth. “It creates more competition. It seems to be we’re healthier than we’ve been in a while.”

Because the Dolphins have a good number of playmakers, Lazor said:  "I think we feel that we’ve got a whole group of guys that could get the ball and it’s hard to come out of the game and be happy that everyone got enough balls. Let’s face it, there are never enough."

### Coyle loves how his secondary played against Chicago’s dangerous group of receivers and tight ends.

“Our little guys did a good job against their big guys,” Coyle said, referring to how well cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan played despite a significant size disadvantage against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Also, “having Reshad Jones back there has been a boost,” Coyle said. “He broke on the football, made plays on the ball, had an interception. He brings a real confidence to the group back there. He’s back to playing as good as he’s played since we’ve been here. Michael Thomas stepped in there and made some plays. Jamar made plays. Everyone contributed.”

### Lazor, on tight end Charles Clay, who had four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown Sunday: “The more I’m around him, the more skills I see that he has. We’re trying to expand some of the things that he can do in some of the routes we ask him to do. The only limitation is time. He works on something he tends so far to get it and look natural at it. We want him involved. We’re better when he gets the football."

### Lazor said one key to Mike Wallace’s success is he “has practiced really well. He’s playing aggressively. Some of his red zone touchdowns, we’ve seen him go up in contested plays and get the ball. In the red zone, it’s going to be contested catches.”

### The Dolphins have risen to 12th in the league in offense (fifth rushing, 22nd passing) and are sixth in first downs per game.

Defensively, Miami is fourth overall in yardage allowed per game (10th rushing, fourth passing). What’s more, the Dolphins are first in both yards allowed per play and passing yards allowed per play.

### Brent Grimes left Sunday's game with a thigh injury but Philbin said Sunday that the team was healthy otherwise.

Jacksonville, Sunday's opponent, on Monday learned that linebacker Paul Posluszny (torn pectecoral) will be out for the season.

### Coyle said Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles reminds him of a combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco.

### After Sunday's game, Philbin reminded his players they hadn't won two in a row all season.

### Some snap counts Sunday: Brian Hartline played all 70 offensive snaps, Wallace 58, Jarvis Landry 39 and Rishard Matthews 14.... Clay logged 55 and Dion Sims 43.... Lamar Miller played 42, Daniel Thomas 24 and Damien WIlliams (the runing back) five.

### The Dolphins today signed former UM receiver LaRon Byrd to their practice squad. He has one reception in five career NFL games.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz         


Does UM have enough defensive talent to be much better than this? Evaluators disagree; Dolphins, Heat


When UM visits Virginia Tech on Thursday, it will do so against the backdrop of this jarring reality:

The Hurricanes, in three-plus years under Al Golden, have never played a genuinely dominant defensive game on the road in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 14 ACC road games, UM has never allowed fewer than 23 points. In 10 of those games, the opponent has scored at least 30.

UM has won just six of those 14 games while relinquishing 33.7 points on average. Ugh.

Among those outside UM’s staff --- commentators, former players and others --- many would agree that coordinator Mark D’Onofrio could help matters by changing his strategy and playing a more attacking style. As Clinton Portis said on The Ticket last week: “The defensive alignment stinks. Why put safeties 12 yards away from plays? There are no adjustments made.”

But what’s more likely to generate mixed opinion from smart football people is whether UM has enough talent, defensively, to be a top-20 caliber team.

Two veteran NFL scouts that I respect offered different views on that, one asserting the Hurricanes’ defensive talent --- combined with their high skill level on offense --- is good enough now to be a top 20 team, is much better than what they’ve shown and that the defensive players aren’t being coached or developed properly.

An NFC scout who has evaluated ACC and SEC schools this season disagreed, telling me there’s still a sizable gap in quality between UM’s front seven and the linebackers/defensive linemen he sees at the top  programs.

“They haven’t had the quality of defensive linemen and linebackers with size, speed, playmaking ability you need to contend,” that second scout said. “They don’t have the dominating defensive player.”

A college coach at a major program who has seen UM this season said UM's defensive problems are a talent issue, asserting that UM isn’t stout enough on the defensive line; lacks playmakers at outside linebacker and has no ball-hawking safeties.

“They have a couple of frontline kids but they don’t have the overall defensive talent to compete,” longtime recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said.

“They didn’t get elite kids defensively until this past year. They don’t have the talent or depth to do better this, don’t have what teams have that are playing for a national title or remotely near one. Even their best defensive player, Denzel Perryman, is undersized. That defensive line is average.”

So beyond the issues with D'Onofrio's schemes, how much is talent contributing to UM’s defensive struggles? A few points to consider:

### From 2010 through 2014, UM’s recruiting classes were ranked 16th, 36th, 9th, 20th and 12th, according to rivals.com. Averaging those five classes, Miami’s ranking of 15th is well behind FSU (10th, second, sixth, 10th and fourth) and narrowly behind Clemson, whose classes were 19th, 8th, 14th, 14th and 13th.

Among some of the schools that have beaten UM in the past two years, Virginia Tech’s classes were ranked 23rd, 33rd, 22nd, 23rd and 25th. Louisville’s were 48th, 29th, 42nd, 52nd and 40th.

Even more upsetting from a UM perspective, Georgia Tech’s were 43rd, 41st, 57th, 85th and 47th. And this will especially anger fans: Duke --- which beat UM by 18 points last season but lost to the Hurricanes by 12 this season --- had classes ranked 72nd, 77th, 52nd, 68th and 58th.

So if you base it on those numbers, the conclusion is that UM should beat Virginia Tech, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Duke and would do it with better coaching.

But it’s not quite as simple as that when you consider this: In their loss to Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes started, on defense, two players with no stars in the rivals.com grading system, one player with two stars (Ufomba Kamalu), four with three-stars, four with four-stars and no (elite) five-star recruits.

UM’s starting lineup included a linebacker whose only other offer was from Northern Colorado (Thurston Armbrister), a defensive tackle whose only other offer was from Temple (Olsen Pierre), another defensive tackle whose only other offers were from Houston, North Texas, Toledo and West Virginia (Kamalu), a cornerback whose only offers out of high school were Indiana and North Texas (Ladarius Gunter) and a walk-on (Nantambu-Akil Fentress) who had no offers.

So does UM have enough defensive talent to make the case that the Hurricanes should be much better than this, certainly better than 61st in the country in scoring defense (24.4 per game)?

Those who say yes and those who say no can each point to the state of Mississippi to make their case. Here’s why:

Look at the Mississippi defense that entered the weekend second in points allowed per game (11.8). The third-ranked Rebels start two elite five-star players that virtually everyone in the country wanted: defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and linebacker CJ Johnson and no player with less than three stars.

So if you agree with Blustein and those who say D’Onofrio doesn’t have the type of talent that he needs to win big, you can point to Mississippi, which has two elite, experienced five-star front seven studs.

But if you agree with the scout that says UM’s defense is capable of more if it were better coached, here’s your best evidence:

Look at the Mississippi State team that entered Saturday ranked No. 1 in the country. The Bulldogs’ defense, which ranks 25th in points allowed per game, starts nine three-star recruits (three of whom received no other big-school offers) and two four-star recruits.

But players have developed well there, including linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who had no other major offers when he enrolled and could leave as a first-round pick. And they field a more experienced defense than UM, which shouldn’t be glossed over.

So if Mississippi State is used as the measuring stick, UM fans have every right to ask why their defense --- with more highly-regarded recruits --- isn't performing better.

### And then there’s this valid argument, as articulated by ex-Cane Joaquin Gonzalez on Twitter and by phone: In the past, some Canes greats blossomed despite not being heavily recruited.

Santana Moss was a walk-on at UM. Though the traditional rating system wasn't in place at the time, Ed Reed was essentially a two-star recruit based on interest generated in him, according to Bleacher Report.

“One thing blatantly different,” Gonzalez said, “is development of players from the Butch Davis era to now. Talent coming in better but [there’s] poor development.”

### It must be noted that UM has two five-star players on the bench: freshman Chad Thomas (who should become a difference-maker with more experience) and junior Tracy Howard, who has five career picks and simply hasn’t been as productive as --- to use an example --- Mississippi senior cornerback Senquez Golson, who has 11 career picks (five this season) but was just a three-star prospect. UM people say Howard’s speed was overestimated by some coming out of high school.

### From Golden’s recruiting classes from 2011 through 2013, UM has one five-star defensive player (Howard) and 10 four-star players. But whereas some of them have become decent to good starters (Anthony Chickillo, Tyriq McCord, Deon Bush, part-time starters Corn Elder and Artie Burns), none have become truly great players, though Burns is among a few with a chance. That, according to one of the scouts, reflects poorly on the staff’s player development.

Among the other four-star prospects, Al Quadin Muhammad is suspended for the semester for punching a student; Jelani Hamilton hasn’t met expectations and likely will redshirt; Raphael Kirby “is just a guy,” Blustein said, though he has played better recently; Jamal Carter --- who former assistant coach Don Soldinger says has the talent to be another Sean Taylor --- hasn’t even been able beat out walk-on Fentress --- and Jermaine Grace has impressed as a backup. If you wondered, rivals.com rated Denzel Perryman a three-star prospect.

“They’ve hit and missed on defensive recruits, but Miami wasn’t in a position to pass on guys like Jelani Hamilton,” recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said.

Also costly: UM whiffed on four-star defensive tackle Jalen Grimble (now at Oregon State) and lost two three-star linebackers (Gionni Paul and Eddie Johnson) to off-field issues and a potential starter (Alex Figueroa) to an arrest.

Recruiting analyst Chris Nee, from 247sports.com, said UM’s defensive deficiencies are a byproduct of a combination of UM over-rating some recruits, insufficient depth and poor scheme. For example, one evaluator said McCord shouldn’t be asked to play defensive end part of the time because he’s not stout enough against the run.

“They need to get bigger at linebacker and more physical in the front seven,” Nee said.

UM already has lost one of its top defensive recruits from its 2014 class, with four-year safety Kiy Hester leaving because of a family health issue in New Jersey. But UM has high hopes for a bunch of these freshmen defenders --- Thomas, four-star tackle Anthony Moten and Courtel Jenkins, end Trent Harris, linebacker Darrion Owens and two who are redshirting: ends Mike Smith and Demetrius Jackson.

### This is discouraging: UM’s 2015 recruiting class on defense (consisting of six oral commitments) is merely “mediocre,” Nee said.

There are two four-star prospects already orally committed: Killian safety Jaquan Johnson (“a playmaker who can become a leader in their secondary like Perryman is at linebacker,” Nee said) and Bradenton-based defensive end Scott Patchan (sidelined by a torn ACL). The others are three-stars prospects, including Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons end Richard McIntosh.

But UM hasn’t been able to find elite players at defensive tackle throughout Golden’s tenure and its only 2015 oral commitment at the position is three-star Bradenton-based prospect Ryan Fines, whose only other reported offer is from USF. "He's not a super athletic kid and more of a backup,” Fishbein said.

So at this point, there’s no difference-maker set to arrive at defensive tackle. That means the Canes must hope Courtel Jenkins, Calvin Heurtelou, Michael Wyche and Moten, among others, take major steps in the next year. And they better hope an elite linebacker emerges to replace Perryman; the staff really likes Grace and Owens, but it’s too soon to tell how good they will become.

Bottom line? Besides questionable strategy at times, talent clearly remains an issue on the defensive side, as one of the scouts, the coach and the three recruiting analysts told us.

Either way, the staff is culpable because they’re either not recruiting well enough (the NCAA investigation was unquestionably hurtful) or they’re not developing players or maximizing their skills effectively enough, as one of the NFL scouts noted. It's likely a case of both.


### Though Dolphins coaches publicly defended some of their decisions in the Green Bay game, it was telling that coaches told the team last week that they could have done some things differently against Green Bay if they had it to do over, according to multiple players.

“If they feel like they did a bad job or made a mistake, they will tell us,” Mike Wallace said, adding players appreciate that. “I know they did [last week].” An associate of Kevin Coyle said he realizes he could have called a better defensive scheme to end the game and admitted as much.

### Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has told people he needs to do a better job finding ways to involve Charles Clay, who rank ninth among tight ends with 759 receiving yards last season, but is just 23rd this season (146). He’s on pace to be thrown 86 passes, down from 102 last season.

Curiously, Joe Philbin insists Clay’s diminished involvement isn’t an issue, but Wallace said: “He definitely needs to get the ball [more]. He’s a playmaker.”  

This clearly isn’t helping Clay’s bargaining position in free agency next spring, but he said he’s not sweating that.

“I’m still getting open," he said. "But we have a lot of weapons and only one ball. I try to stay out of coach Lazor’s hair. Calling plays isn’t easy.”

###  Oddest comment of the week, courtesy of new Dolphins practice squad quarterback McLeod Bethel Thompson, Minnesota’s third-stringer the past two years: “I can throw the ball as well as anybody in the NFL.”

### With Shabazz Napier continuing to improve and James Ennis flashing considerable potential, Dwyane Wade said the infusion of youth on this roster excites him. 

"Our front office did a great job of finding these young guys at the right time," Wade said. "If they came before they wouldn’t have developed like they can now. Couple of these guys can really help us this year. We haven’t had that a lot since I’ve been here."

Napier had a team-high 25 points, four assists and just one turnover in 32 minutes in Saturday's win against San Antonio.

"He has figured out how to be successful within his limits of height," Wade said. "He’s a tough kid. I’ve seen that early in training camp. He’s only getting better every time he steps on the floor."

Khem Birch (13 rebounds), Tyler Johnson (17 points) and Andre Dawkins (16 points) all made a case for the 15th roster spot on Saturday.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 


Saturday morning report: Dolphins tidbits, Encouraging news for Heat; Panthers' future

Some Saturday morning notes:

### As he prepares to meet the Dolphins Sunday, Brandon Marshall said this week that if he were starting a franchise, he would select Brent Grimes and Chicago rookie Kyle Fuller as his cornerbacks.

Grimes remains one of Miami’s most valuable players, but the opposing quarterback's passer rating in his coverage area has risen dramatically, from 66.3 last season (one of the best numbers in the league for a cornerback) to 91.2 so far this season.

Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked him second among all corners. This season, he’s 38th of 103.

Asked if he’s playing at the same level as last season, Grimes said: “I’ve been playing well. Coaches and opposing teams feel the same way.”

According to Grimes, Aaron Rodgers told him --- both during and after the game --- that he has great respect for him.

### Derrick Shelby said he’s trying to get the Dolphins to give him the week’s pay they took away from him during his suspension. The union is involved.

### While a few former Dolphins have given up a number of sacks (Jake Long has allowed three, Jonathan Martin four so far this season), it's encouraging to see rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James has been beaten for only one sack in five games. Branden Albert has allowed two and his run blocking has been very good.

### How in the world did the NFL come up with this odd number ($8268) as the amount it fined Jarvis Landry on Friday for a face-mask on Casey Hayward during last Sunday's Green Bay game?

A fine for that type of infraction was $7,500 in 2011, but twice has been increased by 5 percent since, according to terms of the labor agreement. Thus, $8268.... Landry, incidentally, has risen to second in the league in kickoff return average.

### The defensive backs that the Dolphins parted ways with over the offseason have essentially disappeared or been marginalized. Dimitri Patterson is out of the league; he reportedly won't consider any offer at the veteran's minimum. Chris Clemons remains unemployed. And Nolan Carroll has played limited snaps for the Eagles.

### On Sunday, in a game featuring three high-end receivers (Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace), the player who will enter leading the league in receptions is Bears running back Matt Forte (46 for 376).

As a runner, though, Forte has been inconsistent. He had 23 for 122 vs. Green Bay and 17 for 80 vs. Atlanta last week but 13 for 33 vs. the Jets and 12 for 21 vs. the 49ers.

By the way, the Dolphins defense ranks seventh in the league --- 13th against the run, eighth against the pass.

### In case you missed it, Jimmy Wilson is doubtful for Sunday with a hamstring and Samson Satele is questionable with a hamstring. Satele said Wednesday that he would play against Chicago, which would keep Mike Pouncey at right guard.

But if coaches believe the hamstring would make Satele ineffective, they can move Pouncey back to center and play Shelley Smith at guard. Pouncey said he took snaps at both positions this week.

The Bears will be without two starters on defense: Lance Briggs and Chris Conte.


### A few thoughts from the Heat’s 115-108 win against Golden State Friday night in Kansas City, Miami's first victory of preseason: The Heat closed the game on a 24-11 run, achieved with a lineup of Mario Chalmers (his best game of preseason), Shabazz Napier (who continues to improve), Shawne Williams (a possible opening night starter), Chris Bosh (21 points, 7 boards) and James Ennis (whose energy and athleticism gave this team something needed)….

By losing 20 pounds over the summer and playing in this system, the Heat hopes Williams will transform from an erratic journeyman to a reliable rotation player. So far, the signs are encouraging; starting at power forward, he had 19 points and seven rebounds and hit all five of his threes. He could start there opening night if the Heat decides to ease Josh McRoberts back into the lineup after toe and back injuries….

Luol Deng was very good, scoring 19 on 8 for 11 shooting in 26 minutes… Chalmers again played off the bench, and most of his minutes were at shooting guard. He had 13 points, five boards and two steals in 20 minutes, making a real impact during that late Heat rally…. The Heat continues to do some of its best work with Ennis and Napier on the floor. Ennis (eight points) was a plus 15 in 25 minutes and Napier (14 points, 4 of 10 shooting) a plus 13 in 27 minutes.

### I wrote a comprehensive story on the future of the Florida Panthers that will be on the Herald website later this weekend; we encourage you to read it. A couple of noteworthy points:

Co-owner Doug Cifu, on why the team eliminated the ticket giveaways and reductions --– a strategy that has led to record-low attendance the first two games: 

"You had season seat holders who were paying $45 for a seat in the lower bowl and sitting next to a guy who came in and paid $10 on Stubhub,” Cifu said. “That’s not right. I went to five season-ticket holder forums and one of the complaints was, ‘You want me to make a commitment and you are giving me a purported discount on seats, and I look at Stubhub and for [most games], I can buy the same seat on the secondary market for the same price or a discount.’

“We were not doing ourselves a service by floating all those seats out there. It damaged the integrity of the pricing for the real Panther fans who made a real commitment.”

Cifu said he’s disappointed but not surprised by the attendance drop.

Might the Panthers reverse the policy if ticket sales don’t pick up?

“Not a chance,” Cifu said. “Our conclusion having talked to the league is that our brand had been damaged and our loyal fans were very unhappy with the pricing differential.”…

Also, the Panthers are asking Broward for a $78.4 million bailout. Of the six current commissioners who will be in office when it’s voted on next spring, three told me they are opposed to the current proposal, two said they are undecided, and one (Stacy Ritter) can’t vote because her husband is a lobbyist for the team.

Three other commissioners will be determined based on upcoming elections. To pass, the Panthers’ proposal would need be to be approved by five of the nine commissioners. There assuredly will be more negotiations before a proposal is put up to vote.

Cifu said the Panthers won’t move the team if the bailout is rejected, but that the current business model wouldn’t be sustainable in that scenario. The team has 14 years left on its arena lease, and an owner could move the team during that time only if he pays off the team's financial obligation to the county. Cifu said he and Vinnie Viola have no intentions of moving the team.

My story will have more details on the team's future, for those interested in the topic.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      


UM assistant confronts former players who bash staff; Hurricanes, Dolphins, Heat chatter


Hurricanes chatter:

### No, UM is not threatening to ban former players who have been critical of the coaching staff from coming to campus, athletic director Blake James assures us.

But one UM coach isn’t just sitting back and taking it.

After former UM offensive line standouts Brett Romberg and Joaquin Gonzalez sharply criticized the coaching and publicly advocated change --- Romberg called for Al Golden’s ouster, Gonzalez said UM needs a “Butch Davis type” coach --- offensive line coach Art Kehoe called both of them separately last week and said loudly and clearly that he didn’t appreciate their opinions.

“He was yelling,” Romberg said.

“He chewed [me out],” Gonzalez said.

Kehoe recruited and coached both of them and was furious that they suggested a move that would put Kehoe’s job at risk.

“Art said, ‘Why the hell are you trying to get your former coach fired?’” Romberg said. “But it’s frustration building up. It’s a giant cloud hanging outside the Hecht Center that people inside won’t acknowledge….

“Ultimately, it has been a piss-poor decade by the Miami football program. And Al is reluctant to fire his friend [defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio].”

(A friend of Golden cautions that perception is overstated, and a friendship will not prevent Golden from changing his staff if he believes it’s needed.)

Romberg, a former All-American who now works as a talk show host on The Ticket, has great respect for Kehoe.

So after going back and forth on the phone for a while, did Kehoe say anything to make him feel better about the state of the program?

“No,” Romberg said.

Gonzalez sheepishly declined to discuss his conversation with Kehoe.

### Why did Golden ask former players to watch film with him during the weekend of the spring game in April?

Romberg said players told Golden “we were frustrated with the way they were playing and questioning the dedication of the kids. Al said there was a big difference between this spring and the spring before and wanted to assure us the old-school mentality had come back. But that message he portrayed didn’t come through [on film]. Al couldn’t get the film off quickly enough.”

Still, even though former defensive player Julio Cortes asked Golden what Denzel Perryman was being coached to read (as esteemed writer Dave Hyde recently noted), Romberg said he cannot recall anybody  else posing confrontational questions during that film session. And for all his criticisms of the UM staff, Romberg said players appreciate that Golden has been very welcoming and invited them to come to practice.

### Though Golden has been classy in not addressing criticism from former players, Romberg said Kehoe indicated to him that it bothers Golden. A friend of the coach said Golden believes some players who criticize him are living in the past, to an extent, and don’t fully grasp that the game has changed.

### One person very close to the staff said the Golden/Mark D’Onofrio philosophy defensively, which often includes safeties playing deeper than they should, is that UM would rather bend and give up smaller chunks of yards --- with the hope of eventually forcing a punt or turnover --- than risk giving up the big play. They would prefer a slow death to a fast one, in other words.

But it hasn’t worked enough, so why not change?

“There’s not enough confidence they can do anything else,” the UM person said. One reason is that “none of our safeties are very good at playing the ball in the air.”

### Who could have envisioned this back in May? Brad Kaaya, who has thrown 20 more passes than Jameis Winston, leads Winston in yards (1806/which ranks 17th in the nation to Winston’s 1605) and touchdown passes (16, 13th in the nation, to Winston’s 11). Winston has the edge narrowly in passer rating (159.5/17th in the nation), one spot ahead of Kaaya (156.3).


### The Dolphins’ deep-passing game has been almost non-existent; their longest passing play all season is 35 yards. “I’ve never seen that,” Mike Wallace said. “I always surpassed that in the first game! I will make it happen this week.”

Wallace said he asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to call some deep balls and Lazor “said they will come… We threw more deep balls this week in practice than anytime since training camp. That’s my first love --- catching the deep ball.”

One problem is that Ryan Tannehill has completed only 4 of 15 balls that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, for 100 yards, less than any starting quarterback on those types of passes except Alex Smith (73 yards), Geno Smith (72 yards entering tonight's game) and Cam Newton (52).

By comparison, Brian Hoyer has thrown for 531 “deep yards,” Austin Davis 368 and Ryan Fitzpatrick 338.

### Daniel Thomas, who was inactive last week, said he hasn't been told whether he or Damien Williams will be Lamar Miller's new backup in the wake of Knowshon Moreno's season-ending ACL injury.

Thomas --- who averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in his first three seasons --- is averaging 7.1 this season in limited work (seven carries for 50 yards). Williams is averaging 3.3 yards per carry (39 yards on 12 carries).

The Dolphins also continue to closely study LaMichael James, who hopes to be promoted from the practice squad at some point.

### Based on history, what are the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs if they lose Sunday to fall to 2-4?

Since 1990, only 8.6 percent of teams that opened 2-4 made the playoffs (14 of 163). Only 22.1 percent of 2-3 teams made the postseason (44 of 199).

### Not only did the Panthers draw their lowest crowd in history Monday (7311), but it’s not like the fans were watching on TV.

According to Nielsen, only 3265 Dade/Broward homes tuned in that Panthers-Ottawa game on Fox Sports Florida; 232 television programs that night drew higher local ratings, including something called Barbecue University, Mystery Diners, Pawn Stars and Chowder.

### With 18 players still in Heat camp, Shannon Brown (a front-runner for a job), Tyler Johnson, Andre Dawkins, Khem Birch and Shawn Jones are competing for a maximum of two spots on the roster. It’s possible the Heat could keep only Brown from that group and leave the last spot open or fill it with a player who's not on the team now.

Brown shot just 36 percent overall last season, and just 33 percent on threes in his career, but Pat Riley told “me he thought I could bring athleticism and toughness. They like that I play with a chip on my shoulder and like me as a defender.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 


Pouncey assesses move; Wednesday night Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat chatter; Broadcast news

Before lining up at right guard in a game for the first time in his NFL career last Sunday, Mike Pouncey awoke at 4:30 in the morning feeling nervous, like “a rookie all over again.”

The nerves faded quickly. But switching positions, he assured today, was not easy, even though he played guard in his sophomore and junior years at Florida.

“It’s easy to do in practice,” he said. “Games are different. I feel like I was falling around a little bit.”

Still, the transition from center --- where Pouncey spent his first three seasons --– has gone pretty seamlessly. And he has done it despite missing the first four games  recovering from June hip surgery.

“He’s doing one of the most unselfish things, changing positions, and not crying about it,” left tackle Branden Albert said.

Pouncey, a Pro Bowler last season, embraced the move because he wanted the team to be able to play what coaches considered their five best offensive linemen, and also because he enjoyed playing guard for two years at UF before moving to center as a senior after his twin brother Maurkice graduated.

But Pouncey said he has been given no indication how long he will remain at guard.

The Dolphins are going week-to-week with this and Pouncey could be shifted back to center if Samson Satele suddenly begins to struggle or if the Dolphins decide they are better off with guard Shelley Smith in the lineup instead of Satele.

But Satele’s good work, and Pouncey’s willingness to play guard, led coaches to make the switch.

“Coach [Joe] Philbin asked, ‘Would I do it for the team?’ I said, ‘No problem, let’s do it,’’ Pouncey recalled of their conversation last week.  “Whatever helps the team win is what I’m all about.”

He said he is still taking some snaps at center and it would not be difficult to switch between the positions, if that’s needed this season, because “once you play center, you kind of know the offense like the back of your hand. When you play guard, when Samson makes calls, I am still making the calls myself because I’m so used to it. I don’t think it would bother me at all if I have to switch back.”

How would he rate his first game at guard?

“I feel like I played OK,” he said. “I was a little sloppy with my technique because it’s the first time I played football since four months ago.  Other than that, I played really hard. I hold myself to a high standard. I’ve got to play a lot better.”

The biggest adjustment in moving to guard? “You’re playing in more space now,” Pouncey said. “At center, you’re kind of helping everybody out, setting the stage for everybody. At guard, you’re the point of attack. You’re in a lot of space and a lot of one-on-one protections.

“Each week, I’m only going to get better and better at it, more comfortable. I’m just excited for the opportunity to be able to play guard and to keep continue to do it.”

Pouncey said he would be fine with playing either position longterm.  “I will be happy regardless,” he said.

### So what determines whether Ryan Tannehill keeps the ball on read option plays?

“It just depends on the play call who we are reading; then you just follow your keys,” he said. “If you feel like [the defensive player] is going to make a play on the running back or is going to make it tough for the back to get up field, then you pull it. If he stays where he is at and is not going to be able to make the tackle, then you hand it off.  

“I don’t want to be carrying the ball 20 times a game, but I think it’s a great tool for us. It keeps defenses honest, keeps them off balance. There’s some big running lanes like we saw last week where, if you are able to get a guy to crash down and get around the edge, there’s some good yards out there. We might call 30 zone-reads, and I might keep three of them.”

Tannehill, by the way, was limited in practice today because of ankle injury.

### Philbin, asked by Chicago media about losing Knowshon Moreno: “Let’s face it, he only really played one game. The second game he played in he had one carry. He played sparingly the other day. It’s unfortunate. [But] we’ll be fine.”

### Among the Dolphins players who quietly exited this week: Marcus Thigpen, who was released from the practice squad.

### Check the sports home page for Adam Beasley's stories on Brandon Marshall (who spoke to Dolphins writers today) and an injury update. Jimmy Wilson was the only Dolphin who missed all of practice today, though several others, including Tannehill, were limited.


### Al Golden made clear on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline that he is still waiting for a dominating defensive tackle to emerge among Calvin Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins and Michael Wyche.

“Those guys really need to step up,… take a big jump,” Golden said. “We need to see someone from that group separate themselves. This is the healthiest [Wyche] has been.”

Though Heurtelou and Jenkins have played well at times, UM isn’t going to be elite again until it gets superior defensive tackle play (among other things).

### Golden’s message, via his WQAM show, to defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu: “Don’t think so much. Be a bit more reckless. He can disrupt in the pocket. He can turn and run. He needs to get back to doing that.”

### No, the Heat’s 0-4 preseason record isn’t causing great concern. But Chris Bosh made clear today that things must change.

Of the buzzword “process,” Bosh said: “I do say that a lot to be politically correct. But in actuality, we’ve got to win some games, play better defense. We have to start seeing something different. We have to start seeing progress…. Attention to detail, help defense, one more pass, screening. All those things seem to go out the window during games.”


### Bill Simmons’ three-week ESPN suspension ended today, and the New York Times reported Simmons “is furious and has been talking a lot about whether ESPN is still the right place for him.”

ESPN suspended Simmons after he unleashed a profanity-laced tirade against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his podcast and then dared his employer to discipline him. Simmons’ multimillion dollar contract with ESPN expires next fall.

### Leaving ESPN is always a risky move and it was surprising when Rachel Nichols departed the “Worldwide Leader” for a job at Turner and CNN in January 2013. One of the appealing elements to Nichols was hosting her own show on CNN, a Friday night program titled “Unguarded.”

That program was among four shows canceled by CNN today, with Crossfire and Sanjay Gupta’s medical show also getting the axe. The driving force: CNN's desire to cut 300 positions.

CNN said Nichols will host sports-related interviews and specials for the network and will remain an NBA reporter for Turner and NBA TV.

Nichols snagged several marquee guests for her show, including LeBron James and Tiger Woods. It was CNN's first sports show in more than a decade, but viewership dropped 17 percent since the show’s launch.

The cancelations came a day after CNN disbanded its entertainment units in New York and Los Angeles.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Bears to 16 percent of the country, including most of Florida and Illinois and other pockets of the nation, including southern Georgia, most of Arizona and most of the Dakotas. See 506sports.com for a map. Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, CBS’ No. 3 team, are working the game.

Please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz)


Examining Philbin's TO strategy and how often it works; UM A.D. addresses issues; Dolphins, Heat chatter


Sorting out a few more Dolphins issues in the aftermath of Sunday’s gut-wrenching loss:

### So just how unusual is it for teams to call defensive timeouts in situations like Joe Philbin did twice against Green Bay, and how often does this curious approach actually work?

To quantify this, we studied all NFL games played this season and all games played during Philbin’s 37-game tenure and included defensive timeouts that were called by the team that was leading by a margin of one touchdown or less late in the game but were not called because of injury and were not called for the purpose of conserving clock time to get the ball back. (We excluded icing kickers; the Dolphins have lost all three times when Philbin has done that.)

Here’s what we discovered: Philbin seems to call those types of timeouts more than anybody; he did it as many times in the Packers’ game-winning drive Sunday (twice) as the entire rest of the league did in the first six weeks of the season! The Packers hit big plays after both Miami timeouts: an 18-yard pass on a 4th and 10, and later, Aaron Rodgers’ game-winning touchdown to Andrew Quarless.

Of two similar timeouts called in all other NFL games this season, one was successful for the defense (Chicago sacked the Jets’ Geno Smith) and one was unsuccessful (Denver, trailing late, completed a 42-yard pass after a Seattle timeout).

But in Philbin’s defense, consider this: During his previous 36 games as coach before Sunday, he called a timeout in that type of situation seven times and five of the seven plays that followed those timeouts were positive plays for Miami. Philbin is essentially now 5 for 9 after Sunday, because both of those plays after timeouts were disastrous for Miami against Green Bay.

Of the two times before Sunday that the Dolphins defense failed immediately after a Miami timeout (an 18-yard completion by Philip Rivers, a 4th and 8 conversion by Tom Brady), Miami won both of those games.

Here's when Philbin's approach worked: Last season, Andrew Luck followed two late Dolphins timeouts with an incompletion and sack late in a Miami win. And with the opponent having no timeouts left, Miami’s defensive timeouts last season preceded Rivers’ game-sealing incomplete pass against the Dolphins (from the Dolphins' 25 yard-line) and preceded each of two Brady misfires (an incomplete pass and a Michael Thomas interception) from the Dolphins' 14 yard-line to close out that December Miami win.

So Miami did the exact same thing last season against San Diego and New England that it did Sunday --- calling a timeout to get organized defensively before the game's final play, when the opponent had no timeouts. Miami made the play to win both of those games last year; it didn't Sunday.

So Sunday was the first time Philbin did this odd timeout thing and lost the game. He said he will continue to assess that approach.

So is his philosophy smart or foolish? Jason Taylor called Philbin’s decision “a head-scratcher” on NBC Sports Network.

Jimmy Johnson said via e-mail that there are “arguments for both sides,” but noted: “If you need the time defensively, you help the offense by giving them a breather and allow them time for a play and substitutions.”

### Why was it a mistake to have Philip Wheeler in one-on-one pass coverage on Rodgers’ winning touchdown?

Consider: Over the past two-plus seasons (one season for Oakland, 20 games for Miami), Wheeler has allowed 105 of 138 passes in his coverage area to be caught (for 1020 yards), with that 76 percent failure rate among the worst for all NFL starting linebackers.

Over the past three seasons, quarterbacks have a 111, 109 and 95 rating in his coverage area. No wonder he was annoyed about being left alone against Quarless!

Miami instead should have used Jelani Jenkins, who has permitted only 10 of 19 passes thrown against him to be caught this season (with a 67 passer rating). Jenkins said he was lined up against a running back on the play.

### Did coaches scold Wheeler for publicly criticizing the defensive call on that play?

Wheeler said no. “And I don’t apologize for anything I said,” he said Tuesday. OK then.

### What Dolphins player, in jest, threatened to bench himself after the game?

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who said Sunday: “If I don’t play better I need to sit my [butt] down.”

Finnegan has allowed 18 of 25 passes thrown against him to be caught for 201 yards, with a 95.6 passer rating against.

On Tuesday, he said: “I used my neck [injury] as a crutch not to tackle well. No one gives a rip.”

Finnegan, 5-10, said that on Sunday against Chicago, he will sometimes cover 6-4 Brandon Marshall. They have a colorful history; Finnegan said Marshall claimed he was identifying Marshall’s pass patterns before the snap in a Dolphins-Titans game in 2010, and Marshall was frustrated.

Told by one reporter than Marshall does not like him, Finnegan said: “I like him. That’s all that matters. I’m a likable guy.”


### For those hoping for defensive staff changes at UM, no decisions are expected to be made until UM sees how the season plays out.

An associate of Golden's (nobody mentioned in this column) has said it would be wrong to conclude that Golden would never replace Mark D'Onofrio because of their friendship if he decided that was necessary.

In interviews both with me last Friday and Tuesday night with Gary Ferman on Canesport Radio, James indicated a  preference to allow the coaches to decide the composition of their staffs.

When I asked if he could envision a scenario in which he would tell a coach to make a change on his staff, James said: “My philosophy is you hire head coaches to run their programs and my job is to give them the support they need to be successful.”

He told Canesport Radio he would make exceptions and intervene if an assistant coach creates problems for a university such as committing an NCAA violation.

But Golden is "the one that needs to have the power to make all those decisions, the specifics of it. I'm going to ask questions. He runs his program, and he runs his program well. He'll make the decisions that are best for the long-term success of the program."

James told Canesport Radio: "You can't tell people what needs they have. If that's the case, I probably should be the coach."

He said in general: "I might talk to Al about how is our offense getting better, how is our defense getting better, what are we doing on special teams, where are we with recruiting."

### Has either the particularly harsh UM-bashing from former players or the fire-Golden banner flown by a disgruntled fan at Saturday's game struck James as over the top?

“It isn’t helping us get to where we all want to see the program,” James told me. “We all want to see the program back at the top. While I understand the frustration, we all have to look at what are the things to help us have that success. Things that don’t help us have success aren’t helping. Would I rather the former players not do it? Without a doubt.”

Of the criticisms leveled by former players, James told Canesport Radio: "It's disappointing when it's verbalized as publicly. These type of comments [don't] help us. [But] I respect who they are. They are all part of the family."

### James told Canesport Radio, as he has told me earlier this season, that he has full faith in Golden.

"Am I confident we're going in the direction we need to go? Without a doubt.... I have full confidence Al will make adjustments that need to be made to get us back to the top.... To rebuild a program takes time."

### Mario Chalmers said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra hasn’t explained why he has started Norris Cole instead of him in preseason, adding: “I don’t know where things stand but I just know I’m the starter.” Chalmers sat out tonight with a hip pointer.

### Chris Bosh said Shabazz Napier already is the Heat’s most creative passer: “He’s like a quarterback. He sees things before they happen.”

But field-goal percentage remains an issue for Napier.

“You have to work harder to get your shot [in the NBA]," Napier said. "Guys are much longer."

Against Atlanta tonight, Napier shot better than he typically has this preseason (4 for 8) on a 12-point, four-assist, one-turnover night.

### Some people inside the Heat believe James Ennis needs to play, and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t start the season in the rotation. But Spoelstra, while praising him, also cautions that his defensive “understanding and discipline with the system still has a ways to go.”

Said Dwyane Wade: “He’s a very talented kid. We all see it. I tell him all the time, ‘You can be as good as you want to be.’”

Bosh today called Ennis a “diamond in the rough. His athleticism, shooting ability and playmaking ability is second to none. He has a tremendous upside. He is going to help us a lot.”

Ennis had 10 points (just 3 for 9 shooting) and five steals in 19 minutes in tonight's preseason loss to Atlanta.

During the regular season, the Heat (0-4 in preseason) cannot afford nights like this one, when both Wade (4 for 12) and Luol Deng (1 for 6) struggle from the field.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 


Tuesday 9 a.m.: Moreno on IR; Shelby reinstated; Philbin, Coyle, Lazor explain controversial decisions

Tuesday 8 a.m. update:

Knowshon Moreno, who returned from an elbow injury to carry the ball five times against Green Bay, was placed on injured reserve today with an ACL injury. Moreno's contract is up at the end of the season.


Monday 8 p.m.:

According to a person with direct knowledge, the Dolphins have reinstated defensive end Derrick Shelby, who was suspended for the past week after he was charged with resisting arrest without violence and trespassing at a Fort Lauderdale nightclub.

Neither the team nor Shelby's representation was willing to discuss the issue tonight. His attorney said he was not authorized to comment.

According to Pro Football Talk, the player's union might have been unhappy with the Dolphins for suspending Shelby without pay. A source confirmed there has been contact between Shelby's camp and the player's union.

A teammate expects Shelby to try to get back the money he lost during the suspension, but Shelby's camp has not confirmed that.

The Dolphins will need to make a roster move to create room for Shelby on the 53-man roster.

Shelby's usual workload was filled Sunday by Terrence Fede (16 snaps), Chris McCain (12) and Anthony Johnson (nine). Shelby has two sacks in four games this season.


Monday 1:30 p.m. report:

Joe Philbin and his coordinators assuredly wanted to move on Monday, like any coach would after a gut-wrenching loss and another dangerous opponent looming in Chicago.

But Philbin, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle patiently answered lingering questions that begged answers regarding several strategic decisions that backfired in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to Green Bay.

Such as:

### Philbin indicated that he told his coordinators he wanted to try to get a first down if the Dolphins were nursing a lead late. So why did they run on a third and 9 and 3:01 left after an incomplete pass on the previous play? (Lamar Miller gained one yard on that rushing play.)

Philbin said he told Lazor to run the ball on that third down play.

Why? Philbin said “we had pressure and we had some free runners” on the previous incomplete pass play.

He said “I didn’t want to see us fumble the football or do something potentially devastating, like Buffalo when we fumbled the ball.” Philbin was referring to the game last October where Ryan Tannehill fumbled on a sack at the Miami 44 with the Dolphins preserving a lead and 2:48 left. The Bills recovered the fumble, then later kicked a field goal to win the game.

"That was second-and-8," Philbin said of that Bills' game. "So yeah, I was the one who told Bill (Lazor) to run the ball on third-and-9. Absolutely, I certainly did. I got a little queasy when I saw those guys running free with the quarterback running for his life, so we punted the ball. That was that decision, but absolutely, that was totally on me.”

How often does Philbin tell Lazor what play to run? “There's some. Not a ton,” Philbin said.

### Why did defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle have Phillip Wheeler alone on coverage on tight end Andrew Quarless on Aaron Rodgers’ game winning four yard touchdown pass with three second left?

"If you know their history, their two main targets in the red zone were (Jordy) Nelson and (Randall) Cobb, almost exclusively this year," Coyle said. "They had been in that formation only twice and both times they tried to throw the ball inside to the inside receivers during the earlier part of the season. It was a difficult spot for Philip to be in and the guy made a great throw and it was a tough position for him to make the play on. It was that close, a great player made a great play. We had been in that defense a couple of times in the game. One time, we got a sack (and) one time, we had great pressure on him (Aaron Rodgers). I can question it, we all can question it, but we saw the results.”

So why not use Jelani Jenkins or Koa Misi on Quarless in that sequence?

Philbin said Misi “wasn’t ready to go at that particular point. Sometimes, linebackers cover tight ends in coverage.”

Coyle said if Misi had been available, “it might have been Jelani as opposed to Philip” in coverage.

But why Wheeler instead of Jenkins on Quarless? “That was the call,” Philbin said. “We have to do better. It was a coverage we know, coverage we practice, something we believe in. It’s easy to say that play cost us the game. There were a lot of plays prior to that one that could have changed the outcome of the game.”

Wheeler said he didn’t practice that all week, and Philbin said he didn’t know what Wheeler meant by that and didn’t know if that’s true.

“I can’t say we ran that play in practice, but our linebackers cover tight ends in practice a lot,” he said.

Coyle confirmed Wheeler’s account. “He didn’t practice it because they hadn’t run it,” Coyle said. “You don’t start creating plays you don’t anticipate happening. Has he been in that situation in some other point in time in camp or one on one drills? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he was working on that play during the course of the week. You only have so many snaps in a week to practice. You don’t start inventing things that aren't out there.”

### What did Coyle think about Wheeler criticizing the coaching? (Wheeler blamed 50 percent of the result of the play on his coverage, 50 percent on the defensive call.)

Coyle didn’t directly answer. “I wish we were successful on the call," Coyle said. Obviously, we weren’t. I think you always kind of, after a game like that, there are a number of different calls throughout the game that you might say, ‘Geez, I wish we would have done this, I wish we would have done that.’"

### Should Wheeler have instead lined up in Quarless' face on that play?

“There was space," Coyle said. "When you line up real tight, they’re going to throw the ball, a real fade over the top of you and that’s not a position that linebackers and sometimes even safeties are as accustomed to being up there in tight press. His alignment was OK. You’ve just got to be careful of a cardinal rule for everybody in coverage is never get pushed into the end zone, make the receiver have to run around you once you get down around the goal line. Again, he ran a difficult route, not so much a back-shoulder, but almost like a fade stop. If you look at it, he’s throwing the ball before the guy has even stopped. If you go back and watch the tape, you’ll see that, the guy stops and the ball is on him and Philip is trying to get a hand in there.”

### Why call a timeout before Green Bay’s winning touchdown?

"It certainly didn’t turn out to be the right decision, but it’s something I’ve done in the past and obviously will continue to think about doing in the future," Philbin said. "I’m most concerned about our team and what our team does, if our team knows the call and maybe we can communicate one or two little things that could help them do their job. I think it’s well worth it. That was the rationale behind it. I don’t want to sit here and say that was a great decision by Joe Philbin. I’m not sitting here saying that, but I get paid to make decisions. That’s what I did at that time, and that’s the logic I had behind it.”

Coyle said the timeouts “were good decisions because it gave us a chance to anticipate formations. It also gave our rush guys a chance to catch a  little bit of a blow, to be able to crank it up full speed, to make sure that everybody was on the same page. Sometimes, in the chaos of an on the ball drive at the end of a game, you’re worried about the communication and things like that, so you take the time to ensure that everybody is on the same page and we could get things communicated well.”

### Were the Dolphins prepared for Rodgers’ fake spike that resulted in a 12-yard completion with six seconds left?

“We cover that in training camp and practice,” Philbin said. “We’re not in control of play calls for them. It’s something we expose our players to.”

Coyle said: "The fake spike, everybody is making a big deal about the fake spike, but the fake spike, if it had been the touchdown, I think would have been a bigger issue. The fake spike, we’ve got to tackle the guy, get him on the ground and the game is over, they don’t get another play. So it wasn’t so much that the fake spike cost us the game."

But was Finnegan supposed to be that far off on Davante Adams on that play? “I don’t remember how deep he was but he could have been a little closer,” Philbin said, adding that Dolphins’ defensive backs were sometimes “a little too deep.”

Overall, Philbin took some accountability: “I have to do a better job, first and foremost. I’m the head coach.  We need to do better.”

On other issues:

### Philbin bemoaned that “the running game was inconsistent. Until Ryan had that 40 yard run, we didn’t run the ball well.”

The Dolphins had 10 yards on 10 carries in the first half against the NFL’s most porous run defense and finished with 112 yards on 23 carries.

### Philbin said the Dolphins’ slow starts cannot continue. Miami has been outscored 60-40 in the first half. “We had 90 yards of offense in the first half," Philbin said. "I have to get us off to a better start offensively. I have to get concepts players know in the passing game. We have to start better.”

### Of the Dolphins players making their season debut, Philbin said Reshad Jones “for the first time back did a good job” and Mike Pouncey, playing his first NFL game at guard “did well. He had some good finishing blocks.” Will the Dolphins continue with Pouncey at guard? “Our starters are our starters,” he said.

Lazor, on Pouncey: “The guy is a great athlete who also has power. He can probably do whatever he wants to do up front. It’s only going to get better.”

### Asked what he second-guessed, Lazor regretted that Miami didn’t score a touchdown after blocking a Green Bay punt. Knowshon Moreno lost two yards on a fourth and goal run.

"When we got the ball on the five, we had better plays than the one I called the first time,” Lazor said.

Though Fox’s John Lynch said Tannehill should have audibled out of that play, Lazor said he disagreed with that.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


Contract issues raising stakes for several Dolphins; Fins, Heat, UM chatter; Loria's thoughts


A six-pack of Dolphins notes:

### It’s a taboo topic in the locker-room, but as you watch this team Sunday and beyond, keep a few financial realities in mind, because the Dolphins certainly will be.

It’s unclear yet if the franchise’s prolonged run of mediocrity is over, but the years of enormous cap space certainly are.

Even with Ryan Tannehill earning low salaries (by quarterback standards) through 2015, the Dolphins’ 2015 cap commitments are already $144 million, with the cap projected to fall around $145 million. They can carry over $13.9 million in unused space, but a lot of that cash will be needed simply to sign a 2015 draft class and potentially re-sign free agents Charles Clay, Jared Odrick and Knowshon Moreno.

So why is that relevant now? Because it puts even more pressure on more than a half dozen players, in particular, to outperform their contracts this season. Several figure to be cut or asked to take pay cuts.

With Dawn Aponte's help, general manager Dennis Hickey structured contracts of his free-agent signings in a way that would easily allow the Dolphins to part ways with any of them without onerous cap hits.

So keep a close eye on Cortland Finnegan (who has $6.5 million hit if he’s on the team in 2015, $1 million if he’s not), Randy Starks ($6 million to $1 million), Earl Mitchell ($4.5 million to nothing) and Shelley Smith ($3 million to $250,000).

Among Jeff Ireland pickups, keep an eye on Brandon Gibson, whose 2015 hit is $4.3 million if he’s on the team, $1 million if he’s not. (Gibson is doubtful for Sunday with a hamstring injury.) With Jarvis Landry’s development, it’s difficult to see Gibson here long-term. And Finnegan, Smith and Starks would need to play extremely well to be retained on their current deals.

Meanwhile, linebacker Jelani Jenkins’ development means we might have seen the last of injured Dannell Ellerbe, who has a $9.8 million hit if he’s on the team next season, $4.2 million if cut.

Also, safety Reshad Jones needs to play well over the next 12 games. He has a $7.8 million hit if he’s on the team next season, $3 million otherwise. (His not-on-the-team cap hit scenario has plunged next season because of his four-game suspension.) And linebacker Koa Misi ($4.4 million if here, $1.7 million if not) must stay healthy.

Conversely, Dion Jordan is one of three prominent veterans (Branden Albert, Brent Grimes the others) who have a bigger cap hit if they’re cut or traded than if they’re here. For Jordan, it’s $5.6 million if he’s here next season, $6.8 million if he’s not.

Meanwhile, linebacker Philip Wheeler $4.4 million cap number in 2015 shrinks by only $200,000 if he’s cut, which could buy him another year here. Mike Wallace should be here next season and likely will be, with a $12.1 million hit if he’s here, $9.6 million if he’s not.

### The Dolphins haven’t been able to click on any quintessential deep balls yet, but they hope they’ve struck gold with one of the shortest patterns possible: screens to receivers in a formation with three receivers or tight ends bunched to one side. That carved up Oakland, and Wallace said that could become a real staple.

“Those routes have to be the toughest [to defend],” said Wallace, who is showing his physicality more after adding eight pounds of muscle this offseason.

In Pittsburgh, “we ran every route off bunch with [then-coordinator] Bruce Arians. Every single week, [opposing players] would tell us after the game, ‘I hate the way you run offense with the bunch.’

“It’s tough to stop, especially when you have multiple routes off of it because it gives you so much more room on the field. We run every route out of it.

“It’s hard for [defensive backs] to judge it. They want to break on a route but they don’t trust it enough, because if we break it and go up the field, it’s over. That’s how it is here, too. If you execute those routes every time, it’s a nightmare to stop.”

### Brian Hartline, who had 76 catches for 1016 yards last season, is on pace for 64 and 644 but he’s not complaining:

“As long as we’re winning, I don’t care how it goes [with targets]. But if we’re not, anybody would say, ‘I want to help more so I want more targets.’”

He would love this season to become the first Dolphin players ever with three consecutive 1000 yard receiving seasons, but if he doesn’t, “I would just start over and do it again.”

### Though rookie Chris McCain had a sack in the opener, he has played only two defensive snaps since (he missed the Oakland game with a death in the family), and the Dolphins seem to be making it more difficult for him by splitting his time between defensive end and linebacker (his college position).

“McCain has got a lot to learn in terms of the coverage aspect of the pro game,” Joe Philbin said. “He’s one of those hybrid guys getting reps at dual positions.”

They’ve taken the opposite approach with the suspended Jordan, whom they had focus on defensive end even though a lot of smart football people believe he should be a linebacker….

Anthony Johnson, the promising undrafted defensive tackle from LSU, said he has been getting a lot of suspended Derrick Shelby’s practice snaps at tackle. McCain or Terrence Fede could pick up Shelby’s snaps at defensive end.

### Teammates have seen a change in Reshad Jones since his return. “He look hungrier,” Michael Thomas said. “Being away from football gives you a different perspective.”

### A bunch of Dolphins in recent years have played better before or after leaving here, but it’s puzzling with kicker Dan Carpenter, who is 6 for 9 on 50-plus yard field goals for Bills (including a game-winning 58-yarder last week) after making 5 of 10 for those in Miami. From 40 to 49, he’s 12 of 13 for the Bills but was 47 of 62 for Miami.

Caleb Sturgis? He’s 9 for 12 from 40 to 49 and 4 for 8 from 50-plus in his 20-game career. Carpenter has been the better kicker since the Dolphins opted to keep Sturgis instead.


### The postseason success of small market Kansas City (19th in payroll at $92 million) --- combined with Baltimore beating out three AL East teams with much higher payrolls --– should give the Marlins additional reason for optimism that they can contend next season, provided they make the right moves to augment a promising roster and provided that Jose Fernandez regains something close to his old form when he returns.

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval --- who the Marlins like --- appears to have priced himself out of their pay range, but Rockies first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer remains among several realistic potential targets.

Players said owner Jeffrey Loria’s end-of season speech was well-received. “He spoke about how we played, was proud we kept battling even when we were down in games,” Jeff Baker said.

Loria, expected to authorize a payroll hike from $49 million to more than $60 million, is bullish on the franchise’s future and shared some of his thoughts via e-mail. It’s clear the front office dynamics are better than at times in the past.

“We feel extremely optimistic about the future and confident this team is beginning to hit its stride,” Loria said. “This was a great year in many ways, in that our front office has gelled and really worked well together.

“My trust in, and relationship with, our new President Mike Hill, General Manager Dan Jennings and their teams is fantastic. Our coaching staff did a masterful job, and Mike Redmond is deservedly getting credit for continually motivating this team even though Jose was lost for the year and Giancarlo was injured in September.

“I really believe we’d be competing deep into the playoffs as we speak had they not suffered those unfortunate injuries. That said, the future is bright.  As I’ve been saying for two years, we had to move in a different direction and build this team for long-term success.”

Asked if another hitter is needed (his front office feels that way), he said: “I think our roster is really solid as it stands, although you always want to complement what you have and add quality players in the offseason.  Mike and DJ have some ideas and I will let them work through our needs this winter before they present them to me.”

On an impending multiyear offer to Giancarlo Stanton, Loria said: “I believe Giancarlo has felt a major turnaround this year, not only in terms of our win-loss column, but also the spirit of camaraderie, major consistency and passion for baseball in Miami. We all said we’d put the focus on winning during the season and agreed to speak as soon as it was over.  We’ll be sitting down with his representatives shortly.”

Look for the Marlins’ offer for Stanton to be five or six years. Also, the Marlins are expected to seek a reasonably-priced veteran starting pitcher, either via trade or free agency.

Loria might need to spend $5 million to $8 million or so more than planned if the free agent market explodes. But he did authorize extra money last February for Baker and Carlos Marmol.

And Loria, in retrospect, made the correct move by authorizing the 2012 Toronto trade, which rid the Marlins of the onerous contracts of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and perpetually-injured Josh Johnson and ended up delivering a long-term starting shortstop (Adeiny Hechavarria), a frontline starter who’s better, younger and a lot cheaper than Buehrle (Henderson Alvarez), skilled young arms in Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani and an outfielder (Jake Marisnick) who was dealt to Houston this past summer in a package for pitcher Jarred Cosart in what so far has proved to be an excellent trade.

It feels like the franchise is going in the right direction and that can only help in the pursuit of free agents. But the right moves must be made this winter.


### A few thoughts from Cleveland's 122-119 overtime win over the Heat in Brazil: Yes, it's preseason. But it has to be discouraging to see how the Cavaliers, playing without Kyrie Irving, handled the Heat --- building an 18-point lead early in the third quarter --- even without much offense from LeBron James (seven points, 2 for 8 shooting). The final score was deceptive; Heat reserves --- most of whom either won't play much or even be on the team --- helped close the deficit late and send the game to overtime....

Kevin Love (25), Anderson Varajao (14), Tristan Thompson (18) and Dion Waiters (16) did much of the damage for Cleveland... Varajao had his way in the post, launching hook shots over Chris Bosh without resistance. Rebounding and interior defense remain big concerns for Miami. The Heat hopes Josh McRoberts' return from toe surgery will help matters; he expects to be back for Miami's Oct. 29 opener....

Norris Cole (two assists, three turnovers, 2 for 6 shooting) has done little to seize the starting point guard job afforded him the past two games.... James Ennis, who didn't play in the first half, continues to make a convincing case to be part of the rotation. He had 17 points in 21 minutes and helped ignite an 11-0 second-half run... Mario Chalmers left in the second half with a hip pointer and Shabazz Napier (16 points, 7 assists, no turnovers) had some good moments in the fourth quarter and overtime.... Danny Granger (1 for 5) needs to start hitting shots for this bench to be decent. 

### Dwyane Wade told Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick recently that last season wasn’t fun, and Chris Bosh told me that now that the championship-or-utter-failure expectations are gone, “we’ll be able to enjoy it a little more. Like any team we will have good days or bad days.

“But not having to hear people heckle you saying, ‘You’re not going to win it this year,’ and you’re like, ‘Yes we are, we’ve got to win it this year!’ It was stressful. It was exhausting but it’s what we all asked for. [But] not having it is nice.” Those feelings will evaporate, naturally, if this team struggles early.

### Please see the last post for UM-Cincinnati postscripts, thoughts and reaction from Saturday afternoon. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz).

Postscripts, thoughts, reaction from UM's 55-34 win against Cincinnati

This was a day to appreciate Duke Johnson’s greatness, Joseph Yearby’s immense potential, Brad Kaaya’s deft touch, Philip Dorsett’s blazing speed.

UM carved up a porous Cincinnati defense that entered ranked 126th in yards allowed per game (562), 121st against the pass and 123rd against the run.

The Hurricanes closed with 621 total yards, its sixth-most all-time and 68 short of the school record: 689 vs. UCLA in 1998 (Edgerrin James was remarkable in that one). 

According to AP, Miami’s 55 points were its most against an FBS team since scoring 56 against Virginia Tech in 2002. UM averaged 9.6 yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton did it in 2002.

Johnson finished with a ridiculous 16.2 per carry average, a figure boosted by his 80-yard TD scamper on UM’s second possession. His 162 yards (on 10 carries) moved him into fourth place on UM’s all-time rushing list, behind only Ottis Anderson, James and James Jackson.

Johnson also moved into first place all time in all-purpose yards at UM, surpassing Santana Moss and Anderson. They are the only three players in school history to reach 4000 all-purpose yards.

Kaaya continued his splendid freshman season, closing 17 for 24 for 286 yards, three touchdowns passing and one rushing before being relieved by Jake Heaps and later, Ryan Williams.

Dorsett entered leading the nation in yards per catch (31.3), and that number rose to 34.4 on Saturday, with the speedy senior receiver snagging three catches for 143 yards, including TD receptions of 28 and 79 yards.

Yearby unleashed a 61-yard run (to Cincinnati’s five) to close with 113 yards on eight carries (14.1 per attempt). Throw in 85 yards on 11 carries from Gus Edwards, and UM finished with 335 yards rushing on 35 attempts.

Even if Johnson turns pro after this season, as many expect, the future of UM’s offense looks promising, with Kaaya, Yearby and a collection of very good receivers (only Dorsett graduates after this season, presuming Rashawn Scott redshirts).

### Al Golden's take on WQAM: "It got a little sloppy at the end. That's on me, though. The offense did a really good job... We were explosive, had a lot of guys touch the ball... Brad is using his feet well, going through his progressions, which is why so many guys are touching the ball... Guys made some catches. I'm very proud of Herb Waters.... The defense played really well in the first half.... We built a 21-point lead in the third quarter and didn't want to give them a quick one.... The [running backs] are trusting their tracks. Joe Yearby has really matured as the season has gone on. We came out of here healthy."

### UM’s receiving numbers: Dorsett 3 for 143; Clive Walford 4 for 40; Herb Waters 2 for 44; Stacy Coley 2 for 19; Braxton Berrios 1 for 18; Malcolm Lewis 1 for 6; and Duke Johnson 4 for 12.

### From the always amusing "something-has-got-to-give" department: Cincinnati entered worst in the country in third down defense, allowing conversions 55.2 percent of the time. UM entered worst in third-down conversions offensively, converting 23.8 percent of them.

The Hurricanes converted only 3 of 10 on third down on Saturday. But in the first half, Kaaya completed five of five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown on third down. (Not all of them went for first downs, obviously.)

### Expectations have been reduced to the point where simply gaining bowl eligibility becomes a factor.

By moving to 4-3, UM needs to win only two of its final five to qualify for a bowl (which, on its own, wouldn’t placate a single fan --- nor should it).

UM will be favored at home against North Carolina and Pittsburgh and also might be favored at Virginia, which looms as a dangerous game considering the Hurricanes’ difficulties in that matchup in recent years. UM will be an underdog at Virginia Tech (its next game, on Oct. 23) and home against FSU Nov. 15.

### Cincinnati closed with 422 yards but needed 89 plays to do it. But UM had three sacks, three interceptions (by Ladarius Gunter, Tyriq McCord and Raphael Kirby) and limited the Bearcats to 2.3 yards per rush. McCord's 46-yard interception return, off a carom, should end up on SportsCenter.

UM was at its best when Mark D’Onofrio played an attacking style. Conversely, Cincinnati’s first touchdown pass (an 11-yarder to Shaq Washington) happened when UM rushed only three and Gunner Kiel had enough time to cook salmon.

### Negatives? Way too many penalties (13 for 155), though some were questionable. FYI: UM’s record for penalties is 18. "You can't have that and think you're doing to win," Golden said…  UM’s safeties continue to disappoint in pass coverage. Dallas Crawford and Jamal Carter had a communication breakdown on a 45-yard TD pass to Max Morrison.

Trayone Gray had a fumble returned for a touchdown…. Why was defensive end Trent Harris in coverage in the end zone on a ball that was caught out of bounds?

### Good to see several of UM's defensive additions get work, including Chad Thomas, three defensive tackles (yes, Michael Wyche among them), Trent Harris, Darrion Owens and Anthony Moten. 

### Dorsett, asked afterward about the "fire-Al Golden" banner that flew overhead before the game: "I knew it wasn't going to be a distraction for us. We didn't really care. We just came out, tried our hardest. This team doesn't care what anybody says. We care about our team. We're going to come out and play our game.These losses have brought us together as a team, more than it has in the past. We're going to be
all right."

### Golden said afterward that even if he had not played senior Ryan Williams, he would not have been able to redshirt and return next season.


Remember, today’s UM-Cleveland game at 5 p.m. in Brazil will be on ESPNews. And as it does occasionally with international events, ESPN says it will have its announcers (Mark Kestecher, Jon Barry) call the game from its Bristol, Conn. studios. Brian Windhorst will provide on-site reports.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 


UM trustees discuss Golden, staff and the future; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter


As the UM administration stands publicly behind coach Al Golden and his staff, frustration and calls for change grow, behind the scenes, among some Board of Trustee members and donors, some of whom have started to express those views to high-ranking UM officials.

Some feedback from four prominent trustees, who asked that their names not be used:

### All four said Golden is expected to keep his job beyond this season.

Among the reasons: He’s signed through Feb. 1, 2020, and a multi-million dollar buyout would be a major obstacle; athletic director Blake James believes in Golden; there’s a sense of loyalty to Golden for steering UM through the NCAA investigation; and there’s a strong belief that president Donna Shalala would not fire her most visible coach before her May retirement.

“She doesn’t want to leave on a sour note like that,” one of the trustees said. “She’s not going to fire the coach and walk away,” another said. “She’s not going to leave that financial burden on a new president,” another said.

### How much anger is percolating among trustees and donors? “Everybody is very, very upset,” said one trustee. “We would like to see changes.”

Another respected trustee, who advocates defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s dismissal, said: “There’s a lot of frustration [among trustees]. And it’s not just with D’Onofrio. There’s also criticism of the defensive backs coach [Paul Williams]. And the criticism is starting to lap over to Golden.”

One trustee said “the donors are unhappy. They’re making noise and the pressure is starting to build on [athletic director] Blake James” to force Golden to make staff changes.

One trustee said he could not envision D’Onofrio being replaced during the season and said James has given no indication whether he would ask Golden to make staff changes after the season. One associate of Golden said that even though they are friends, people should not automatically conclude that Golden would not part ways with D’Onofrio if the problems worsen or persist.

### Could donor and booster pressure force the administration to fire coaches? Two of the trustees said they doubt it.

“One or two donors don’t make a difference, but when you have a lot of them, it’s a problem,” the trustee said, adding he has no indication that it has reached a point of many donors withholding contributions.

### Among the criticisms raised by one trustee: “You expect to see halftime adjustments and the coaches don’t make them. And you don’t see enough development and improvement from enough of our players.”

### Golden still has some trustee supporters.

“The reality is he got handed a bad deal,” said one influential trustee. “I wish people would settle down. He stayed here when he found out we were being investigated. Every coach was recruiting against him during the investigation, and as a result, we don’t have the caliber players we used to. You have to give him a couple more years to fill holes created during probation.”

If a change is eventually made, one trustee said do not look for Butch Davis to get the job. (Former UM player Joaquin Gonzalez said Davis, now with ESPN2, “would take the job in a heartbeat.”)

The trustee said Davis not only angered people with the way he left UM for the Cleveland Browns, but there are serious concerns about his departure from North Carolina under the cloud of an academic misconduct scandal. (Davis wasn’t implicated by the NCAA.)


### Knowshon Moreno said today that trying to carry the ball with a brace on his dislocated elbow "hasn't worked that well," but he wouldn't rule out playing Sunday.

### A Dolphins player said Mike Pouncey again lined up as the first-team right guard for much of practice, with Samson Satele at center. That would be the best way to get Miami's five best linemen on the field, but Satele was still limited somewhat by a fibula injury, which makes the decision more complicated. And Joe Phibin said no final decision has been made about whether Pouncey will play guard or center.

### One criticism from some players (but not Cam Wake) about Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is that he occasionally puts Wake in pass coverage.

So how has Wake done in coverage? Since Coyle became coordinator in 2012, Wake has been targeted 11 times in pass coverage, with seven of those completed for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Wake said he doesn’t mind: “I love it. I’m elite at everything I do. Nothing is a challenge to me.”

How disciplined is Wake? He said he ate one pastry in Paris this offseason – the first non-fruit dessert he consumed in many years.

### Defensive end Dion Jordan, who had been receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem in California, has returned to South Florida and is doing well and in good spirits, a teammate said. He will return from suspension on Oct. 20.

### Whereas the Vikings are paying Adrian Peterson (facing felony child abuse charges) while on suspension, the Dolphins aren’t paying Derrick Shelby, who was charged with resisting arrest (a misdemeanor), while he serves his team-imposed suspension, a decision which seems rather punitive and arbitrary considering the case hasn't been adjudicated.

One teammate questioned that, adding it’s easy to banish a role player and that the team needs a set policy on arrests to remove any perception about key players being treated differently from others. Joe Philbin said the Dolphins have no arrest policy and that he instead prefers to take it case by case.

### Add Adam LaRoche to the handful of first basemen of interest to the Marlins in free agency. He hit .259 with 26 homers and 92 RBI for Washington. The Nationals are expected to decline a $15 million mutual option.

### Udonis Haslem said Erik Spoelstra hasn’t made any significant changes in the Heat’s defensive approach (gambling, at times, is still permitted) but has made changes offensively.

“There will be a lot more ball movement,” Haslem said. “Everyone can take a page from the Spurs’ playbook. That’s the way we want to play – quick ball movement. But we won’t mention the Spurs. [Coaches] have not and I won’t either.”

### If you didn't hear, former Heat forward Michael Beasley left Memphis Grizzlies camp to sign a lucrative deal in China. He can return to the NBA when his season ends in March.

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz