BY BARRY JACKSON
For some national perspective on the Dolphins, we solicited views of prominent network analysts. Here’s some of the feedback:
### CBS’ Phil Simms would be surprised if the Dolphins win 10 games and contend for a wild card “because of what they’re up against in their division. But Miami can still be 9-7 and have a hell of a year.”
Simms was irritated when ESPN (Herm Edwards) ranked the Dolphins’ quarterback situation as the NFL’s worst. “What – are you crazy?” Simms said, rattling off the 49ers, Seahawks, and Redskins among those worse. Arizona’s “Kevin Kolb has the publicity, but Chad Henne is every bit as skilled or more skilled than a lot of guys. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Henne this preseason. There are some physical things he looks like he’s doing better. He’s big, strong, has a powerful arm. With some other starting quarterbacks, I can’t say that.” And Simms predicts Mike Pouncey will be as good as his brother, Steelers center Maurkice.
### NBC’s Cris Collinsworth: “They have more big play strike-ability with changes in their [offensive philosophy] and adding Reggie Bush, and they are making progress in the place they need to make it most, which is throwing. I’ve seen days Henne is 12th to 15th among quarterbacks, and other days he’s 20 to 25. But the biggest question is can Bush hold up.” Collinsworth isn’t convinced.
He said Saints coach “Sean Payton and Al Michaels and I had a long conversation and Payton didn’t feel it was right for Reggie to be that 20 carry-a-game kind of guy… that he left New Orleans” saying “he wanted to be.” Payton “felt he was much better served” in a specialized role.
Added Collinsworth: “I don’t know where their running game is. Marc Colombo gave up a lot of sacks last year… I would be shocked if Miami won the division.”
### NFL Network’s Joe Theismann predicts “Henne will do well in this offense. You will get to see how good a thrower he is, and he will get in rhythm more.”
But Theismann said Miami’s running game isn’t good enough. “Sparano has got to look at [it] and say, ‘I’m beating my head against the wall. Let’s throw the ball 40 times.’ Running is not Bush’s talent. He’s a specialist. If I were on defense, I would take him out of your attack by blitzing and making him become a pass blocker.”
Theismann’s other complaint: “They didn’t spend on guys who are impact players” – such as DeAngelo Williams: “You sign Jason Taylor, Marc Colombo. I don’t understand it. Their best years are way behind them. The front office needs to do a much better job finding young players.”
### CBS’ Dan Dierdorf: In recent years, “Miami put the C in conservative.” Dierdorf knows Sparano has changed his philosophy. But “can they be more explosive? That remains to be seen. There is a lot to like defensively. But I’m going to have a see a regression by the Jets or Patriots to say Miami has a chance at a wildcard.”
### ESPN’s Jon Gruden seems skeptical: “I’m surprised they didn’t bring in a proven NFL backup, given Chad Henne has been inconsistent.”… ESPN’s Ron Jaworski is more optimistic: “They’ve got a wealth of talent on that front seven.”… Fox’s Jimmy Johnson: “The Dolphins will be better. But because of the division they’re in, it will be tough to make a wildcard.”… ESPN’s Tom Jackson: “To project them to second in the division, I just don’t see it happening. Sparano has to be more imaginative” offensively.
### The weakened position that UM finds itself in at cornerback stems not only from graduation and early NFL departures (Brandon Harris) but poor recruiting decisions by the former staff. A St. Thomas Aquinas coach said UM erred by recruiting 5-10 Keion Payne (whom UM doesn’t believe is ready to help) instead of current UF sophomore starter Cody Riggs (UM’s former staff didn’t offer him because it considered him too small at 5-9). Randy Shannon didn’t want smallish corners, even those who could play.
This current staff hasn’t deemed Lee Chambers or freshman Thomas Finnie (who was targeted when he entered the game) any better starting options than Michael Williams or Brandon McGee, who was beaten deep late. And freshman Dallas Crawford isn’t considered ready.
Of his cornerback play against Maryland, Al Golden said Tuesday, “Too many quick screens. We didn’t tackle well or defeat blocks well — Brandon, Mike, Lee Chambers. We can do a better job there. Other than the deep one Brandon gave up, our coverage was OK. As a unit, we just gave up too many yards.”
JoJo Nicolas will return to corner in the fifth game, when safety RayRay Armstrong returns from suspension.
### Among the eight freshmen who played more than a couple snaps, Golden singled out Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo, who “showed the moment wasn’t too big” and later praised Phillip Dorsett, as well. Gionni Paul looked confused on one sequence when he allowed a big play by a Maryland tight end.
### UM entered the season wanting to incorporate the tight ends more in the passing game, but we didn’t see it. They combined for just 10 yards on three catches.
### One reason UM was surprised by the 10 penalties is players who committed them in practice were either scolded or in some cases, ordered to run sprints. But that didn’t eliminate the problem, which left Golden exasperated.
### UM eventually adjusted to the quick passes to receivers who were stacked closely together by sending a linebacker over to help, as WQAM's Joaquin Gonzalez alertly noted. But that opened the middle of the field to tight ends.
That’s one area where playmaker Sean Spence was badly missed; among the starting linebackers, only Ramon Buchanan – whom the coaches were raving about - made a lot of plays. Jimmy Gaines had a few but struggled at times. Jordan Futch, filling in for Spence, wasn't a factor, with one solo tackle.
### Offensive line coach Art Kehoe gave his unit a B in an interview with colleague Armando Salguero on WFTL-640, but Golden said the performance was “not up to our standards.”
### Henne was very happy Miami signed Dante Rosario, which gives the Dolphins two tight ends with receiving skills. “We need it,” Henne said. “It really opens up the defense to have threats inside and outside.”
### The Dolphins’ depth chart released Tuesday lists Brian Hartline as the starting receiver opposite Marshall (with Davone Bess on the second team), Rosario as the No. 2 tight end, and Chris Clemons as the first-team free safety. But Reshad Jones has been with the first team this week because of Clemons’ leg injury.... The Patriots claimed A.J. Edds off waivers from the Dolphins.
### Marlins manager Jack McKeon said even though Leo Nunez remains the closer, “you like to test somebody else in the role” – such as Steve Cishek (who did it last week) and Edward Mujica - because “I’m looking out for the organization’s future. Will Nunez be back? Who knows? Cishek can be a closer in time, not necessarily now.” With Nunez likely to make $6 million or more in arbitration, the Marlins will at least consider other options.
But even if the Marlins trade Nunez this winter, it’s doubtful they would pursue a top free agent closer such as Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell because they need to spend their money elsewhere.
### Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison, perceived to be in the doghouse during his banishment to Triple A last month, was approached last week by owner Jeffrey Loria, who told Morrison “he’s in my corner and he believes in me.”