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26 posts from March 2012

March 29, 2012

Saturday update: Good news for UM; another Dolphins visitor signs elsewhere

FYI: If you are clicking on this link through the Dolphins page, please see our most recent post (to the left of this), on ex-Canes wondering why the Dolphins don't draft more of them.

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Saturday update on three items of note:

### The UM basketball program received good news Saturday morning when Kenny Kadji announced he will return for his senior season. There had been some concern internally that he might turn pro.

"Since everybody keeps asking me, I am going back to school for my senior year," Kadji tweeted.

He averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds last season and led UM with 51 blocks. Reggie Johnson hasn't announced if he's coming back for his senior year. If Johnson leaves, Kadji and Julian Gamble (who missed this season with an injury) would be the team's most experienced power rotation players.

### Linebacker Philip Wheeler, who visited with the Dolphins last weekend, agreed to a one-year deal with Oakland on Friday night. Wheeler tweeted Thursday that he had a tough choice to make between the Dolphins and Raiders, then tweeted later that ''Raider Nation'' showed him "love."

If Wheeler had signed with Miami, he would have had a decent chance to beat out Koa Misi. Instead, the Dolphins will look for linebacker depth during the second wave of free agency, or during the draft.

Wheeler was the second starting defensive player who signed elsewhere after visiting the Dolphins. Linebacker/defensive end Mark Anderson signed with Buffalo for far more money than Miami was willing to offer.

### Here's the latest on Misi, who was arrested by the Broward Sheriff's Office on a battery charge on Friday morning. A warrant had been issued in Santa Barbara for an incident that occurred in April 15, 2011, at 2:35 a.m.

According to the police report, witnesses say several people on a balcony got into an argument with a group of people walking by on the street below. One of those individuals allegedly ran to the apartment's entrance and attempted to break through the front door.

Witnesses say a 19-year-old male resident was sleeping on the couch when Misi gained access to the apartment by punching a hole through the wooden front door. The man stood up and was allegedly punched in the eye. Misi left the apartment shortly after that but was followed by three adult females who demanded that he pay for the damage to the apartment. According to the police report, one of the women said when she told Misi she was calling law enforcement, Misi grabbed the cell phone and threw it on the ground.

Sheriff deputies arrived moments later. Misi was cooperative and agreed to pay for the damage. The male did not request to file charges until the next day.

Misi's attorney, Adam Braun, said the alleged vicitim initiated the conflict by shoutring verbal taunts at Misi and friends. Braun suggested Misi should be protected by a California state law that holds someone responsible for verbal statements that start a fight.

Bond was set at $10,000. Misi had 34 tackles and one sack in 12 games (nine starts) last year before a neck injury sidelined him late in the season.

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Here's the buzz column from earlier Friday:

The Dolphins do not announce the draft prospects that are summoned to team headquarters, but sources say Miami’s list of upcoming visits includes North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples (an option at pick No. 8), Mississippi offensive tackle Bobby Massie (ESPN’s Todd McShay has Miami picking him at No. 41) and West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin (combined 22.5 sacks the past two years).

Among others booked for visits: Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, guards Brandon Brooks (Miami of Ohio) and Desmond Wynn (Rutgers) and Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson (a potential second-or third-rounder). The Dolphins drafted Johnson’s former defensive back teammate, Jimmy Wilson, after he visited last year.

Teams can bring no more than 30 non-local players to their facilities. Among players with local ties, Miami invited all the notable UM and FIU prospects, plus others including Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David (5.5 sacks), Wisconsin All-Big 10 cornerback Antonio Fenelus and Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley.

The Dolphins want to spend time with Coples, considered the draft’s best 4-3 end, and reconcile the widely-held perception that he didn’t always play as hard as he could last year.

Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, also in the mix at No. 8, had dinner with Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin on Wednesday, then had an impressive throwing session in front of 21 teams (including Miami) on Thursday. Linebacker Melvin Ingram, another option at No. 8, met with a Miami coach privately before South Carolina’s Pro Day.

As for Massie, he has “great upside but he's unpolished,” Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline said. Philbin wants to upgrade the offensive line. But if the Dolphins take some combination of a lineman, pass rusher and Tannehill with their first two picks, they would urgently need to address receiver with picks No. 72 and/or 73.

Sometimes, teams book visits with players that are very talented but have had off-field issues. For example, Montana's Johnson -- who has very good top-end speed -- pleaded not guilty last year to obstructing an officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Irvin, who ran an impressive 4.5 in the 40, was charged last month with destruction of property after breaking a sign at a sandwich shop. But Irvin overcame a tough background to thrive at West Virginia. He dropped out of high school, earned a GED and has impressed teams in interviews. 

CHATTER

### The Dolphins have several players entering the last year of their contracts, and doing extensions with Jake Long and Cameron Wake is the team's priority, according to a club source. Talks with Wake have not started, but are expected to begin soon. Long is due to earn $11.2 million next season. Wake is a bargain at $565,000 but would make significantly more in a new deal.

Though Long and Wake are the priorities, the Dolphins also would like to extend the contracts of Randy Starks and Brian Hartline, among others.

### The Dolphins are considering whether to leave Wilson at cornerback or shift him to safety, where he has some experience.

### Consultant Carl Peterson, the former Chiefs president and owner Stephen Ross’ buddy, no longer has an active role on the Dolphins’ football side after assuming a big one during the coach search. Peterson, who met with all the candidates, did a lot of background work on Philbin, calling Packers coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson and others. Peterson said this week that even though Philbin didn’t call the plays in Green Bay, “McCarthy told me that on first and second down, he asked Joe, ‘What do you think?’ Joe has a great capacity to communicate with everyone at all levels. He’s impressive.”

 ### Former Dolphins majority owner Wayne Huizenga, who owns five percent of the team and knows what it’s like to be bashed by fans, can commiserate with Ross. “I feel for Steve that it’s not going the way he wants it to go,” said Huizenga, who cracked that he came to the owners meetings for free drinks. “I don’t think Steve is doing a bad job.”

### Ross got plenty of moral support from other owners this week. The Jets’ Woody Johnson (a Dolphins fan growing up) and the Giants’ John Mara stressed how “smart” Ross is and have “no doubt” he will win. “Giants fans, in 1978, marched and burned tickets,” Mara reminded me, referencing the Dolphins’ fan protest last week. “The good thing is [Dolphins fans] are showing they care. The worst thing you can have is silence. People have to show some patience.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher was effusive about Ross this week – “very, very impressed with Steve as an owner, his enthusiasm, his passion.” But 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, asked Wednesday about his impressions of Ross after meeting with him in January 2011, said only that Ross is “professional” and had nothing more to say.

### Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was genuinely “disappointed” to lose cornerback Richard Marshall to Miami and raved about his competitiveness and versatility. “He was an outstanding player, one that we wanted back. Very good feel for the game.”

### Pat Riley told people he’s likely done tinkering with the roster. After losing out on Derek Fisher, the Heat hasn’t called about Anthony Carter or any other free agent point guards. “We’re patient with Norris Cole because we believe in him,” Erik Spoelstra said. Cole, who has played poorly since the All-Star break, looked good against Dallas on Thursday.

### UM shifted Denzel Perryman to middle linebacker but isn’t sure whether he or Jimmy Gaines will ultimately end up there… Linebacker Kelvin Cain “is finding a home” at defensive end, coach Al Golden said, and could end up playing a lot there, especially if Shayon Green doesn't prove worthy of starting opposite Anthony Chickillo

A.J. Highsmith has risen to first team at safety; Vaughn Telemaque, demoted to the second team, has been “inconsistent,” defensive backs coach Paul Williams said… UM posted a flier on a campus bulletin board, asking for walks-ons who are at least 6-1 and 230 pounds and are interested in playing on the offensive line. Some pundits, including ESPN's Woody Paige, have poked fun at that. “The hope is you find one or more that help us,” Golden said Thursday, noting other schools do the same thing. “It's an easy target, so if people want to make fun of us, that’s fine.”

March 28, 2012

Marlins ready to make moves; Shockey/Sapp feud; Fins notes

Sixteen notes, mostly from the NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach this week:

### We'll get to lots of NFL stuff shortly, but look for the Marlins to make a couple moves very shortly. We're told Miami will release Aaron Rowand. Also, Austin Kearns has made the team as a backup outfielder. Chris Coghlan is the heavy favorite for the other backup outfield job.

(5 p.m. update: Miami has cut Rowand and optioned Bryan Peterson to Triple A, meaning Kearns and Coghlan are the backup outfielders. Rowand was 6 for 47 this spring. The Marlins still must decide Donnie Murphy and Donovan Solano for a backup infield job.

### Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that Warren Sapp was "inaccurate" when he accused another former University of Miami star, Jeremy Shockey, of being the "snitch" who told the league about the Saints' bounty program. 

Shockey has vehemently denied Sapp's claim, adding that a text from Sean Peyton proved he wasn't the person who told the league. Goodell said, "We had several sources. We're not discussing who our sources are.''

Mark Quenzel, an NFL Network executive, has said Sapp will not be fired but has declined to say if he was disciplined. "Sapp has been reminded he's an analyst, not a reporter for NFL Network," Quenzel said.

Shockey can sue, but a public figure must prove "actual malice" to have a chance to win a case of this nature. Shockey is furious, and justifiably so.

"Is the league going to come down on our own people when someone does something so wrong and outrageous?" Shockey told Yahoo's Jason Cole. "There should be a standard for punishment like getting suspended or fined or losing your job. If I say something about the officials, the league fines me.''

Because Sapp works for a network owned by the league, would Goodell discipline him? "If it's something that comes to me, it's something I'll take a position on," he said. "I would say to NFL Network, you better be sure of your information before you report it.'' 

### A fan insists Dolphins owner Steve Ross told him that Brandon Marshall was traded because of the effect he had on team morale. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday that's of no concern to him. "We did our research," Smith said. "We had a quarterback that played and had success with him [Jay Cutler] and believes in him as a player and a person. We're pumped about him being on our team.''

### The Dolphins inquired, but never aggressively pursued a trade, for the No. 2 pick (likely Robert Griffin III), partly because they were under the incorrect impression that they had a pretty good chance to land Peyton Manning and partly because the price was too steep. Washington coach Mike Shanahan, whose team gave up three No. 1 picks for the No. 2 pick, spoke Wednesday about how such a move can easily be justified.

"When I think back when the Broncos got John Elway, you don't think anyone thinks back and says, 'Hey, did you overpay?' To get a guy like that doesn't happen very often. If you have an opportunity to get what you feel is a franchise quarterback, you really help your organization." (Elway, who didn't want to play for the Colts, was traded in 1984 to Denver for Mark Herrmann, Chris Hinton and a first-round pick.)

### Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt spoke of being "disappointed to lose" cornerback Richard Marshall to the Dolphins. "He was an outstanding player, one we wanted back. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that your man and what he did for us.'''

### Goodell said the league hasn't discussed going to an 18-game regular season schedule "in a while." The league first wants to see how the offseason goes with fewer practice days (or "organized team activities," as the league calls it). 

### Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who is carefully studying the draft-eligible quarterbacks, plans to attend workouts this week for Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler.

Tannehill, a possibility for the Dolphins’ pick at No. 8, will work out for interested teams on Thursday in College Station, Tex. A foot injury prevented him from throwing at last month’s NFL Combine.

“If Cleveland doesn’t take him at 4, I have to believe Miami does at 8,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “This kid has a big arm. He’s a heck of an athlete. Like Jake Locker, he’s not ready yet. He still has a lot to learn.” Tannehill, who has only 19 college starts at quarterback, threw 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season.

Osweiler, 6-7, will audition for teams on Friday in Tempe, Ariz. He threw 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that Osweiler and Arizona’s 6-5 Nick Foles – who are second-round options - “both have big arms, great size in the mold of a lot of guys that have made it. They are Joe Flacco type of quarterbacks, that kind of makeup.”

Foles, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden are among other quarterbacks on Miami’s radar.

### Carroll believes Seattle’s three-year, $19 million offer (plus incentives) for Matt Flynn – a figure the Dolphins did not match – was justified and expects him to become a good NFL starter, even though he will be asked to compete with Tarvaris Jackson. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who coached Flynn for four years, was far from convinced that Flynn would beat out Matt Moore.

Was Carroll surprised the Dolphins did not place a higher value on him? “They may have felt like they had him,” Carroll said. “But before the negotiations got going, he said he wanted to come to us. So we had a leg up.”

### Safety Yeremiah Bell, released by Miami last week, has drawn interest from Philadelphia. The Dolphins and Bell will remain in contact and neither side has ruled out a return.

### The Dolphins want to bid for the 50th Super Bowl, in 2016, but the league said Thursday it will decide which teams will be invited to bid in October, with a winner announced in May 2013. Teams that are interested will be asked to come forward this summer, with that group also expected to include New Orleans, Tampa, Dallas, perhaps Los Angeles and others. “We are working on plans to make it spectacular,” Goodell said.

Asked Wednesday if the Dolphins are unlikely to get another Super Bowl without upgrades to Sun Life Stadium, Goodell did not answer specifically. But he said, “If Miami is one of those cities bidding, we certainly will give it full consideration.” The Dolphins, for now, have put on hold any attempts to secure financing for stadium improvements.

### Asked about season-ticket sales, Dolphins owner Steve Ross said “you have to be concerned, but I think there will be a lot of interest after the draft. A lot of negative press didn’t do us any good.”

### The most notable of several rules passed Wednesday: Overtime rules in the playoffs also will be used in the regular season. The overtime will end with a touchdown or safety. But if the team that gets the ball first in overtime kicks a field goal, the other team will get a possession to tie the game (which would extend overtime further) or to win it.

Several rules suggestions will be discussed further at the May meetings, including pushing the trade deadline back from Week 6 to Week 8; increasing training camp rosters from 80 to 90; and allowing players on injured reserve to come back after eight weeks, instead of being out for the season.

### Though the Dolphins want to address receiver primarily in the draft, they have not ruled out signing a cheap veteran free agent to supplement what they acquire in the draft and what they already have on the roster.

### South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, who some draft analysts believe could slip as far as Miami's second-round range (No. 41), helped himself by running in the 4.4 tange at South Carolina's Pro Day. He also has gotten himself in better shape, which had been a concern. Jeffery and LSU's Rueben Randle could be gone by 41. That would leave Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu among the best potential receiver options at that spot.

### Goodell said the league “will proceed as quickly as possible” in deciding penalties for Saints players in the wake of the team’s bounty scandal. “I hold coaches and executives to a higher standard,” said Goodell, whose disciplinary action included, among other things, a full-season suspension for New Orleans coach Sean Peyton. “It is clear from the information, though, that players enthusiastically embraced this and pushed this. That is troubling to me. We do need players’ cooperation to eliminate this from the game.”

### If the Saints hire Bill Parcells to fill in for Peyton, they first must interview a minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule. Peyton might appeal, but it would be surprising if his suspension is shortened. During the suspension, "I don't expect [him to have] contact with the team," Goodelll said. "You're not going to be coaching from home.''

 

 

 

March 27, 2012

Philbin assesses his defense; notes on Fins, Heat, Canes and Marlins

BUZZ COLUMN

We served up Joe Philbin’s Tuesday comments about the Dolphins offense in our last post. Here are some quick hits from Philbin on the team’s defense and other topics:

 ### He threw open a starting cornerback job (Vontae Davis is a no-brainer to start at one spot) and made clear he wants more production from Miami’s top two picks in 2010: Jared Odrick and Koa Misi.

Philbin said cornerback Richard Marshall will have a shot to win a starting spot; keep in mind his overall numbers last year were better than Sean Smith’s. One advantage of having Marshall as the nickel cornerback is he's best equipped of the cornerbacks to play against the slot receiver. But if Marshall clearly outplays Smith in August, Marshall could start and shift to the slot when the Dolphins face three- and four-receiver sets, which obviously happens a lot. 

Philbin said Marshall “played the ball relatively well, is more than a willing tackler and has the physical toughness we like.''

He said the Dolphins “would love to find another guy that can add a real presence” as a pass-rusher, primarily on third down. That likely will come in the draft. But he also wants more from Odrick (22 tackles, six sacks in 2011): “Now in year three, you would like to see [him] really step up and emerge.”

The Dolphins have been looking for a veteran linebacker that can compete with Misi, with Philip Wheeler still a top target. “We would like to see Misi emerge a little more and be more productive and make more impact plays,” Philbin said. “He has played very well at the point of attack.”

Wheeler tweeted Tuesday: "I think I'm taking my talents to South Beach. Not sure yet, though." As of Tuesday afternoon, he had not agreed to terms, but that could happen at any point.

### The Dolphins continue to leave the door open for a return by Yeremiah Bell, and he’s considering it, depending partly on what offers he gets elsewhere. But Philbin likes Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver and could see them competing for two starting jobs; he said there's no great distinction between the strong and free safeties in the defense that will be utilized by coordinator Kevin Coyle.

### Philbin called on Davis and Smith “to play at a higher level on a more consistent basis, week in and week out. They’ve shown spurts where they’ve played extremely well on tape. We've got two corners from a measurables, size, speed standpoint we're really excited about.”

### Philbin appreciates that Stephen Ross is paying more than $1 million to upgrade the facility: “We have a brand new team meeting room, brand new locker room. It’s not done to make this place Club Med or the Taj Mahal. [But] it makes a difference.”

 ### When Miami’s defense uses a 4-3 – and that will vary – he’s not sure which linebacker (Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett or Misi) is best equipped for the middle…. He loves his defensive line: “Paul Soliai is a rare kind of player. I like what we’ve seen from Tony McDaniel. Love his size, very athletic. Randy Starks is strong and productive. It has a chance to be a very, very good front four.”

### Will mild-mannered Philbin yell at players? “You can’t be someone you’re not. You’re a teacher. There are two situations when you jump down a player’s neck: if they’re not giving maximum effort or keep making the same mistakes over and over. Then you have a problem. I’ve dropped an F-bomb in my day. I’m not saying I’m never going to. The loudest yeller doesn’t necessarily impress me.”

### Philbin cracked that his team will not appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks because “I’m built for radio, not TV.” He said he has zero input in how much Jeff Ireland offers players: “I wasn’t good at math.” And of his transition from Green Bay to South Florida, he said, “I’m 0-and-1. I bought a much bigger house than I needed.”

Remember, please read our previous post for a look at everything Philbin had to say about the team's offense, position by position.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins have not decided yet whether they would take Ryan Tannehill if he’s there at No. 8. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday that he’s “looking forward to [Colt McCoy] being our guy,” but they nevertheless plan to host a visit with Tannehill, which certainly leaves open the possibility that Cleveland could take him at No. 4.

“I believe at No. 4, they ought to pull the trigger on Tannehill,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “I believe Tannehill could become the answer.’’ If Cleveland takes him, it could eliminate an appealing option, but also eliminate a conundrum, for Ireland, who knows he would get a more immediate impact at that spot by picking a pass rusher (Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram) or a receiver (if Justin Blackmon surprisingly drops)… Contrary to reports, Peyton Manning did not write a letter to Ross when he ruled out Miami. But the two men exchanged e-mails.     

### The Heat’s offensive falloff has been so dramatic that Miami has gone from averaging 106 points in an 11-game stretch to 93.1 in its past 13.

Beyond the fact that Miami's shooting percentage has declined, rebounding “more than anything has brought our fast break and overall scoring numbers down,” Erik Spoelstra said. “We don’t run in those games.”

During this stretch, the Heat has been outrebounded by alarming margins: by 18 to Utah, 10 to Orlando, 16 to Chicago and Indiana, 12 to Philadelphia. Chris Bosh’s rebound average has dipped to 7.8 – lowest since his rookie year and three boards fewer than three years ago. What’s more, Udonis Haslem said teams “are sending more guys back now to defend us in transition.”

Spoelstra said he remains convinced the Heat can play its up-tempo style against good defensive teams in the playoffs, “but if the games have less possessions, we have to win those games as well. We never intended to be a wild run-and-gun show.” 

 ### Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Dallas Crawford, who switched from cornerback to running back last month, has moved to receiver, where UM expects him to do damage in the slot.... Al Golden said Asante Cleveland has been the best of the tight ends but "that group has to really keep coming." David Perry had a goal-line fumble in Saturday's scrimmage and Clive Walford isn't quite at the level the staff wants.... Receiver Kendal Thompkins has flashed in past springs, then had little opportunity when the season started. But Golden said he believes this year might be different.

### There’s no player Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wanted more after 2010 than catcher John Buck, but he needs to do more to justify his $6 million salary for 2012 and ‘13. After hitting .281 for Toronto in 2010, he plunged to .227 as a Marlin (worst among all National League catchers with at least 250 at-bats) and threw out 17 of 100 base-stealers (worst among all starting catchers).

“Maybe it was an adjustment to the league,” Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said. “The average can come up but I don’t think it necessarily needs to get to .281. He hit some big home runs. We got what we wanted in terms of leadership behind the plate.” Playing home games in air conditioning will help; Marlins catchers have talked for years about how draining it is to play here.... Outfielder Austin Kearns (.364) has essentially wrapped up a roster spot. Aaron Rowand (.133) might not last more than a few more days. The Marlins reportedly inquired about Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold, but Baltimore wasn't interested in moving him.

  

Philbin talks QB battle, needs at receiver and o-line; draft order set

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin spoke to the media at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach on Tuesday morning, and here are the highlights of what he had to say about his offense and his overall impressions of his team:

### Though many Dolphins fans are angry with some of the personnel moves – and more than two dozen of them protested outside team headquarters last week – Philbin said, “I’m excited about the reception I’ve received. It’s phenomenal. I’m glad there are fans with passion who care about the direction of this team. We understand not everyone is going to like every single decision. I love the fact they’re passionate. They didn’t throw any eggs at my car when I drove by. We’ll see how long that lasts.”

### Asked what concerns him about his team, “I’m concerned about everything. We’ve watched a lot of tape, we’ve identified areas we need to get better. I told [Steve Ross and Jeff Ireland] when I interviewed there’s a ton of focus on the quarterback position. My position, when I watched the tape, was our offensive line needs to get better if our quarterback position is going to play better. That's going to be a priority.”

### So has Miami found its five starting offensive linemen? “Not at all. Hopefully we can provide a little more competition.” (Jake Long, Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito are obviously set as starters; more on below.)

### He said the quarterback battle will be an “open competition” between Matt Moore and David Garrard. “I told David my only obligation to Matt Moore is he played well last year and he deserves an opportunity to compete for the starting position, just as David does.”

### His impressions of Moore: “I thought he managed the games relatively well. He’s not a by-the-book quarterback. He was very productive. Good arm strength. Kind of has a knack, an ability to move a team. He and I had a great conversation on the team Friday and he sounds very excited, very optimistic. He’s anxious to compete for a job.”

### His impressions of Garrard: “Had very good productivity in 2010. He throws a real catchable ball, can spin it pretty good. He moved well, threw the ball well, has good velocity on his ball. Fundamentally, has nice mechanics. I like his personality. I did some research on guys with Jacksonville – all the reports were positive about the kind of person he is. He is very comfortable throwing the ball on the move. He can be a factor in the vertical game as well. The biggest part of the visit was making sure our medical staff was comfortable where he is” after last year’s back injury." The medical staff was comfortable with it.

### Philbin wanted to make clear that the Dolphins very much pursued Matt Flynn, who got a bigger offer from Seattle. “We made an aggressive push. We got him in here relatively quickly. We had a great meeting. Matt and I had a number of conversations prior to his arrival, some subsequent ones after. The visit was excellent. He got along well with the offensive staff. It always takes two people to get a marriage.” 

### Philbin declined to say why Brandon Marshall was traded, beyond saying, “We thought it was in the best interests of the team moving forward.”

Asked if there’s a so-called No. 1 receiver in his offense, he said, “Part of the philosophy is to have balance. We want our quarterbacks to have progression reads where they’re not necessarily isolated on one specific individual. We’re going to play to our hot hand and strive to create mismatches. When we install a passing game, it isn’t necessarily built on: ‘You’re the number one guy, you’re the number two guy, you’re the number three guy.’ It’s more multiple. We can have a variety of guys lined up in that spot. It’s not necessarily that there isn’t one, but not necessarily that there is one. We’re going to expose the weaknesses of the defenses with formations.

“You want to have someone big who can attack the middle the field. I don’t envision us being locked into Davone Bess always going to play in the slot or Brian Hartline is always going to play outside. You want to create more work for the defense. How are we going to match this up? We may line up a tight end as the widest receiver. We need flexibility formation wise. I don’t want to be locked in.”

### It’s clear he expects to find at least one receiver in the draft. “You’re talking to a guy who in nine years, we never had one guy [receiver] come in as a free agent and really contribute. Let’s get guys in our culture, and have faith in our ability to teach and develop.”

 ### On his receivers: “We have to look within the roster to get more production and more development out of younger guys. It’s our job to bring these guys along.” He said Hartline “runs real well. I had a couple good meetings with him. He’s ready to step up. I’m excited about it.”

 ### In the search for receivers, he wants precise route-runners and “somebody who can separate versus man coverage. You’re looking for a guy with body control that can get in and out of breaks quickly. You would like to see how competitive a guy is running across the middle.”

### On some of the young receivers on the roster: Clyde Gates “obviously has some great speed; you’re always looking for a vertical presence in the passing game.” He said Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace “are unknown quantities. There’s not a lot of game film. We’ve watched a little of the practice tape, relying on what Jeff and his staff have seen.”

### On his running backs: On Reggie Bush – “The one thing that’s exciting to us as a staff is he has a chance to line up in a couple different positions. You can have two tight ends with Reggie in the backfield. You might be able to go empty. Have a fullback with Reggie in the game and be a three-wideout [set]. He can do some things in the passing game for you. We’re excited about the flexibility he gives the offense.”

He said “we’re excited” about Daniel Thomas: “Big guy. Looks like he’s in good shape. He was a little hampered in his development last year, had a couple of nagging injuries. Those have been rectified. He’s a big, different size players. Steve Slaton has had some very good production in the league. We felt he was a good fit schematically. We need guys with a variety of skills in their toolbox.”

### On where the team stands at tight end: “I thought Anthony Fasano played well. He caught the ball well, made some difficult catches, made catches in traffic. We like what we saw there. Charles Clay is a young, emerging guy. I don’t know if you want to call him a hybrid. He can go a couple different places for you and looks comfortable doing it.”

### On his offensive line: “We like Pouncey’s athleticism, love his competitiveness. We thought he had a very, very good rookie year. That’s a critical position. He will have a lot of responsibility with blocking schemes. Incognito did some good things.  The rest of the interior (meaning right guard) isn’t quite as settled. Jake has come by the office a number of times. All the things you hear about him are true. He’s ready to take on a more active leadership role on the ballclub.”

### Asked if he has enough information to project Lydon Murtha as his starting right tackle, Philbin said he does not. As a coach at Iowa, Philbin recruited Murtha coming out of a high school in Minnesota. “Obviously showed a lot of promise.”

### He said he is not sure if John Jerry is a guard or tackle: “We have to find a home for him. He’s got to earn a spot. The good news is he has played a couple of them. The bad news is he has not anchored down one spot.”

### Philbin said “you can’t necessarily fix everything in free agency, nor do you want to do. When you’re doing it the right way, you’re developing your own guys, re-signing your own guys.”

### Does he need to tell fans this will take a while to get the team where he wants? “To say I have a great handle on where the 2012 Dolphins are at this minute is not accurate. It would be a disservice to players saying we’re in a rebuilding mode. I’m very confident we will have a well prepared team. We will have a team that will get better during the season.”

### On Ross, overall: “First day I interviewed for the job, he and I sat together for an hour and half. I thought we had a good match and good marriage. We’re different guys. I like his frankness, his honesty; he’s up front. I told him, ‘You’ve got to have faith.’ There’s something about me that prompted him to hire me. You’ve got to have faith in the people you hire. He’s a hard worker, which is one of the reasons he appealed to me.” 

### Though Buffalo signed two terrific pass rushers (Mario Williams and Mark Anderson), Philbin said: “Our last check was our left tackle [Long] is a pretty good."

 ### On whether his offense uses a fullback: “At certain times, it may be important. There may be times we may not be in a lot of fullback [sets]. It’s game plan specific. I don’t know if it’s an absolute must. [CFL import] Jerome Messam is an interesting prospect. Real big man. We’re interested to get our hands on him and see how he picks up the pass protection.”

Check back later for more of what Philbin had to say.

ONE MORE NEWS NOTE: The NFL announced the full seven-round draft order on Tuesday, and Miami will have eight picks: at 8, 42, 72, 73, 103, 145, 196 and 215. The 73rd pick comes from Chicago - via Carolina - from the Marshall trade. The Dolphins and Saints flip-flopped sixth round pick as part of the Reggie Bush trade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

March 26, 2012

Ross defends Ireland, QB plan; here's what Ross and Jeff Ireland said Monday

Here’s what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland had to say when they met with the media Monday afternoon at the NFL owners’ meetings at The Breakers in Palm Beach:

### Ross’ opening statement: “We have all seen it in the last week or two how passionate our fans are. That’s good news and bad news. It’s great they are passionate. We have great fans in South Florida. We have one thing in common: We all want to see a winning team. I’m very excited the way things are going. We have a new coach [Joe Philbin], and he once said, ‘I thought it would be great here. It’s even better than I thought it would be.’ He’s excited about the direction he feels he can take this team. The energy he’s brought to the organization. We have the best organization the Dolphins have had in a long time."

### Ross, asked about some fans believing the organization is in disarray: “I don’t feel all the fans would feel that way. I don’t think there’s enough communication with them. We’re going to engage in that a lot more. If people look today and say you haven’t gone out and gone after major free agents we thought you might have had, we look at it as ‘we’re in the process.’ Some things go well. Some don’t go as well as you would like them to go, [with regard to] Peyton Manning.”

### Ross, on the roster: “We think we have fine nucleus. We’re excited where we’re going. Rome wasn’t built in a day. From where the team was before me, I think it’s better. You see the nucleus. They continue to fight. I don’t think anyone has ever had a turnaround that [second half] of the season with the start they had.” Miami opened 0-7 and finished 6-10. "We know where there are some weaknesses. We’re looking to correct that.”

### Ross, on Philbin: “He’s much better than I thought. The energy he has brought, the staff he has assembled, the plan he has – you are going to see a lot more energy from this organization. You are going to like the offense he has. We have the guy who put together the best offense in the NFL. You’re going to see an exciting brand of football.”

### Ross, on how concerned he is about the organization’s perception: “You always want to be concerned. You listen to it. That’s why I wanted to engage the fans. That’s why I made the phone calls. We spoke to two fans. I think it’s unfair. Winning resolves all issues. It’s not like we lost anything. We all knew where we were at the end of the season.” (Actually, the Dolphins did lose Brandon Marshall - who was traded for two third-round picks - as well as Yeremiah Bell, who was cut but might re-sign.)

### Ross, on criticism of Ireland: “I think it’s unfair. I don’t like it. I don’t think Jeff likes it. It’s unfair. It’s an unfinished product…. If you look at his past, he’s done a great job with the draft.  He’s a great talent evaluator, as hard working as anyone as I’ve ever met, as smart as they come on the football side. What are you judging him on? The team is not the same as when we arrived. It’s a lot better. We’re a lot closer. You’ve got to get breaks.... To judge [the team] at this point in time is not the right thing to do by anybody.” Ross went on to say that the team is only partly through the offseason.

### On his longterm plans at quarterback: “We’re going to keep looking to upgrade that. I’m very excited about Matt Moore. As he got more experience, the team got better. That’s a good place to start. There’s a lot of good personnel on that team.”

### Ireland, on quarterback: “I don’t have any second thoughts on addressing the quarterback position. The quarterback position needs to play better for us to have the ultimate success. We think we have addressed the quarterback position. In our estimation, there was one franchise quarterback who came available [Peyton Manning]. Other than that, a lot is to be said for Matt Moore. I have a lot of confidence in Matt Moore. If we didn’t achieve Peyton Manning, the goal was to create a competitive situation with quarterback. We weren’t going to be reckless, go after players we didn’t definitively think would beat out Matt Moore.”

### Ireland, on criticism of him: “It comes with the job. Adversity is the companion of a champion or enemy of the weak. We have some passionate fans, as passionate as any place I’ve been. We’ve got to do a better job of communicating with our fans and making sure we’re more transparent in what we accomplish.”

### So now that you’re being transparent, what is the plan? To which Ireland said, “I’m not going to get into exactly what the plans are. We are trying to attack our musts. We have done a pretty good job of retaining Paul Soliai, which was a must, keeping the inside front [largely together]. We felt upgrading the secondary was a position of need. We addressed that need. We will keep attacking our musts.”

### Ross, on why Miami didn’t pursue Tim Tebow: “He didn’t fit our system. You’re not going to bring someone in just to sell seats. We dismissed that early on.”

### Ross said the fact Miami hasn’t done extensions with any of the players entering the last year of their contract (Jake Long, Randy Starks, Reggie Bush, Brian Hartline and others) is not because of any budgetary restraints.

“Money will never be an issue. We have to live with the limitations of the cap. Sometimes you lose players. We have a lot of players expiring. We have to make sure we don’t make stupid mistakes… with big bonuses… that really impact the cap.  This is one hell of a complex business. Those players we know are coming up – we all know we want to retain them. We want to make sure we’re in position to do that.”

### Ireland, asked if he believes if he has found starters at right guard and right tackle, didn’t directly answer. “We have added depth with Artis Hicks. He has started 70 games in his career. We needed to address more depth at tackle. We have John Jerry, Nate Garner, Ryan Cook returning. We feel good at that position. We’re going to continue to address the offensive line needs. That’s one must we need to address.”

### Ross said coaching will be better under Philbin: “You will see these players developed better than they have been in the past.” He said it's "always better" to build mostly through the draft: "In evaluating him, what Green Bay has done – we should only get there. It starts this year. We want consistency there. I want to be in the playoffs every year. You are going to do that with consistency and in the draft and building smart."

### Ross, asked if the failed pursuit of Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher and Manning will affect his future plan of attack: “I will do it again and again. I’m going to be bold. You don’t lose for trying. I’m not going to be worry about losing. Nothing ventured is nothing gained.”

### Ireland, on whether the Dolphins tried to trade for the No. 2 overall pick before Washington did: “We had early conversations. I don’t want to get into depths of what we were willing to give up.”

### Ross, on whether the Dolphins miscalculated Manning’s interest level: “I met with his father [Archie] earlier in December. We spoke about it. He loves South Florida. He wanted to be in a place where he was most comfortable, and he didn’t know anybody in our house. He wanted to be in a place where he had familiar faces around him. I went after him. If I didn’t go after him, I wouldn’t be interested in wining. I want to win today, not tomorrow.”

### Ross, on owning a team: “It’s a real experience. I’ve had more owners come up to me and say I didn’t know what was going on for four or five years. It’s difficult to really win. You know what players you want. It doesn’t mean you can get them. I haven’t lost on many things. I don’t plan on losing on this.”

### Ross, on players tweeting they don’t want to play for the Dolphins: I know of one player who did that [Ryan Clark]. You are always going to find someone who will say something for one reason. People will always want to say something because they like being in the spotlight. This is probably the best place in the NFL to play football. Players will want to play for this organization. The reputation coach Philbin has. I wouldn’t go by what one or two people might say. You will see a different organization. We are going to be a lot more responsive.”

### Ross told a fan last week that Brandon Marshall was traded because of the impact he had on team morale. But Ross refused to elaborate about that, saying only, “We wish him the best. That’s history. It was a trade. It wasn’t a cut. We think the football team is better for it.”

### Ross, on wanting to be more transparent: "We're in a new world today. You can't have a bunker mentality.''

### Ross, on fans protesting last week: “I’m a passionate fan, as they are. When someone is passionate enough, they’re going to go out and protest. That’s the type of fan I want to talk to. I wanted to talk to someone that passionate.”

 

March 24, 2012

Henderson, Armstrong, other Canes looking to reach potential; plus Fins, Heat

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

Every major college program that’s good enough to land four- and five-star recruits end up with some that never quite live up to the hype. With UM spring practice resuming this week, several Canes are trying to shed that tag. Among them:

### Seantrel Henderson: His UM career, through two-plus years, has included at least two violations of team rules, knee and back injuries and an inability to hold onto a starting job (just two starts in eight games last year after returning from back surgery).

“He remains a mystery to me,” said Mike Scanlan, Henderson’s high school coach at Cretin-Derham (Minn.). “I hope he takes advantage of his last years at Miami and gives himself a chance to play on Sundays.”

Why hasn’t he reached elite level? Former teammate Brandon Washington mentioned the back injury but also this: “If he wants to be an All-Pro, he’s got to get his priorities right. He could be a top 10 pick." Washington said Henderson (a five-star recruit) and Malcolm Bunche (a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com) have "got to take it more seriously. If they don’t live off the hype and get after it more, they will be good players.” (Bunche has been the first team left tackle throughout spring practice.)

One UM person said Henderson cannot assume he will dominate opponents merely because of physical ability. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Henderson “has to learn coach Golden wants to run this team in a certain fashion and get done what he has to get done. Because he made a couple mistakes, he knows his clock is running now.”

Golden puts it this way: “Seantrel needs to believe in and trust a process that will allow him to be the best player he can be. He has a good heart.”

Henderson got off to a poor start this spring, with a two-day suspension March 3-4. "It was my mistake," he said Saturday. "I was angry about."

But since then, there have been encouraging signs. He has regained his first-team spot at right tackle, ahead of Jermaine Johnson. Golden said Henderson is stronger and better conditioned than last year, and Kehoe said his work habits are “much better than when I got here," though Kehoe wants to “raise the bar” further.

Speaking publicly for the first time since last season, Henderson said Saturday, "I'm growing. I'm still trying to make the change moving from Minnesota to Miami. It's two different coaches. It's just a change from Randy Shannon leaving. We're getting used to how coach Golden runs the program, and we'll be a better team because of it. The way he runs the program, I'm all with it.''

Henderson admits being the nation's No. 2 overall recruit in 2010 "is still pressure because people don't forget." He said after he returned from back surgery last season, "I felt fine but my confidence wasn't all the way up.'' He briefly left Saturday's scrimmage with a knee injury but returned and said he's fine.

As a player, “I don’t think he’s anywhere near where he can be,” Kehoe said. Henderson agrees: "I'm still far away. I still got a lot to work on, completing my whole game. I'm better at run-blocking" than pass-blocking. 

Last word from Kehoe: “I think he’s going to have a breakout year.”

### Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong. They’ve talked for years about being the nation’s top safety tandem, but they have only a year left to get there. “They were tentative and apprehensive last year,” ex-Cane safety Bennie Blades said. “We’re waiting for them to be impact players like Sean Taylor and Ed Reed. I’m optimistic.”

Telemaque, a four-star recruit, has been a solid starter but hasn't created as many turnovers as some expected (four career interceptions); remember, he was known as a big-time ball-hawk as a highly recruited high school player in California.

Armstrong, a five-star recruit, took a step back last year when he was suspended twice. He also was responsible in coverage for four touchdown passes. “I didn’t play how I was supposed to,” he said. “There were a lot of distractions last year.  I wasn’t really into it.”

Is it reasonable to expect both to be elite? “I think it is,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “It’s up to them. It’s natural not just for those guys but for college players that they want to work on the things they already do well but don’t want to work on the things they need to fix. It’s their job to trust the coaching, put their egos aside and fix it.”

D’Onofrio and Golden are encouraged. "Armstrong has been really impressive this spring," Golden said. "We need him to be a play-maker." ESPN's Todd McShay said he has first-round talent.

And “in fairness to those guys, I’m their third coordinator,” D’Onofrio said. We’ve asked them to do more stuff than they did previously.” 

### Brandon McGee. The team’s only senior cornerback and the fastest player on defense, McGee (a four-star recruit) opened spring on the third-team because of subpar work in the offseason program. Golden is demanding more from him, especially in man coverage.

“He has long arms, elite speed; now he’s got to be a more physical corner,” Golden said. “We’re working with him to be a tougher kid in terms of tackling.”

### Unlike those above, some other highly-coveted recruits have made virtually no impact. Golden expects tight end Dyron Dye, who came with Armstrong from Sanford Seminole High, to “help us as a physical blocker. Big, strong, physical kid.” Though UM could use help at defensive end, Golden said Dye (a four-star recruit) will not be switched back there because his skill set is better for tight end…

Johnson, a four-star recruit, lost 14 pounds and “looks completely different than all last year,” Golden said. Said Johnson: “I’m more committed. I have a kid on the way and had to make a change.”… Jeremy Lewis, a four-star recruit who moved over from defensive tackle, has impressed this spring battling Jon Feliciano at left guard. “It’s going to be a close race,” Golden said.

### For a dozen news and notes from Saturday's UM scrimmage, see our previous post.

CHATTER

### For Dolfans already thinking ahead to the possibility of Miami drafting Ryan Tannehill (which might require trading up from No. 8), a couple points to keep in mind: 1) Texas A&M receivers dropped 64 passes in 2011. If half of those had been caught, his completition percentage would have been a very good 67.6, not 61.6. 2) He had 15 interceptions (to go with 29 touchdowns), and ESPN’s KC Joyner said it could have been much worse. “In the Texas game along, he had three interceptions and four near interceptions.” He was just 20 for 49 in that game, for 224 yards.

Said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “I like everything about him except he stares his receivers down and waits for them to come open until he rips it.”

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M, has given him an endorsement, saying that "great quarterbacks" make their offensive system better, and adding that Tannehill and Aaron Rodgers do that. Despite only having 19 career starts, Tannehill's NFL transition - if the Dolphins pick him - would be so much easier because he played in Sherman's West Coast offense. That's one reason he said he would love to end up here.

### Among the players the Dolphins have summoned to team headquarters for early April visits: UCF cornerback Josh Robinson (a potential second- or third-rounder who ran the fastest time at the Combine, a 4.33) and Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas (a potential late-rounder). Thomas is an elusive, dynamic athlete who threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, but many wonder how he will adjust to the NFL after playing in Oregon's unorthodox spread offense.

### According to a friend of several players, some Dolphins players are frustrated and puzzled that Miami dropped key contributors (Brandon Marshall and Yeremiah Bell) and wonder what the game plan is to replace them. Don't underestimate Bell's off-field value, either. As Jared Odrick said on Twitter, "Yeremiah was a mentor to me and a lot of guys."

### Check out the Dolphins page for our story about two veteran starters visiting Dolphins camp Saturday: guard Jake Scott and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler. Scott, a quality starter for the Titans, would be a major pickup if the Dolphins can sign him. Wheeler, who started 11 games for the Colts, would have a solid chance to beat out Koa Misi for a starting job, if he signs.

### With Derek Fisher choosing to sign with the Thunder instead of the Heat, the Heat hopes Norris Cole recaptures his early-season magic. He has shot 16 for 55, with 21 assists and 16 turnovers, since the All-Star break. One scout said: "I thought Cole was a little overhyped early. He's got a chance to be a good backup point guard, but he's a little wild sometimes. His decision making is a question."

Cole can get to the basket consistently but has shot 52 percent in shots at the rim; LeBron James, by contrast, is at 77 percent. "Teams are trying to limit my speed," he said, adding he's picking his spots more and "playing more at a controlled pace now." But Shane Battier said: "We don't put a harness on him. We tell him to go, go, go. As a rookie, some nights you get [high performance] and some nights you don't. If you don't, you put Mario Chalmers back in."

### Of the big men released or bought out, one Eastern Conference scout said Miami got the best fit in Ronny Turiaf: "He gives them a little more offensively than Joel Anthony, can defend, decent rebounder but not a volume rebounder. He is a good and willing passer. Borias Diaw is more talented but disgustingly out of shape. Ryan Hollins isn't any good."

### Regrettable: Antoine Walker, who squandered $110 million in NBA earnings, sold his 2006 Heat NBA Championship ring for $21,500 to pay back creditors as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The ring initially cost more than $30,000.

### The Marlins are delighted that Carlos Zambrano is throwing harder than he has the past two years, according to management. He has 17 strikeouts in 14 spring innings after posting a career-low 6.2 per nine innings with the Cubs last year. The Marlins hope it was an anomaly that opponents hit .276 against Zambrano last year, much higher than his .235 career average. One concern: He has been dreadful against the Braves and Phillies since 2009.

Saturday update: News and notes from UM's spring scrimmage

A dozen notes and observations from UM’s first spring football scrimmage at Ted Hendricks Stadium on Saturday:

### Al Golden has said the quarterback battle this spring will be akin to an NCAA Tournament play-in game among Ryan Williams and freshmen Preston Dewey and Gray Crow, with the winner emerging as Stephen Morris’ main challenger in August.

Williams, as expected, looks CLEARLY the best of the three, and August’s competition assuredly will come down to Morris (a slight favorite) and Williams (who’s making a strong case while Morris remains limited after back surgery).

Williams wasn’t perfect, but he was impressive Saturday with accuracy and his ability to make plays on rollouts. “He had good command, distributed the ball well,” Golden said, impressed that “such a big guy (6-5, 225) can get out of the pocket and throw it as accurately as he did.”

Williams finished 14 for 21 for 228 yards and four touchdowns.

### Crow was the second UM quarterback to enter the scrimmage (behind Williams) and delivered a few ill-advised throws but also but made a few more plays than Dewey, who was UM’s third quarterback. Many UM people expected Dewey to enter UM as a more polished quarterback than Crow, but it hasn’t looked that way so far.

A.J. Highsmith and Tyrone Cornelius dropped errant passes from Dewey that should have been intercepted. Dewey, who also overthrew walk-on Darris Hughes on a simple screen pass, finished 4 for 12 for 21 yards.

Gionni Paul dropped a potential interception thrown by Crow, who was 7 for 14 for 43 yards. One of Crow’s best plays – a pass to David Perry – was fumbled by Perry just as he was going into the end zone.

“It’s fun and challenging as a coach for two of your three quarterbacks to be high school seniors,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of Crow and Dewey, who are early arrivals.

### Rashawn Scott is going to make a major impact at receiver. He caught two touchdowns from Williams on Saturday – a seven-yarder and a 62-yarder, which was mostly yards after catch. He made other impressive plays, including one catch-and-run where he juked Vaughn Telemaque practically out of his uniform. Scott finished with five catches for 115 yards.

“That’s the type of player he is – catch the ball and go,” Fisch said. “Rashawn is going to be an explosive receiver.”

### With Allen Hurns sidelined, Scott, Phillip Dorsett and Kendal Thompkins all had opportunities and produced. Williams connected with Thompkins on a 30-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

### With Anthony Chickillo sidelined by what Golden termed a pulled muscle, 238-pound Kelvin Cain moved from linebacker to defensive end and had two sacks. “The guy who’s doing a real good job over there is Kelvin Cain,” Golden said of his defensive ends. Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said it’s possible Cain could play defensive end this season, but also sees value in him at linebacker.

 Shayon Green (one sack) started at the other defensive end spot.

### Brandon McGee and Ladarius Gunter were the first-team cornerbacks, with Thomas Finnie, Davon Johnson and Larry Hope behind them. Hope made a nice pass breakup on a throw from Dewey to walk-on Garrett Kidd, and Finnie made an end-zone tackle for a safety.

Gunter was called for pass interference on Dorsett, but D’Onofrio said he has risen to first team because he’s “really talented, savvy, understands it. He has done a lot of good things.”

Besides Gunter and Hope, four other new cornerbacks arrive this summer – including elite recruit Tracy Howard.

### Malcolm Bunche, Jonathan Feliciano, Shane McDermott, Brandon Linder and Seantrel Henderson were the first team offensive line, from left to right. Feliciano limped off during the scrimmage with a knee injury; Eduardo Clements said Feliciano fell into him but should be fine.

### Clive Walford caught two short passes in the end zone during goal-line work, but Fisch said, “I need him to be a lot more than a goal-line threat. I need him to be more consistent.”

### Mike James showed impressive speed on a 55-yard touchdown run and finished with 78 yards on 13 carries and three TDs. Clements also had some moments, including a 22-yard burst and closed with 56 yards on 18 carries.

### Golden said players who stood out included Scott, Williams, Bunche, backup tackle Jermaine Johnson, Curtis Porter, Cain and Gionni Paul.

### Jimmy Gaines, Paul, Eddie Johnson and Denzel Perryman all got work with the first group at linebacker. Johnson has made a lot of progress this spring.

 ### Besides Chickillo and Hurns, Corey King, Ramon Buchanan, Josh Witt, Cory White and Billy Sanders also did not participate because of injuries.

Check back late Saturday night or Sunday morning for the Sunday buzz, which will have a lot more on UM football, among other topics.

March 22, 2012

Blame past decisions, philosophy for lack of splash in Fins free agency;plus UM;Heat

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

One question we’ve heard a lot about the Dolphins: How can a team that’s so mediocre and dumped its top playmaker (Brandon Marshall) not have the cap space - or try to create it - to make competitive bids for Eric Winston, Vincent Jackson, Mario Williams or any other free agent who was an impact 2011 starter for another team?

The Dolphins entered the first day of free agency with $9 million in space before the Marshall deal; only 10 teams had less and the Broncos ($43 million), Patriots, 49ers and Ravens all had more. Now they have about $7 million after several signings and dumping Marshall and Yeremiah Bell, but much will be needed to sign draft picks and most of the top free agents are gone anyway.

So why didn’t Miami do more in free agency or create the cap space to do more? One reason is that Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin want to build primarily through the draft. Philbin explained this to former players, but nobody bothered telling the fans, which led to this huge letdown. But there were other factors that led to Miami not signing any definite starter except Paul Soliai. Among them:

### Even though the Marshall deal left $15 million in space, the Dolphins used most of it on Soliai, a solid No. 3 cornerback (Richard Marshall), Lydon Murtha, Phillip Merling, David Garrard and backups Jamaal Westerman and Artis Hicks, instead of signing fewer players but using a larger chunk on, say, Jackson or Winston or Matt Flynn or Laurent Robinson or John Abraham or Kamerion Wimbley. Miami believes that was the smarter approach and perhaps it will prove to be; only time will tell.

### Among many reasons the Dolphins don’t have more space is their cap is clogged by $13 million in dead money to players who aren’t even on the team and more than $8 million for offensive linemen who are backup types, two of whom might start out of necessity.

That includes linemen Murtha ($1.9 million hit, Nate Garner ($1.6), Hicks ($1.5) and Ryan Cook ($1.13). Heck, Will Barker and Ray Feinga combine for another $1.1 million hit.

Because of proration of bonuses, the Dolphins are taking a $5.5 million cap hit for Marshall, $4.8 million for unsigned Vernon Carey, $1.85 million for Bell and a combined $838,000 for Tim Dobbins and A.J. Edds.

### The top 51 salaries count against the cap, and Miami’s 11 players with the highest cap numbers account for $68 million of the $129 million they have to allocate.

Two of those, Marshall and Bell, aren’t on the team. Another, Tony McDaniel, is a backup with a $4.2 million hit. Karlos Dansby ($11.3 million) and Kevin Burnett ($5.3) are good players, but that’s a big hit for two inside linebackers.

No surprise: Miami is allocating by far its most cap space to the offensive line ($28 million). Remember: Cap hits are usually higher than salaries because of bonus proration.

### Jake Long ($12.8 million cap), Reggie Bush ($6 million) and Randy Starks ($5 million) are all entering the final year of their contracts. If Miami had extended any before free agency, their cap hits could have been lowered to give Miami more money to spend in free agency or less need to cut Bell. Regettably, that did not happen, though Miami wants to keep all long-term.

CHATTER

CBS analyst and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon, who has watched Flynn closely as the Packers’ preseason TV analyst, made a case, off the air, for why Miami messed up by not offering more to get Flynn, who reportedly got three years and $19 million (plus $5 million in incentives) from Seattle:

“Comparing Flynn to David Garrard (who got one-year, $3.35 million), it’s not even close,” Gannon said, believing Garrard isn’t a clear upgrade over Matt Moore. “If I’m Joe Philbin, who is better to help me install my system than a guy who has been in it for four years? If you have a guy that knows the system like Flynn, you are so much further along. Just pay the guy a few extra million. What Seattle paid is fair. Why wouldn’t Miami do that deal? This is insane. The guys in Seattle did a much better job recruiting him.”

Plus, as Gannon noted, Flynn has the skill set for the West Coast offense. Gannon said Seattle called Gannon, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers (who predicts Flynn will be a top-15 starter) and others in determining Flynn’s value and concluded he was worth that type of money. But Philbin, Flynn’s former offensive coordinator, did not ask Ireland to offer that type of money.

As for Garrard, “He has a ways to go, which is unusual for a guy with as many starts as he has,” Gannon said.

Gannon raises this broader question: “Who is the guy evaluating the quarterback talent in that building? Joe Philbin has an offensive line background; he was the protection and run game guy in Green Bay. You better have someone who knows how to evaluate that position.” He said Miami is now the AFC East’s fourth-best team.

### Alex Smith, who re-signed with the 49ers, implied to Bay Area writers he never seriously considered Miami and visited the Dolphins because “I had never been to Miami Beach and thought it was a good way to see it.” Lovely.... Drew Rosenhaus told WQAM's Joe Rose that "maybe there's a chance [Yeremiah Bell] will come back to the Dolphins," but that there is interest in him elsewhere in the wake of Miami releasing him Tuesday.

### Whereas the Dolphins lack a marquee free-agent recruiter (Dan Marino doesn’t want to be), we got another reminder this week of Pat Riley’s prowess in that area. After his first Heat practice Thursday, Ronnie Turiaf – who picked Miami over several teams – spoke of how meaningful it was to get a call from Riley before he made a decision.

“I told him he didn’t need to call me, but for him to do that was something valuable,” Turiaf said. “He told me he really liked me from the draft, said the Heat is a family environment, that he sees me as a Heat type of player. We had a really good talk that went beyond basketball. I told him I was crushed when they picked” his friend, Wayne Simien, ahead of him 29th in the 2005 draft.... Still no timetable for a return from Mike Miller, who will miss at least the next three games with an ankle injury.

### UM's Ryan Williams is leaner and has demonstrated better mobility this spring. One example: During Thursday's spring practice, he threw a nifty touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins on the run. Eduardo Clements is going to be a huge weapon in the passing game - he took a short pass for a 25-yard gain in Thursday's session. Linebacker Eddie Johnson is among the young defenders turning heads.

### Wade LeBlanc is the favorite for one of two open Marlins' bullpen jobs, with Jose Ceda and Steve Cishek battling for the other and Chad Gaudin making a case.

 

 

March 20, 2012

Fins lose out on another target Wednesday; Buoniconti gives scathing assessment

 

Quick Wednesday afternoon FYI: Former Patriots linebacker/outside linebacker Mark Anderson agreed to a four-year deal with Buffalo, meaning the Dolphins will not be able to fill their need for a pass-rusher in free agency unless they bid for 32-year-old Andre Carter. There's no other real accomplished pass rusher left in free agent.

Miami never pursued Kamerion Wimbley, who signed with Tennessee. The Dolphins talked about how important it was to find pass rushers but haven't done anything in that regard beyond adding Jamaal Westerman, who has 4.5 sacks in three years as a Jets reserve. They still must replace Jason Taylor's seven sacks. They'll likely look in the draft, with Melvin Ingram a possibility with the eighth pick.

On to Wednesday's buzz column:

 

As one of the most distinguished, respected and accomplished Dolphins alums, Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti should be taken very seriously when he speaks. And to say he is troubled by the team’s management would be an understatement.

“There is a monumental weakness in the organization,” he said Tuesday. “You can’t possibly lose out on every single individual, whether management or player or coach, without there being consequences to pay for it. They obviously don’t understand free agency. I guess the most meaningful statement was made by [Pittsburgh safety] Ryan Clark” – that nobody wants to play for the Dolphins. “That sums it up. Fans have every right to be totally disappointed.”

In evaluating a general manager, “you base it on results. And so far the results have been dismal,” Buoniconti said of Jeff Ireland. “I represented athletes for a living [as a former practicing attorney], and I’m not sure Jeff Ireland understands free agency, in terms of creating a scenario for a player that says, ‘We can really do something special with you plugged into this hole, and here’s how it would work.’

“I’m not sure that message is getting across. It’s obviously not just money. It’s the perception of a team that is in a downward spiral. This is what people don’t want to attach their future to.”

What irritates Buoniconti about the Dolphins’ personnel decisions is “there is no boldness here. They are always trying to play it safe. By playing it safe, they have lost out on how many free agents? They are not creative. The message promulgated by management has no innovation to it, no creativity to it.

“It has left the players coming in here with the feeling of, ‘Wow? This is the organization they want me to sign with?’ That’s a problem. You think [recently signed offensive lineman Artis Hicks] is going to turn around a 6-10 team? They could have targeted Vincent Jackson, and they let him slip away. They let Chad Henne go for nothing, and I would rather have Henne than David Garrard by a long shot. They let the guy go a year too soon.” 

He praises Ireland for re-signing Paul Soliai, saying that's one thing he did right, but cannot understand how the Dolphins could ship away Brandon Marshall without a plan to acquire a top veteran to replace him. (All the top free agent receivers are gone.)

Buoniconti believes the organization’s attempt to lure free agents is being damaged by several players’ very public criticism of Ireland. “You may be better off without a general manager,” Buoniconti said “facetiously.”

He said “the thing that bothers me so much is they have a valuable asset in the organization in [vice president/senior advisor] Nat Moore that for some reason, beyond my understanding, has not been put to use except on a marginal basis. He should be on the pro personnel side, as executive vice president of football operations. Don’t have [him] reporting to someone who has failed so far.

“They’re using a guy, Carl Peterson, who took a playoff team and left it in shambles in Kansas City. You combine that with Ireland and Steve Ross, who is a new owner… You have an organization in disarray. I would have surrounded myself with winners if I was Steve Ross. I’m not lumping Joe Philbin in because he doesn’t deserve to be.

“For an ex-player who knew success with Don Shula and Joe Thomas and Bobby Beathard, it’s hard for me to just sit there and say, ‘Things aren’t going in the right direction.’ They obviously aren’t.

“I’m sure Steve is now scratching his head saying, ‘Why the hell did I do this?’ You think he isn’t having buyer’s remorse?”

CHATTER

An NFL person in contact with the Dolphins said the reason Miami didn’t make a bigger offer for Matt Flynn is that Philbin and Ireland were not entirely convinced he would beat out Matt Moore, and they weren’t going to pay him more than double what Moore is due ($2.5 million). Also, the person said Ross is not inclined to order his front office to trade for Tim Tebow. The Dolphins football people do not believe he is a starting quarterback in their offense.

### Asked why he chose Seattle over Miami, Flynn said, "I felt more comfortable in Seattle. They're doing things the right way, being led by the right type of people." (And being offered more money assuredly was a big factor that he didn't mention.) 

### Several hundred people bought season tickets believing Miami would sign Peyton Manning. Oops. A bunch of them have been calling the past few days, asking for a refund. But the team said no.

### Considering Joel Anthony is a good enough athlete to block shots and defend effectively, it puzzles and frustrates the Heat that he’s not a better rebounder. Among 35 qualifying centers, Anthony ranks last in rebounds per 48 minutes (8.9).

### Among players bought out, Ronnie Turiaf is considering the Heat, Boston and others (a decision is expected shortly); Derek Fisher reportedly is working on a deal with Oklahoma City after receiving overtures from Miami; and J.J. Hickson reportedly leans toward Golden State. (WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Turiaf is close to finalizing a deal with Miami.)

### Besides offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, UM coach Al Golden said linebacker Raphael Kirby and cornerback Ladarius Gunter are the other early arrivals making a big impression this spring. The hope is that Kirby can make the type of impact as a freshman that Denzel Perryman did last year.

### Good to see Lake Mary Prep's Ray Lewis III, son of the former Canes icon, orally commit to UM on Tuesday. Lewis, who will join UM's Class of 2013, ran for 2312 yards and scored 29 touchdowns last season. But UM hasn't decided whether he will play running back or safety. "It will be an honor to be there," Lewis told CaneSport. "I will be there to finish off what [my father] started."

### UM badly needs a breakout from Shayon Green, the early front runner to start at one defensive end spot, opposite Anthony Chickillo. Green, ESPN's 102nd ranked defensive end coming out of a Georgia high school, has played in just six games in three years at Miami (no sacks, eight tackles) but is back from two ACL injuries to the same knee, in 2009 and 2011. “People haven’t seen the best of me,” he said, describing his UM career as "rocky and frustrating." Golden calls Green “strong and powerful” but said he needs to develop more speed as a pass-rusher. Ricardo Williams and early arrival Dwayne Hoilett are second team at defensive end.

### MLB Network will air a 60-minute special on the Marlins at 8 p.m. Wednesday... Among the five contenders competing for two backup Marlins outfield jobs, Austin Kearns (.364, six RBI) has been by far the best, ahead of Bryan Peterson (.267), Chris Coghlan (.238), Scott Cousins (.172) and Aaron Rowand (.100, 3 for 30). Donovan Solano (.391) has a chance to beat out Donnie Murphy (.174) for the backup infield job.

Garrard said he will have chance to win starting job and that Fins offense perfect fit

Here’s what new Dolphins quarterback David Garrard had to say in his conference call Tuesday afternoon:

 

### He said he was told he will be given a chance to compete with Matt Moore for the starting job:  “They said it will be a competition. A competition is great for everybody. That is what was presented to me. I wouldn’t expect anything else.”

 

### On his health, after missing last season with a back injury: “I’m perfect. I feel great, I’m 100 percent, ready to roll.”

 

### On whether the team will add another quarterback: “They didn’t talk much about it. I’m sure they’re always looking at different positions.” But he said Monday that the Dolphins said “it’s a possibility they could add another quarterback, whether in the draft or whatever.”

 

### Impressions of Joe Philbin and the Dolphins: “They were great. Coach Philbin is a great mind, a great coach. He really understands what it takes to put together a great team. He had a great vision, a great purpose. Everything he said, I felt was already in my head. You can look at his history, and hopefully that can continue.”

 

### On Steelers safety Ryan Clark saying no player wants to play for the Dolphins: “I’m not sure why Ryan Clark would say that. Maybe he just had some hard feelings for Miami. It’s unfortunate any player would dog another [team] like that. That shouldn’t happen in the NFL.”

 

### He said the team “definitely” will run a West Coast offense “and that offense is right up my alley. I was in that when Byron Leftwich was the starting quarterback [for Jacksonville]. It is perfect for me. I love getting the ball out of my hands fast, moving in the pocket, bootlegging. The style and scheme they are doing is going to be great. A lot of the terminology is similar to what I was already running. It’s not all the same but a lot of it is. It’s going to be a smooth transition. It’s great that it’s already familiar to me.”

 

### He decided not to visit the Rams “because the Rams already have a guy in place there. Not that I discounted being a solid backup. [But] I wanted to give another shot at being able to at least compete for a job and giving myself a chance to start somewhere. I feel I still have that ability. It’s still in Florida. It’s a great organization.”

 

### How much does he feel like he has something to prove? “I don’t know that I have anything to prove. I proved a lot of things as a starting quarterback. I want to go further than I’ve ever had before. I want to have a shot at winning the championship.

I have a number of years left in me, and I wanted to make sure I left this game with no questions.”

 

### On his outlook: “I’m just excited to be in Miami. It’s a great opportunity for me and the organization and city…. I know [Dolphins GM Jeff] Ireland is going to do some things moving forward with the team.”

 

### On why he passed up signing with Miami last October after Chad Henne’s injury: “Last year, I was having the first stages of having my herniated disc. I didn’t know what was going on. I had a little treatment. My leg was really starting to bother me. I was starting to get myself kind of healthy. It continued to get worse. I knew by the time the Dolphins were calling, I wasn’t feeling good. I didn’t find out until a couple weeks later that I herniated my disc.”