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


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.


### 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.