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17 posts from April 2012

April 30, 2012

Local radio news; Reax to Heat-Knicks Game 2; Tuesday Amare update

Tuesday afternoon update: According to the New York Times, Amare Stoudemire likely will miss the remainder of the Heat playoff series because of the injury sustained to his left handle when he punched the glass encasing of a fire extinguisher after Monday's Game 2 at AA Arena.

Heat-Knicks Game 2 postscripts and some local sports radio news:

### Dan Le Batard's co-host, Jon Weiner, and his producer, Marc Hochman, will take over 790 The Ticket's morning show on an interim basis beginning Tuesday. They will handle the gig through the conclusion of the NBA playoffs, which could go as late as June 26.

Weiner and Hochman also will continue to do Le Batard's show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays. That means they will be on the air 7 1/2 or 8 hours a day, most days, which sounds exhausting.  

"Little thing I like to call two a day," Weiner tweeted. "I need an alarm clock."

The station is looking for a permanent replacement for Jorge Sedano, who left in April to concentrate on his television career. Brandon Guzio has been filling in the past few weeks.

790 The Ticket GM Jeff Dinetz said he's searching for a host who can discuss not only sports, but also pop culture and other topics.

### The Knicks and NBA were eager to try to hide details of Stoudemire's fire extinguisher incident after the game.

Several reporters wandered into the hall to take pictures, including drops of blood on the floor, but the NBA quickly chased those reporters away. The Knicks kept their locker-room closed for 35 minutes, which violates NBA rules by 25 minutes.

"He's one of the keys on this team," Carmelo Anthony said. "I need him out there."

Stoudemire received stitches and left with his left hand bandaged and his arm in a sling.

Said Chandler: "You can't fault anybody because Amare is a good person that has high emotions at times. One quick decision making mistake and now you have to deal with the repurcussions."

Stoudemire didn't comment after the game but said on Twitter: "I am so mad at myself right now. I want to apologize to the fans and my team. Not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start."

Said TNT's Charles Barkley: "Really stupid thing to do. We've all done stupid things. They weren't going to beat the Miami Heat either way." Barkley said with Stoudemire, the Knicks might have won one game. Now, he predicts a sweep.

The Heat took no pleasure in Stoudemire's lapse in judgment. "We love when Amare is out there," Dwyane Wade said. "He brings out the best in our guys."

### The Knicks outrebounded the Heat for a second straight game but handled the ball carelessly and didn't defend nearly well enough. Consider: The Knicks had 15 assists, 13 turnovers. The Heat had 28 assists and eight turnovers. Mario Chalmers has 15 assists and four turnovers in the series so far.

"That's one of the most efficient games we've had all year, probably the last two years we've been together," LeBron James said. "When we play as a team like that, we're going to be hard to beat. We had 28 assists on 38 field goals - that's a really good game. That means you're getting guys involved, not just the Big Three. Everyone had their rhythm tonight."

### James, who had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, didn't hit a basket beyond 10 feet the entire night. Asked if he came in with the mindset to pass, he said, "I score, I rebound, and I pass. It's been my game my whole life and I adjust to what's going on throughout the game. They applied a little more pressure on my pick and rolls today and tried to keep the ball out of my hands and I found my guys and they made shots. I don't go into a game saying I'm going to be more of a passer tonight or more of a scorer. I just adjust to the game."

### The Heat's often-maligned bench outscored the Knicks' 25-19, with Mike Miller and Shane Battier each scoring 11 and each hitting 3 of 5 three-pointers. The Heat has done a good job against Steve Novak, who led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. He was 1 for 3 overall and on three-pointers in Game 2.

### This is the ninth time the Heat has taken a 2-0 lead in a series in its postseason history. They've won each of the previous series they led 2-0.

### One glaring issue has been the free throw discrepancy. The Heat has attempted 60 in two games, the Knicks 30.

### Udonis Haslem has done little offensively in this series (one point in Game 2, three in Game 1), but it hardly matters because he has corraled eight rebounds in each game and played stout defense.

MONDAY AFFTERNOON OVIEDO UPDATE

The news keeps getting worse for Marlins reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo, who continues to deal with the consequences of using a false identity.

Major League Baseball, which privately informed involved parties last month that it planned to give Oviedo a six-week suspension upon his return to the United States, has changed plans and decided to make the suspension eight weeks instead, according to an MLB source. Several people involved have been informed.

The suspension is not retroactive and will not start until Oviedo re-enters the United States after receiving a visa. MLB officials are unsure when that will happen. Oviedo, who remains in the Dominican Republic, hoped to receive a visa by early March, but was told he must first complete community service.  

Here’s why the suspension was increased: If Oviedo had received a visa before spring training, MLB planned to suspend him for two weeks of spring training and six weeks of the regular season.

But because he missed spring training, MLB decided recently to add those two weeks to the six weeks. Oviedo had been led to believe the suspension would be only six weeks, a teammate said.

During his suspension, Oviedo will be permitted to participate in extended spring training.

The Marlins envisioned using Oviedo, formerly Leo Nunez, as a set-up man for closer Heath Bell, who has two saves but has blown three. Nunez will not receive any of his $6 million salary until his suspension is over.

MLB wants to make a strong statement that it will not tolerate players using false names and ages.

April 28, 2012

Reaction on Dolphins draft; Heat, UM/Jacory, Fins update

Before we get to Sunday's buzz column, a few items:

1) Knicks center Tyson Chandler said Monday morning that he's recovering from his flu and will play in Game 2 against the Heat. He said he felt like a "zombie" during Game 1. Knicks guard Baron Davis (back) said he's not feeling great but will play. 

2) Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, recovering from April 2 knee surgery, said today it's a possibility he might return for Game 4 of the Heat-Knicks series.

3) Sunday afternoon note: UM quarterback Jacory Harris, who went undrafted, will audition for the Dolphins at their rookie min-camp this coming weekend. (He has not signed, but will audition). He will audition for the Arizona Cardinals the following week. The Kansas City Chiefs also have expressed interest in taking a look at him.

4) Tight end Nick Mandich, one of late/great Dolphins announcer Jim Mandich's three sons, also accepted an invitation to audition at the Dolphins rookie mini-camp next week.... The Dolphins on Sunday signed undrafted cornerbacks Kevyn Scott (Syracuse) and Trenton Hughes (Maryland). Scott went to St. Thomas Aquinas.

5) Besides the undrafted Canes listed below, others who reportedly joined teams Sunday include LaRon Byrd (Arizona), Micanor Regis (Falcons), JoJo Nicolas (Giants) and Jordan Futch (Buccaneers).

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dolphins draft postscripts:

### The glass-half-full view from the past three days: Miami not only landed a (possible) longterm quarterback but two other prospects who some considered first-round talents (Jonathan Martin, Lamar Miller). What’s more, the Olivier Vernon pick drew plaudits among evaluators.

The glass-half-empty perspective? The Dolphins didn’t procure a sure-fire rotation-caliber receiver, though B.J. Cunningham’s production at Michigan State suggests he MIGHT be a No. 3 or No. 4. Also, concerns were raised about Martin’s strength. Plus, safety and right guard remain shaky.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock thought a receiver would have been sensible in the third round, suggesting Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu (115 catches last season) or Wisconsin’s Nick Toon. “They don’t have a No. 1 receiver,” Mayock said, making the point again in round four.

Instead, the Dolphins took Michael Egnew at 78; Mayock noted Missouri tight ends, like Egnew, are often “freakish tight ends that don’t block.” But “he really can run.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay said Egnew, whose receptions dropped from 90 to 50 in 2011, must “become more consistently productive, do a better job running routes and separating.” Pro Football Weekly's respected draft analysis said he has “no power” as a blocker and “shows little strength or creativity after the catch” but “can make difficult catches look easy.”

### Mayock said of Vernon: “Of all the [UM] underclassmen that came out – and I don’t think most of them should – Vernon is one I bang the table for. When he got back [from suspension], he played every step with passion. He’s a solid 4-3 defensive end.”

McShay called Vernon a “great pick. Production didn’t always match up, but he shows quickness off the line and has a chance to make an impact as a pass-rusher.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said he’s also “decent against the run. Had he played a full year, maybe he could have been an early to mid second-round pick.”

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden and Mayock said Stanford’s Martin can move seamlessly from left to right tackle, but Kiper isn’t convinced, suggesting Mississippi’s Bobby Massie made more sense at 42.

Miami “was the worst pass protection team in football last year,” Gruden said. “Why not get three-year starter who took care of Andrew Luck’s blind side? He’s athletic” but “you would like to see more thump, more explosion.”

Said Kiper: “A finesse guy, needs more power.” Mayock said he’s a “first-round talent and will start” immediately but “consistency and toughness were some questions from scouts.” PFW noted Martin “was exposed by the speed of USC’s Nick Perry” and called him an “overhyped developmental project who needs to get stronger.”

### All the analysts agree Miller was a great value pick in the fourth round, even though the Dolphins didn’t necessarily need a running back. McShay said Miller “is the most explosive runner in this draft. He’s not Chris Johnson, but he’s not that far away.” Said Mayock: “I love his ability with the ball in his hands, but I don’t think he can pass protect and I don’t think he’s any kind of short yardage guy. You don’t see him on the goal line, third down and short yardage and that’s a red flag.”

Kiper said Miller “plays like he’s 5-10, 185” even though “he’s 5-11, 215. He can take a pounding. He’s a big guy with game-breaking speed. The question is can he be multi-dimensional.”

FYI: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland envisions Miller returning punts (he averaged 23.1 yards on seven returns in 2011, eight for 26.8 in 2010). He called him a "developmental back" who needs to become "a little more rugged" in better in pass protection.

Of taking two UM players (Vernon and Miller), Ireland said Al Golden -- who spoke at length to Ireland about UM's players -- "has been very good to me. I like the way he coaches his players. I believe in his program." "The ceiling" on Miller and Vernon "is endless."

Here’s what Pro Football Weekly’s draft analysis said on Miami’s other picks Saturday: Oregon linebacker Josh Kaddu is “lean, athletic, with good range, closing speed and pass-rush potential” but “can be exploited in the pass game.” And he “too often loses positioning in man coverage.”…

Sixth-round receiver Cunningham (79, 1306) “works the middle of the field and makes catches in traffic. Physical after the catch. Very good production. Most effective running slants and working inside and using his size to move the chains. [But] very small hands. Pedestrian speed. Struggles to separate vs. man coverage. Struggled vs. better cornerbacks and showed he can be contained: see Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan. Shut down vs. Nebraska’s Alfonso Dennard.”… 

Seventh-round receiver Rishard Matthews from Nevada (91 catches, 1364 yards in 2011) has "reliable hands and is productive after catch" and can also return points (13.3 average in 2011) but "lacks top end speed to blow by defenders or pull away from the pack. Has clear developmental value."

Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall has “very good size and length” but “poor hand use, marginal pass-rush value and limited upside.”

### PFW's analysis of some of Miami's post-draft signings:

Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray had 791 yards and a 6.9 per carry average in 11 games before tearing his ACL against Boston College. "Could turn out to be a surprise value pick if he can stay healthy and learn to protect the ball." He has seven fumbles in 200 career touches....

Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller (70 catches, 826 yards last year and one of Ryan Tannehill's targets in college) "struggles to separate vertically and drops have been too prevalent." At 6-4, he's a "a big, inconsistent, possession/red zone receiver whose stock tumbled during a disappointing, injury-plagued season when he too often appeared distracted."

Penn State receiver Derek Moye (40 catches, 654 yards) is "a possession receiver whose best chance to stick with come as a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver in a West Coast system."...

Missouri 6-2, 253-pound defensive end Jacquies Smith (five sacks, four passes batted down, four forced fumbles last season) is a "tweener speed rusher whose speed isn't special. Disappears for stretches."... Arkansas State safety Kelcie McCray (10 career highs) has "good speed and tackling ability."... Other undrafted free agents who say they're joining the Dolphins include Oregon State linebacker Cameron Collins, Portland State offensive tackle Dustin Waldron, Purdue safety Albert Evans, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, Temple guard Derek Dennis, Boise State defensive end Jarrell Root, BYU center Terence Brown, Utah defensive end Derrick Shelby and Arizona State linebacker Shelly Lyons

MORE FINS CHATTER

### If the Dolphins change their mind and decide to add another veteran receiver, available options include include Houston’s Jacoby Jones (likely would be cut if the Texans can’t trade him) and free agents Plaxico Burress, Patrick Crayton, Braylon Edwards, Roy Williams, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Mark Clayton, Greg Camarillo, Bernard Berrian. Donald Driver would be an option if the Packers release him; they have been non-committal.

Besides Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, Miami's other receivers are Legedu Naanee, Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace, Cunningham and Matthews.  "I have confidence in the players I have on the roster," Ireland said of receiver. "We have some young players that are ascending."

### Dolphins fans can drive themselves nuts by ruminating over Ryan Tannehill’s 2011 numbers. Consider: He was 53rd among major college quarterbacks in completion percentage at 61.6, though it would have been 68.1 if half of the 79 dropped passes were caught. He was 67th in yards per attempt at 7.1, worse than FIU’s Wesley Carroll and well behind UM’s Jacory Harris (20th).

He had the 56th-best rating, worse than any drafted QB except Ryan Lindley, and threw the sixth-most picks (15).

What’s more, on balls thrown 20 yards or more, Tannehill was just 16 for 58 (37.7 yards per catch), compared with 19 for 44 (33.7) for Brandon Weeden, who had the benefit of Justin Blackmon. ESPN’s KC Joyner noted Tannehill was sharp from short range, completing 76 percent of passes thrown 10 yards or less, with 13 touchdowns and one pick, but had more picks (six) than touchdowns (five) on balls thrown 11 to 19 yards.

But besides his size and arm strength, here are positives we keep hearing: His knack for making plays on the run (“pretty impressed” by that, Washington’s Mike Shanahan told us. “He’s got good feet. I watched every throw”); his intelligence (“I see vision, I see progression reading,” Charley Casserly told us); and his toughness (among the first qualities mentioned by general managers Scott Pioli of the Chiefs and John Schneider of Seattle).

### Owner Steven Ross said it would be fine with him if Tannehill doesn’t play a down in 2012, meaning he won't pressure the staff… Though Kiper has been calling Joe Philbin a quarterback guru, Philbin admitted he wasn’t involved much in developing Aaron Rodgers. As Rich Gannon says, Philbin is an "offensive line guy" (like Tony Sparano, but more cerebral and less of a yeller)….

### The irony of Philip Merling’s release is some of last year’s coaches expressed frustration with his lack of passion, shaky work habits and limited production, but Ireland wanted to keep him. Ireland finally came around last week.

HEAT, MARLINS, UM CHATTER

### LeBron James was understated after his Game 1 masterpiece Saturday, saying, "It was an efficient game for myself. I'm not going to always be as efficient as I was tonight." Consider: His 71.4 percent shooting against the Knicks in Game 1 (10 for 14) was his highest in 93 postseason games, and his 32 points marked the 41st time he has scored at least 30 in the playoffs. What's more, his 28.1 scoring average is fifth highest in NBA postseason history, behind only Michael Jordan (33.4), Allen Iverson, Jerry West and Tracy McGrady.

### Mike Miller shot 3 for 10 on Shane Battier 2 for 8 in Game 1, but that does not remotely tell the story. Battier was on the floor for all of the 24-2 stampede to end the second quarter and Miller was on the floor for all but two points of that. Both hit big threes in that run, and both played stout defense. Battier had six boards and a blocked shot, Miller four rebounds and a steal. "It's a treat to have [Battier]," James said. As Dwyane Wade said, "What I think was great is Shane took some pressure off LeBron by being able to guard Carmelo Anthony a lot."

### Impending free agent Steve Nash, 38, said, “I love what [the Heat] is doing” and “I would definitely listen to them” but “I have no clue” about where he will play next season. “I’m in no rush... Winning and being competitive and being part of a good environment, those are at the top" of factors important to him.

If Nash – who finished second in the league in assists (10.7) and led all guards in shooting percentage (53.6) – leaves Phoenix to play for a championship contender, the most plausible options are Miami and the Lakers, who both have only a $3 million exception. The Knicks would be, too, but need their $5 million exception to re-sign Jeremy Lin.

### Here's where some undrafted Canes players signed Saturday night: Chase Ford (Eagles), Marcus Forston (Patriots), Adewale Ojomo (Giants), Harland Gunn (Cowboys), Tyler Horn (Falcons).... Undrafted Gators quarterback John Brantley and receiver Deonte Thompson signed with Baltimore.

### When Heath Bell made clear he didn’t appreciate a Marlins trainer questioning his workout routine – “apparently our trainer says I work too hard” - it wasn’t a shock. Two players and three prominent agents in the past year criticized the Marlins’ trainers to us, questioning their ability to diagnose and treat injuries, among other issues. One agent said he would be leery about sending pitchers here because of the training staff. Unhappy players persuaded management to promote a third trainer (Dustin Luepker) from Double A this spring.

Ireland, Philbin assess Day 2 of draft; Knicks brimming with confidence vs. Heat

Here's what Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin had to say after Day 2 of the draft late Friday night. For nuggets on the Heat-Knicks playoff series, click on the last post.

 


JEFF IRELAND:

(On Olivier Vernon) – “Obviously we took Olivier Vernon from the University of Miami, a junior, who came out early. We feel real good about him we call him a pressure player, were going to see him play kind of a hybrid position potentially both end positions and we see him having a role in nickel situations as a pass rusher. We had him over here a couple of weeks ago and got the chance to really get to know the kid at one of our Miami workouts, and he really impressed our coaching staff, and myself in particular, as an athlete and a person. (He’s) really strong handed and very athletic. From a personal character standpoint he was very upfront about some of his past and I felt really good about having him join our team.”

 

(On Michael Egnew) – “Michael Egnew, the tight end out of Missouri, was a three or four year starter and team captain who caught 147 balls I think. He is very athletic and a very good pass-catching tight end. I saw him at the Senior Bowl and had some time to visit with him there, and he really impressed us at the Senior Bowl because he started playing a tight end position. At Missouri he was really detached most of the time, and I got to see him put his hand in the dirt and come off and hit someone as a tight end, so he has some versatility we fell like and he’s someone who we are very interested in working with.”

 

(On the trend of using multiple tight ends in the NFL) – “I like the vision that we’re getting a guy that can run down the middle of the field, that’s something that Joe (Philbin) and I have talked about in particular. I like athletic tight ends, those guys make plays in this league and Joe has had some experience with some athletic tight ends and so there was a vision that came together in the draft room with this player (Egnew). A couple of weeks ago we sat down and started watching the kid, but we feel like he fits what we are trying to get accomplished.”

 

(On the Dolphins pre-draft interest in Olivier Vernon) – “I really didn’t know much about him until I went to the University of Miami Pro Day and my scouts told me to take a look at this guy and pay attention to him. My exposure to the player wasn’t as high on Vernon until he came in here, my scouts saying ‘we love him, we love him’ but my exposure really started getting more concentrated after I saw him at the University of Miami Pro Day and he came here. That’s when I really started studying him from this year and last year and our coaches got involved with it, so it became very clear to me that this was a guy that we should consider.”

 

(On Olivier Vernon performance at the collegiate level) – “You know missing six games this year and really only starting three (games) didn’t really have a great amount of production, but we trust our eyes and we trust what we see. We had a good conversation with (Miami Head) Coach Golden. He believes in him, and he’s one of our kind of guys, you know we talk in the same language that way, and I saw what he (Golden) sees in him to, so he’s a guy I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a big year, and a big career also.”

 

(On how the trade with the San Diego Chargers came together) – “We just had the two together and I really wanted to see if I could parlay something in, just to get an extra pick sometime tomorrow, so it was pretty simple. We wanted to take the pressure player first and felt like we might be able to move down a couple of spots and pick up Michael (Egnew).”

 

(On Egnew being a converted receiver and reaction to those who say his blocking is more getting in the way of teammates) – “I beg to differ with that. What you saw at the Senior Bowl was a guy putting his hand in the dirt and firing off and hitting some people. That scheme in Missouri is not a physical power scheme and you don’t really see him put his hand in the dirt there. So it’s hard to project when a guy’s out in space. He’ll get on you, out in space, but he’s blocking smaller guys. What you really see and you like about him is his run after catch. He’s a physical, 250-pound man that’s moving pretty fast. You see the physicality in that regard. At the Senior Bowl he impressed us that way. The willingness is absolutely there.”

 

JOE PHILBIN

(On Jonathan Martin and all three picks, but especially Martin) – “I really like the guy (Jonathan Martin, T, Stanford University). When I first watched him, right before the combine, before we went to the combine, what got my attention was his hand usage. I thought his timing on his punch – the things we teach in pass protection, with the punch and the use of the hands – the timing is the key, and I thought it was exceptional. I think his feet are very good. He’s got good length in his arms. I’m excited about him. I really liked him when I first watched him. He’s a guy that’s good in a workout but his film is as good as his workout. It’s tough sometimes because you watch these guys and you get intrigued a little bit about how they run the forty or the three-cone and some of those other things, but I thought his film married up well to his workout numbers. He’s smart, obviously, he’s a high character guy, and I’m excited about him. I think he’s a very, very good prospect.”

 

(On if he’s happy with the way Jeff Ireland and the scouts have done in the second round) – “I think Jeff and his scouts have done a great job, of course. Absolutely. It’s a team effort. These guys, they work their tails off. I came from a place where people feel like it’s a very good draft room there…these guys work their tails off. They’re very thorough, very detailed, I mean, Jeff’s got more cross-checkers – it’s impressive to watch those guys work and he listens to the coaches. Everybody chips in, but he makes the decisions. I think it’s been a good process, a very good process. Hopefully, and I believe we have, we’ve added some good, quality players.”

 

(On how much involvement he sees himself having in developing Martin) – “Not a lot. Again, as I said last night, and I firmly believe this, I’ll say it again, the position coach is the lifeblood of the football program here. I believed that when I was a position coach, I believed that when I was an offensive coordinator and I believe it as the head coach. Jim Turner is our offensive line coach. I’ve got tremendous faith and confidence in him, or I wouldn’t have hired him. We all sit together in a room before we step out onto the field. We all agree on what the protection schemes are going to be. We all agree on what the fundamentals of the position are going to be. I don’t see myself being involved in that at all. Chris Mosley is our assistant offensive line coach. You hire people to do a job and you expect them to do their job. That’s how it’s going to be run. Steve Ross isn’t coaching the football team; he hired me to coach the football team. Those guys will be able to do a great job with Jonathan Martin.”

 

(On how difficult the switch from the left side to the right side will be for Martin)  - “I don’t know.  We’ll find out, we’ll get here this weekend and will putz around with his stance and who knows.  We’ll see.  Some guys make it like that (snapping fingers) Steve (Wine), it’s not a problem. Other guys it takes a little bit while, the transitions a little bit tougher so we’ll start working with him.  We’re going work with him on. I don’t know if he’s going to get 100 percent of his reps on the right side anyway.  We haven’t begun our discussions of that on the depth chart but I know you can never have enough tackles who can protect the quarterback and we feel very good about what we’ve seen on tape in terms of his ability to protect the quarterback.  It’s not perfect but I’m excited about it.”

 

(On if Martin is the one you expects the most production from the picks so far ) - “Not necessarily, not necessarily.  Again you go through this process when you evaluate players even from our perspective as coaches and certainly Jeff talked about the vision that we have for certain players, which is important, before you select them on your ball club because you want to know how, at least you think how you’re going to utilize them.  But again, until you really get your hands around these guys it’s really hard to sit here and say, ‘Yeah I think this guy’s going to step forward and do this, and this guy’s going to step forward and do that’.  I don’t know what the Giants thought Victor Cruz was going to catch 85 passes, I don’t know the exact number, so hopefully they all, they all may have chance to contribute and make an impact.  Who that is and how quickly and how much, as I told the team yesterday at the end of our mini-camp, that’s kind of the fun part about this business and this profession and you know you don’t exactly know all the answers.  You do your best and you study the film and you trust your eyes at a certain point in time but we’ll see how that all shakes out.”

 

(On if Jermichael Finley the type of prototype of what you see in this offense for the tight end) - “I think you have to again, coaches putting guys in the position to be successful.  So if we asked Jermichael Finley to block the defensive end every single play and ran right the ball right to his place side leg, chances are we weren’t going to have a ton of success. So what we did was we attempted to utilize him the best way we could and (Michael) Egnew, I’m excited about the kid.  He’s a big skilled player.  We like to attack the middle of the field.  He’s going to be a good player in the red zone.  That’s an area where I thought these guys here in Miami did a lot of nice things last year.  They’re staff did.  They struggled a little bit in the red zone and this is a guy that I think can help us in the red zone and I think you can use him, he’s certainly been comfortable playing outside the box.  In a slot and even as a wider receiver like throwing screens through him.  They’ve run reverses with him.  I’m not sure the first day we’re going to run a reverse to him to be honest with you (laughing).  But, and I think he’s going be, Jeff mentioned, he’s a willing blocker.  It’s a little bit of a brave new world for him but he’s got ability.  He can bend.  If you can bend and you’re willing then you got a chance.”

 

(On what did you see out of Olivier Vernon that stood out) - “I think he’s strong.  I think he’s has some kind natural strength, Omar (Kelly) I don’t even know what his bench press, I couldn’t tell you and I really don’t even care.  But when he came here and worked out, he’s got some strength, some pop, some snap in his body that again sometimes that’s hard to coach.  You can watch guys and you can see guys bench press at the combine, but when you see guys move and play football you can tell some guys have some natural snap to their body.  They have good leverage.  They have good bend and good power.  He’s got big hands.  He’s 21-years old.  I like this strength.  I like the way he worked and I think he’s got great potential.”

 

JEFF IRELAND:

(On how do you feel about the first two days of the draft so far) - “I don’t know what kind of answer you feel like I’m going to give you (laughing). I feel great about it. A lot of work goes into this you don’t anyways get exactly what you want. When you’re sitting here with four picks, you would like to have four first-rounders. But you know that’s not going to happen, so we feel great about the four players that we’ve added to our roster. Again, like I told you, it’s a projection business. Some guys are going to contribute quickly, some guys are going to take some time to develop. We have a developmental program in place and firmly believe that with our coaching staff and the vision that their head coach has, these guys are going to become good players and so I feel very good about it.” 

 

(On how are you going to address tomorrow) - “Well, our draft board still has players on the board. We feel very good about some of those guys. We’re going to try to be patient in some cases and be aggressive in other occasions. Certainly, we have a couple of other things that we want to try to address. We’ll see how the board marries to the need.” 

 

(On seeing all the DL taking off the board, how much patience did you have) - “Again, I don’t know how patient I was. I was probably nervous. I really liked this kid. You did see kind of a trend going with pressure players and pass rushers. I’m not saying this guy is only a pressure player because this guy can play the run too. That’s what I like about him. He’s a developmental player. Certainly, needs some work and needs some more experience obviously to him. It’s hard. Sometimes you try to move up, you try to move down and sometimes you can’t. You just have to stay there and take the pick, but in this case we felt like some of his production may have kept him from going a little higher to be honest with you.” 

 

(On what went into the decision of not addressing the need at WR, was it just following the board) - “Yes, basically following the board.” 

 

(On having a high grade on Jonathan Martin, was it a first round grade) - “No, I’m not going to go there. I just don’t think it’s fair. We felt like we got the proper value where we took him, absolutely.” 


                                                                                                                                                                     

 

April 27, 2012

Knicks brimming with confidence on eve of Heat series; Dolphins draft reax

Here are some Heat/Knicks playoff notes from Friday’s practices at AA Arena. For our long Dolphins draft post off Day 1, please click on our last post.  We’ll have one more Heat post and one more draft-intensive post in the next 24 hours.

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The Knicks are clear-cut underdogs in their playoff series against the Heat, but New York’s marquee players claim Miami doesn’t possess an advantage in overall talent.

“We have so many threats offensively that match their offensive threats,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. “It’s pretty much even as far as the starting lineups. But our second unit I think is a little bit stronger.”

Forward Amare Stoudemire said “it’s a pretty even match. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are three phenomenal players. We have three players that can match their skill set. Our bench is phenomenal.”

After a preseason game in December, Stoudemire told rookie center Josh Harrelson, an avid outdoorsman: “We’re going to hunt in South Florida. You know what we’re going to hunt down there, right? We’re going to hunt LeBron and D-Wade.”

Stoudemire downplayed that comment Friday, claiming it was off the record. Wade cracked Friday, “Yeah, we played the whole season trying to make sure we play each other in the playoffs.”

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, “I know my guys can play with this team…. Critics and fans don’t think you can get it done. Something always amazing happens.”

TNT’s Charles Barkley isn’t swayed: “The Knicks can’t beat the Heat,” he said.

### Knicks center Tyson Chandler missed Friday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena with flu symptoms. Asked if he may not play, Woodson said “it’s a strong possibility.” But Anthony said he expects him to play. “He’s not eating, chills,” Woodson said. “We’re isolating him a bit from his teammates.”

### The Knicks are 18-6 under Woodson after starting 18-24 under Mike D’Antoni. “We do it on both ends of the court now with a lot more emphasis on defense,” Anthony said. “Everyone knows we can score.”

THIS AND THAT

Chris Bosh, who missed the last six games with a strained hamstring, “is probably not 100 percent but he feels good,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. Bosh said he does not expect to be limited “but there is a period where I have to get those legs back. It’s not just going to happen. I have to be realistic about that.”…. Dwyane Wade said his dislocated finger on his non-shooting hand is “fine.”

### Bosh, James and Wade have not played together as a group since beating the Knicks nearly two weeks ago.  James wasn’t sure if that would affect their rhythm in Game 1. “You don’t know until you get out there,” James said. But Bosh said “we had an opportunity to get that rust off in practice.”

### Wade is pleased the Heat is playing New York because “it’s great to start off with a team that really makes you focus and understand you have to play your best to beat them. It’s going to be a very entertaining series, a physical series. Stars being stars. Some great role players being great role players. It has everything you want. It’s great for the game of basketball.”

### The Knicks have several dangerous three-point shooters – Anthony, J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, and the Heat staff has emphasized closing out on the three-point shooters.  Miami was fifth-worst in opponent’s three-point percentage. “We need to do it better,” Wade said. “At times we’ve done it great, at times we haven’t.”

### Joel Anthony appears to have moved ahead of Ronny Turiaf as the first big-man off the bench, but Spoelstra said, “They’ll both be big. I have full confidence Ronny will help us and we need him.”

### Asked memories of the classic Heat-Knicks games of the 1990s, James said,  “The funniest one was looking at Jeff Van Gundy sliding off [Alonzo Mourning’s leg]. ” Wade said, “One of my favorites was Pat Riley went back to the Garden and see him get on the court and celebrate the boos was awesome.”

### Playoff tickets on the secondary market for the series are averaging $330.44 for games at AmericanAirlines Arena and $590.27 at Madison Square Garden, according to Tiqiq.

           

April 26, 2012

Reaction on Dolphins' selection of Tannehill; buzz on upcoming rounds

An all-draft Friday buzz column:

Feedback on Dolphins’ No. 1 draft pick Ryan Tannehill:

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “I thought he was a late one, early two during the year. I didn’t put him in my top 25 until three weeks ago. I moved him to 18. Mike Sherman coached him. If you’re a GM, don’t you trust Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin to make that call? Receiver in 30 games, quarterback in 19. This has never happened – top 10 pick for a guy with a position change. The quarterback when he was playing wide receiver wasn’t even drafted. So this is unprecedented this high in the draft for an inexperienced quarterback like Tannehill.

“He also had some struggles against big-time opponents this past year. Ideal size, strong arm, very competitive, very athletic, very smart. The way he threw on the move, he did a nice job. When you watched games against Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, nine interceptions in those games. Game management is an issue. Forced the ball into coverage. Questionable reads. Too many ill-advised throws.

“He’s got to throw the ball away, don’t force the ball. He leaves you scratching your head with some of his decisions. He needs a lot of work. Mike Sherman will develop him. He’ll sit behind Matt Moore or David Garrard. Second year, third year, when they think he’s ready, we’ll see what Ryan Tannehill has to offer.”

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “He needs to tighten up his decision making. That’s what hurt him this year, forcing the ball when he got behind in down and distance. It happened three or four times. He has to find his way to play his best football in a two-minute drill. I really like this pick, because Sherman and Tannehill continue to work together.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “He has a lot of potential. I love his work ethic, but he shouldn’t be a top 10 pick. Maybe not a top 15 or 20 pick. He’s a boom or bust franchise franchise guy. I don’t think he’s ready to be a heavy contributor next year. I watched every throw he made on tape. All the out-breaking routes are phenomenal. Where he gets in trouble are the in-breaking routes where he stares receivers down, pats the football and throws it late.”

### NFL Network’s Charley Casserly: “I don’t see an elite quarterback here. I see a guy that can develop and be a solid quarterback.” But “I like him better than Jake Locker and Christian Ponder.”

### NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi: “He’s a guy Miami is reaching for in a sense of desperation, because they didn’t get their quarterback. Great players typically never move. Joe Flacco transferred; he never moved positions. To me, that is bothersome. He’s a potential starter, and drafting potential [but not definite] starters with the eighth pick is not something I would do.”

### Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline: “He’s made a lot of mistakes. He has potential to be very good, but it’s too much risk” at No. 8.

### Fox’s Brian Billick said he would be “scared” to draft Tannehill and he feels like a “classic miss,” adding, “He reminds me of JaMarcus Russell. Both shot up draft boards based on how they look in shorts.”

### NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci said the Dolphins should “let him compete early” and not assume he will sit as a rookie: “This is going to be a competition with Matt Moore, there’s no doubt. But he has the advantage of being in that system before Matt Moore. He can do it all. He can throw from the run, he can escape. I would love to work with this guy because he has all the tools.”

### NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk: “The Dolphins had an unfair advantage on every team” because of the presence of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, his former coach at Texas A&M.

### ESPN’s Todd McShay: “I don’t think the difference between Tannehill and Robert Griffin is all that great. He has everything you look for in a potential franchise quarterback if you develop him properly and are willing to be patient. In my mind, he was a mid to late first round prospect but when you start to look at it and take your initial bias out of it, he has everything you look for. He belongs in the top 10 and has a chance to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. He has all the physical tools – size, strength, the accuracy, the mentality to handle pressure and has intangibles through the roof.”

### FYI: ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Miami rated Tannehill one of the top five quarterbacks of the past five years in terms of athleticism and arm talent. He said the Dolphins sat Tannehill in a room with Sherman, asked Tanehill if Sherman made a mistake by not starting him at quarterback when he arrived, and Tannehill clearly explained why it was a mistake. That impressed Dolphins management. By the way, Texas A&M counted 64 dropped passes by receivers last season, but the Dolphins counted 79, mitigating some concerns about his fourth-quarter issues.

### The Dolphins never tipped off Tannehill that they would take him, as an associate of the quarterback noted minutes before the draft.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins believe they can find a quality receiver at No. 72 or 73 if they don’t take one, such as South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery or LSU's Rueben Randle or Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill (if any of those three are there) at 42. If they wait until the 70s, they will choose from a group potentially including Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu  and Appalachian State’s Brian Quick (both could go higher), UM’s Tommy Streeter (Bill Parcells rates him as a second-rounder), FIU’s T.Y. Hilton, Iowa’s Marvin McNutt, Arizona’s Juron Criner, Wake Forest’s Chris Givens ,Arkansas' Joe Adams and Michigan State’s Keyshawn Martin.

Among less prominent receivers the Dolphins have shown interest in: Nevada mid-rounder Rishard Matthews (a skilled punt returner) and late-round Iowa State prospect Darius Reynolds, whom Miami’s staff privately has compared to Packers receiver James Jones.

### The Dolphins ideally want to add a pass-rusher Friday and have their eye on a dozen second- or third-round types. Among those on their radar: Marshall’s Vinny Curry, Clemson’s Andre Branch, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis, Boise State’s Tyrone Crawford, UM’s Olivier Vernon, Wake Forest’s Kyle Wilber, Virginia’s Cam Johnson and Cal’s Trevor Guyton – also have been discussed. They liked West Virginia's Bruce Irvin, who surprisingly went 15th to Seattle.

Among late-round options, remember they’ve spent a lot of private time with USC defensive end Armond Armstead, once considered a potential first-round before Trojan doctors wouldn’t let him play in 2011 because of chest pains last spring. He has been cleared medically.

### If the Dolphins don’t take a pass rusher or receiver at 42, they’ll give strong thought to a right tackle if Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, Ohio State’s Mike Adams, Mississippi’s Bobby Massie or Illinois’ Jeff Allen are there. They also are intrigued by Iowa State guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, who was summoned to Davie recently. And don’t rule out cornerback in this spot; the Dolphins like several, including Montana’s Trumaine Johnson.

### If they wait until 72 or 73 for a right tackle, there will be options, potentially FSU’s Zebrie Sanders, Cal’s Mitchell Schwartz, Auburn’s Brandon Mosley and South Dakota’s Tom Compton. Among late-round tackles, they called to express interest and get more game tape from Oklahoma State's Levy Adcock… The Dolphins would like to add another guard at some point, with Miami of Ohio’s Brandon Brooks, Rutgers’ Desmond Wynn and Iowa’s Adam Gettis among those on their radar.  

### Wayne State offensive tackle Joe Long, named the Division II Lineman of the Year for 2011, would be thrilled to be reunited with his brother, Dolphins All-Pro Jake Long. “It’s a huge dream of his to play with his brother,” Wayne State offensive line coach Terry Heffernan said. “They’re very close. He was the best man at Jake’s wedding in Naples” recently.

Whereas Jake was drafted first overall in 2008, Joe might not be drafted. At 6-5, 307 pounds, he started every game of his career at left tackle but could also play on the right side. “No other team has evaluated him as long as Miami has,” Heffernan said. “They’ve sent a scout every year."

Last year, Jake Long recommended his brother to then-Dolphins offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, who now has the same job with the Jets. The Jets brought him in for a visit recently. 

### Among the small-school prospects that the Dolphins have shown particular interest in: California (Penn.) receiver Thomas Mayo and Albion cornerback Chris Greenwood

### Quick late Thursday night update on the Heat-Knicks schedule: Games 1 and 2 in Miami will be 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday. Games 3 and 4 in New York will be 7 p.m. Thursday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday. They will then play (if needed) the following Wednesday in Miami, Friday in N.Y., and Sunday in Miami.

 

April 17, 2012

Buzz will return April 26

Buzz will return April 26, the first day of the NFL draft and the last day of the NBA's regular season.

April 14, 2012

UM spring football postscripts; Dolphins draft notes; Heat issues; Marlins

Sunday afternoon update: Sources confirm to The Herald that Richard Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, will be FIU's next men's basketball coach, replacing ousted Isiah Thomas. Richard Pitino has been associate head coach at Louisville for the past year, working for his father; Rick praised his scouting reports, among other things. He had worked at Louisville for four years previously, before leaving to be an assistant at Florida for two years (2009-10 and 2010-11). He then returned to work with his dad this past season. Pitino's hiring was originally reported early Sunday by AllKyHoops.com.

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM emerged from spring practice with several jobs legitimately open -- on both lines, in the secondary, tight end, receiver and elsewhere. Spring ball postscripts, by position:

### Cornerback: An intriguing battle looms, with six summer arrivals, including All-American Tracy Howard. “You need at least six going into the season,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. He expects Brandon McGee, Thomas Finnie and early arrival Ladarius Gunter to be three “and the young guys” – including early arrival Larry Hope – “fighting it out for the other three.”

McGee, who had been with the starters most of spring, was not with the first team on Saturday - Gunter and Finnie were - but D'Onofrio said all three are close in the staff's estimation. Finnie picked off a Ryan Williams pass Saturday, and McGee made a nifty interception of a Gray Crow pass and returned it 40 yards.

"McGee making that sort of play is something we've been looking for, for a long time," Al Golden said.

Gunter also had a few good moments, including forcing a fumble by Rawshawn Scott after Scott beat him for a long gain. Nobody should be surprised if Howard ends up starting at some point this season.

### Safety: One surprise was Vaughn Telemaque being relegated to the second team most of spring; Kacy Rodgers was with the first team Saturday, opposite Ray-Ray Armstrong. “AJ Highsmith and Kacy have closed the gap for sure," D’Onofrio said. But Telemaque and Armstrong had interceptions Saturday, and UM's four picks were just two fewer than its defense had all last season.

Telemaque “has been inconsistent,” defensive backs coach Paul Williams said. “He needs to run the show like we need a veteran safety to do.”

### Defensive end: D’Onofrio said linebacker Kelvin Cain likely will stay permanently at d-end. Expect a battle between Cain and Shayon Green to start opposite Anthony Chickillo, who had a sack Saturday.

Green “had the best spring of any defensive end,” D’Onofrio said, before his knee flared up in April. D’Onofrio expects five to play: those three, plus two from among Ricardo Williams and freshmen Dwayne Hoilett (who flashed this spring), Tyriq McCord, Jelani Hamilton and Jake O’Donnell.

### Defensive tackle: Curtis Porter and Darius Smith “have distanced themselves” over Luther Robinson, Olsen Pierre, Jalen Grimble and Corey King (who missed spring), D’Onofrio said. He expects to play five; a summer arrival (Earl Moore, Jacoby Briscoe, DeQuan Ivery) has a decent chance to crack that group. Pierre had a sack and a played well Saturday. Robinson, who declined the coaching staff's request to move to the offensive line before spring ball, also had some good moments.

### Linebacker: UM is delighted how Denzel Perryman adjusted to middle linebacker – “great instincts, all the tools to be a great one,” D’Onofrio said. Ramon Buchanon, who missed spring, and Perryman likely will start, with Jimmy Gaines the favorite for the third starting job.

D’Onofrio spoke of a potential third-down role for improved Eddie Johnson – who could push Gaines - and/or Tyrone Cornelius (“fast guy who can blitz or cover”). Also, “I like what [freshman] Raphael Kirby did, and Gionni Paul improved.”

Cornelius had a sack on Saturday, and Kirby and Paul each had six tackles - second-most behind Gunter (seven). Converted safety Thurston Armbrister, now at linebacker, also had a couple notable plays Saturday.

### Quarterback: Williams (15 for 27, 169 yards) threw two interceptions Saturday (only one was his fault) and made some mental errors, according to Golden. He did nothing to change Stephen Morris' position as the clear front-runner.

Golden said Gray Crow was ahead of Preston Dewey heading into Saturday, but added they're "very close" now. Dewey (6 for 12, 56 yards, no picks) had the better showing in the spring game. Crow (12 for 21, 95 yards) threw two interceptions.

### Running back: Mike James (15 for 57 Saturday) exited spring ball as the clear favorite to start over Eduardo Clements. "Mike had a great spring,'' offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. Clements finished 16 for 51, after managing just 17 yards on 14 carries in the second scrimmage.

"I don't think anyone thought he would come in and beat Mike James," Fisch said afterward. Still, you would have liked to see more explosiveness from Clements.

Fisch said both will play a lot, as will ballyhooed freshman Duke Johnson and potentially Danny Dillard. “Duke, with his explosiveness, is somebody you want on the field," Fisch said. UM's running game should be helped by the return of underrated fullback Maurice Hagens, who was sidelined Saturday and for much of spring ball.

Fisch said Dallas Crawford was moved from running back to receiver earlier in the spring, but UM decided later to play him at both positions and will determine this summer where he can best help. Fisch compared him to a utility infielder. He's most effective as a slot receiver.

### Receiver: Rashawn Scott had a terrific spring but ended it with a thud Saturday, fumbling a ball after a long gain and failing to hold onto another pass that was intercepted by Armstrong. "I told Rawshawn, 'Your job between now and July 29 is to become great,'' Fisch said.

Three spots in the receiver rotation likely will go to Scott, Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett, who set up the game's only touchdown with a 44-yard play, 39 of which came as yards after catch. Five incoming receivers will compete with Kendal Thompkins for two other jobs, with Robert Lockhart and Miramar’s Malcolm Lewis the most polished route-runners of the five.  (As we reported here Friday, UM's highest rated receiver recruit - Angelo Jean-Louis - is headed to prep school instead.) Thompkins, Mr. April, had a good spring and solid showing Saturday (six catches, 45 yards).

### Tight end: Asante Cleveland spent all of spring with the first team, because he was more consistent than Clive Walford, who dropped a pass Saturday "that would have been a 60-yard game," Fisch noted. But they will be paired together a lot this season. “Those two are going to be elite players,” Fisch said. “The tight ends had 29 catches last year. I’d like to see them get up to 60.” David Perry and Dyron Dye “are tied for third” at tight end, Fisch said, with Cory White out injured.

### Offensive line: Fisch said Malcolm Bunche and Seantrel Henderson “have shown they can be starting tackles for the next couple years. Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott had awesome springs.” That leaves one job open (left guard) – between Jon Feliciano (injured) and Jermaine Johnson. Jeremy Lewis “is in the mix too,” Fisch said.  Lewis started Saturday with Feliciano and Johnson out.

### Of the lackluster offensive display Saturday, Fisch said, "We hurt ourselves a lot, which was disappointing. We didn't catch the ball very well and blocking was just OK... Rashawn -- catch a [36] yard pass and don't fumble. Phillip Dorsett, don't get caught from behind."

Of his young skill position players, Fisch said pointedly, "We can't say they are [playmakers] yet because they didn't make plays today. They have to fulfill their potential sooner than later.'' 

DRAFT CHATTER

### Count Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin (66, 777), Iowa’s Marvin McNutt (82, 1315) and Arizona’s Juron Criner (75, 956) among receivers the Dolphins have been showing interest in. We hear the Dolphins also are intrigued by FIU's T.Y. Hilton, among others.

### The Dolphins have been calling about San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley, a potential mid-rounder if Miami doesn't get one of the five or six higher rated quarterbacks available to them.... Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler are the only first or second-tier QB prospects that Miami has had "alone time" with since the NFL Combine. They've done nothing private (workout or visit) with Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins since the Combine, though they have told NFL people that they like both. Keep in mind this Dolphins regime has drafted several players that were not brought in for visits.

### Among the maximum 30 players without South Florida ties who are allowed to visit Dolphins headquarters, the Dolphins have used several on defensive backs, including two from LSU - cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor. They also like Oregon State safety/cornerback Brandon Hardin and Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who both visited. It's a bonus, in Dolphins management's eyes, if you can play safety or corner.... Contrary to a report on another local internet site, people directly involved say the Dolphins have not hosted visits with potential first-round linebackers Courtney Upshaw, Zach Brown or Whitney Mercilus, though Upshaw and Mercilus are not out of the question as options if Miami trades down from No. 8.

### NFL Network's Mike Mayock said North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples - who has visited the Dolphins and remains in the mix at No. 8 - "would win the bathing suit competition" but should not be a first-round pick because of questionable effort. In fact, Mayock said he's not even sure he would take him in the second round.

### Iowa's Riley Reiff is no longer the only possible right tackle projected in Miami's range, or soon after. Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline said scouts now believe elite Stanford guard David DeCastro also can play right tackle, and CBS' Charley Casserly said he's one of the draft's top 10 prospects. Still, it would be surprising if the Dolphins use another first-rounder on a lineman.

### While most prominent mock drafts have Miami taking Ryan Tannehill at No. 8, projections for the Dolphins' pick at No. 41 range from Clemson linebacker Andre Branch (Kiper's pick for Miami) to Marshall linebacker Vinny Curry (Casserly's pick).

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### If it seems the Heat allows more open shots than most teams, you’re right. And it can be exasperating, but partly a function of Miami's defensive philosophy, which involves protecting the paint and sending extra defenders to the side with the ball, which leaves Miami vulnerable when the opponent swings the ball to the weak side. Consider these gruesome numbers:

According to mysynergysports.com, Miami has allowed a way-too-many 801 unguarded catch-and-shoots - second-most in the NBA and 225 more than Chicago. What’s more, opponents have made 43 percent of those shots (only Washington allows a higher percentage). When Miami actually guards the shooter on catch-and-shoots, opponents shoot only 33 percent.

Also troublesome: The Heat has relinquished 439 three-pointers – second-most behind Denver. Miami’s three-point percentage defense has slipped from ninth last season to 28th, which should very much concern them.

Shane Battier explains it thusly: “When you don’t have shot blockers, you have to be aggressive on pick and rolls. When we are, it’s essentially a double team, which leaves an open man. To cover that man, you need to get into rotations.” But Miami’s problem, ESPN’s Jalen Rose said, is “they’re slow on rotations.”

### LeBron James is posting up more than ever (3.1 shots per game), and his points per possession on post-ups is fourth best (minimum 150 shots), behind Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. But as TNT’s Steve Kerr noted, James doesn’t do it enough late in games.

Here’s why he should: During the last five minutes of close games (margin of five or fewer), James – as a member of the Heat, including playoffs - has shot 31 for 94 (32 percent) outside the paint/basket area, including 36.9 percent on two-pointers outside the basket area. Yes, he hit a big three Thursday night, and we aren't suggesting that he not take some of those shots. But weaving in more post-ups would raise his late-game efficiency.

Kerr said playing James at point guard late in games discourages him from posting up. “But you can still do it, like Chauncey Billups does,” an Eastern Conference scout told us. “Dwyane Wade or somebody else can make the entry pass. He’ll probably get doubled, but you’ll have open shooters. It’s bizarre Erik [Spoelstra] doesn’t use James Jones more to discourage his guy from doubling. Jones isn’t that bad a defender and his stroke is much better than Battier’s.”

### Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire said Josh Johnson’s velocity is down from early 2011 (91-93 mph; usually 95-96). Blame that, plus location, for his struggles (0-2, 8.38 ERA, 21 hits in 9 2/3 innings). “I’m unhappy, but I feel really good and I’m not giving up line drives,” Johnson said.

April 12, 2012

Dolphins sign LB and TE/accountant; assessing state prospects; UM loses signee

Today's buzz column is below, but first, a quick Friday update:

The Dolphins signed linebacker Gary Guyton, a four-year veteran out of Georgia Tech, sources said. (Thanks to Armando Salguero for letting me break this on his twitter account, while driving in a rainstorm.) Guyton doesn't address their need for a big-time pass rusher - he has just 4.5 career sacks -  but it does give them depth, versatility (can play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4), more speed and a legitimate challenger to Koa Misi.  He had 47 tackles and a pick in six starts and 13 games last season. (Read my full story on Guyton on the Dolphins and sports home pages.)...

According to Sports Illustated, the Dolphins also signed Les Brown, an aspiring tight end who never played college football and spent the past two years working for an accounting firm. Brown, 6-4, played basketball at NAIA Westminster College in Utah and impressed NFL teams at BYU's Pro Day last month by running a 4.44 in the 40 and displaying pass-catching skills. Brown, who played football and basketball in high school (2006 grad), got permission to audition at BYU because his brother plays there. Dolphins scouts were impressed and recommended him to Jeff Ireland, who signed him. It's a no-risk move, with Miami having nothing to lose.

IF YOU'RE SEEING THIS LINK on the Dolphins page, scroll down below - in chatter - for several other Dolphins notes. And check out our previous post explaining why one prominent former GM says the players most often associated with Miami's No. 8 pick are not the best value there.

  

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Miami, Florida and Florida State have combined for at least one first-round draft choice every year since 1980. But unless UM’s Lamar Miller slips into the first, that streak will end April 26, and UM’s streak without a first-rounder would grow to four years, after 14 straight drafts with at least one.

“We’re trying to break that,” Miller said. “I’m a game-changer.”

Despite his blazing speed, ESPN’s Mel Kiper doesn’t have Miller in the first two rounds of his mock draft, and Todd McShay has him 53rd. “As a pure rusher, he’s a top 20 pick,” Kiper said. “But he needs to be more versatile, has to silence those durability concerns, and work on catching out of the backfield.” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock expressed concerns about his ability in short yardage and goal line situations.

Sizing up the state’s other draft prospects, from conversations with analysts and scouts:

### Likely second to fourth round: UM’s Sean Spence should go here, though his poor showing in the bench press at the NFL Combine (12 reps – worst among defensive players) raised eyebrows. “He’s going to have to show he’s strong enough to take on guys like Adrian Peterson,” an NFC scout said. “He’s a good player, but not special like Jonathan Vilma or Jon Beason.” But Denver coach Mike Shanahan said: "I don't care how much he bench presses. He's a solid player." Another scout said UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio called Spence the most instinctive player he has coached.…

UM’s Olivier Vernon, whom McShay projects for round three, “looked pretty natural at linebacker in drills at the Combine,” an NFC scout said. “He has some pass-rushing skills and a passion for the game. I gave him a late second-round grade.”….   FSU left tackle Zebrie Sanders and UCF cornerback Josh Robinson could go in the second. Robinson ran great “but needs an attitude adjustment and is not very tough,” an NFC scout said.…

UM receiver Tommy Streeter ran well (4.40) but “he’s a long strider and plays slower than that,” an AFC scout said. “And he’s not polished in his routes.” Mayock said Streeter is a fourth-rounder at best.… FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton “has a third-round grade and could go late in the second,” Mayock said. “Really good quickness in short areas. Good long speed.” One scout said, “He’s a slot guy who won’t start but will play a lot of snaps.”

### Fifth to sixth: McShay rates UM’s Brandon Washington, Marcus Forston and Chase Ford as fifth-rounders; and Travis Benjamin and Adewale Ojomo as sixth-rounders. One NFC scout said: “Based on the film, I don’t think Washington should go before the sixth round. Forston has natural athletic skills and quickness, but he can’t stay healthy. If you can’t stay healthy in college, you’re damn sure not going to do it playing inside in the NFL.”

Benjamin, one scout said, “has DeSean Jackson’s speed, but not his toughness.” Said another: “Benjamin has got to be a slot receiver. He’ll get knocked down if you play him anywhere else.” Benjamin, who’s working with Cris Carter, got a thumbs up from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at UM’s Pro Day…

Also in this range: UF defensive tackle Jaye Howard and running back Chris Rainey (could slip into fourth); FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerback Mike Harris and offensive tackle Andrew Datko and USF running back Darrell Scott. “Somebody will take a shot at Rainey in the mid rounds because of his speed,” a scout said. “But he’s a backup at best and his punt returns have to improve.”

### Late or free agents: UM’s Jacory Harris, Tyler Horn, LaRon Byrd (helped his stock at Miami’s pro day) and Micanor Regis (could go late); UF’s John Brantley and speedster Jeffrey Demps, who’s training for the Olympics; FAU fullback Alfred Morris; FSU tight end Beau Reliford and punter Shawn Powell.

CHATTER

### UM fully expects it will not have one its several elite recruits this coming season because of academics. Angelo Jean-Louis, rated by rivals.com as the nation’s No. 8 receiver and 116th best player overall, very likely will attend prep school this fall.... UM expects more than 250 players back for the spring game; Al Golden has done a good job making them feel wanted. "We're in our meeting today," Golden said Thursday, "and Michael Irvin is hiding out in the back of the offensive unit.''

### UM coach Jim Larranaga said Reggie Johnson has decided to stay at UM but has the right to change his mind before the NBA's April 29 early entrant deadline.

### With Udonis Haslem replacing Ronnie Turiaf to start the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra claimed after Thursday's loss that he had been planning these lineup changes for some time but had been waiting for his team to get fully healthy. Haslem, who missed the second half and overtime with a stomach virus, will give the first unit a stronger rebounding presence, and a more skilled mid-range shooter (though this is his worst season in years shooting mid-range jumpers).

But lineup changes won't have any impact if the Heat's bench - specifically Mike Miller and Shane Battier - don't play better. The Bulls outscored Miami's bench, 47-7, and the margin is an absurd 103-22 in the teams' past two meetings. ESPN's Jalen Rose became the latest to say that James Jones - who didn't play at all Thursday - needs to get more minutes.

Other problems Thursday: The Heat committed 19 turnovers (leading to 25 Bulls points); Chicago shot 11 for 22 on threes; and the Bulls' guards "continued to find a way to break us down," Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra said CJ Watson's three to tie the game late was the result of "miscommunication." Spoelstra said he didn't consider fouling on the play, which was puzzling. LeBron James put it this way: "There shouldn't be someone open at the three-point line up three" at the end of a game. "That took all of our energy. It zappped us. This is one of the worst feelings I had in the regular season this year.''

### The Dolphins have delayed a decision on right guard (Jake Scott, Kyle Kosier, etc.), possibly until after the draft. Scott, rated the seventh-best guard by Pro Football Focus last season, has strong interest in signing here, and Miami indicated it's still considering it but doesn't want to rush a decision. Kosier has had talks with Miami and other teams…

Though Miami has less than $6 million under the 2012 cap after signing Guyton, the Dolphins should be able to afford all their top 2013 free agents (including Cam Wake, who continues to sit out the voluntary offseason program) because they’re more than $50 million under the ’13 cap. But giving Wake a big raise this season will be impossible without clearing more space, preferably through restructuring contracts.

### It’s debatable if Tyrell Johnson will be as good as ousted Yeremiah Bell, but he will be cheaper. His $830,000 salary (including bonuses, according to NFL players association records) is less than what Bell would have made if he hadn’t been cut ($4.3 million).… ESPN analyst and former Colts executive Bill Polian said Miami simply “must” trade for Minnesota’s No. 3 pick to take Ryan Tannehill, even if it means giving up their picks at No. 8, No. 41 and a third-rounder. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Tannehill "is a hidden gem" and if "you want him, you better talk to" the Vikings. But from Miami's perspective, that trade would be surprising and completely run counter to Jeff Ireland’s way of doing business.

### Good to see Panthers owner Cliff Viner and his partners make the postseason after years of frustration. Viner, who took over as managing partner in spring 2010, credits former Panthers president Bill Torrey for putting him in touch with general manager Dale Tallon.

“I’m very excited for me, but I’m really very excited for the whole organization,'' said Viner, who received a congratulatory call from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week. "Most everybody made us the butt of jokes of not being in the playoffs" since 2000 - the NHL's longest streak. Finally making it "gives us a much better level of credibility than before... All the analysts favoring New Jersey, maybe they’re just as wrong as the beginning of the season when we were picked to finish close to last.''

### ESPN's Barry Melrose said the Devils "are definitely the favorite because of scoring depth. Their scoring is spread over a number of lines. Florida has gotten a disproportionate number of goals from their top line. If that line is stopped, Florida doesn't have a chance at winning this series. And they have to guard against being happy just to be there."

### Absurd comment of the week: TNT's Charles Barkley claiming Dwyane Wade "gets far too much credit for the Heat championship.'' Wade averaged 34.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in that series and spearheaded the Heat's comeback from down 0-2 against Dallas in 2006. Barkley said the Heat won primarily because of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning.

Shaq, thankfully, disagreed with Barkley on TNT's set on Thursday, noting that he told Wade to take over when Miami went down 0-2. Barkley, incidentally, said he called Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to tell him "to keep his head up" amid the backlash over his Fidel Castro comments.

April 11, 2012

Dolphins, draft notes; Barkley criticizes Heat; J.J. reax; broadcast news

Notes on a late Wednesday night:

### The latest free agent to visit Dolphins headquarters Wednesday: veteran fullback Ahmard Hall, who was ranked 26th of 29 players at his position by Pro Football Focus last season. Hall, 32, has 40 starts in six seasons, all with Tennessee, including seven starts last season.

During his career, he has 80 yards rushing on 24 carries (3.3 average) and 561 yards on 73 receptions. Undrafted out of Texas, Hall spent four years in the Marines. The Dolphins are looking for a fullback to compete with CFL import Jerome Messam. Lex Hilliard, the Dolphins’ primary fullback last season, signed with Minnesota.

### The players most often mentioned in connection with the Dolphins’ first-round pick at No. 8 are Ryan Tannehill, Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Michael Floyd, Riley Reiff and – if either surprisingly drops – Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne.

But if CBS and NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly put together the Dolphins’ draft board, Tannehill, Coples, Ingram, Floyd and Reiff are not the players he would rate No. 7 to 10.

Casserly said there are six clear cut top players in the draft: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Blackmon and Claiborne.

After that, he rates Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 7 (“he’s a Pro Bowl type prospect); Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 8 (“smart, instinctive and can run; he’s better than Jonathan Vilma”); Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe at No. 9 and Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 10. He has Notre Dame receiver Floyd 11th and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox 12th.

Barron or Poe would be surprising picks for Miami and DeCastro would be unspeakably shocking. But Kuechly cannot be ruled out. Though he projects as an inside linebacker, Casserly said there’s no reason he cannot play outside linebacker. He led the nation with 191 tackles last season, to go with three interceptions. But Kuechly, 6-3 and 242 pounds, was used more in coverage than as a pass rusher and had just 2.5 sacks in three years.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock rates Kuechly the sixth-best player in the draft but expects him to go between picks 12 and 20.

### Matt Moore told WQAM’s Joe Rose on Wednesday: “I was fully expecting a quarterback competition. I still am. You just want a fair shot to show your talent and prove to coaches you can win. That’s all I was hoping for and I think that’s the situation we have here.”

### TNT's Charles Barkley told a Chicago radio station on Wednesday: "I think the Bulls have a really good chance against the Heat [in the playoffs]. I think the Bulls are better. I think LeBron James has to play at a Michael Jordan-type level every night because that team has so many holes on it. James is the best player in the NBA. if he doesn't play at a crazy level and make those guys better - Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem - if he doesn't get those guys off, they can't win. Chris Bosh hasn't had a double double in like two months. They're clearly not a good rebounding team. Their bench isn't very good.""

### The impression Erik Spoelstra has left a few times in recent games is he will give Norris Cole a brief first-half stint (just three minutes against Boston), but go back to him in the second half only if he plays well. (Cole went 0-for-1 and wasn’t used after halftime.) 

Spoelstra declined to discuss his approach with Cole, but if James Jones continues to play well, Spoelstra may instead opt to continue using him with Shane Battier and Mike Miller off the bench, with Dwyane Wade or LeBron James handling point guard duties when Mario Chalmers is out. That’s a smart approach, considering how ineffective Cole has been since the All-Star break.

For a look at the state of the Heat heading into Thursday’s Bulls game, see our previous post.

### Josh Johnson’s first two starts have been disconcerting, though he insisted he wasn’t discouraged by Wednesday’s outing against the Phillies. He allowed 10 hits in the opener (equaling a career high), then 11 hits (and six runs) in 3 2/3 innings vs. Philadelphia Wednesday. “He missed almost a whole year last year,” interim manager Joey Cora said. “It’s going to take time to be the J.J. we know. He’s a whole lot better than that.”

### Friday’s Marlins-Astros game – was which supposed to be one of only five non-televised Marlins games this season – has been picked up by MLB Network and will be aired in South Florida, opposite Heat-Charlotte and Game 1 of Panthers-Devils.

### Jeff Dinetz, station manager for 790 The Ticket, said as he searches for a successor for morning host Jorge Sedano (who quit this week to concentrate on TV opportunities), he doesn’t want someone who will talk only about sports.

“Everything will come back to sports, but I want to talk about what’s happening on Dancing With The Stars and pop culture and other things,” he said. “It can’t just be about X’s and O’s."

The station has made clear that it was Sedano's decision to leave and he could have stayed if he wanted. He offered to work through mid-May, but the station declined because of contractual reasons (according to program director Tod Cassleberry). Sedano pointed out he had the highest morning sports ratings in the station's history. The Sedano/Joe Rose battle was very competitive, with Sedano winning several books in recent months.

But Dinetz said overall as a station, "We were 18th, 19th in men 25 to 54 last month. We haven't been in the top 15 and that’s unacceptable.”

Heat says don't worry, remember 2006

 

          For those deeply concerned that the Heat’s ongoing malaise might carry over into the playoffs, coach Erik Spoelstra offered a reminder Thursday:

          “Our championship year, we struggled in April. We had some bad losses. [And] Dallas really struggled” last April.

          The Heat, in fact, lost seven of its final 11 to close the regular season before winning a title in 2006.  This Heat team enters Thursday night’s game at Chicago having lost five of its past 10 and seven of its past 10 on the road.

          With the Bulls leading the Heat by three games, a Heat loss Thursday would make it highly unlikely that Miami would claim the No. 1 seed, barring a Bulls collapse. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Derrick Rose, who missed Tuesday’s game with an ankle sprain, practiced Wednesday and is “fine”. He is reportedly expected to play.

          Meanwhile, if you were looking for significant concern or frustration at Heat practice on Wednesday, you weren’t going to find it.

          Is there some urgency to start playing better? Absolutely.  But there remains a cool confidence with this team, the implied message that none of these losses – even collectively – should be overstated. Just listen:

          ### LeBron James: “We know we’ve got room for improvement, but there’s no concern right now. We know we’ve got a really good team. You want to have some momentum going into the playoffs, but once the playoffs start, it doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season.”

          ### Dwyane Wade: “We’re a very confident team. We know how good we are. No matter what people say we’re going through, we’re not that bad. We’re 40-16.”

          ### Chris Bosh: “We find ourselves having to get over a lot of losses. They really don’t bother me too much. We have to find a way to get it going. We’re right where we need to be right now. I don’t think we’re playing bad on offense. There’s no lack of trust.”

          And what about the value of the No. 1 seed, which ensures homecourt advantage in every Eastern Conference playoff series? Depends who you ask.

          “We want to catch Chicago. It’s an important game,” Bosh said. “You’re really trying to establish your dominance in the conference.”

          But James countered, “I don’t care about seedings too much. I just want to play well going into the playoffs. Had the No. 1 seed in Cleveland, we didn’t win. We had the No. 2 seed last year and we got to the Finals. [But] we’re not a team that says, ‘We can cruise these last couple weeks and then turn it on in the playoffs.’ You can’t do that. You build your habits in the regular season.”

          The Heat has lost its past six games on the road against teams well above .500, with the losses by 19 to Boston, 15 to Indiana, 16 to Oklahoma City, four to Chicago, six to Orlando and 10 to the Lakers. Since Feb. 15, the Heat has only one road win against a team with a winning record (Philadelphia).

          Spoelstra and players said the Heat hasn’t had much dropoff offensively (Miami is fourth in points per game), though the team’s scoring average is down significantly since Miami averaged 106 over an 11-game stretch ending March 1. The bigger concerns are rebounding (Miami is 20th in the league) and defensive lapses, even though the Heat still ranks in the top 10 in points allowed (eighth) and field goal percentage against (seventh).

          In Tuesday’s 115-107 win against the Heat, Boston shot 60.6 percent – the highest by a Miami opponent since James joined Miami. Though Boston made a lot of difficult shots, “we could have done things with more discipline and mental toughness,” Spoelstra said.

          Still, the coach added, “I feel confident with a lot of things going on with this team. Things can change very quickly. All it would take for us is one signature win.”

 

          NOTES

          ### Wade said it felt “weird” playing in Chicago, his hometown, earlier in his career but now he’s more comfortable there.

          ### The Bulls are 16-7 without Rose. “You take Rose off that team- they’re still better than a lot of teams in the NBA,” James said.

          ### Spoelstra used 10 players Tuesday and said “we have some time to figure” out the rotation, which remains in flux.

          ### Wade agreed with Ray Allen’s comments this week that players should be compensated for playing in the Olympics, perhaps through jersey sales.

          “You play the whole summer; I do think players should be compensated,” said Wade, who is expected to join James on the U.S. team at this summer’s London Olympics. “I think college players should be compensated as well. You get no rest. It’s taxing on the body.”

          James said “it doesn’t matter” to him if Olympians are paid.