SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
See the first chatter note for some fresh news about Ray Allen's Heat deal. But we start off with Dolphins chatter, as the July 27 start of training camp fast approaches:
### Though some of the young veterans have not progressed as much as hoped (Clyde Gates, John Jerry primarily) here’s what should encourage you: Several others showed clear growth during offseason practices, from Roberto Wallace to Reshad Jones to Charles Clay to Jared Odrick to Jimmy Wilson. (Of course, we need to see this growth in August and September, not merely in May and June.)
Wallace made leaping catches, tight-roped the sidelines for others and used his size (6-4) and speed to make people notice.
“Roberto is going to be a pretty good receiver in this league,” David Garrard said. “He’s that guy I’ve really been looking at and trying to work with. When he puts it all together, he can be a big talent.” Julius Pruitt also turned heads but faces longer odds to stick.
The Dolphins are more convinced than ever that they have a dangerous weapon in Charles Clay, who lined up at receiver and tight end and often found seams for 8 to 25 yard chunks. If he’s this open against other defenses, he’s going to be trouble.
Defensively, Jones and Odrick have solidified starting spots. Jones is taking better angles in coverage and grabbed at least four interceptions in June – one pick-six off Ryan Tannehill. Odrick was very active, knocking down a pass from Garrard, frequently applying pressure and setting the edge on runs.
Wilson, smoothly transitioning from cornerback, has a good chance to be the No. 3 safety. “I like what he’s doing: good acceleration, good instincts,” Joe Philbin said.
### As much as Miami wants Jonathan Martin to start at right tackle, he needs a lot of work after playing on the left side at Stanford, and he knows it.
But players believe rookie Olivier Vernon will make an immediate impact as a situational pass rusher. “He plays with a low center of gravity and with good angles, just like Cam Wake,” Odrick said.
Lamar Miller often has turned the corner on running plays to the sidelines and flashed electric open-field skills as a receiver. “Lamar is very shifty, and you see that with him running routes,” Reggie Bush said. “He’ll learn quickly. He’ll definitely be able to help us this year. He can be a huge addition.”
Tight end Michael Egnew came on strong during June minicamp, using his size (6-5) and speed to catch several balls downfield.
### Among undrafted rookies, receiver Jeff Fuller shows flashes – “long, lanky, really gets out of his breaks,” Garrard said, though he couldn’t recall his name, oddly enough. But Fuller also has some drops (a problem for him at Texas A&M) and it’s difficult to envision him making the 53-man roster. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, Oregon State linebacker Cameron Collins and Missouri defensive end Jacquies Smith also have had their moments.
Les Brown, the former accountant who hadn’t played football since 2006 but was signed after an impressive workout at BYU, displayed steady hands (for the most part) and decent run-after-the-catch ability and looks like he’s worth developing on the practice squad.
### Karlos Dansby has looked good in transitioning to a 4-3 middle linebacker, including a pick of a Matt Moore pass that would have been returned for a touchdown. Coaches believe the move to a 4-3 will go smoothly because all of Miami’s starting linemen have experience playing in it: Wake in the CFL, Paul Soliai and Odrick in college and Randy Starks with the Titans.
### That anticipated battle between Koa Misi and Gary Guyton for a starting linebacker job? Hasn’t happened. Misi said he was with the first team in every practice this offseason.
### Offseason disappointments, beyond Gates, Tyrell Johnson and the uncertainty of the right side of the offensive line? Here's another: too many dropped passes, not only by receivers but all the tight ends, as well as Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. Tannehill's up-and-down play hasn't surprised the Dolphins (they never were counting on him to start the opener) and hasn’t eroded longterm faith.
“I would have taken him before [2011 first-rounders] Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder,” CBS’ Phil Simms told us. “He made more NFL throws than any quarterback I saw in this year’s draft. Very good pocket presence.”
### Heat fans should appreciate Ray Allen next season, because there's no assurance he will be here beyond that. Two sources with direct knowledge tell us that Allen’s two-year deal with the Heat includes a $3.2 million player option for 2013-14. So if Allen wants to become a free agent again next July, he can. So can Rashard Lewis, due $1.4 million in 2013-14.
Regardless of whether Allen and Lewis both “opt-in” for 2013-14, Miami again would have only the $3 million mini-mid level exception, even if its amnesties Mike Miller, barring trades.
This year's amnesty deadline is Tuesday, and Pat Riley has said Miami won't use it. (Miami wouldn't have a dime more to spend this summer even if it amnestied Miller.)
### Keep this in mind when envisioning a lineup of the Heat’s Big Three and three-point marksmen Allen and Lewis: The Heat played 53 minutes (including playoffs) last season with the Big Three and two non-point guard wing players (Shane Battier, Mike Miller or James Jones). That group outscored the opponent, 127-79. So imagine that type of lineup with Allen, who shot 48.4 percent on catch-and-shoot three pointers last season, compared with 37.9 for Battier/Miller/Jones.
### If you want to watch the Heat's summer league team play in Las Vegas (Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman & Co.), at least four of the games will be live on NBA TV: sunday vs. the Raptors (5:30 p.m.), Monday vs. the Lakers (8:30 p.m.), Wednesday vs. Golden State (10:30 p.m.) and Saturday vs. Portland (4 p.m.)..... Heat second-round rookie center Justin Hamilton and former Heat second-rounder Jarvis Varnado and Robert Dozier were left in Miami because of injuries but could re-join the team at some point this week.
### One National League scout said one of the Marlins’ mistakes was “paying Jose Reyes off what he did last year when he hadn’t done it before. He has not been a guy who hits .300 every year and they paid him like one.”
And the scout made the same point on John Buck, noting the Marlins were fooled by his .281 in 2010, mistakenly ignoring his more representative averages the previous three (.222, .224, .247).
Buck, hitting .178, is on pace to set an ignominious record: lowest batting average by a catcher (minimum 100 games) in at least 40 years. Tony Pena holds that distinction (.181 in 1993).
Reyes, who got far more from the Marlins (six years, $106 million) than anyone else dangled and didn’t even get an offer from the Mets. Bell, at .265 this season, looks closer to the player who hit .279 and .282 in the two years prior to last year's .337.
### At least Heath Bell apologized to Buck on Friday after giving reporters the impression he was criticizing Buck's pitch calling. Marlins people, including at least a couple players, have grown tired of Bell's excuse-making. After blown saves, Bell has mentioned the team's training staff, the Marlins' advance scouting reports and bad luck, among other factors.
### Juan Carlos Oviedo, who is eligible to return from suspension on July 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning for Triple A New Orleans Saturday night before leaving with elbow pain.... In need of catching depth in their system, the Marlins quietly added 10-year MLB veteran Humberto Quintero, 32, on Friday and sent him to Triple A. He was hitting .232 for the Royals (much better than Buck) when Kansas City released him July 5. He has 16 homers and a .234 average in 10 seasons, seven with Houston.
### UM has oral commitments from two of ESPN’s top 100 senior-to-be prospects (quarterback Kevin Olsen at No. 67 and Tampa tight end/receiver Travis Johnson at 77), but is still trying to land one from among the eight South Florida players in the top 100.
Of those eight, one each is orally committed to UF (Belle Glade Glades Day running back Kelvin Taylor, at No. 22) and FSU (University School defensive tackle Maquedius Bain, at No. 41), Ohio State (St. Thomas defensive tackle Joey Bosa, at 45) and Oklahoma (Delray Beach American Heritage running back Greg Bryant, at 30).
Of the four undecided local players among ESPN's top 100 national prospects, UM is in the top five for Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas (13), University School receiver Jordan Cunningham (46) and Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns (69), and firmly in the mix for Oakland Park Northeast receiver Stacy Coley (33). Northeast coach Donnell Bennett, the former Hurricane, said UM, UF, FSU, Clemson and West Virginia - in no particular order - hold appeal to Coley. Cunningham told us he has UM even with Notre Dame, Stanford, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Thomas has Miami fourth, with Alabama the leader, but it's fluid. UM, FSU and LSU stand out to Burns.