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19 posts from August 2012

August 31, 2012

Joe Philbin's Friday night comments; Mixed news for Canes NFL players on cutdown day

I'll have two Dolphins stories up shortly next to this blog on the sports home page. If you haven't seen all of the Dolphins cuts, go to Armando's blog, where he and I have been tag-teaming to break the cuts all day.

A quick look at some Hurricanes affected by the NFL's roster cut-down deadline Friday night:

### LaRon Byrd (Arizona), Marcus Forston (New England) and Adewale Ojomo (Giants) made teams as rookie undrafted free agents.

### Baltimore placed Tommy Streeter and Damien Berry on injured reserve. (The Ravens kept ex-Gators receiver Deonte Thompson.)

### Atlanta cut Spencer Adkins and Micanor Regis.

### Philadelphia cut Brandon Washington and Chase Ford.

### The Giants cut Bruce Johnson.

### Arizona placed Javarris James on injured reserve.

### As everyone knows, Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller are part of the Dolphins' final 53.

### Pittsburgh placed Sean Spence on injured reserve after his gruesome knee injury Thursday.

# # #

Here's what Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had to say at his Friday night press conference: 

(On having wide receiver Brian Hartline back at practice today) – “Yeah, it was good. Yeah. Again, hopefully, I said to the team, the plan is we’re going to have 53 healthy guys next week and 46 guys are going to dress against Houston that are healthy, ready to go and well prepared. That’s the hope and the anticipation. Today was a good opportunity to kind of get a brief introduction and get some things, there are a couple things that we did in special teams. We’ve been practicing onside kicks and hands teams with a bunch of different guys, younger guys and those type of things. We did some things we felt that was productive.”

(On tackle Jake Long’s progress from his injury) – “Like I said, the only think I would reiterate would be our anticipation is we’re going to have 53 healthy guys come (when) we start to prepare for Houston. Whether that’s the case, time will tell, but that’s the anticipation we have.”

(On his impressions of Hartline) – “I haven’t watched the tape today yet. I thought he ran around pretty well it looked like… We’re excited about getting our hands on him. Obviously, like I said, we watched him last year (and) thought he has a chance to be a productive player. Liked the way he competed for the ball. Thought he played fast, decisively and caught the ball well. Once again, we want to get him as familiar as we can with our concepts pass-game wise, which he’s obviously a little bit behind from a reps standpoint. I don’t think a learning part will be an issue. From a reps standpoint, he’s obviously going to need to catch up.”

(On how much it will help Hartline having worked with quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the offseason) – “Probably a little bit. It will be some, but you like to have, throwing against air and playing against a defense is two different things a little bit. I don’t think, certainly it’s not going to hurt him, but I wouldn’t be banking a lot on that.”

(On currently having three cornerbacks on the roster and if he thought about moving Jimmy Wilson back to corner) – “That’s certainly an option. We have originally until I believe 9 o’clock this evening before things are finalized. This is a very fluid time for the roster over the next couple of days. I remember as an assistant having a, making a change on a Tuesday of the game plan week, the first week of the season - letting a guy go that had been with us for a year and a half and taking a guy, getting a guy ready for a game in five days. So it’s an anxious time for a lot of players and coaches and, as a coach, you’d probably love to be settled in and know exactly who you have when you have a history with all those guys. But sometimes players come available and changes are made. I’m sure things still have to be done here obviously.” 

(On if the preference is to leave Wilson at safety) – “We haven’t really gone down there yet. As you know, we still have some things we have to do and we want to obviously see what’s out there. To say we’re leaning one way or the other would probably be premature, but certainly he’s played that position. Good common sense would tell you that would be an option.”

(On how concerned he is with the winless preseason and not necessarily making the progress he had hoped for) – “Obviously, I was disappointed the other evening. I think we’ve made progress as a football team overall. I’d be really concerned if, we plan on starting Ryan Tannehill in the game and if he had thrown the ball into triple coverage seven or eight times in the preseason, I’d be really concerned. If our backs had just fumbled the ball incessantly I’d be very concerned. We do have to do some things better. There’s no doubt about it. Offensively, we’ve got to finish drives better. We’ve got to be better in the red zone. We’ve got to be better on third down and, if you’re not better on third down, sometimes it’s tough to get to the red zone. That’s something we’ve got to do better. Defensively, I think the things that we’ve talked about – we’ve got to tackle better. It’s really not that complicated of a game. We’ve got to do a better job there and I think we’ve got to disrupt the passing game better, whether it be re-routing receivers, whether it be putting more pressure on the quarterback. The quarterbacks are operating at too high of an efficiency against us and we’re not operating at high enough. We’re not getting enough chunk plays, big plays, explosive plays, call them what you want and we’re giving up too many. The third game of the year, what was Atlanta? I think I used 111 and we were 40 or something, 41. That’s a recipe for failure. Can’t do that.”

(On potentially keeping four quarterbacks on the roster) – “That’s possible. I think you’ve heard me say on multiple occasions what I think of the room - A, from an ability. B, a character. C, leadership. Those intangibles. I think you heard me talk about the improvement of Pat Devlin through the course of time that we’ve been here. We’ll see. I’m not exactly sure how long that’s going to be. Could be for a long time. I wouldn’t rule it out.” 

(On with the new rule change to the IR if there’s a possibility quarterback David Garrard could be a candidate to be placed on it) – “I don’t know about that, but anything’s possible.”

(On the trend of team’s naming young quarterbacks as their starters given that Arizona became the 11th team to announce a young starting quarterback today) – “I would say it’s probably more of the 11 coaches. Again, I would imagine, certainly I don’t want to speak for Arizona or anybody else, but you have to, some of its instinct, some of it’s what you watch with your eyes over a long period of time, however long that player’s been with you. Part of it’s your gut and you just do what you think is in the best interest of the team and I’m guessing that’s probably what motivated just about every one of the 11 coaches to make whatever decision that they came to.”

(On fullback Jorvorskie Lane) – “There’s some fullbacks that are semi one dimensional. We call them maybe ‘Track blockers’ who can if everything’s real clear, they’ll go blow up a linebacker, but if there’s a stunt or a line moving, they’ve got to adjust their course. They don’t have the hips or athletic ability to kind of swivel through there and get their aiming point and they might not have great hands. They have value as a physical presence in the offense, which is great. But sometimes, they’re limited. Lane, I think, gives you, he has size. He’s got some natural pop in his body from a blocking standpoint. We feel like he’s got to do better. He didn’t do great the other night blocking. And he can catch the football as you saw and he’s got some natural, like I said, he’s a guy that in pickup football that you’d love on your team. He’s got some things that are hard to coach. You can’t simulate breaking three tackles necessarily like he did the other night. He broke some tackles against Atlanta. Again, those aren’t 50-yard plays. We understand that. Sometimes, the way defenses are designed today, getting the ball out to a runner in the flat even on a short pass and forcing them to tackle, a corner that maybe isn’t the most ambitious tackler in the world, that’s not a bad matchup sometimes.”

(On the reasons why Clyde Gates did not make the final roster and what made Marlon Moore stand out amongst the other receivers) – “It was unfortunate for Clyde. It was tough. Any time you part ways with a player it’s difficult. He certainly showed some flashes, and again I can’t speak for what happened a year ago, but the body of work that he was able to present to us didn’t show enough value in terms of keeping him in relation to the other guys he was competing against. Unfortunately for him, some of it, and you guys know you were at practice, but he missed a bunch of practice. I can’t sit up here and accurately quote how many days he missed, but he missed some and that’s part of the evaluation. It’s unfortunate. (Marlon) Moore, and certainly we didn’t keep him just because he caused a fumble on a special teams play, but he has some value on special teams. He caught the one ball he was thrown the other night and he has made a couple of catches. We think he’s earned the opportunity to be on the team.”

(On whether he has held back anything in the preseason that he will unveil once the regular season games begin) – “Oh boy I’d love to say that (laughing). Why don’t you put that in. Time will tell. I think you know me well enough, and I firmly believe that the team that will win the game on September 9th is going to execute better, is going to tackle better, is going to protect the quarterback better, protect the football better, not give up big plays. I don’t think it is going to be a mystery. I think Houston is very well coached and they’re doing an excellent job there, but I doubt (the game) will be won by either coaching staff’s smarts. I think it’s going to be won by good solid football, taking care of the ball, tackling, putting pressure on the quarterback, having some balance offensively. So I’d love to say that we have a whole lot of tricks up our sleeve, but the trick plays are good when you’re good on offense; when you’ve got some things and you’ve got an honest to goodness offense where you can run the ball a little bit, throw a screen, throw the ball down the field, get in empty, dump the ball to somebody. You know you’ve got to have some of that rhythm going, which let’s face it, we haven’t had a ton of that going.”

(On whether Hard Knocks has been what he has expected and whether he would do it again knowing what he knows now) – “I’m sure they want some other coach who’s got a little more flair than I do, so I’m sure they wouldn’t want us back. Honestly, I may have told you guys this before, I was not optimistic about doing it, and then Ken (Rodgers), from NFL Films and Ross Ketover came down and I listened, it just made sense. They seemed like quality people. The people that have been down here have been just fantastic, and if anybody called me and asked me, and maybe my perspective from other head coaches, I would say (yeah). After two or three days, again I’ve told you guys the story about the wire coming out of the shirt, but I think it’s been fine. I haven’t watched one of the shows, so I can’t speak to the impact that it’s had necessarily, but I think it’s been good. Steve tells me I look good on the show, Steve Ross, so I mean that means it must be good.”

(On the talk that he had with Daniel Thomas that aired on the last episode of Hard Knocks) – “I really like the kid. I think he has really improved. I think this training camp he’s really improved. He’s running the ball hard and physical, he’s stepped up in protection a couple of times very well. I’m excited about him; I think he’s got a chance to be a good player. Like I said, it’s an education. The funny thing about when you get into pro football, you know my background of 19 years in college, sometimes you think, even all the way through college, I went from Division III to Ohio University to the Mid-American Conference, and you think every player is a polished product, and doesn’t need coaching. Then you leave Harvard and go to the Big Ten and you think players don’t need you that much, they’re that good, they’re in the Big Ten so just roll the ball out. So in pro football you assume that these guys are men, they understand, they get it and know what to do all the time. It’s an education. I mean if you ask the players, we didn’t practice our pregame warm up. Remember I told you guys we were going to do it that Saturday, and because of the weather we didn’t do it. So our first pregame, it was awful against Tampa. I’m telling you it was terrible, and this is pregame warm up, it’s not that complicated, but it was bad. So we spent a lot of time, we rehearsed the whole and had a pretty good one going to Carolina. Well, at the team meeting on Tuesday night in Dallas, we put up the timeline, and I made a joke about one of the things, but I forgot to tell them that we were going to gather at the 40 yard line. Did you see where we came out, at the 50, in Dallas? So I didn’t cover that with those guys, and lo and behold they end up down on the goal line. So I said, ‘God Almighty, you’ve got to cover everything.’ So my point is, sometimes you have to educate. You know you’re a teacher and a coach, and hopefully at the end of the day, maybe some of those guys need it. Not everybody needs some of it; some of those guys get it already. But some guys need a reminder, and I don’t know how stern it was, but you owe it to them to at least sit to them face to face and tell them. Instead of saying, ‘that Thomas was late, that no good son of a gun,’ and whining and complaining to his position coach or something. You should just address it with the player and see if it changes. Hopefully it will; there’s no guarantee, but he’s practicing well and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the team this year.”

(On how much improvement he thinks a team can make by picking up players on the waiver wire and if he remembers any specific examples from his time in Green Bay) – “I don’t know how many guys were here when Donald Lee was here, but that’s who I was talking about. It’s Tuesday of the regular season and we’re getting ready to play, and we had a guy, Bubba Franks was in a holdout of something and David Martin, who played here, was hurt. So I wore this one guy out at tight end, I mean I killed him he got every rep; I was the tight end coach. He played special teams, and long story short, I had to bring him in on Tuesday, they bring in Donald Lee, and say Joe go and work him out, and they asked me the question, is he a better athlete than (the player), and I said, ‘yeah he is’. Can you coach him? So I spent an hour with him on the board, and I said, ‘yeah I think he’ll work at it. It might take a little time.’ So anyway, that Tuesday, we go and sign Donald Lee, and I think Donald Lee caught like 35 passes that year or something and made a nice contribution. We didn’t have him for OTAs, and I he has gone on and had a really nice career; I think he’s in Cincinnati now. So it happens, yeah it happens. Are you going to hit like that on every single one? I don’t know, probably not. You know when I was there one year with Mike (Sherman) when Mike was the head coach I think we signed Grady Jackson, not at this time of year but later in the year and he made a big difference in the run defense. So yeah I think you can. I think it’s unrealistic that you can hit… Let’s say we claim four guys, I’m just saying, are you going to hit four-for-four? Probably not, you’re not going to do it.”     
                                                                                                                                                                                                        es.

August 30, 2012

Major on-air change at WQAM; Gruden on Tannehill; NFL people react to Hard Knocks

 

Note: We've broken a lot of Dolphins cuts here today, including Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace, BJ Cunningham, Gary Guyton. More to come. For a minute-by-minute list, check out Armando's blog.

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Four months after WQAM-560 replaced Sid Rosenberg with Dan Sileo on its afternoon drive show, the station is switching hosts again in that key time slot.

Jorge Sedano, who left 790 The Ticket’s morning show in April, on Thursday agreed to become WQAM’s new afternoon host (3 to 7 p.m.) and the station's program director, beginning Tuesday.

The station is not commenting until the staff is informed of the news on Friday.

Sileo will shift to the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot, his program sandwiched between Joe Rose and Adam Kuperstein/Steve Goldstein. That slot had been open since Michael Irvin’s contract was not renewed a month ago.

Sedano, who turns 35 on Sunday, left The Ticket to concentrate on his TV career. As it turns out, he now has landed significant gigs on both TV and radio.

Sun Sports hired Sedano on Thursday to be its pre-game and postgame host for road games, allowing Jason Jackson to report from the arena. Sedano, who attended Pace High and FIU, also will remain a part-time fill-in sports anchor for CBS-4.

“From a lifestyle perspective, this makes the most sense,” Sedano said. “When I left 790, I needed to harness my skills and work on the craft and it’s led me to this position on the TV side, so it obviously paid off.

“I felt if I wanted to get back in radio, and it was a perfect situation, I would get back. This is perfect situation. I can put my imprint on the radio station.”

As program director, Sedano replaces Lee Feldman, who left to open a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica.

“We’ve got a good talent base,” said Sedano, who will work with WQAM general manager Joe Bell. “I’d like to help everyone and put them in a position to succeed. I want to give everyone an opportunity to show me what they can do.” 

WQAM has erred in recent years by pursuing former UM players who weren't especially well-suited for daily talk shows. But early afternoons have been strengthened by Kuperstein and Goldstein; Sedano will be an upgrade on afternoon drive; and Channing Crowder remains an asset in a part-time role. 

GRUDEN ON TANNEHILL

Spoke to ESPN’s Jon Gruden on a conference call Thursday, and he is particularly interested to see how Ryan Tannehill closes games this season.

At Texas A&M, “The body of work [just 19 starts at quarterback] did concern me,” Gruden said. “You’d like to see a three-year starter. You would like to see a quarterback that finished games better. You would like to see a quarterback that dominates in the third and fourth quarter.

“They dropped plenty of passes, but I would like to see more dominant, consistent play down the stretch. The Arkansas game sticks out to me. I think they had opportunities to finish some off in the second half and didn’t quite do that. That’s the big concern I had with Tannehill.”

But because of his familiarity with the Dolphins’ offense, “he’s further along than a lot of kids that came along,” Gruden said. “He’s on the fast track. He impressed me because he’s such a great athlete.”

HARD KNOCKS REACTION

CBS’ Dan Dierdorf was watching HBO’s Hard Knocks a couple weeks ago when Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman lambasted tight ends Michael Egnew and Charles Clay in front of teammates.

“My wife turned to me and said, ‘Do coaches really talk to players like that?’” Dierdorf relayed, by phone. “I said, ‘Every day.’ It’s one thing if that happens in the meeting room and the only people that see it are the coaches and the players. But when it’s on national television, it’s embarrassing.

“You couldn’t get me within 10 miles of Hard Knocks if I were a coach. I’m sorry. That’s not conducive to building a team. I’m a believer in: What you see here and what you do here – let it stay here.”

Players obviously aren’t happy about being subjected to scathing criticism on Hard Knocks, but no Dolphins player has complained publicly.

“Who knows if it’s a scar that doesn’t heal?” Jimmy Johnson asked of players being lit into by coaches on national TV. “I would not have done Hard Knocks.”

Said CBS’ Rich Gannon: “Would Sherman want to have that out there? No. The kid [Egnew] has to answer to his parents. It’s not an ideal situation. But you get what you signed up for.”

Said Gruden: “Personnel conversations, what goes on in the practice field is nobody’s business. It’s tremendously entertaining, but it’s not for me.”

Meanwhile, what kind of impression is coach Joe Philbin making on viewers?

Johnson declined to answer that, but Dierdorf said, “What I see is promising. He doesn’t look like he rides the emotional rollercoaster.”

Said Gannon: “I’m really impressed. He’s a steadying, calming influence. He’s not a guy that’s going to overreact.”

But CBS’ Shannon Sharpe took issue with how Philbin handled Chad Johnson’s release. “He was saying, ‘It’s just not working out,’” Sharpe said off the air. “I’m still not sure he was cut!

“Philbin seemed very fidgety, very uncomfortable, with that aspect of the job. Some coaches are better than others with that. I don’t know if he was afraid that Chad might do something to him.”

Sharpe said when Baltimore released him, general manager Ozzie Newsome did it in a more straight-forward way, and Sharpe appreciated that. “He said, ‘We drafted Todd Heap. We’re moving in another direction. We will release you tomorrow.’”

Philbin was more to-the-point when he scolded Daniel Thomas for tardiness on Tuesday’s episode.

### Of the four most-watch Hard Knocks ever, two were from this year (episodes two and four) and two from the 2010 Jets series. The five-episode series concludes at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

### Tidbits: Fox hired comedian Rob Riggle to replace Frank Caliendo on its NFL pre-game show… Danny Kanell, paired with Bob Wischusen on UM-Boston College for ABC Saturday, debuted this week as the main football commentator on ESPNU’s unusual new midnight college football show, which features a comedian and in-studio musician.

August 29, 2012

Dolphins bring in Sims-Walker, Stallworth and a quarterback; preseason postscripts

Postscripts and reaction to the Dolphins’ 30-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday night:

### THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE: The Dolphins, eager to add one or two receivers in the next few days, intensified their search by booking a Thursday workout with veteran Donte Stallworth, according to a league source. They also are strongly considering Jabar Gaffney, though he will not be part of a group that's working out today. Stallworth and Gaffney both are 31, both played for the Redskins last season and both were cut by the Patriots this week.

Stallworth caught 22 passes for 309 yards for Washington last season. Stallworth has played for six teams and has 320 receptions in nine NFL seasons.

Gaffney caught 68 passes for 947 yards and five touchdowns for the Redskins last season. He opened Patriots camp with the first team but has been sidelined since a right quadriceps injury Aug. 16.

The Dolphins also will consider plucking a receiver or two off waivers in the next two days.

On Thursday - as first reported by Sirius XM Radio's Howard Balzer - Miami also worked out Mike Sims-Walker, who had 63 catches for Jacksonville in 2009 and 43 in 2010 but just 12 in six games for Rams and Jaguars last season. A third-round pick in 2007, Walker spent part of last season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He has not been in an NFL camp this summer.

Receiver Brian Tymes, undrafted out of Florida A&M this year, also auditioned. He had two catches for 18 yards for the 49ers in a preseason game before being released.

Also today, Miami will work out quarterback Matt Blanchard, who was cut by the Bears. He led Wisconsin-Whitewater to three Division III national championships and led the Bears on two scoring drives in preseason. David Garrard, off knee surgery, is awaiting word on whether Miami will release him via an injury settlement. That's a good possibility unless the Dolphins opt to trade Matt Moore.

Garrard tweeted Thursday: "Great day of workouts today... some field work and throwing...."

As for last night's game....

### Joe Philbin was upset afterward: "This is a disappointing loss. I told the team I don't care if this was the fourth preseason game, seventh regular season game or the Super Bowl, that's unacceptable. Poorly coached game. We didn't tackle well. Not a good game. Not a good performance by our team. I'm the head coach. Poor job by me getting us ready.

"Guys didn't play well. We've got a lot of improving to do. We haven't scored enough touchdowns. Am I concerned? Yes. I thought we've been a good team in practice. We haven't transferred it to the game. We're going to get back to work on Friday and we're going to fix it."

Philbin said he wouldn't "necessarily" be surprised if a good number of players are added in the coming days.

### Ryan Tannehill was sharp, completing 5 of 7 passes for 35 yards in two series of work.  And, by the way, the two incompletions weren’t his fault. One was a third-down drop by Legedu Naanee, who continues to underwhelm, and the other was an incomplete fade to Naanee in the end zone which should have been a pass interference call against Dallas.

"Ryan did OK," Philbin said. "The more times Ryan gets to go through this whole process - the warmup, playing the game, we felt it was important to him. He's not really at the stage where you want to rest a guy."

### ESPN's Eric Mangini, the former Browns coach, said of Tannehill: "Tonight, he did a really good job. He completed passes against multiple different defenses. That's what you saw from Andy Dalton last preseason." Merril Hoge praised him but said: "You still have to hide him and protect him."

### Matt Moore (4 for 12, 49 yards) had another poor night, including throwing an interception that was returned 26 yards for a touchdown by Orie Lemon. He was frequently under heavy pressure. Pat Devlin closed 7 for 12 for 63 yards.

### With Davone Bess and Brian Hartline out, Rishard Matthews (3 catches, 47 yards) and Marlon Moore (2 for 19) had the best night of the receivers. Matthews made a nifty catch while falling down, and Joe Rose – on the radio broadcast – predicted the seventh-round rookie “is going to be on this team.”

Moore, who started the game opposite Naanee, ran sharp routes and also forced a Cowboys fumble on special teams. B.J. Cunningham (2 for 23) also looked good.

The other receivers? Roberto Wallace had a false-start penalty and didn’t make a catch for the second consecutive game; despite a strong start to camp, he hasn’t done enough to justify a roster spot. Jeff Fuller (one catch, six yards) had a holding penalty. Clyde Gates had one catch for seven yards. Chris Hogan was targeted a few times but did not make a catch. 

Naanee (2 catches, 19 yards) was criticized for one of those two catches, with CBS-4's Nat Moore noting that he too often catches the ball with his body and not his hands.

### Quinten Lawrence seemingly squandered his chance to grab hold of the No. 4 cornerback job, and potentially, a roster spot. He was called for two pass-interference penalties (including a 43-yarder while unsuccessfullly covering Kevin Ogletree) and was beaten on a few other plays. Lawrence’s poor work means the Dolphins likely need to add two cornerbacks, not one.

And remember, Dolphins defensive backs were competing against backup receivers and the Cowboys' third- and fourth-string quarterbacks.

### And what about Nolan Carroll, who was elevated to the No. 3 cornerback job with Vontae Davis’ departure? Carroll started well Wednesday, knocking away a pass in the end zone and making another good play on the ball. But he was beaten by fringe receiver Andre Holmes for a 32-yard catch and was called for 14-yard pass interference penalty against fringe receiver Tim Benford.

### Starting cornerback Richard Marshall, during his cameo, was called for a horse-collar penalty and allowed a completion to Ogletree that was negated by a Cowboys holding penalty.

### The defense, which used backups most of the night, continued to be deficient in offering run support on plays that bounced outside. The Cowboys ran for 238 yards in an embarrassing display of run defense. Jonathan Freeny, Kevyn Scott and Anderson Russell all looked helpless on Lance Dunbar’s 58-yard TD run.

### Ray Feinga, starting at left tackle in Jake Long’s absence, allowed Victor Butler to easily run around him for a sack. Later, left tackle Andrew McDonald also allowed a sack. Jonathan Martin started at right tackle for the fourth straight game but also got some work at left tackle.

John Jerry played most of the night and had some good moments at right guard. Philbin called the play of the offensive line "average" and was troubled by breakdowns in pass protection.

### Running back Marcus Thigpen handled all returns and got a lot of work at receiver, leading to speculation on the broadcast that he has made the team. But his production was marginal; his four kickoff returns averaged 24 yards. He had one rush for three yards and one catch for seven yards.

### Daniel Thomas (5 carries, 31 yards), Lamar Miller (17 for 60) and Steve Slaton (4 for 22) all ran well. "He's making progress, running the ball more physical," Philbin said of Thomas. "He's doing a good job in pass protection." Reggie Bush got the night off. Jorvorskie Lane (one catch, 12 yards) had a good night at fullback.

### Kheeston Randall had a sack and Olivier Vernon and Jamaal Westerman combined on another sack.

### The only other times Miami finished 0-4 in preseason, they finished with regular-season records of 3-11 (1966) and 8-8 (1989).

### On the TV broadcast, Bob Griese encouraged the Dolphins to trade the second-rounder acquired in the Davis trade. “You don’t need draft picks; you need receivers and offensive linemen," Griese said.

   

Vontae trade criticized; Dolphins roster breakdown; Rookie QB tidbits; Canes notes

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Note: Please see our last post for a recap of Tuesday night's episode of Hard Knocks, offering exceptional behind-the-scenes access on the Vontae Davis trade.

# # #

All football today:

### Though former Colts executive Bill Polian insists the Dolphins “did really well” by getting a second-round pick and a conditional sixth-rounder for Vontae Davis, others do not agree – from current Dolphins (“I’m still bummed about it,” one player told us, among several Dolphins players puzzled and irritated by the trade); to an NFC executive (who said this reinforces Steve Ross has the wrong people running his front office) to a very good former Fins cornerback.

Then there’s Jimmy Johnson, who said Miami’s return on the trade isn’t as good as it seems.

“Normally, in trades, you devalue the trade one pick per year,” Johnson said. “Since you don’t have a chance to use the player [Davis] this year, you’re in essence getting a third-round pick back.”

Johnson said he didn’t intend to rip the Dolphins when he tweeted: “Let me think.. Dolphins trade Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall for nothing, release best receiver, trade away a good cornerback.”

Johnson said by phone: “Only they know what’s best for their team. An outsider can’t evaluate it. I was making an observation that for a building team, they have lost some talent. Marshall is talented and they gave up a lot to get him. Davis is talented; you gave up a one to get him.”

Jeff Ireland said “it’s unprecedented to get such a high pick at this time of the year.”

But Johnson countered: “At this time of year, talent is valuable because you’re about to play in two weeks!... Good corners are hard to find.”

Davis and Sean Smith hoped they would become a reincarnation of Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.

"I don’t agree with the trade,” Surtain said at the Dolphins’ kickoff luncheon at Jungle Island Tuesday. “In this league, with so many passing offenses, you need more than two good corners. Vontae was on the verge of the next step and that would have been a formidable trio with Vontae, Sean Smith and Richard Marshall. And who knows if the draft pick they got will pan out? They traded a second-rounder for me and got Matt Roth!”

### A sobering stat: The last time Marshall was a full-time starter (2010 in Carolina), he gave up more completions (73, in 97 throws in which he was targeted) than all but two cornerbacks in the league.... Nolan Carroll, who will play more than 60 percent of the time now, allowed 19 of 38 passes to be completed against him in his first two years (above average) for 14.1 yards per catch (below average, and equal to the average reception against Marshall last year in Arizona).

FINS ROSTER PROJECTIONS

NFL roster projections are hardly scientific, especially with this Dolphins team, considering three to six new players could be added this weekend. And there are always surprises. With that said, some points to chew on:

### Offense --- There are at least 17 spots seemingly well secured: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Reggie Bush, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Jake Long, Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, Mike Pouncey, Artis Hicks, Brian Hartline, John Jerry and Legedu Naanee (barring a flurry of veterans available that the Dolphins deem better than Naanee). And it would be surprising, at this point, if fullback Jorvorskie Lane and centerJosh Samuda don't stick.

That's 19. Add three receivers from the current group of Marlon Moore (who has received the most recent first-team reps of the bubble guys but can exasperate, such as an easy drop in Monday's practice), Roberto Wallace (has lost some momentum), Clyde Gates (making a late push), Jeff Fuller (intoxicating skills but prone to drops), Chris Hogan (couldn't even get receiver snaps until the fourth quarter against Atlanta),  Rishard Matthews and B.J. Cunningham. So that's 22.

If Miami keeps 26 on offense and 24 on defense (which would make some sense), that leaves four spots: two to backup offensive linemen (injured and not-especially-cheap Nate Garner and Lydon Murtha - once front-runners - are now at serious risk); perhaps either a third quarterback or a fourth tight end; and another running back (Steve Slaton or Marcus Thigpen, who said he was used in Monday’s practice at receiver because the Dolphins want to make him multi-positional).

Pat Devlin has a chance Wednesday night in Dallas to validate that he's worthy of being a third quarterback here or elsewhere. It's difficult to see the Dolphins justify keeping David Garrard and his $2.75 million salary (barring a trade of Matt Moore), but this organization routinely goes against conventional wisdom. If Miami keeps two quarterbacks and four tight ends, it could look elsewhere to upgrade over blocking tight end Jeron Mastrud.  Miami also could keep five receivers, four tight ends and three quarterbacks.  

### Defense --- Firmly in place are Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, Koa Misi, Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Sean Smith, Richard Marshall, Nolan Carroll and Tony McDaniel.

Tyrone Culver could be added to that group, at $800,000, unless Miami finds someone better. Jason Trusnik (among Miami's best special teams players) seems in good shape to be one of three backup linebackers. That’s 17. And the other primary backup linebackers, Gary Guyton and Austin Spitler, have done good enough work to give them a good chance to stick, though Josh Kaddu and Cameron Collins remain in the mix and outside options will be considered.

So that's 19. Add a No. 4 and No. 5 cornerback and that brings the number to 21; one or two jobs will go to cornerbacks currently not on the roster, based on whether Quinten Lawrence is kept. Wednesday night is huge for Lawrence.

Under the 24-player-on-defense scenario, that leaves three spots more for the defensive line – another tackle (Kheeston Randall; skilled, under-the-radar Isaako Aaitui; and perennial survivor Ryan Baker) and two ends (Jamaal Westerman and Derrick Shelby are front-runners).

ROOKIE QB TALK

### Though it seems unlikely, the Dolphins are hoping Tannehill does what Andy Dalton did for Cincinnati last season: take a sub-.500 team and help transform it into a playoff squad. (The Bengals went from 4-12 to 9-7 but had a better receiver corps and defense than Miami’s.)  

So just how unusual is it for rookie quarterbacks to post winning records? Consider: Since 1960, 68 rookie quarterbacks started at least half their team’s games. Of those, only 15 had winning records as starters (22 percent) – including one of 22 between 1960 and 1979 (Phil Simms) and one of 18 between 1989 and 2002 (Kerry Collins).

Two Dolphins are among those 15: Dan Marino (7-2) and David Woodley (6-5).

The good news: Nine of the past 21 of those rookie quarterbacks who started at least half the time (42.8 percent) posted winning records. The best of those 11: Ben Roethlisberger (13-0 as a rookie) and Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco (each 11-5).

Problem is, “you named a bunch of guys that joined pretty good teams,” CBS’ Dan Dierdorf said. “Roethlisberger, Flacco joined really good teams. Matt Ryan joined an up-and-coming team. And look at how teams protected them. Tannehill won’t be in that position. He will have to have growing pains.”

### Though most everyone expects the Dolphins to have a losing record, remember Vince Young, Trent Edwards, Ryan, Flacco and Dalton all had winning records, as rookies, on teams that finished below .500 the previous season, though most or all had better material around them than Miami. The Titans were 4-12 before going 8-5 with Young. The Falcons were 4-12 before Ryan led them to 11-5, albeit with clearly better talent than Miami’s.

### Couple other rookie QB factoids, while we're on the topic: Keep in mind that of the 15 quarterbacks who posted winning records as rookies, several either have been merely adequate as pros (Mark Sanchez, Chris Chandler, Kyle Orton) or turned into journeymen: Kyle Boller, Woodley Young and Edwards.

 ### Several recent first- and second-round quarterbacks joined bad or mediocre teams and continued to lose as rookies, which is what many pundits expect with Tannehill because of a weak supporting cast: Christian Ponder (2-8 as a rookie), Blaine Gabbert (4-10), Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Sam Bradford (7-9) and Matt Stafford (2-8). Carolina improved from 2-14 to 6-10 in Cam Newton’s first season.

### Overall, rookie quarterbacks are 83-106 since 2006. But they’re often a good bet for gamblers: In those 189 games, they’re 102-82-5 against the spread, according to beyondthebets.com.

### The odds of a rookie quarterback not only leading his team to the playoffs, but winning a postseason game? Very low. Only Sanchez, Flacco, Roethlisberger and Shaun King have done it since 1970, according to nfl.com.

CANES TIDBITS

Mike James and Rashawn Scott pointed to receiver Kendal Thompkins as the biggest surprise of fall camp. UM people say he has a knack for getting open, but we’ve heard the Thompkins hype every year and we’re still waiting. Our vote for most surprising: Linebacker Thurston Armbrister, who keeps making plays in practice and is in a tight battle with Eddie Johnson to start. Armbrister is long and active and looking much better than a typical two-star recruit. We'll see if it translates to games.... Brandon McGee has distanced himself from UM's other cornerbacks, Al Golden says, adding that Thomas Finnie also has emerged in the past week. Golden wants prized freshman Tracy Howard to be more careful with his hands so he doesn't leave himself open to penalties....

Expect UM to run more 8-to-10 yard hitch routes now because Stephen Morris will get the ball to the receivers must faster than Jacory Harris did, and UM believes the receivers will excel in yards-after-catch…. Though Luther Robinson keeps winning one-on-one drills in practice and Olsen Pierre has improved, defensive tackle is UM’s biggest worry, and with good reason… UM says it hopes impressive freshman linebacker Raphael Kirby (knee) can return by October. 

Two veterans UM wants more from: tight end Clive Walford (needs to play with same motor every play) and safety Vaughn Telemaque (must make more plays).

 

August 28, 2012

Tuesday night Hard Knocks recap

PLEASE SEE OUR LAST POST FOR A DOLPHINS- AND CANES-HEAVY WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

HBO’s Hard Knocks on Tuesday night delivered riveting behind-the-scenes insight into the Vontae Davis trade and Daniel Thomas’ recent problems with tardiness. Among the highlights from the fourth of five episodes.

### After Jeff Ireland got a text message from Colts general manager Ryan Grigson about Davis, Ireland told HBO he had to consider this: “Is this guy in the long-term plans? If he’s not, we should consider that. I know what he does for us this year. He’s a contributing player, will play quite a bit. There’s a sense of maturity to the kid now.”

Viewers saw Ireland tell coach Joe Philbin: “The Colts have interest in Vontae. Started with a 5th and 6th [rounder]. Went to a third. I said unless they’re serious I wouldn’t return the text.”

Philbin, asked his opinion by Ireland, pointed to “awareness” issues with Davis, adding “He’s up and down. He’s a good guy. I like the kid. I wonder if we’re ever going to get him to where we would like him to be.”

Defensive backs coach Lou Anuramo sharply criticized Davis, in a coach’s meeting, about his pass interference penalty in the Falcons game.

Viewers saw Philbin telling the Colts: “I’m thinking the two is not enough. What it’s worth value wise to walk away from a first round pick…. I’ve been honest with you. You called me. It has to be something that blows me a way.” The Colts then threw in a conditional sixth-rounder. Ireland later told Philbin: “I’m thinking about pulling the trigger."

 ### Ireland told Davis he was traded, and Davis immediately said, “I want to call my grandmother.” Ireland said: “Why don’t we do business first before you call your grandmother?”

Ireland then told him, “Vontae, you’re kind of up and down. We need to get it to where the consistency level is more consistent. Before you become great, these waves have got to be a lot smaller. That’s probably why you’re being traded.”

Davis asked, “Who did you trade me for?” Ireland said, “A couple picks." (Blank stare from Davis.)… "This can be a very good positive for you – make it a positive,” Ireland told Davis.

### Ireland said: “The receiver position is going to look a little different than it does now when we get down to the 53.”

### Philbin summoned Thomas to his office last week after he was 15 minutes late to a weightlifting session. “Last week, you were late for the plane, you weren’t in the proper dress code,” Philbin told him. “From where I sit, I get concerned about that stuff. Obviously you’re going to get fined. But that’s not the point. Two times in four days, that’s not a good thing.

“I’m telling you this kind of stuff can’t happen. I’m getting queasy about you. You have to take responsibility for your own career. I don’t want to have to talk to you again.”

### Philbin was upset because Dolphins players did nothing when Reggie Bush was being pummeled by several defenders on a run that lost yardage early in the Carolina game. “Third play of the game, Reggie Bush was getting his ass kicked. And there were guys [expletive] watching.”

Then Philbin scolded his players in a film session, including Jorvorskie Lane: “You’re standing there looking at it – there are guys throwing elbows in him! Go up there, protect your teammates! Jesus!”

### Tannehill revealed to Matt Moore that he didn’t know the teams in many of the divisions, beyond Miami’s. Moore asked him to name the NFC North teams. Tannehill correctly identified Green Bay and Minnesota but was wrong on the Giants. He thought Kansas City was in the NFC East. “How do you not know this?” Moore asking, laughing. “Shocks me.”

 Tannehill explained to HBO: “I wasn’t a huge pro fan growing up. Don’t really know the divisions or conferences. Some of them, I have no clue. They make no sense. The directions don’t make any sense for where the teams actually are.”

### Defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said defensive end Jarrell Root “is sinking fast. I don’t know if we can save him.” Rodgers asked him: “You going to play one day and disappear the next?” Root protested that he did nothing wrong, and Philbin called him aside and said, “You’ve got to watch your reply” when Rodgers corrects him. “You’ve got to be careful. Trying to help you.”

“It’s time for guys to step up and act like pros. We need a focus from this group that quite frankly, we haven’t seen yet. We haven’t done [bleep] as a group. It really [bleeps] me off.”

### HBO showed several players being cut. Jerome Messam told Ireland: “I feel like you guys didn’t give me a shot to show what I can do in the game. [Bleep!] Give me a try."

Said  Ireland: “That’s why we practice, too.”…
 
Ireland told tight end Les Brown: “When pads come on, that’s what [your] weakness is. You’ve got to be able to hold your blocks and sustain it.” Said Brown: “I believe in myself. I think I belong in this league. We’ll [waive you] today. Maybe our paths will cross soon.”
 
Tight ends coach Dan Campbell told Brown, who was teary-eyed: “You’ve got nothing to feel bad about. You’re a stud,
Les.”
### Offensive coordinator Sherman yelled at his offense to establish an identity: “Jake Long, finish in a dominant position!” he shouted to Long in a team meeting.
 
### Eric Steinbach, explaining his retirement: “When you wake up every morning and feel like [bleep] the first half of practice… it’s tough.”  Jeff Ireland told him he’s “one of the most professional men that ever sat in my [office] chair.”

 

           

August 27, 2012

What Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill had to say Monday night

For Dolphins notes from Monday night and an update on the timetable for Jake Long's potential absence due to a knee injury, see our last post.

Here's what Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill had to say Monday:

JOE PHILBIN:

(On what he can tell the media about Jake Long’s injury) – “Nothing. I think you know our policy, and right now there’s nothing that I know of anyway. I got off the practice field, ate a meal, and I started watching a little practice film.”

 (On whether he is concerned about a prolonged absence by Jake Long) – “No, I’m not. But I have no information, and even if I did at this point, I wouldn’t be sharing it.”

(On whether there was something that Julius Pruitt did not show the coaching staff that led to him being cut) – “I’ll tell you, I sat down with him today and, I don’t know if we had a harder working guy on the ball club. I mean the guy just worked his tail off. He did things the right way, practiced the right way. I think a lot of him, I really do, so it was hard. Hopefully, he can find a different opportunity for himself. He is a good man.”

 (On how much latitude he has been given to shape the roster) – “Jeff (Ireland) is very inclusive. We’ve had discussions from free agency last March, we’ve had discussions in regard to the draft, we’ve had discussions in regard to having players come in and work out, we’ve had discussions on the cut the to 75, and we had discussions about trades. So, I fully support the decision, and certainly I am supportive of the direction that we moved.”

(On whether Jeff Ireland has been very deferential) – “No I wouldn’t say that. Jeff has very strong opinions; he’s been in the business a very long time. He knows what he’s doing, as does his staff. He’s got a quality staff that works with him on a daily basis. They do their homework, so no I wouldn’t say that at all.”

 (On whether he thinks this will be a good defensive team) – “Well, I was encouraged by how we played the other day. I think we have a chance to…and any time you make a team one dimensional, hopefully we will have a good front seven, I think we have a chance to be a good front seven, I think that gives you a starting point. If you can make a team get into a situation where they have to throw the ball, and they can’t knock you around for four or five yards on first down on a consistent basis, I think that gives your defensive play called an advantage. To us, that’s a starting point. I was encouraged by the pressure we got on the quarterback. I think we have a multiple package that will present some schematic concerns for teams; at we’re going to have to practice against. Again, it’s all about execution. The more risk you take as a defense the more you’re exposing yourself to get exploited if the offense has the right play call, the right blocking scheme, etc… That’s the fun part of football too; the x and o and the scheme part. And then I think we have some veteran players on that side of the ball that we’re expecting leadership from and expecting great effort from. The great defenses that I’ve seen, tackle well, pursue well, apply pressure to the quarterback, take the ball away. You know we haven’t taken the ball away enough in the preseason. We have to do a better job there, but I think we have a chance to get 11 guys hungry, get them to the football. We need to improve our tackling and tackle on a more consistent basis, but you can get the (opposing) team behind a little bit behind in terms of the chains, I think you have a chance to dictate the tempo a little bit defensively.”

(On how much the roster battle will be settled by performances in the game on Wednesday night) – “There are still a few that will be out there I would imagine. As I’ve said before, the computer changes. Guys make a last impression or one that you kind of keep that picture in your mind where you forget that drop over here or a sack over there or a fumble or a bad decision. So I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal in any regard, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

(On the growing perception that he only wants guys that reflect his attitude in the locker room) – “I don’t know about the moves themselves, but I think you have to have any idea for what you’re looking for in terms of a vision for the team. What type of team you want to have, what kind of men you want to have in the locker room, and clearly I think we have some good ideas of where we are heading in that direction. That’s not to suggest that Vontae… Vontae Davis and I never had any confrontations or real issues, and I appreciate all the efforts that he put forth while he was here. But yes, there are certain guys, and I can give you an example of when go to the combine sometimes and you sit there for 60 interviews and you interview guys.  You know there are some guys that aren’t going to fit. That doesn’t mean they’re bad guys or they’re not good players either, but when you’ve been doing it for a while, you get a sense of the people that you feel like you can work with, you can connect with, guys you can help reach their potential. Guys that you feel good about. But that’s part of it, that’s part of the whole process; figuring out who is a good fit and who isn’t.”

(On the comfort level of the coaching staff in the CB position in order to trade Vontae Davis) – “Yes, there are some guys who have made some progress. Obviously we think that Nolan Carroll has made some really good progress at this point in time. We’re putting (Quentin) Lawrence in to see how he plays this coming game, and he’s done some good things. Obviously, that was part of the decision too.”

(On how much time he anticipates Ryan Tannehill playing against the Dallas Cowboys) – “Since we had a late day today, this was the day we usually, two days before that we do the play time. We haven’t done that yet, but he’s going to play a little bit.”

(On if he’s received any feedback from the players about the Davis trade) – “No, I didn’t hear anything. Nobody came out, sometimes, when you’re the head coach, you eat by yourself (laughin), some things kind of go by the way side. We didn’t really have a fireside chat or anything about it. I think guys, again, I really believe that the guys that have been in this profession for a while in the NFL, they understand it’s a business, it’s not a personal thing. I think they know how things happen sometimes and things happen quick.”

(On if this secondary was in need of a makeover heading into the season based off of last year) – “I don’t know necessarily that that was the thought process. Again, decisions get made at various times a year for different reasons. Some of them are age related. Some of them are money related. You guys have been around, covered the game long enough. You know why sometimes teams make moves or don’t make moves. I don’t know that we…wasn’t like we walked in and said, ‘We’ve got to have a makeover.’ That wasn’t necessarily part of a master plan or anything like that.”

(On how much he weighed the value of having good cover corners when making the Davis trade) – “You have to weigh everything. There’s no question about it and there’s certain things you can control and you don’t control, but certainly we had a level of comfort with some of the guys that we had on the roster No. 1. No. 2, there’s always, like you said, there’s always risk when you make a move of this nature. We certainly considered that fact.”

(On if he agrees with cornerback Richard Marshall’s assessment that he thought he had a pretty good game against Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones) – “Yes, he did some good things in the game. I think there’s still room for improvement. I’m probably, the picture I’m thinking of is that one missed tackle. That’s kind of stuck in my mind. You know how those kind of stick, but, yes, we think Richard should have a good season.”

(On his comfort level of Jonathan Martin playing left tackle) – “Well, if that comes to pass, he’s got three or four years at Stanford of a lot of productivity at left tackle since April 25th or whenever he came by here and got drafted, the 27th, I’m trying to remember the date. He’s been getting 98 to 99 percent of his work at right tackle, but at least one of the thoughts when you draft a player like that is does he have, not many people draft strict right tackles anymore because you like guys that have a little bit more versatility. I think when we picked him, we felt like he was a guy who maybe if we got in a pinch or something could fit the bill outside. Hopefully, we don’t need to figure that out, but if we do, you have to have contingencies. It’s a tough game these guys play. There’s a lot of injuries out there.”

(On where he stands on how much confidence he should have despite the team’s preseason record) – “The primary focus really hasn’t necessarily been the outcomes and trust me, at the end of the day, I’d rather go into a locker room that had a victory than a loss. There’s no question about that. I don’t care if it’s preseason, regular season, post season. I’ve walked in all three of those and clearly you’d rather be on the winning side. Again, the stage we’re at has been more about, some of the things that we’ve done is about the process of this is how we plan on doing things when the regular season comes when the real games are upon us. For example, last week was important for practice structure, how we’re going to meet, how we’re going to lift during the regular season. Carolina was important and Dallas is important. We made a couple minor adjustments on how we’re going to do things on the road before a game. To be quite honest with you, some of that has been and we’ve made some mistakes. We’ve tweaked a couple things. That’s kind of where our focus has been and, as we get ready to prepare for our first game, I think it’s going to be more important what kind of week of preparation we have in terms of what kind of confidence level. I know for me my confidence level is more off the film that I watch in practice. Not me giving a great speech or a player giving a great speech. I get comfort putting my head down at night after I watch the practice film and see what our guys our doing and look at the plan and see how the execution was in practice. We all know there’s no guarantees of that either, but that’s what gets me going.”   

# # #

                                                                                                                                                                                                        27th, TANNEHILL 

 (On being a rookie quarterback and having left tackle Jake Long go down in practice today) – “I just wish the best for Jake. It’s a tough situation any time one of your teammates goes down. I don’t know what his situation. I really have no idea, but hopefully it’s not too bad and we can get him back soon.”

(On if it was one of those ‘oh my gosh’ moments on the field) – “No, I’m just more worried about Jake. I think we’ll be all right. We’ll be able to get another guy in there. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s tough to replace, but really just worried about his health and want him to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

(On how Jonathan Martin looked moving to left tackle following Long’s injury) – “My eyes are down field. I don’t know, obviously. I didn’t feel any quick pressure from his side, so we’ll see on the tape, but we have good guys that are versatile and can move around. Depending on what the situation is for Jake, we’ll move guys around and find a good fit.” 

(On what he’s hoping to accomplish against the Dallas Cowboys) – “Just go out and take advantage of the snaps I get. I don’t know exactly how many snaps I’ll get, but want to go out and take advantage of every rep. Really play like we can as an offense (and) really move the ball and be consistent. I think that’s the one thing that I’ve kind of focused on is being more consistent as an offense, being more consistent as a quarterback. I think we’ve done some good things, I’ve done some good things at times and other times been inaccurate with the ball. Want to be consistent in everything that we do.”

(On if the offense is coming together now that training camp is coming to an end) – “For sure. I think every rep we get as an offense, we get closer and closer to where we’re trying to get. We’re just improving every day (and) getting more comfortable with everything that’s going on every day with the different guys that are running the routes, guys blocking. Every day, every rep, I think we’re getting better.”

 (On his initial thoughts when he realized the season opener was in Houston) – “I was excited. It wasn’t really anything outrageous. I was excited to play. If it would have been in Buffalo or San Diego, I’m excited. Obviously, it’s nice to go back to my home state. I’ll have a lot of friends and family there, but I’m just excited to play in my first real NFL game, a real season opener. I’m excited for this team. I’m excited for what we can do. Houston’s a good opponent, but right now, we’re still focused on Dallas.”

(On the young receivers) – “They’re competing. I think that…had a few drops the last game. Guys really came to practice this week to improve, came to show what they can do. Some guys stepping up making some big catches. We’ll see how it shakes out who gets to be on the final cut, but the guys are battling. That’s all you can ask for is guys that are going to go out there and compete every day and correct the mistakes from the last game.”

(On having familiar faces from Texas A&M be on this team as players and coaches) – “It’s definitely a bonus. Most guys coming from college transitioning to the NFL don’t have that small comfort of having familiar faces around, familiar coaches, familiar players. It’s definitely a bonus for me. I try to take advantage of that – just knowing the guys and trying to help them out as much as I can.”

 

Long injury update late Monday and other Dolphins notes

Dolphins left tackle Jake Long left practice early Monday with what appeared to be a right knee injury.

ESPN reported the team believes he sprained his MCL and that he's getting an MRI to determine the "exact damage." A source confirmed that.

This type of injury has sidelined various NFL and NBA players two to four weeks, depending on the severity. As Armando Salguero noted on his blog, the Dolphins are hopeful it's a mild sprain, which would sideline him 1 to 3 weeks.

Long sat on the ground for a couple of minutes, clearly in pain, while the team’s medical staff stood over him. He walked off, without assistance, grimacing but not limping.

Long then sat on a cart and was examined briefly by trainer Kevin O’Neill. O’Neill worked on the area between his knee and ankle while Long shook his head in disgust. Long and O’Neill then left the team’s practice bubble.

Asked if he’s concerned about it being a long-term injury, coach Joe Philbin said, “No, I’m not, but I have no information. Even if I did, I wouldn’t… share it.”

When Long left, Jonathan Martin moved to left tackle and guard Artis Hicks took snaps at right tackle.

If playing left tackle “comes to pass, [Martin] has three or four years at Stanford at left tackle,” Philbin said. “Hopefully, we don’t need to figure that out. You have to have contingencies.”

Long, an impending free agent, was bothered by back problems last season and suffered a season-ending biceps injury in the next-to-last game of the season.

The Dolphins already are short-handed on the offensive line. Backup tackle Lydon Murtha and multi-position reserve Nate Garner were not at practice for the second consecutive day. Murtha has been sidelined by foot pain. The reason for Garner’s absence remains undisclosed.

PRUITT CUT

The Dolphins got down to the 75-player roster limit Monday by releasing speedy receiver and skilled special teams player Julius Pruitt, who impressed the team during its offseason program but lost ground in training camp. Earlier, safety Kelcie McCray (foot) was placed on injured reserve.

In an odd twist, Pruitt was listed as a second-teamer on the depth chart the Dolphins released moments before cutting him.

“I don’t know if we had a harder working guy on the ballclub,” Philbin said. “I thought a lot of him. It was hard.”

Pruitt’s release leaves Miami with 10 receivers: Davone Bess, Legedu Naanee, Brian Hartline, Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace, B.J. Cunningham, Chris Hogan, Rishard Matthews and Jeff Fuller.

Hartline has not participated in team drills for nearly a month because of a lingering calf injury. On Monday, he ran around cones and caught passes from receivers coach Ken O’Keefe. Bess appeared to injure a finger Monday and was examined on the sideline.

The Dolphins also are expected to monitor the waiver wire for available receivers after NFL teams cut down to the 53-man roster limit by Friday’s 9 p.m. deadline.

### Philbin said quarterback Ryan Tannehill “will play a little” in Friday’s preseason finale at Dallas. Tannehill’s 13 drives this preseason have ended with 10 punts, one touchdown, one field goal and one interception. “I’ve done some good things at times and other times been inaccurate with the ball,” he said Monday evening.

### Linebacker Karlos Dansby, who missed the past two games with a knee injury, suggested he would be ready for the Sept. 9 opener at Houston.

Later this evening, we'll have a lot more on the Vontae Davis trade and Monday reaction to it, on the sports home page.

 

August 25, 2012

The buzz on UM freshmen and where they stand; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

Note: See The Herald's story on the sports home page for a report on the Dolphins' trade of Vontae Davis to the Colts. 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Picked by media to finish fifth in its six-team Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division, UM enters Saturday’s opener at Boston College faced with some of the lowest expectations in years. But here’s a storyline that should keep you engaged: following the growth of a freshman class that this coaching staff hopes can become the nucleus of a top-20 team within a couple years.

“This class,” five-star cornerback Tracy Howard told us earlier this summer, “has got to be the one to lead us back. Me, Malcolm Lewis, Deon Bush, Duke Johnson, we’re coming in with passion and hunger to turn things around. No disrespect to the upper classmen, but we’ve got to make things happen ourselves. We’ve got a lot of humble, unselfish guys in this class.”

Coach Al Golden says a “bunch” of freshmen will play and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch admits: “I didn’t realize how good our young guys were” before August. An update on the ballyhooed freshman class, which was ranked eighth by ESPN:

### Defense: UM says at least four freshmen defensive backs will play, in addition to sophomore newcomer Ladarius Gunter: Howard (listed as a second-teamer but still competing to start); Bush (battling Kacy Rodgers to start at safety); Rayshawn Jenkins (backing up at safety), and Antonio Crawford (projects to be in the five-man corner rotation).

Bush is very physical (according to Mike James), knows what he's doing and isn't prone to a lot of mental mistakes that others have made, a UM official said.

Jenkins “is very active on the ball, which is why he’s been getting reps with the ones,” Golden said. “He knocks them down, he intercepts them, he recovers fumbles. That’s what we’re looking for. The probability he makes a play on the ball is higher than a lot of other guys at that position… [And] we’re very excited about Crawford.”

But the jewel is Howard, who has set four goals: “I want to earn a starting job as a freshman. I want to be a freshman All-American. Hopefully I’ll be on the Jim Thorpe list [given to the nation’s best defensive back] as a junior.

“And I want to push Brandon McGee so hard by him knowing he has someone on his tail. That will push him to go in the first round next year. I feel like whatever I set my mind to, it’s going to happen.”

Defensive backs coach Paul Williams said Howard “has got something special”; coaches love his work ethic. Eduardo Clements said this off-season, Howard would take a nap at 9 p.m., then get up and study film at 11 p.m.

Howard, who sees similarities between himself and All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson, has consulted with Edgerrin James – who told him “to go handle my business and have fun” – as well as Brandon Harris, Jacory Harris, Reggie Wayne and others.

Howard’s strengths? “I press well. I’m very physical, quick. A smart corner. What sets me apart is knowledge of the game….

“I’m very humble. I don’t go out. I don’t play video games. I don’t want to party. I might graduate in three years, studying finance. But I want to win before I leave. Hopefully, I’ll win the Jim Thorpe and be the first corner drafted.”

Jelani Hamilton (Anthony Chickillo’s backup) and pass-rusher Tyriq McCord are ahead of the other freshmen defensive ends, Dwayne Hoilett and Jake O’Donnell, and are expected to play. The freshmen ends, Golden said, have been “up and down.”

Center Shane McDermott said Earl Moore has been the most polished of the three incoming defensive tackles (Moore, Dequan Ivery, Jacoby Briscoe). “Earl is 300 pounds of straight muscle, built like a bowling ball,” McDermott said.

Linebacker Raphael Kirby’s knee injury, which will sideline him at least part of the season, was a blow, but the coaches love speedy pass rusher Gabe Terry, a former 195-pound Nebraska high-school state wrestling champ who has overcome considerable adversity. (His father is serving a life sentence for murder.) “Gabe Terry plays as hard as anyone on our team,” Golden said.

### Offense: Coaches can hardly conceal their giddiness about Duke Johnson; one UM football staffer muttered in amazement after watching him recently. Johnson’s fakes in the open field are so lethal than Gionni Paul injured his knee after one of them.

Johnson - who is listed behind Phillip Dorsett on the depth chart on kickoff returns - averaged 10 yards per carry and scored 29 touchdowns as a senior at Norland, and his coach there, Daryle Heidelberg, compares him to former NFL great Marshall Faulk.

“He’s only 5-8, but he’s 190 pounds, which makes him more durable than you would have thought,” Fisch said. “And he’s electric in terms of speed. He can run a lot more downhill than I originally thought.” UM also wants to exploit his skills as a receiver in space.

“The guy,” Howard said, “is amazing. He’s very patient, very quick, can turn a negative play into a long gain. Even though he’s not that big, he’s so strong that nobody can bring him down. I’ve watched him take eight of 10 kickoffs to the house in high school.”

Right tackle Ereck Flowers, who has seized the right tackle job amid Seantrel Henderson’s personal issues, “is going to be a great player,” Fisch predicted.

“He’s got really good feet for a big man, and he’s got lateral quickness,” Golden said. “He’s so smart for an offensive lineman, for a freshman.”

Freshman guard Daniel Isidora also is pushing for time.

At least two of five freshmen receivers will play, with third-teamers Malcolm Lewis and Herb Waters trying to crack the top-four rotation. Robert Lockhart can make dazzling catches in traffic but has fallen behind Lewis (a polished route runner, quick and a red zone threat) and Waters (who is “fast, smooth, elusive,” Fisch said, and better than what UM coaches thought).

Cornerback Ladarius Gunter said Lewis is the most difficult of the freshmen receivers to cover because he’s “so shifty.” Lewis is listed behind Dorsett on the depth chart for punt returns.

CHATTER

### One NFL general manager said he couldn’t understand why the Dolphins didn’t draft a receiver in the first three rounds. Expect Miami to peruse the waiver wire at that position, as well as offensive line (especially a backup tackle); defensive tackle (if the Dolphins don't go with a prospect as their fourth DT); cornerback (fifth slot is open after Jonathan Wade's release); and possibly for a fourth tight end better than Jeron Mastrud if Miami keeps that many (the Packers kept five last year). 

The Dolphins were pleased with the work of backup linebackers Jason Trusnik, Austin Spitler and Gary Guyton on Friday, making that less of an issue.

### CBS’ Rich Gannon, who calls Packers preseason games, said Green Bay (Joe Philbin’s former team) has seven legitimate NFL receivers. Though Miami hasn’t called the Packers about a trade as of a couple days ago, that could change. CBS' Charley Casserly said Miami should trade a mid-round pick for Packers receiver James Jones, NFL people expect the Dolphins to consider receivers the Packers cut – potentially 2011 practice squad members Diondre Borel or Tori Gurley.

### The Dolphins - whose safety play in preseason has been mediocre - inquired about but have not pursued former Packers safety Charlie Peprah, who had five interceptions last year but was cut in July after failing his physical (knee).

### Some NFL people are not surprised by Michael Egnew’s struggles, with one noting the limited pro success of fellow Missouri tight ends Martin Rucker (fourth round, 2008) and Chase Coffman (third round, 2009). Those two have five combined NFL receptions and, like Egnew, played in coach Gary Pinkel’s spread offense.

The Dolphins, who took Egnew 78th, passed on four receivers drafted in the next 22 picks: Cincinnati’s Mohamed Sanu (four catches, 25 yards in preseason), the Colts’ and ex-FIU standout T.Y. Hilton (9 for 116, including 31 yard TD Saturday), the Rams’ Chris Givens (3 for 40), and the Browns’ and ex-UM standout Travis Benjamin (2-46). Former Cane Tommy Streeter, selected 199th by Baltimore and repeatedly passed over by Miami, caught a 33-yard touchdown Thursday.

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, speaking Saturday about the difficulty of picking receivers for this team: "They haven't helped matters. I don't know how much more clarity we're going to have after the last game, but hopefully we will."... He said Davone Bess and "a couple" other receivers (Brian Hartline presumably one of them) are guaranteed jobs but wouldn't name them. He also said he's concerned "a lot about our [offensive line] depth."

### The Heat, which continues to consider ex-Knick Josh Harrellson and several other centers, offered center Mickell Gladness a non-guaranteed one-year deal, but he hasn’t decided whether to accept.... Free agents Gladness, Terrel Harris and Juwan Howard are working out with the team, with Howard staying in shape in case Miami chooses to re-sign him….

Harris is weighing whether to re-sign with Miami or accept one of several European offers… Former Loyola Marymount small forward Drew Viney, the most impressive undrafted rookie on Miami’s summer-league team, signed to play in Poland instead of waiting for an expected Heat training camp invitation.

### Though it would be helpful to get a final read on 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, he hasn’t earned a Marlins promotion from Triple A, where he’s hitting .279 and is 6 for his last 35. He might be non-tendered this winter…. Former Cardinals prospect Zack Cox, whom the Marlins hope will be their third baseman of the future, is hitting .271 with 12 RBI in his first 18 games at Double A Jacksonville.

August 24, 2012

Postscripts, reaction from Dolphins-Falcons game; major local radio news

Postscripts and coach/player reaction from the Dolphins’ 23-6 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons:

### As if we needed any more demoralizing evidence, this game reinforced how hampered Ryan Tannehill is, and will be, by not having better receiving weapons around him. (We exclude Davone Bess, who had four catches for 59 catches.)

With Brian Hartline still nursing the World’s Worst Calf Injury from Hell, the Dolphins trotted out a starting receiver tandem of Legedu Naanee (rated by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s worst receiver last season) and Marlon Moore (who has six career catches).

Naanee (one catch, eight yards) couldn’t haul in three catchable passes from Tannehill – admittedly, Tannehill blamed himself for one of them – and got zero separation from Asante Samuel on another Tannehill pass.

Moore got no separation on two passes in his direction and had no receptions.

Julius Pruitt and Bess entered early in four-receiver sets. Pruitt didn’t get his head around quickly enough on a Matt Moore pass, as former receivers Nat Moore and Jimmy Cefalo pointed out on TV and radio. He finished with one catch for nine yards.

Roberto Wallace, who entered as the fifth receiver at best, had no catches and is far from a cinch to stick, even though the team keeps touting his physical gifts. Jeff Fuller dropped a well-thrown pass from Moore.

Clyde Gates had a nifty 17-yard reception and an 11-yard run on an end-around but caught another pass out of bounds because he ran the pattern too close to the sidelines. Still, Gates remained alive for a roster spot partly because of the ineptitude of others, excluding Bess.

Reggie Bush says Chris Hogan always gets open, but apparently that’s not good enough to get him in the game at receiver until midway through the fourth quarter. Perhaps if Bush was coaching, Hogan would have played earlier.

### If you haven’t had enough aggravation already, we should tell you that Braylon Edwards made a superb catch for Seattle tonight. Jeff Ireland has to be kicking himself for not signing Edwards when he was available a couple weeks before Chad Johnson was cut. If he isn’t, he should. Plaxico Burress and Mike Williams are available, but Miami hasn’t pursued either.

### Joe Philbin remained calm afterward, sounding very much like he did after the first two losses: “Of course I’m concerned. It’s near impossible to win if you can’t score touchdowns. We’ve got to get better in a hurry. Offensively, let’s face it: We didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm.

“When it rains, it pours. We struggled on third down, 3 of 15. It wasn’t pretty at all. There appeared to be some dropped balls. Our first-team defense played well in the first half. Today the defense looked more like we thought, at least for a while.”

### Richie Incognito told WFOR-4's Kim Bokamper: "We have a lot of work to do. We came away with more questions than answers. We've got to go back to the drawing board." But Incognito also said: "Tannehill is doing a wonderful job. He's Cool Hand Luke out there."

### Anthony Fasano, who dropped five passes all last year, dropped two (including a touchdown) and had a third dislodged that also could be considered a drop. Fasano couldn't get separation from a linebacker on another play. Charles Clay, who is supposed to be a big weapon for this team, wasn’t thrown a pass until the third quarter and had another decently-thrown Matt Moore pass sail off his hands.

### Tannehill, victimized by several drops, closed 11 for 27 for 112 yards and an interception on a tipped pass. He showed elusiveness on a 16-yard scamper on a 3rd and 4.

The perspective on Tannehill’s night differed dramatically, depending on whether you were watching the game on television or listening on radio.

On radio, Cefalo and Joe Rose were adamant that he played much better than the numbers reflect. “He looked really good,” Rose said. A couple throws to Bess were very impressive, tantalizing signs of Tannehill’s potential. Cefalo couldn’t stop raving about Tannehill’s night.

Griese is a Tannehill fan but wasn’t especially impressed with his work Friday. “I thought he was a little bit off,” Griese said. “He overthrew some balls. The receivers didn’t help him, but some of the balls were a little too hard or behind the guys. Some of the balls he threw weren’t catchable.”

### Tannehill, afterward: "We couldn't find a rhythm. We need to be more consistent in my play and the offense as a whole. There were some throws I didn't make and that has nothing to do with the receivers. There were some throws I'd like to have back. One thing we're focusing on and still haven't done is finishing off drives."

On an early missed throw to Naanee, he said, "You've got to make that throw. It's the NFL."

On Bess, Tannehill said: "I have a lot of confidence in Davone. On one fourth down, we weren't on the same page, but that's not going to happen again. We talked about it on the sidelines."

### Daniel Thomas (six carries, 29 carries) ran with power and toughness, and used a spin move to gain extra yards.

### Not a great night for Jake Long, who was beaten by John Abraham for a sack and by Kroy Biermann for a five-yard loss on a Bush run. He also was called for a holding penalty.

Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin had some good moments but was beaten by Lawrence Sidbury for a sack, resulting in a fumble by Moore, and didn’t hold his block long enough on a Steve Slaton run that lost three yards. And he was blown up twice by Biermann.

### John Jerry, starting at right guard, appeared to play well. Artis Hicks, competing with Jerry to start, missed the game with a neck injury that isn’t considered serious.

### Richard Marshall did nothing to justify starting ahead of Vontae Davis. Marshall and Reshad Jones were beaten by Julio Jones on a 49-yard pass – “we’ve got to play the ball better,” Philbin said of that play. Marshall also was beaten by Jones and Roddy White on a few other receptions, including an 18-yarder to Jones. He whiffed on an attempted tackle of Harry Douglas. He also committed a pass interference penalty, as did Davis, whose infraction wiped out Davis' interception return for a touchdown.

### Marcus Thigpen squandered a chance to grab hold of the kickoff return job. Most of his returns were pedestrian; he averaged 18 yards on four kickoffs, and had eight yards on one punt return. Slaton had two catches for 27 yards and appears to have a leg up on Thigpen for a roster spot…. Jonathan Wade, who entered as the front-runner for the No. 5 cornerback job, was beaten for two touchdown passes (Roddy White, Tim Toone). UPDATE: WADE WAS CUT SATURDAY MORNING… Kudos to Nolan Carroll (who knocked away a deep ball to Jones) and linebacker Cameron Collins, who made several solid plays... There still wasn't consistent enough pass rush aside from Cameron Wake, who had one sack and shared another with Olivier Vernon.     

### For Friday's major news on 790 the Ticket and Heat notes, see our last post.

Major local radio shakeup; Bosh: Lakers probably best on paper; Miller update

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale market, which already boasts four all-sports English-language AM radio stations, now will have an FM sports station, too.

Lincoln Financial Media announced Friday that it has purchased WMSF-104.3 FM, which airs adult contemporary music, from Palm Beach Broadcasting. Beginning Wednesday and for the foreseeable future, WMSF will simulcast the programming that airs on WAXY-790 AM, which brands itself as 790 The Ticket.

Cost of the purchase: $13 million.

Jeff Dinetz, general manager of Lincoln Financial’s South Florida stations, said WAXY and WMSF will carry the same programming at least until the sale is approved by the FCC and until the FM station’s transmitter is moved from Palm Beach to Miami. He said that process could take three to six months.

Dinetz said it was too soon to discuss long-term programming plans for both stations or whether 790 would continue to broadcast sports long-term. But one possibility would be 790-AM carrying national sports programming, likely from ESPN Radio, and 104.3-FM airing local programming that now airs on 790.

Lincoln Financial has a similar arrangement in Denver, where the AM station airs Fox Sports Radio and the FM station carries local sports talk.

790 The Ticket’s programming includes, among other things, Miami Heat and Miami Marlins games and Miami Herald sports columnist Dan Le Batard’s afternoon drive talk show.

Dinetz said acquiring an FM station is appealing because sports radio stations target younger audiences “and that’s the way to reach them. It’s hard to get the 18-to-49 year old demographic on the AM dial. For us to become the first and only FM sports station in the market is huge for us.”

The saturation of sports radio stations in the market has splintered the genre’s audience. According to Arbitron’s most recent ratings book (June 24-July 18), The Ticket ranked 20th among 40-plus stations among men 25 to 54, the primary target demographic for sports stations.

WQAM-560, which carries sports talk and University of Miami and Florida Panthers games, ranked 23rd.

Palm Beach-based sports station WMEN-640, which has penetration in Dade and Broward, does not subscribe to Arbitron, and its ratings were not available Friday. WINZ-940 also carries sports, including Miami Dolphins games and a weekday Dolphins talk show.

Dinetz said Lincoln Financial’s new FM sports station will be rebranded as WAXY-104.3. The company already owns two other FM stations in the market: classic hits WMXJ and adult contemporary WLYF.

Palm Beach Broadcasting CEO Dean Goodman, who acquired WMSF from CBS several months ago, said selling the station “is consistent with our desire to super-serve the Palm Beach County market and our original plan for divestiture.”

### Heat forward Chris Bosh, who is usually pretty candid, told WQAM's Adam Kuperstein and Steve Goldstein on Friday: "The Lakers, on paper, have the best team in the west, and probably the league."

Then Bosh added, "On paper. I'm saying on paper. But it's a lot. It's a long season. And the best team always isn't the one who starts out the season as the best team. We know we're the champs, but we have to start off from scratch. We have a lot of chemistry building to do. We have to start over. We know favorites and all that stuff really doesn't matter."

On a potential Lakers-Heat Finals matchup, Bosh said, "It's ever better to think about we can possibly play them in a classic series one day with everything on the line.... They're a very big team, but we're very fast, so something's got to give."

Erik Spoelstra recently told 640's Sid Rosenberg that he's surprised the Lakers could acquire Dwight Howard without giving up Pau Gasol, but "they have a history of getting those bigs."

### Mike Miller, who said last month that he was confident he would avoid back surgery, tweeted Friday that it's great "to be back in the gym finally. Way too long of a layoff. Slowly but surely feeling better. Feels good getting ready for another year."

### Check our last post for the Friday media column and Heat free agent news. And check back for Dolphins and Canes this weekend.