SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The first thought for many Dolphins fans regarding the NFL Draft is the recent mistakes: Pat White, Chad Henne and others, plus questionable picks: Jake Long over Matt Ryan, Vontae Davis over Clay Matthews and Hakeem Nicks.
The Dolphins desperately hope that narrative changes, and early signs from Ryan Tannehill and the 2012 class are encouraging, Michael Egnew aside. Plus, several pre-2012 picks are off to good starts. Among them:
### Mike Pouncey: Ranked second among centers by Pro Football Focus, Pouncey has been exceptional, mauling defenders in the run game and not allowing a single quarterback pressure. Picked 15th in 2011, Pouncey is now just as good as, or better than, any player chosen in the 10 or so picks after him; Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is on par.
This past offseason, Pouncey and his brother, two-time Steelers Pro Bowler Maurkice, “made it clear to each other we would be the top two centers in the NFL,” Mike said. So they ran sprints three hours most mornings, then did judo, boxing, Pilates and elliptical work for two hours at night.
Here’s what also helps: Pouncey is more athletic and agile than most linemen, so Miami’s new zone blocking scheme and no-huddle offense (which tires out bulky defensive linemen) work to his favor.
"After last Sunday’s game, Oakland's defensive coordinator [Jason Tarver] told [Dolphins offensive coordinator] Mike Sherman that I’m better than my brother,” Mike Pouncey said proudly.
### Brian Hartline: The hope is that he follows a similar career arc to Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, whose receiving yardage jumped from 582 in his third year to 1263 in his fourth. “We like what we see,” coach Joe Philbin said. “When the ball is thrown to him, he’s come down with it almost every single time.”
Hartline, who had 549 yards in 2011 (his third year), said: “I have everything you need in a wide receiver to be great.”
Bill Parcells allowed Ireland to run the 2009 draft, so Ireland gets demerits for Davis, Pat White and Patrick Turner, but credit for Sean Smith at 61 (nobody picked soon after is clearly better), Hartline at 108 (Austin Collie and Johnny Knox are the only receivers drafted after him with more career yards) and Chris Clemons at 165.
### Koa Misi: A Parcells pick, at No. 40, in his final draft (2010), Misi has improved in his new role, grading out highly against the run. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle calls Misi a “force taking on lead blockers” and notes that against Oakland “the fullback came up trying to block Koa, and he not only took the fullback on, but made the tackle at the same time.”
But his pass defense (8 for 10 catches, 115 yards) needs work.
### Reshad Jones: More mature and less error-prone, so far, allowing only one of four passes against him to be completed, for 13 yards, with one interception. Pro Football Focus ranks him third among NFL safeties. Clemons is 29th, and Jets safety Yeremiah Bell, cut by Miami, is 50th.
Jones, selected 163rd in 2010, is “playing smart and with a lot more confidence, and it shows in the speed he’s playing at,” Coyle said. “We’re expecting big things from him.”
### Beyond All-Pro Long (who already has allowed two sacks), 13 other players remain from the 2008-2011 drafts, with Miami bullish on Sean Smith and Nolan Carroll – we need to see more, especially from Carroll -- and encouraged by Daniel Thomas’ improvement before his concussion. But Charles Clay has regressed; Jared Odrick has no quarterback hurries in 107 snaps, according to PFF (rookie Derrick Shelby has four in 25); and the jury is out on whether John Jerry and Clemons can be above-average starters.
### With Tannehill likely to face a lot of blitzes Sunday, keep in mind that in nearly the same number of plays, he has completed 62 percent of his passes for 262 yards against the blitz this season, 53 percent for 157 the rest of the time. “The poise he carries in normal play correlates well to handling the blitz,” Hartline said.
### With five important impending free agents (Long, Smith, Reggie Bush, Hartline and Randy Starks), the Dolphins are proceeding cautiously, delaying serious talks with Starks and Bush (two players whose value keeps rising) and others…. This speaks well of Tony Sparano, who visits Sunday as Jets offensive coordinator: Even after he was fired last December, he texted helpful feedback to a few Dolphins, such as Bell, after games.
### As Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria considers whether to fire Ozzie Guillen, Braves and former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez cracked: "There's not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough. Not Connie Mack, not anyone."
Loria has had five since 2006, including two that went on to win a lot elsewhere: the Yankees' Joe Girardi (78-84 with the Marlins, 470-327 with the Yankees) and Gonzalez (276-279 with the Marlins, 175-137 with the Braves).
The lesson Loria should learn here? "Stick with someone," Gonzalez said. "Give guys opportunities. But he likes to make changes. As long as he owns the team, he makes the decisions. In his mind, they're the right ones."
### One of the most enjoyable projects for the Heat coaching staff this offseason has been devising plays for Ray Allen. You know those corner threes that Allen will get a steady diet of here? Consider: Over the past two years, he made a remarkable 50.2 percent of those shots, compared with 42.2 for Kyle Korver and 38.5 for Jason Terry. (New Heat teammate Rashard Lewis was at 39.6.) Where Allen’s accuracy diminished last season was from 10 to 15 feet: 40.9, down from 57.7 and 48.9 the previous two.
### A few highlights from MSG Network’s ongoing reality series on Wayne Hills (N.J.) High and ballyhooed UM oral commitment Kevin Olsen, the nation’s No. 6 quarterback prospect for 2013 and a candidate to succeed Stephen Morris in 2014: Viewers see Olsen, after his visit to UM in the spring, telling his brother Christian that UM has “six big [butt] linemen, fast receivers” but they’re “pretty bad” at quarterback.
Olsen – who is coached by his father, Wayne Hills head coach Chris Olsen, and is out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his right foot - tells his family, before committing here, that he loves the UM staff, weather, offense and school – “everything [except] playing in front of anybody [smaller crowds].”
Viewers see Olsen calling Al Golden to orally commit, in May, and Golden responding: “I am fired up! Really excited. [Athletic director] Shawn Eichorst was hoping and praying, like I was, that you would be a Cane.”
We see Olsen’s father Chris frantically but unsuccessfully trying to reach Golden after the July Yahoo! story alleging Golden was aware of Sean Allen’s rule-breaking recruiting, which Golden has vehemently denied. “I know that’s not how coach Golden operates,” Kevin Olsen said. “I’m 100 percent a Hurricane.”
We see an unidentified school contacting Chris Olsen to say if the Yahoo! story changes his plans, that school’s scholarship offer still holds but that it doesn't want to negatively-recruit against UM.
And we see Tampa Bay and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano tell MSG: “By the time he was 12, he could give you [Wayne Hills’] entire audible system. Very good quarterback and really good field general.”
FYI: Olsen completed 11 of 17 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns before being injured in his season opener. He is hopeful of returning before the season ends.
### With 200 all-purpose yards in UM's riveting win Saturday, Duke Johnson is averaging 209.5 per game through one-third of the season - on pace to break Jeremy Maclin's NCAA freshman record of 198.