« August 2012 | Main | October 2012 »

31 posts from September 2012

September 29, 2012

Allen, Lewis embark on Heat journey; Fins, Heat, UM, Marlins notes; UM-NC State postscripts


Chatter from the opening of Heat camp:

### LeBron James calls it “scary,” how much better this team can be with another year together and Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis now part of it. Or, as former NBA coach Sam Mitchell says: “You win a championship and you’re telling me you’re adding the all-time leader in three-pointers in Allen and the [No. 8 player all-time in three-pointers]? Are you serious?”

The Heat’s shiny new pieces began training camp Saturday eager to see where this journey leads. “It’s a great challenge. I'm enjoying it,” said Allen, starting over in Miami at 37. “It’s funny where life takes you.”

As Erik Spoelstra said: “Sometimes change can be extremely energizing. Ray seems like he’s in his mid-20s. Rashard feels as healthy as he’s ever been. He has a new sense of opportunity in life.”

As Allen sat at dinner with Pat Riley, Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning and others in July, everything resonated. He loves that Spoelstra “wants to have fun playing and not get stuck about positions and trying to figure out who’s [playing what]. His philosophy is somewhat like [his former Connecticut coach] Jim Calhoun and George Karl – getting the ball up the floor and playing fast.”

Allen admits still being driven by fear of failure (despite all his success), and his relentless work ethic fits well here. Allen is usually the first one at the arena on game nights – four hours before games – and runs to the point of exhaustion, but will not stop until he can make shots (jumpers and free throws) without panting. Few athletes are better-conditioned.

“We’ve had tremendous three-point shooters,” Spoelstra said. “But we’ve never had a catch-and-shoot player with the ability of Ray. If Ray is standing on that three-point line, [his defender] is not anywhere near that rim. You don’t leave him. You simply don’t.”

Allen, who is practicing but said his surgically-repaired ankle is still sore, has started all but eight of 1148 NBA games (four of those eight were last season). But he said he’s OK coming off the bench here.

“So many guys have made arguments why they don’t want to come off the bench,” he said. “It’s more of an ego thing. Sometimes you have to put your ego and pride to the side. I have to be willing to win on the terms of the team.”

Allen said “there are tendencies with teams like this that you overpass, and I don’t want them to do that for me. I know how to find my way within the system.”

The classy Allen hasn’t responded negatively to the chatter coming out of Boston. Rajon Rondo – with whom Allen reportedly didn’t get along - refuses to discuss Allen, referring to him as “that guy.”

Kevin Garnett said he hasn’t spoken to Allen since he signed here and has no plans to, adding: “I don’t have Ray’s number any more" even though it hasn't changed. "I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family. I just made the choice to move on," Garnett said.

Allen's response Saturday? "That's a shame [about Garnett not calling]. I'm a good person to talk to on the phone."

Though the Celtics tried to re-sign him, coach Doc Rivers said last week: “He wanted the ball more. He wanted a bunch of different things. He didn’t feel loved. If you have a lot of complaints, you probably need to go somewhere else. It’s probably best for all of us and for Ray that he moves on.”

### Lewis, 33, said it’s no coincidence that he made his first All-Star team in Seattle after Allen was traded there. “That’s why I became a better shooter when I was playing with him,” Lewis said. “He motivates you and makes you a better player,.. the way he carries himself, approaches games, his work ethic.”

Lewis, who missed 62 games over the past two seasons, said his knees are finally healthy, and Spoelstra has begun to see the “skill set that hurt us so much in Orlando. He’s not simply a three-point stretch shooter. He has the ability to post up. What we like is he can defend multiple positions.”

Playing in just 28 games for Washington last season, his 7.8 scoring average and 23.9 percent three-point shooting were well below his career marks (16.1, 38.8). “I knew it wasn’t me,” he said. “I don’t want to see the tape of myself. It’s like a nightmare, a scary movie.”

But this summer’s non-surgical knee treatment worked and “I can jump and shoot even better now. I’m getting back to getting more arc on the ball – not just shooting threes but mid-range, post-up jump hooks, my explosiveness. [Last season], I couldn’t get any lift and it seems like everything was short.”

He smiles at the possibilities of this lineup. “This is going to present a lot of headaches. The paint is going to be all theirs,” he said of the Big Three. “I’m going to get open looks.”

He said a “goal” is to earn a starting job, but it’s not a priority. And he said he will “fit in on the defensive end because I played for Stan Van Gundy and they run the same system here. He stressed defense a lot and they do that here.”

### Whose congratulations this summer meant the most to Heat players? For James, it was Oscar Robertson. For Mario Chalmers, it was Jerry Rice: “He was talking about what I did in the Finals. For him to tell me he’s a fan of mine was neat.” For Shane Battier, it was a  “Congrats, Champ!” from Emmitt Smith.

### Now that Chalmers has played a key role on an NBA championship team, he hopes to be scolded less by teammates during games: “I wouldn’t say stop, but toned down a little with body language and the way it’s presented.”


### Former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, now operating a sports performance center in Davie and working for WQAM, said off air that it’s clear that Plaxico Burress/Jabar Gaffney would be a better third/fourth receiver tandem than Anthony Armstrong/Legedu Naanee and doesn’t understand why the Dolphins don’t recognize that.

“Gaffney is savvy, sure-handed; Plaxico is a red zone threat," Chambers said. "You can tell Naanee has lost Ryan Tannehill’s confidence. He doesn’t even look to him.”

After the Chad Johnson debacle, word is the Dolphins don’t want any more receivers surrounded with drama (such as Burress) and haven’t found anyone (Gaffney included) they consider clearly better than Naanee (no catches) and Armstrong (three drops, four catches) to motivate them to eat Naanee's or Armstrong's contracts. That could change with another bad game.

Chambers, 34, has considered a comeback and said Jeff Ireland asked him during the summer if he was ready to run routes (he wasn’t) and would have given him a tryout out of respect.

### By the way, two of the receivers the Dolphins chose not to pursue this past offseason (Reggie Wayne, Brandon Lloyd) rank in the top six in NFL receptions. And two others - Vincent Jackson and Jacoby Jones ranks among the leaders in yards per catch (20.4, 18.9).

### Don’t underestimate this in how well the Dolphins’ front seven is playing: Paul Soliai is in his best shape ever; Randy Starks has dropped from 340 pounds to 304 in the past year; and Karlos Dansby from 270 to 240 (his lowest in many years).

Dansby wasn’t used about 200 plays last year – sometimes because of former coordinator Mike Nolan’s personnel decisions (which was “frustrating” at times, Dansby said), and at times because he got winded and asked Kevin Burnett to go in for him on third down. But new coordinator Kevin Coyle has used Dansby, Burnett and safety Reshad Jones on every play.

### With UM’s basketball team ranked 24th in one preseason poll (Blue Ribbon Yearbook), it’s a critical time for coach Jim Larranaga, who needs to find much of a team for 2013-2014, to build around Shane Larkin and Rion Brown. He has six scholarships to offer and has an oral commitment from the nation’s 96th-rated player (sharp-shooting New Jersey swingman Davon Reed, who averaged 27 points a game), lost out on a few top 100 prospects but remains in the running for others, including Memphis shooting guard JuJuan Johnson (61st; he told me Friday it’s a tossup between UM and Alabama), Washington D.C. area forward Josh Hart (87) and New Jersey center Austin Colbert (89)….

One of Larranaga’s former players, DeQuan Jones, is signing with the Orlando Magic. Which reminds me: Sean Allen was asked under oath about Nevin Shapiro’s claim that he gave $10,000 to Allen to give to former assistant Jake Morton, who was then to give the money to a family member of Jones. Allen said: “It’s possible it could have happened. I just really don’t remember.”

### FOR POSTSCRIPTS and reaction from UM's win against NC State Saturday, please see our last post.

### One of several concerns we’ve heard expressed by Marlins people about Ozzie Guillen is the culture in the clubhouse, and whether it’s serious enough… Asked on 790 radio show whether Guillen is the right man for the job going forward, GM Michael Hill said: "We've had a tough year. Jeffrey Loria will make that decision."

### One Marlins front office official said Jeffrey Loria had no business saying Fredi Gonzalez was a “colossal failure” after Gonzalez claimed no manager is good enough for Loria. “Jeffrey said he was here five years, and he was here 3 ½,” the Marlins official said. “And two winning seasons with a low payroll – how can you call that a colossal failure? Come on!”


Postscripts, reaction from UM's win against N.C. State

Postscripts and reaction from UM’s scintillating 44-37 win over North Carolina State on Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium:

### Not only did Stephen Morris set the UM record for yards passing (566, beating Gino Torretta's mark of 485), but he set the ACC record, too. Former Wake Forest QB Rusty LaRue held the old ACC mark with 545 yards through the air.

Morris finished 26 for 49 with five touchdowns and one interception, which came off a tipped ball.

UM closed with 651 yards of offense - its third-most in history behind 689 against UCLA in 1998 and 655 against Boston College in 1984.

Morris' improved accuracy on deep balls isn’t a coincidence. Davon Johnson said last week that Morris and his receivers have been practicing vertical routes for 20 minutes after practice, knowing it had to improve.

Mission accomplished.

Besides his game-winning 62-yard TD pass to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds left, Morris threw TD passes of 14 yards (Allen Hurns), 24 (Dorsett), and 76 and 13 (to Rashawn Scott).

Dorsett finished with 191 yards on seven catches, Scott with 150 on six receptions.

The game-winning touchdown "was a broken play where Stephen used his feet," UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He launched a beautiful ball to Phillip. I'm so impressed how hard Phillip ran."

### Morris, on WQAM afterward: "Dorsett is working really hard in practice and that helps me so much. He's a big playmaker, so why not give him the ball?"

Morris, on the touchdown to win the game: "We were trying to attack the middle of the field. Hurns ran an over route, faked left and kept right. I saw Phillip running and didn't like how Hurns was running. I didn't want the game to go to overtime. I threw it up and he made a great play. After practice, we work hard on all our routes and it paid off today." Morris also credited Al Golden: "The offseason workouts completely developed our physical condition."

Said Fisch: "I'm so proud of Stephen. He's worked so hard. We try to get as many people the ball as we can."

### There's a lot of unjustified hype in spring practice - not just at UM, but everywhere - with performance not always translating to the fall. But the hype was warranted with Scott, who had his best game as a Cane.

### Al Golden, on WQAM: "We're not dominating in all phases. We're trying to be consistent in all three phases but with inconsistent effort. We're not a dominant team. This is a survive and advance team. People want us to slam the door and so do we. But we're not there yet. When [opponents] come back, we could pout. But we end up grinding out a win. I'm sure coach Parcells is laughing in Jupiter, but toughness is a skill. It's not just the coaches, but the strength staff getting these kids in condition."

### UM had six takeaways and "when the defense is opportunistic, we have to cash in," Golden said.

### What in the world has happened to kicker Jake Wieclaw? After missing from 22 yards last week, he missed field goals of 19, 41 and 43 yards. "That's uncharacteristic of Jake," Golden said. "I made a mistake keeping Dalton Botts as the holder, when he was out all week."

He pointed out only two starters on defense are seniors: Darius Smith and Brandon McGee. "That's absurd!" Golden said. (That doesn't include Vaughn Telemaque, who is now coming off the bench.)

### Duke Johnson, who entered averaging 212 all-purpose yards per game, was held to 82 on 16 touches. He had 24 yards on three catches, 39 yards on 12 rushing attempts (just 3.3 per carry) and 19 yards on one kickoff return.

### Mike James produced just 31 yards on 13 carries (2.4 average). UM averaged only 2.7 yards per rushing attempt (37 for 85).

"We're going to still be able to run the football well," Fisch said. "Today happened to be a bit of an anomaly with the way we threw it."

Said Morris: "I want to see Mike and Randy [Duke] get their yards and see the o-line demolish" the defense.

### As good as the receivers were, the tight ends continued to underwhelm, combining for just one catch for four yards (by Clive Walford). Neither Walford nor Asante Cleveland could handle high throws in the end zone, with Walford's resulting in an interception late in the first quarter.

### Ben Jones beat out Ereck Flowers and started at right tackle but left late in the first quarter with a leg injury.

### ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit tweeted about the small crowd: "Can someone tell stadium operations at Sun Life to please look into changing the seat color from bright orange to dull gray? It's getting embarrassing."

### The defense continued giving up video-game type numbers. North Carolina State closed with 664 yards - 440 through the air. And N.C. State averaged 4.9 yards per rush. That's the second-most yards UM has ever allowed (UCLA gained 670 against UM in 1998).

UM's defensive tackles (Darius Smith, Corey King, Olsen Pierre, Earl Moore, Luther Robinson) often were pushed around, especially on running plays.

"I think we know we're not dominant in there yet," Golden said. "Until two guys grow up and become dominant, we'll keep tag-teaming it." UM continues to give a lot of playing time to freshman Moore, and he shows potential at times.

The linebacker group is horribly depleted without Ramon Buchanon, Denzel Perryman and freshman Raphael Kirby. Jimmy Gaines played some but was limited.

Eddie Johnson, UM's best healthy linebacker, left briefly with a leg injury but returned. He made an impact with two forced fumbles and one of two Miami sacks (the other was by King). The two sacks were UM's only tackles for loss the entire day. 

Linebacker Gionni Paul, making his first career start, had 11 tackles but was beaten in pass coverage and missed a couple of tackles, including one that resulted in a long run early. But Paul and Tyrone Cornelius played more than they typically would because of injuries to others. Walk-on Nantambu Fentress gave UM some good snaps at linebacker.

### The secondary also had some breakdowns, including Brandon McGee being beaten on a 62-yard catch that set up N.C. State's tying field goal. Telemaque and KC Rodgers were beaten on another deep ball. But credit Thomas Finnie for the late interception that set up UM's winning TD.

### UM's last 3-0 start in the ACC, before this one, was in 2004.

### So now Notre Dame awaits, next Saturday, in UM's highest profile game in a couple years (7:30 p.m., NBC).

"This is why you come to Miami to play games like this," Anthony Chickillo told WQAM. "A lot of guys on our team don't know about the rivalry, but by Monday, they will know. And they will know about it from me."

September 28, 2012

Heat chatter from Friday's media day; Dolphins injury update

The Heat enters Saturday’s start of training camp with several players still recovering from injuries, but with the hope of being at full strength for the regular season opener Oct. 30 against Boston. An update:

### Coach Erik Spoelstra predicts “you’ll see a great deal of the athleticism come back” with Dwyane Wade this season. But the Heat will be cautious during camp, with no pressure to play in preseason if he’s not deemed ready.

“My focus is on Oct. 30,” Wade said. “I’m feeling good. I will get stronger and stronger as the year goes on.”

Spoelstra said Wade “will do something on the first day of camp,” but his activity will be monitored for the next month.

“I don’t have a specific plan for him in training camp,” Spoelstra said. “I’m looking at him strictly big picture. We would like to put him in position to be ready for Game 1 of the regular season.”

### Mike Miller: He avoided back surgery and said he’s feeling much better. Spoelstra said he has been doing “very regulated” work on the court for six weeks, and Saturday’s session will be his first contact work since playing in the Finals.

 “He’ll go full speed Saturday and we’ll be smart about it,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t expect him to go every day.” Miller said he, Spoelstra and Pat Riley have talked about a maintenance program, but he wants to practice some.

### Ray Allen: Though he doesn’t expect to miss any games, Allen suggested his surgically-repaired ankle will need to be managed for awhile. Asked if he expects to be pain free this season, he said, “Who knows?”

He isn’t 100 percent yet but, “you wouldn’t know it,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to know. I don’t want anyone to think I’m hampered by any soreness.... There's a minimal amount of swelling in my ankle.”

### Rashard Lewis: He said he’s fully recovered from knee problems that slowed and often sidelined him the past two years and won’t be limited in camp. Spoelstra said Lewis “mentioned it’s the first time he’s been able to lean down and pick up his kids because his knees feel that good.”


Chris Bosh, who said he expects to continue playing center, began adding a few pounds this summer (from 238 to 241) but decided to lose the weight because he and Spoelstra do not want to jeopardize his quickness.

“I don’t want him to bulk up,” Spoelstra said. “That makes no sense for how we want to play.”

### Spoelstra said he will not use the word “repeat” this season. Instead, he prefers a longer way of articulating the Heat’s goals:

“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to win the title. Everyone will be gunning for us this year. Teams have loaded up. It’s cliché to say it’s harder to win the second time. It’s just difficult.”

### The 2006-07 Heat did not return with the same intensity as the championship team, but Spoelstra does not consider that a concern with this team. “In 2007, we simply were not healthy. Knock on wood, we’re relatively healthy coming into camp.”

### Spoelstra said he will be “intelligent” about not playing his stars too many minutes. But “this season is not about preservation,” he said. “LeBron James wouldn’t have it any other way.”

### The Heat will have at least 50 regular-season practices (compared with 25 during last year’s lockout-shortened season), and Spoelstra said: “It’s important for the coaching staff we don’t take the attitude of: Let’s just do what we did last year. That isn’t enough. The league doesn’t allow you to do that.

“We don’t know that our game that we finished with will be good enough to do that again. Offensively, we would like to play a notch quicker pace than we did last year.”

### Though the league is finalizing a new “flopping” policy that could result in fines, Spoelstra said will “absolutely not” change the team’s emphasis on drawing charges. “Flopping is a silent killer,” Shane Battier cracked.

### Spoelstra, on how life has changed since winning a championship: “I don’t get things thrown at me as much.”

But seriously, he said strangers are “a little more respectful than 12 months ago.” And he said other coaches are more likely to call him back now.

He said, half kiddingly, that some non-NBA coaches, when he left messages before winning a title would say, “Who’s he?” with some believing Pat Riley was still coaching the Heat.

### LeBron James said this team “can be a lot better” than last year’s. “It’s scary.”

### Of the Lakers, Wade said: “We’ll see them twice and hopefully we’ll see them later.”


Reggie Bush and Richard Marshall were listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Arizona.

Tony McDaniel and Marlon Moore were listed as doubtful.







September 27, 2012

Media notes: Assessment of network changes; Van Gundy news; and Spoelstra press briefing


(Note: please see our last post for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's pre-training camp briefing.)


Some thoughts on the major changes on NFL and college football network TV coverage this season:

### ESPN’s shift from a three-man to a two-man Monday night booth (with Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden): We were skeptical initially, for two reasons: The needling exchanges between Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski made for good television, and Gruden spewed several head-scratching remarks last season.

But Gruden has validated ESPN’s faith, making numerous cogent points, especially about strategy. In Packers-Seahawks, he suggested the Packers run the ball more and go to two tight-end sets to deal with Seattle’s blitz. (Both helped in the second half, after the Seahawks had eight sacks in the first half.)

He also noticed the offensive pass interference – “one of the most blatant I’ve ever seen” - that wasn’t called on the controversial final play of that game. In Falcons-Broncos, he noted Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was causing confusion for Peyton Manning and Denver's linemen by disguising coverages and playing so many players close to the line of scrimmage.

Gruden, often wrong when he predicted play calls last season, has done that less often, instead sometimes suggesting calls instead.

The former coach is still a bit too effusive with praise and irritatingly leans on crutch clichés (“This guy is football player!”). But he has criticized when appropriate, including questioning the Ravens for throwing while leading 41-13 against Cincinnati.

Every spring, Gruden’s charisma and playful personality help make his quarterback specials some of ESPN’s most compelling pre-draft programming. The question remains whether he can display more of that lighter touch on game telecasts, as John Madden did for many years when he sprinkled random musings into his X's and O's analysis.

Incidentally, among the several reasons ESPN removed Jaworski from MNF is that network research showed that a lot of people thought their voices sounded similar and couldn’t tell who was talking.

### New CBS information man Jason LaCanfora: We miss the professorial approach of Charley Casserly, an ace at dissecting film. But LaCanfora, formerly of NFL Network, has served up decent information, including the government’s investigation into the Saints’ alleged cover-up of misuse of Vicodin.

### Jason Taylor in ESPN’s studio: Polished and credible, Taylor has offered sound, understated analysis. His criticism is measured – not as biting as say, Merril Hoge’s. But Taylor would be well served to display more of his dry wit when there’s an opportunity.

### New Fox comedian Rob Riggle: In theory, you can understand Fox wanting a fresh act after nine years of Frank Caliendo. But Caliendo’s talents --- mostly his dead-on impersonations of George Bush, John Madden and others -- lend themselves far better to a short Fox segment that Riggle’s. Riggle’s work has been underwhelming, with jokes such as: “It’s a shame you can’t get fantasy points for DUI [arrests].”

### New Fox analysts Mike Martz and Heath Evans, who replaced UCLA coach Jim Mora and Chad Pennington: Not impressed. Both speak excessively and repetitively. Martz said during his first broadcast, “I know I’m beating a dead horse” when he talked repeatedly about the speed on Tampa’s defense. So stop it!

### Fox’s new prime-time college football package: After opening with a lopsided Hawaii-Southern California game that had no business airing on a major non-cable network in prime time, Fox has been fortunate to get three very good games, including Stanford’s upset of USC. Fox’s Big 12/Pac-10 package is clearly hurting the quality of ABC’s games.

Fox’s studio show, awful initially, has gradually improved because Erin Andrews stopped stumbling over words, and the show added more highlights from other games.


### Fox’s John Lynch took a surprising shot at the NFL this week, asserting the league told Fox announcers before the opener that: “We’re close to a deal [to settle the officials lockout], so take it easy on those guys.” As it turned out, a deal – finalized Thursday - wasn’t close at that time, and “they duped us,” Lynch said. “It speaks to the arrogance of the owners.”

Still, a network source said the league did not complain to ESPN about some of its scathing criticism of the officials; Trent Dilfer said “it’s ironic that you, the NFL, is who’s screwing this up”. The NBA’s David Stern and MLB’s Bud Selig typically voice displeasure privately to rights-holders about negative comments and stories more than the NFL’s Roger Goodell does, sources said.

### Former Heat and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whose cutting candor would have translated well to a TV job, tells us he won’t be joining ESPN, contrary to a sportsbybrooks.com report. Van Gundy said ESPN decided not to hire him. Word is they couldn’t agree on assignments. “We had discussions and decided to go in a different direction,” ESPN spokesperson Ben Cafardo. TNT hasn’t pursued him.... Former FIU coach and NBA great Isiah Thomas reportedly is a candidate for an ESPN studio job.

### Encouraging sign: The Dolphins’ local TV ratings improved from an embarrassing 13.5 in Week 1 to a 16.7 in Week 2 and a 19.6 in Week 3.

### Good move by WQAM program director Jorge Sedano to pair Clinton Portis with Channing Crowder on a Monday night show. They analyze the game cogently, with plenty of personality. But Crowder, sharp and witty, needs to be more selective in his Jeff Ireland-bashing because it’s perceived as personal.      

Heat signs two players; Spoelstra addresses Wade injury, other pre-camp issues

The Heat filled out its training camp roster Thursday evening, signing veteran NBA small forward Rodney Carney and forward Robert Dozier, a former Heat second-round pick.

Here are some snuppets from Erik Spoelstra’s preseason briefing with fewer than a dozen reporters today:

### Spoelstra said Dwyane Wade is not 100 percent in his recovery from knee surgery “and we’re going to be very vigilant how to progress with him. Hopefully, he won’t miss any regular-season time.” He said Mike Miller (who has battled back problems) is ready to go and will participate in parts of training camp. Jarvis Varnado (hamstring) might be limited for the first day or so.

He said Ray Allen (who had an ankle injury last season) is not 100 percent but “I haven’t noticed it" during workouts. "He’s a bona-fide legitimate catch and shoot player. You must have a scheme for a player like him if you’re the opponent.”

### Spoelstra said he again wants to “manage” LeBron James’ minutes during the regular season and isn’t concerned about the fact he didn’t have a lot of time to rest during the offseason, when he helped lead the U.S. team to an Olympics gold medal.

“He’s done it in 2008,” Spoelstra said of playing in the Olympics. “It’s easier when you have six months off. But if you have six months off, your team isn’t going to the second season. We’ve managed his minutes as significantly as he’s ever had it managed in his career. He's as driven a professional as I've been around. He understands the opportunity this organization has. He savors that.”

### The Heat played at a fast pace early last season and Spoelstra said, “We would like to play faster when it’s ideal to us.” He talked this offseason with Paul Westhead, known for his up-tempo style in college and the NBA. “Are we going to play a frenetic style of basketball? No. We will continue to emphasize the cornerstones of Heat basketball: to defend, to attack the paint in particular.”

### Spoelstra spoke to several coaches about the challenge of repeating, including Pat Riley and UF coach Billy Donovan. “One of first guys I flew up and met with was Billy Donovan. It was a seven hour meeting. Every team is different. The bottom line is [repeating] is not easy. It’s hard to win a title in any professional sport.”

He said he spoke indirectly to Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick through an intermediary.

Spoelstra met Tony Dungy during the summer of 2011, and they spoke again at Donovan's camp this summer. Dungy praised Spoelstra. "That was pretty cool."

### Spoelstra was non-committal about whether Shane Battier would be used extensively in a power forward type role. He said he wants his team to be "position-less. It's more important playing to our strengths than what other teams are doing."

### Spoelstra said players have been working out since the middle of August "looking forward to this."

### Spoelstra said: “We haven’t changed the philosophy of Miami Heat basketball from when Pat was coaching. We still feel we’re a power/paint team. We do it in a different way from the teams with Shaq and Zo. We will be an inside/out team still.”

### With 12 players on the roster who have been part of an NBA rotation before, Spoelstra said, "I'm not going in with pre-conceived notion of how many players I'm going to play. Guys have signed up for these roles. We're going to use the players how we think best gives ourselves a chance to win. It is about we and not me."

### He said the Heat's young centers "are a little different. Varnado and Mickell Gladness bring that shot-blocking and energy and quickness. Dexter Pittman has had a good month; this will be the best condition by far he's ever come into in training camp. He brings physicality and size. Josh Harrellson brings the stretch shooting with size, and already has had a role on a good team, and is clearly a different dynamic than the rest of them."

### He said Norris Cole "had a great summer. I really liked the work he put in. He took great strides" in perimeter shooting and ball-handling. "He's a tough kid and he's hungry." 

### He said Juwan Howard will not be signed "to start camp" but "we're still open to Juwan."... He said it won't take long to indoctrinate Allen and Rashard Lewis to the Heat's defense.... On Joel Anthony: "It's hard to keep Joel off the floor, as active as he is."

### Spoelstra, on coaching after winning a title: "Bill Gates said success is a horrible teacher because sometimes you forget the process and everything it took to get to that point. As a coach, you live in a constant state of uneasiness. My back started getting tight last week. This is how I felt last year in training camp and during the playoffs this year."


September 25, 2012

Decisions loom in Heat training camp; Discouraging Fins news; UM, Marlins talk


Four decisions facing the Heat during training camp, which opens Saturday:

### Starting power forward: With Chris Bosh expecting to remain at center, the options are natural small forward Shane Battier, who handled the job for most of the final three rounds of the playoffs; Rashard Lewis, looking to resuscitate his career; and Udonis Haslem. Using Battier or Lewis with the other starters would spread the floor; Haslem would provide more rebounding.

Battier and Lewis aren’t big rebounders -– the 6-10 Lewis has, at times during his career, ranked among the lowest rebound-per-minute starter for a player of his size -– but LeBron James’ work on the boards could compensate for that. The question is whether Battier, at 225 pounds, can sustain a full season at power forward.

“I think I could get away with it,” he said. “The regular season is not as physical as the playoffs. Guys aren’t hitting as hard.”

### Which two young centers to keep: Two likely will make the team from among Dexter Pittman (a front-runner), Josh Harrellson, Mickell Gladness and Jarvis Varnado. Pat Riley opted for youth over a veteran such as Mehmet Okur or Darko Milicic. Juwan Howard is still working out with the Heat, hoping for a one-year contract.

Pittman is the only one of the four with a guaranteed contract, but Riley made clear he expects more from him than his uneven, foul-plagued performance in summer league. The Heat likes his rebounding and offensive growth but has grown exasperated, at times, by his penchant for fouling: one every 4.1 minutes last season).

Harrellson, 6-10, is the best shooter of the four: 20 for 59 on threes, but probably the worst defender. But here’s what intriguing: In four of the five games when he played at least 27 minutes for the Knicks, he produced 14 points and 12 boards; 11 and 7; 8 and 7; and 18 and 9.

The coaching staff likes the upside of the 6-11 Gladness; he’s a natural shot-blocker and less foul-prone than Pittman (one every 7.9 minutes).

The 6-9 Varnado, who spent the past two years in Italy and Israel after being drafted 41st by Miami in 2010, is the biggest long shot of the four but ranks as the NCAA’s all-time career leader in blocked shots (at Mississippi State) and one of two players in NCAA history (with David Robinson) to produce at least 1000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 blocks.

“Harrellson can be exposed defensively, but he’s a better player than Gladness and more skilled,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Gladness is athletic and long but has no offensive game. Harrellson can shoot it and plays his butt off.” That scout gives the edge to Pittman and Harrellson among the four.

### How deep the rotation goes: Besides the Big Three and Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Battier and Haslem will play, Joel Anthony likely will get limited minutes (unless Pittman or one of the other young centers outplays him), and Lewis will play unless he shows nothing in camp. That’s nine.

The conundrum for Erik Spoelstra is whether to regularly play Norris Cole or give those minutes to Mike Miller, with Allen or Wade as primary ball-handlers when Chalmers is out. That could depend partly on matchups. Though Miller avoided back surgery, his health bears watching. It’s difficult to envision much time for James Jones.

### Terrel Harris or Garrett Temple for the last perimeter spot (or possibly Nigerian national team member Chamberlain Oguchi, who has impressed the Heat but hadn't been offered a contract yet as of Tuesday evening):

Harris and Temple both went undrafted in 2009 and both must improve their shooting. Harris, 6-4, showed growth in summer league but shot 34.9 percent as a rookie. He spent the summer working on that and his ball handling.

"Can he handle the ball? Yes. Can he bring it up the court and enter us into an offensive set? Yes," Riley said earlier this offseason. "Can he be a point guard? That would be a stretch. But I would play him as a scoring point guard if I had to."

The 6-6 Temple, from LSU, has played 51 NBA games for five teams, averaging 3.8 points and shooting 37.9 percent.

“Close call,” the scout said of Harris/Temple. “Temple is an all-purpose guy who can play point guard. Harris is a little better athlete.”


### With the Dolphins auditioning veteran NFL cornerbacks Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry and Morgan Trent on Tuesday (see our last post for details), this should trouble them: Of 100 qualifying cornerbacks ranked by Pro Football Focus, Richard Marshall is 78th and Nolan Carroll 89th. (Sean Smith is 43rd.)

Also troubling: Of the 21 passes thrown against Marshall this season, 14 had bad results (10 catches, for 140 yards plus four penalties). Of the 12 thrown against Carroll, seven had bad results (including five catches for 88 yards).

But if there’s any consolation, the Colts’ Vontae Davis has been worse (12 of 14 caught, for 165 yards).

### Reggie Bush said on the Paul and Young Ron Show on Big 105.9 FM that he feels no sympathy for the Jets losing Darrelle Revis for the year with a knee injury because "what goes around comes around. They talked all week about putting hot sauce [on me] and this and that and they ended up losing their best player." Bush says his injured knee is merely bruised and he's trying to do what it takes to play Sunday.

### So what’s the deal with two promising Dolphins and UM tight ends that have been nearly invisible? The Dolphins’ Charles Clay (16 catches for 233 yards last season) has just one for two this season. “Part of that is him; part of that is us putting him in position to make plays,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said.

Clay said Sherman’s preseason criticism of him on HBO’s Hard Knocks “was good; it got me refocused. I needed it.” But it hasn’t translated to production.

Asante Cleveland, UM’s first-team tight end for six months until Dyron Dye beat him out opening week, is now on the third team and has two catches for 12 yards. UM wanted 60 catches from tight ends; they’re on pace for 39. “We’ve got to get them the ball more,” Al Golden said.

### UM coaches expected receiver Robert Lockhart would contribute immediately, but he hasn’t even played. Why? Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he needs to “keep studying and play faster.”

### No, UM’s Tracy Howard (who has played 100 snaps in three games) is not in the doghouse. Golden said the ballyhooed freshman corner “has been great” and displayed a good attitude but didn’t play much against Georgia Tech because he wasn’t “ready for the triple option. It was hard enough having Deon Bush back there at safety. It's scary. The option is no place for freshmen.” Senior Brandon McGee said: “I let Tracy know you can’t freelance.”

### How much has UM’s conditioning improved (which was key in the Georgia Tech win)? In August 2011, 40 players failed Golden’s conditioning test. None did this year.

### One National League general manager said this week that the struggles of Ozzie Guillen (Marlins) and Bobby Valentine (Boston) reinforces it’s better to have a “steadier” manager who isn’t “larger than life” and looking for attention for himself… Though some Marlins people thought he should have gotten his veterans to play better, Guillen countered: “Hanley Ramirez hasn’t performed in five years.” (Actually, two years.) “And John Buck hit .210 last year, too.” (Actually, .227.)


September 24, 2012

Tuesday update: Dolphins sign LB and safety and audition cornerbacks

Some quick hits:

### The Dolphins signed two former Dolphins: safety Jonathon Amaya and linebacker Mike Rivera and cut offensive lineman Ray Feinga and safety Troy Nolan.

Amaya played as a reserve for the Dolphins in 2010 and was dealt to the Saints in the Reggie Bush during the 2011 offseason. He had 10 tackles on defense but got most of his work on special teams for the Saints last season and was cut in August.

Rivera spent the 2011 offseason with the Dolphins and played in two games for the Patriots this season before being cut Sept. 18. He is considered an above-average special teams player.

The Dolphins also brought in a few cornerbacks for tryouts Tuesday, including veterans Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry and Morgan Trent, sources said.

Smith had eight interceptions the past two two years but was cut by the Lions on Aug. 31.

Berry was cut by the Lions in July after two arrests this summer - one for simple assault and one for suspicion of DUI. He played in 12 games for the Lions over the past two years and faces a three game NFL suspenion once he joins a team (for violating the league's personal conduct penalty).

Trent, who has started three games in three years, was waived by the Redskins in August.

The Dolphins so far have not needed to use their fourth cornerback, R.J. Stanford, on defense. Nolan was used sparingly on defense before he was cut.

### Please see our newest post on the left side of this blog, with more Dolphins tidbits (including on cornerbacks and Charles Clay and an update on Reggie Bush from Tuesday night).

### Yes, there's a lot to be encouraged about with Ryan Tannehill: the arm, the poise, his ability to lead the Dolphins to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation Sunday and engineer a drive ending in a missed field goal that would have won the game in overtime.

But a lot of the positives cannot be measured statistically. From a numerical standpoint, the harsh reality is this:

Tannehill ranks 32nd and last among NFL quarterbacks in QB rating, at 58.3. The rest of the bottom five: Josh Freeman (71.4), Michael Vick (66.3), Brandon Weeden (60.7) and Jay Cutler (58.6). Matt Ryan is first at 114.0.

Because Tannehill's growth is so critical to Jeff Ireland's future, it's puzzling why Ireland hasn't surrounded him with better receivers. Tannehill has been victimized by 11 dropped passes, second-most in the league behind Drew Brees, according to Pro Football Focus. That obviously hurts his QB rating.

### Here's where Tannehill ranks in other categories: He's 28th in completion percentage at 52.9. (Mark Sanchez is last at 50.5). He's 26th in yards, 22nd in fourth-quarter passer rating (76.5) and 26th in third-down passer rating (65.0).

### With three sacks in three games, the Dolphins rank ahead of only Jacksonville in sacks per pass play. Seven NFL players have more sacks than the entire Dolphins team, led by Clay Matthews (six).  The Dolphins, as you'll recall, selected Vontae Davis one spot ahead of Matthews in the 2009 draft. 

"We missed a few obviously," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said of the lack of sacks. "Yesterday we had a couple of opportunities off the edges where Mark Sanchez was able to spin out, and that has historically been one of the things that Sanchez has done. He's not a running quarterback, but he's got some elusiveness in the pocket.

"I think that the opposing quarterbacks are very aware of our rushers, particularly Wake coming off the edge. We’ve got to create more sacks no question about it, but the one positive that I’m, seeing is that the completion percentage, although we’ve given up a lot of yards in terms of total yardage over the three games; I’m not happy about that, I’m disappointed about that. But the completion percentage is like 52%, and I think it’s third best in the league in terms of quarterback completion ratio. So the pressure that we’re generating is causing guys to throw the ball away, to make some errant throws and things of that nature."

Cam Wake had 13 quarterback "hurries" but no sacks this season. Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon shared Miami's only sack Sunday; Randy Starks has the Dolphins' other two this season.

### The Dolphins are allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game in the league, and Sanchez on Sunday joined Vinny Testaverde as the only Jets quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in a win against the Dolphins in the past 19 years.

### The Jets' Calvin Pace raised eyebrows when he said this about Reggie Bush after Sunday's game, per The New York Daily News: "We had to put him on out. We didn't see him again."

When Pace spoke to reporters Monday, he opened with a statement in which clarified: "I wasn't trying to say it as if we were trying to hurt him. We aren't running any bounty system or anything like that."

### The Heat auditioned former UM guard Jack McClinton on Monday and reportedly will work out former San Diego State power forward Malcolm Thomas this week. Thomas appeared in three games for the Spurs last season. Juwan Howard and Nigerian national team swingman Chamberlain Oguchi also continue to work with the Heat, hoping to land the two remaining spots on the training camp roster. Miami has 18 under contract and can bring 20 to camp.

### UM's Ben Jones played 53 snaps Saturday and Seantrel Henderson played 12. But both did enough, coaches say, to pull even with Miami's starting tackles: Ereck Flowers and Malcolm Bunche. So Monday's depth chart has Bunche/Henderson as an "either/or" at left tackle, and Flowers/Jones as an "either/or" at right tackle.

Philbin explains decisions in Monday press conference; Reggie Bush news; Heath Bell rips Guillen

Highlights from Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s Monday news conference:

### He said he told his coaching staff Monday that "It’s easy to say Dan Carpenter should have made the kick. [But] we still have the same problems [regardless].”

### On the Dolphins’ play calling late in the fourth quarter and overtime: “I don’t think the calls were bad. There are always calls you want to have back.

“We had first and 10 at the 35. We ran the ball on first and 10. Got a couple yards. Threw it on second down. They played a specific coverage; we took a shot. Would it have been better if we had completed a 7 or 8 yard crossing route? Absolutely. We thought we had a good call. We weren’t able to get a first down and get an easier kick for Dan [Carpenter]."

### Asked if he has over-ruled his coordinators much this season, Philbin said, “Maybe here and there, but not much.” He then mentioned two offensive plays he has over-ruled, but no specifics on when they happened.

### Of Reggie Bush’s injury, Philbin said: “I don’t think it really changed the game a whole lot. I would argue that’s as deep a position” as the Dolphins have.

### Philbin said of Daniel Thomas: “You can’t fumble the ball. Two in three games is too much. You can’t fumble the ball and play running back in this league.” But he said Thomas “did some good things” in pass protection.

### I asked Philbin why he played Thomas ahead of Lamar Miller in the fourth quarter and overtime. “Some of it was protection related. Daniel, pass protection wise, gives us a little more bigger [back].” And Philbin said the Dolphins’ philosophy is “less substitution, more faster pace," as opposed to switching between Thomas and Miller during the same series.

 ### Miller was to blame for miscommunication on a botched play with Tannehill.  "That’s a wasted play," Philbin said. "Every snap is important. I don’t know that will inhibit him from getting more snaps. This is week three – now the next game we don’t want to see him going the wrong way or him and the quarterback not being on the same page. The guy has shown some real positive qualities."

### On the offensive line: "We did well. Pass protection was good. Two quarterback hits. Anytime you have zero sacks, you have to feel good. Some of the run blocking was good – we have room for improvement there."

### Philbin, on what he would like his offense's identity to be: "Protect the football, No. 1. We’re not there right now. That’s the first thing we’re off the boat on. Second thing is we would love to be an explosive offense that can make big plays. We’ve been excellent in the running game, not as good in the passing game. Then the other stuff is have balance, let’s have flexibility, let’s be multiple formation wise. But that’s all kind of fluff."

### Defensively, Philbin said the Dolphins had "too many penalities. Eleven penalties is too much.  The penalty situation was unacceptable."

### Anthony Armstrong got the third-most receiver snaps, behind Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Asked if he has claimed the No. 3 receiver job, Philbin said, "Some of it is based on weekly performance in practice. We’re not locked and loaded" there.

### Though Cam Wake has no sacks this season, "The kid is playing his tail off," Philbin said. "He's playing fast and hard."

### Bush was injured on a first and 10 from the Dolphins' 20 with 36 seconds left in the first half. Should the Dolphins have taken a knee there?

Philbin said he has "struggled with that a couple times this year." The question, he said, is: "Do you have faith in your players to execute base play in your offense or do you want to take a knee?" He said it could be argued that he has made some mistakes in those decisions.

 ### Also: An MRI showed Reggie Bush's knee had no structural damage. The Dolphins hope he will ready to play Sunday at Arizona. "Received some great news today! Praise the Lord," Bush said on Twitter Monday morning.

### Marlins closer Heath Bell, who lost his closer's job a couple months ago and thought he would get it back, said on his weekly segment with WQAM's Dan Sileo on Monday: "It's hard to respect a guy that doesn't tell you the truth or doesn't tell you face to face.... We need a guy that leads us that everybody respects and looks up to."

Bell confronted Guillen earlier this season, claiming the manager did not have his back. Guillen obivously disagreed.

This offseason, the Marlins will try to trade Bell, who has two years and $18 million left on his contract.



September 23, 2012

Postgame comments from Dolphins-Jets

Some reaction from Dolphins-Jets Sunday:

### Joe Philbin, on if there's too much pressure on the defense: "It's possible. We didn’t have great continuity on offense and there was a stretch in there where we didn’t move the ball well. We’ve kind of had those, unfortunately, in every single game we’ve played.”

### Philbin, on calling the timeout before the game-winning field goal, thus negating the subsequent block: “I thought it was the right call. I was planning it all along, to call time out right before he kicked the ball. I really had no reaction whatsoever on that. I knew that was the plan, that was the thing to do, and we did it.”

### Philbin, on play calling in overtime: "We called a run on first down, didn’t gain a whole lot. Coverage dictated it. We called a pass that had a number of different options on it. I thought it was a good call. Had no problem with the call. Took a shot there. Gained a couple of yards on third down calls. We can analyze it. We’ll take a look at the tape. I’m sure there’s some calls we could have done a better job with but I didn’t have a problem with any of the calls.”

###  Philbin, on the play of QB Ryan Tannehill: “There was a lot of good. There was some good, some improvement. Obviously the thing that’s a positive is that he put us in a position to tie the game, and send the game in overtime. He made some throws there. It was a nice throw. We took a shot down the sideline with [WR] Brian Hartline. I think he gave us a chance in overtime. I thought he did some good things. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of things to look at, to correct on tape. It’s tough to win games. I’m not a stat expert, but when you look at games where the defense scores seven points against you, that’s probably not a good way to go.”

### Philbin, on the play of RB Daniel Thomas and RB Lamar Miller:  “Well, we wanted to give Lamar an opportunity. You know, once we thought Reggie [Bush, RB] couldn’t play effectively. We have two guys, we think a lot of the both of them, and we think they’re both capable of playing. Some of it was dictated by situation, but some of it was spreading the carries around.”

 ### Davone Bess said this loss "is going to hang a little longer. We talk about finishing plays, especially in overtime. We know how critical one play can be and we didn’t finish. It was an emotional rollercoaster."

### Kevin Burnett, on dealing with the loss: "You don’t want to allow it to be a complacent thing. We talked about the fact that it may be okay, but we don’t have too many more okays because we all know, once it starts going south, it goes south exponentially. So we’ve got to turn it around. Period. Point blank."

### Dan Carpenter, on his two misses: “They were makeable. I mean, I let the team down. First of all there shouldn’t have been an overtime. We should never have even been there. The team is busting their ass, and I just didn’t come through. It’s something you don’t want to go through, but you know there is nothing I can do about it now. I’ll go back and take a peek, look at it and see if I can see what happened and move on.”

### Carpenter, on whether he has any idea on what happened on his overtime kick: – “Yeah I missed it left.”

### Karlos Dansby said this loss is tougher than most because "of the way that we lost it. It’s tough. Very tough.”

### Ryan Tannehill :"I thought our other guys came in and did a good job for us, running the ball well. But anytime you lose a player like Reggie, it’s tough.”

### After the long completion to Hartline in overtime, Tannehill said the thinking was: "You know we were in field goal range, so we didn’t want to turn the ball over, didn’t want to take any big chances. Take the yards if they were there, but we were confident in Dan and what he could do, so we didn’t want to take any big chances there. Just take what was there and trust your kicker.”

### Tannehill called the day "frustrating. I think we left some plays out there, myself and the rest of the offense included. We had some chance to put points on the board early, score touchdowns early, even at the end of regulation. Brian had a step on the guy the second time and I overthrew him. If you make the throw there, that’s the game, so it wasn’t coming down to the kick or anything like that. So yeah, it’s frustrating.”

### Rex Ryan: "Did we get some breaks? We certainly got some breaks, no question about it. The Dolphins played extremely hard. Obviously it looked rough for us there for a while. (We) feel very fortunate but … we expected to win but, my goodness, it was tough. Obviously, at the end, we got some breaks but we’ll take it. The Dolphins deserve a ton of credit. They are a good football team.”

### See the last post for the Sunday morning buzz column, with Dolphins, Heat, Canes, and the Fredi Gonzalez comment that had Jeffrey Loria fuming Sunday afternoon.

September 22, 2012

Encouraging signs from some pre-2012 Fins picks; UM QB reality series news; Heat, Marlins


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.