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31 posts from September 2012

September 21, 2012

Miller/Thomas conundrum; Fins, Heat notes; UM gets major commitment

Some late Friday quick hits:

#### In a perfect world, the Dolphins would be able to split backup running back carries between Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller and determine, over time, who is more deserving of the No. 2 job behind Reggie Bush.

But Joe Philbin said Friday: “Let’s face it. It’s tough” to share carries among three backs. And Reggie Bush, the Dolphins’ MVP through two games, obviously doesn’t deserve to have his workload reduced as long as he continues to play at this level.

Philbin wouldn’t say his plans for Sunday, but Miller said Bush and Thomas have been sharing carries with the first team, and Miller has been with the second team this week.

Miller said he’s patient and won’t be upset if he doesn’t play much or at all. The Dolphins were impressed with Miller’s debut last Sunday (10 carries, 65 yards) but also were very pleased with Thomas’ growth before he suffered a concussion in the opener.

Philbin said of Miller: "Not surprised that he played well. He's somebody we've had on our eye for a while and we've got to keep developing him."

### Jets tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring) didn’t practice Friday and it would be a huge help to Miami if he isn’t healthy enough to play. He has 28 catches for 328 yards and four touchdowns in eight games against the Dolphins, who continue to struggle defending tight ends.

### Though it’s embarrassing to the Dolphins that they needed a 24-hour extension to sell the required 51,000 tickets to lift the blackout for a game against their biggest rival, the Dolphins are not alone in having difficulty selling tickets. The 2-0 Chargers entered Friday 9200 seats short of a sellout against 2-0 Atlanta, and that game will be blacked out in San Diego.

### How much are Dolphins games against the Jets different from other opponents? “There’s definitely more chippiness,” Karlos Dansby said. “You feel more jump, more contact,” Brian Hartline said.

### Rex Ryan, on Ryan Tannehill: "A lot of rookies have that deer in the headlights look, and he really doesn't have that. Mark Sanchez had a little deer in the headlights look a few times" as a rookie.... Ryan said the fact Miami is allowing just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt "just blows you away."

### UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga got a big oral commitment Friday from New Jersey-based small forward/shooting guard Davon Reed, rated the nation's 97th best prospect by rivals.com. Reed, who would join UM for the 2013-14 season, averaged 26.7 points and 9.0 rebounds last season at Princeton Day School. He had more than 20 scholarship offers, and his three finalists were UM, Xavier and Wake Forest.

Reed, a four-star recruit, was impressed during his visit to UM last weekend. He told Canesport.com that Larranaga started screaming when Reed told him he was committing.

### Though former FIU swingman Raja Bell told 640 Sports on Friday that Miami would be at the top of his list if the Jazz give him a buyout (which is iffy), the Heat has not shown interest in him in recent years.

 

September 20, 2012

Yeremiah Bell's return; Sparano gets testy; Philbin wants more Naanee; Marlins; Canes

Some Thursday night quick hits:

### Sean Smith called Yeremiah Bell this week to check up on his friend and former teammate.

But one topic was off limits, Smith said: Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets game.

For some Dolphins players, it’s still difficult to envision Bell in a Jets uniform after eight years in Miami.

“He’s missed, the knowledge you get from him,” Smith said. “He was the ultimate pro.”

The Dolphins cut Bell in March, believing he had lost a step and deciding Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons were ready for larger roles. Jones and Clemons have been solid so far, with the linebackers and cornerbacks mostly responsible for breakdowns in pass coverage.

Bell is starting for the Jets and has allowed four of the five passes thrown against him to be completed, for 80 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“It’s going to be fun,” Bell told the Jets' web site. “I’m not putting any extra incentive on it or anything like that. It’s a division game we definitely need to win. I’m still friends with a lot of guys. We’ll have our laughs before the game, but only before. When the game starts, there are no friends.”

Jones and Clemons both said Thursday that Bell taught them “how to be a pro” and they will always be appreciative. Smith said Bell’s departure essentially forced Miami’s young safeties to grow up.

“We’re not dependent on one guy anymore” to make all the calls, Smith said. “We always looked at YB. ‘What are you doing now?’ We depended on him for everything. Reshad and Chris have made a big jump, being more vocal.”

### Bell said the Dolphins “are keeping it simple” for Ryan Tannehill by calling “a lot of quick throws, a lot of easy reads. We are going to throw him some different looks. We have to make it difficult for him. If he wants to throw the ball quickly, we have to make him throw over our defensive linemen.”

### Though the Dolphins haven’t deemed him ready to be activated for a game, coach Joe Philbin insisted Thursday that rookie tight end Michael Egnew, selected in the third round, “definitely has shown improvement.”

### Philbin said he wants to get Legedu Naanee “more involved in the passing game.” Naanee has been thrown only three passes; two were intercepted (including one tipped by a Houston defender) and the other was incomplete.

### Jets offensive coordinator and former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was testy with New York reporters Thursday evening when asked why Tim Tebow wasn’t used in the first half of the loss to Pittsburgh. Sparano pointed out that the Jets averaged 6.2 yards per game in the first half of that game, then said: “That game’s over, OK? If you want to talk about Miami, I’ll talk about Miami. I don’t want to talk about that game. I can’t help you with that. My mind’s in a different place.” Sparano is only made available to reporters on Thursdays.

### Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is still deciding what changes to make. He won't say if Larry Beinfest and Ozzie Guillen will be retained. But when I spoke to him on Thursday, he referred to USA Today's report that Beinfest would be fired as "ridiculous and fabricated" rumor. For more, see our story on the sports home page.

### MLB.com reported Thursday night that in internal discussions about a potential managerial change, former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell's name has been raised as a possible replacement. The Marlins are still deciding whether to keep Guillen.

### Seantrel Henderson has been pushing Malcolm Bunche hard at left tackle, and the starting job is now a toss-up. Al Golden said Henderson showed the second-most amount of energy among UM offensive linemen last Saturday, behind only Jon Feliciano.... UM is waiting for one of its defensive tackles to distinguish himself from the pack. The player most capable of that, Curtis Porter, remains out after an appedectomy.

September 19, 2012

Philbin, Bush, Tannehill weigh in; Chad Johnson keeps talking

Some quick hits from Wednesday night, while awaiting Dolphins-Jets (and a couple of other notes):

### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin told New York media that he's only "starting to" gain an appreciation for the Dolphins-Jets rivalry. "I’m new to the AFC, new to the AFC East, but walking into the team meeting this morning, some of the guys were a little more lively than maybe they would be on a typical Wednesday morning, knowing that it’s a division rival, it’s a home game, it’s a September game, and it’s the New York Jets."

### Here's what concerns Philbin about the Jets offense: "They have big play potential on the outside. Santonio Holmes has been a consistent playmaker in this league for a long time. Dustin Keller [whose status is in question because of a hamstring injury] is a very, very good tight end. They have a good running game, they’re very physical and Mark Sanchez does a great job managing the game.”

### Sanchez is 2-4 against the Dolphins but has nine touchdown passes and four interceptions in the six games.

### Jets running back Shonn Greene has averaged just 3.3 yards against the Dolphins in his career.

### Philbin was asked by Jets reporters if he worries about Jets and ex-Dolphins WR Clyde Gates divulging information about the offensive scheme to the Jets: "No. I mean we picked up a player from Houston the first week of the season [Troy Nolan] and we lost 30-10, so I don’t know how much that helped us. I don’t sit around and worry about that kind of stuff.” 

Gates has one catch for 10 yards for the Jets through two games. He had two catches for 19 yards his entire rookie season for the Dolphins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     , ### Reggie Bush, on the difference between the Jets and Dolphins: “It starts with Coach Philbin. With his character, he’s the type of guy that shows up and is all about the business and not so much about talking and more about letting our play doing the talking.”

### Bush, asked by New York reporters about Hard Knocks, laughed and said:                                                                                                                                                                     “I "I don’t think it helped us."

### Ryan Tannehill was asked by New York media if he  thinks about the legacy of Dolphins quarterbacks and what Dan Marino did: “We have two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, great players. So you respect the history, but it’s not something you think about and try to live up to. I’m my own player."

### Chad Johnson, appearing on Showtime's Inside the NFL, picked the Jets to beat the Dolphins on Sunday and said he's taking anger management classes. He desperately wants another NFL chance. "Chad has to work on Chad and figure out where you went wrong," he told James Brown and Cris Collinsworth. "At some point, I drifted off being the best."

He said a team should sign him because "when you get a humbled Chad Johnson that lost everything and has to pick himself back up, that's a big deal."

### The Dolphins, who had an embarrassing 13.5 Dade/Broward TV rating for the Houston opener, posted a 16.8 rating for Sunday's game against Oakland on CBS-4, second worst among all home markets for the home team in Week 2. It ranked ahead of only the 16.6 in New York for Jets/Steelers. That means 16.8 percent of all Dade/Broward homes with TV sets were tuned in.

### UM coach Al Golden said AJ Highsmith remains a starter at safety, despite the return of senior Vaughn Telemaque from injury.

September 18, 2012

Lots of Duke Johnson buzz; Canes, Dolphins, Heat notes; Another Ozzie rant

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Is Duke Johnson likely to stay on this insane pace of touchdowns and all-purpose yards? The odds are against it, considering UM wants to keep him fresh, and considering the competition stiffens.

But to appreciate this special player and the historical significance of what he has achieved through one quarter of the season, consider this:

If he maintained this pace of 212.6 all-purpose yards per game, Johnson would shatter Philadelphia Eagles and former Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin’s NCAA record for a freshman (198.3). If he maintained this 24-touchdown pace, he would eclipse Marshall Faulk’s NCAA freshman record, by one.

His pace of 2552 all-purpose yards would easily surpass Willis McGahee’s UM record (2108, set in 2002 as a sophomore) – which is well ahead of No. 2 Ottis Anderson’s 1708.

For comparison, consider that Clinton Portis had 882 all-purpose yards as a freshman, Frank Gore 624, Edgerrin James 505 and McGahee 356. Johnson said Tuesday he has no idea what his statistics are and has no interest in keeping track of them.

But UM’s former star running backs are paying close attention to UM's newest prodigy. With his speed, Johnson reminds Dolphins rookie Lamar Miller of, well, Lamar Miller.  “He could be as good” as me, Miller said, though he’s unwilling to concede Johnson might eventually be better.

Portis watches Johnson and sees “a young Clinton Portis.” Johnson said Tuesday of all the great UM backs, he believes Portis is most similar  – “just the way we run and maneuver in and out of cuts…. I’m an elusive, shifty, quicker back.”

Portis, on his weekly WQAM-560 show with Jorge Sedano, said Monday: “My running backs coach called me about this kid when he was in high school and said, ‘I kid you not. This kid is just like you.’ I like him not because he reminds me of myself. I like him because he’s confident, he’s cocky, he backs it up. This kid has six touchdowns. My freshman year, I had eight. That should be broken next week.”

Johnson is averaging nine rushing attempts and 14.6 touches per game, but Portis said he should be getting 16 handoffs per game. His 9.2 average per carry is comparable to Gore’s remarkable 9.1 as a freshman.

“I hope they give him the ball [more], because the more you put the ball in his hands, the more exciting he gets,” Portis said.

Green Bay Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith, who went higher in the draft (third overall) than any running back in UM history, said Johnson is most like Reggie Bush.

“Every time he touches it, you’re thinking he may score,” Highsmith said, noting unlike the great UM backs, Johnson can return kicks. “The last time Miami played, the one time I got up, he scored. I’ve learned not to get up. 

“He’s a special athlete. He’s an edge player, but I like his toughness. You don’t want him running too much between the tackles now, but that’s something he will develop later. It took Reggie Bush a long time to learn to run inside. If there’s a back I would emulate, it’s Reggie.

“He’ll have a great career. The only fear with a kid like that is you get a bunch of agents talking to him.”

Ask teammates about amazes them most about Johnson, and you get a variety of answers. Brandon McGee points to the day this summer when he did a back flip after running 14 consecutive 40-yard dashes. Phillip Dorsett said, “He makes a cut when he’s not even looking at the hole. You wonder, ‘How does he do that?”

Former UM assistant Don Soldinger, who coached many of the great UM backs, said Johnson is “as good as anyone. He reminds me of Frank Gore – he looks like a natural and has a knack for reading defenses.”

If UM continues to give up a lot of points (Bethune Cookman aside), Johnson figures to get a lot of kick returns, unless teams start kicking away from him. He has fielded nine of UM’s 14 kickoff returns (33.9 average).

Former UM star Devin Hester spoke with Johnson’s mother and relayed to Johnson that he should “look for the crease” on kickoffs, and that “it’s not always going to be outside.”

If Johnson continued to average about 100 yards per game on kickoffs, that would require him to produce another 100 rushing/receiving to challenge Maclin’s freshman record. But coach Al Golden said he has not considered using him on punt returns: “He could do it [but] Phillip does a good job.”

UM coaches also see value in Johnson being a decoy at times. Running backs coach Terry Richardson has stressed the importance of “playing well without the ball in my hands to open lanes for other people.”

With his mother convincing Johnson not to read his press clippings, UM doesn’t worry about him staying grounded. “We’d like to have 105 Momma Dukes,” Golden said. “She will not let him get off course.”

CHATTER

### UM’s vertical passing game has been a major disappointment; Stephen Morris has completed only two passes that traveled in the air more than 20 yards and the deep passing game “needs to translate to games,” Golden said Tuesday. Morris, incidentally, has completed 34 of 42 passes inside UM’s 40 but 6 of 19 inside the opponent’s 20. UM receivers have dropped 11 passes in three games.

### Few athletes in South Florida have overcome more than Dolphins practice squad pickup Brian Tyms, an intriguing developmental prospect with size (6-3) and speed (4.4 in the 40). Tyms, who attended Fort Lauderdale Dillard, said he has lived in six foster homes; was beaten by his alcoholic father; had a drug-abusing mother who died from the HIV virus; and lived in his car in Broward for several weeks before walking on at Florida A&M.

### As well as the Dolphins’ linebackers have played against the run, this is disturbing: Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi and Kevin Burnett have allowed 24 of 34 passes thrown against them to be completed against them for 335 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Dansby has yielded 159, most by far among NFL linebackers.

### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen unleashed another rant Tuesday, saying he is fed up with a couple of his players complaining that Marlins Park is too big. 

“We are not going to move the fence. That’s it,” he said. “If you want to be the hitting coach here and the fence is too far, go home. If you don’t want to play here because the fence is too far, go home.

“I guarantee you – if you give them $100 million, they will play here. If you don’t have a job, they will play here. That’s a bunch of [bleep]. We don’t have home run hitters and the one [Mike Stanton] we have has 34. I don’t see any [other] guy hitting 40 home runs – maybe Carlos Lee 30 years ago.

“We’re not in last place because this ballpark’s big. We’re in last place because we’re bad – from the top to bottom, myself included.” OK then. By the way, the Marlins have hit 30 more homers on the road than at home.

Guillen, incidentally, said he will resume living in Chicago this winter, where he has a home.

### The Heat, this week, continues to audition former Oregon guard Chamberlain Oguchi, a 6-6 swingman from the Nigerian national team who scored 35 points in a loss to Spain at last month’s Olympics.

 Miami has 18 players under contract and former Memphis forward Robert Dozier drafted 60th by the Heat in 2009, likely will be the 19th. Teams can take 20 to camp but keep 15 once the regular season starts. Juwan Howard also continues to work out with the Heat, though it's difficult to envision a playing role for him.

 

September 17, 2012

Dolphins coordinators opine on Sparano, Tebow, other issues

Snippets from the Dolphins' coordinators weekly news conferences Monday.

 

From defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle:

### Paul Soliai and Randy Starks have done great work against the run (Miami leads the league in average yards per carry against at 2.2). But Coyle said others deserve credit, too:  “I thought our defensive ends had a strong performance yesterday as well as the interior guys. I thought Cam Wake is…we had some concern going into the season with his size and his matchup ability, but yet he’s been very strong at the point of attack. I thought Jared (Odrick) played much better this week than he had in the opening week. We were pleased and Koa Misi is still a force in terms of taking on lead blockers. There was a couple of great shots in the game where the fullback came up inside trying to block Koa and he not only took the fullback on, but he made the tackle at the same time. We were better across the front. Karlos (Dansby) played better I thought. Kevin (Burnett) did some good things. Overall, I thought it was a good day up front.”

### He said Randy Starks and Paul Soliai losing weight has helped because "I think that they realize that it’s helped their stamina, helped their quickness. Randy, for sure, I think it’s helped him. Paul (Soliai), inside, as strong as he is, he’s able to use his initial quickness now and not only try to muscle the blockers, but he outruns them some in those plays that go tackle-to-tackle. That’s been impressive.

### On what Jets offensive coordinator and former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano has brought to the Jets in terms of scheme: – “They’re a team that, opening week, you saw a team that could run the ball, that threw the ball effectively, gave a lot of multiple personnel groups that you have to contend with. Last night, the Steelers did a little better job against them, but they’re a team I think wants to run the ball out of a lot of different formations and a lot of different personnel groups. They’re going to want to play with play action, they want to throw the ball off of the play action pass and the quick game. That’s what Mark Sanchez has done very effectively since he’s been in the league and keep you off balance in that sense. Then, they have the element of how much of the Wildcat are they going to try to implement on a weekly basis. There’s always that hanging over your head and, defensively, it always makes you have to prepare and do some additional work that takes away from other things that you may want to do during the course of the week. You may see 10 snaps. You may see two snaps. Yesterday, I think they were in it three snaps in a row at one point in the game and that was it.

### On what challenges the Wildcat presents, with Tim Tebow: “You hear everybody that talks about it or has had to defend it…the fact is that they gain an extra blocker by the quarterback being the runner. Consequently, when everybody talks about trying to overload the box, you think you have an extra guy, but technically you don’t. Now, with that being said, they have to make all their blocks against a running defense that you may present them, but, at the end of the day, if they make all their blocks, they have a hat for every guy that you have down there if you’re not doing some things to involve the secondary more than you might not normally want to do. We’ll have a plan to defend it. We’ve seen it before and it’s just one of those things. Each week, there’s something different that you defend in the NFL. There’s an element of what a team does that you have got to spend a little extra on as a defense. It might be just bootleg routes like you play against Houston in the opening game. You’re spending extra, wherever you have an extra walkthrough or a period that you can devote time towards it, you do that. Each week, I look at the team that we’re going to play and say, ‘We’re going to have to use this teach period for that particular thing.’ It might be an empty. New England comes out with no backs. You’ve got to spend more time on that than typically you might in a normal week. This is just one of those other things you’ve got to get ready for and then, hopefully, it’s like anything in football, if you show that you’re prepared, you have a chance to slow it down, you may not see as much of it. If you don’t, you could see a boatload.”

### On if it concerns him facing Sparano who was the former coach of the Dolphins and has an intimate knowledge on his personnel: – “I haven’t really thought a lot about that. I think, sometimes, those types of things are a little overrated, but, yet at the same time, he does know the personnel. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, so I think that initially might come into play in terms of their preparation in terms of their game planning, how they might want to attack a certain guy. But I don’t think you dramatically change what you do. That happens and it happens throughout the league whenever anybody moves. I know the Cincinnati team that we’ll play in a couple of weeks better than most people do having been there. I think it’s one of those things that you just kind of deal with and move forward.” 

###

From offensive coordinator Mike Sherman:                                                                                                                                                                                 

### (On Brian Hartline’s play in the Oakland game) – I told him, I said you’re going to screw everything up for us because everybody is going to miss minicamp, OTAs and preseason and think they can play. He’s kind of a coach killer in some ways because of what he was able to do, but I’m pretty excited not just that he was on the field, but the opportunities he had he took advantage of those opportunities, so that was good. I think people underestimate his speed."

### On the perception that Legedu Naanee is struggling: “The thing about Legedu, (are) you know the opportunities. He wasn’t targeted very many times for whatever reason. Coverage dictates that sometimes, if he’s on one side or the other that dictates that, but you know we have guys that work real hard and these are the guys that we have and they’re going to help us win football games. So we’re excited about the guys that we have.”

### Does it surprise Sherman how well Reggie Bush runs between the tackle? "No... I remember Reg when he came out of college and they didn’t ask him a whole lot in that regard, and he was so much faster than everybody else that is was easier to run around them than through them. But, when I study the tapes form last year, certainly he did that numerous times, and has done that for us too. The durability is what amazes me. He’s out there today like he didn’t even play a game yesterday running around and doing what he does. (He’s) a very impressive young man, no question about that.”                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Heat signs Harrellson; Philbin's Monday news conference

  

      The Heat signed former Knicks center Josh Harrellson on Monday, giving the team another developmental center to compete for a roster spot.

      Harrellson, 6-10 and 275 pounds, impressed the Heat in a week of workouts recently.

      Harrellson averaged 4.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 14.6 minutes in 37 games for the Knicks last season, including four starts.  Harrellson, whose season was interrupted by wrist surgery, made 20 of 59 three-pointers.

      Drafted 45th overall by New Orleans in 2011, Harrelson was immediately traded to the Knicks. New York dealt him to Houston last month as part of the Marcus Camby trade. But the Rockets released him last week.

      Harrellson played one year at Southwest Illinois College, then left for Kentucky, where he averaged 6.4 points and 8.8 rebounds as a senior. He was named to the All-East Regional team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament after a 17-point, 10-rebound, three-block game against Ohio State and Jared Sullinger.

      The Heat opted to sign Harrellson over several other available veteran centers, including Darko Milicic, Chris Anderson and Eddy Curry, who spent last season with the Heat.

      Two of Harrellson’s best games have come on New Year’s Eve the past two years: a 24-point, 14-rebound game against Louisville on Dec. 31, 2010, and a 14-point, 12-rebound game against Sacramento last Dec. 31 – his first NBA start.

      The Heat now has 18 players under contract. Mickell Gladness and Harrellson and Jarvis Varnado likely will compete for one roster spot, though Dexter Pittman (who has a guaranteed contract) could be at risk if Gladness and Harrellson both excel in camp.  

    For highlights of Joe Philbin's news conference Monday, please see our last post.

Philbin wants improvement from Tannehill and other highlights from Monday press conference

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

## On Ryan Tannehill: “There are a lot of things he needs to work on. That lull at the end of the second quarter. We hit a stretch he was a part of that he’s got to do better. There were a couple accuracy issues, a couple timing issues.

"The thing I like about him is let’s be honest – he’s had some tough stretches in both games – he battled back in the second half of both games and showed some resiliency. He threw the ball well on the move. He finished the run off for the touchdown run. He threw the ball accurately. Threw a real nice ball on third down to Brian Hartline, a real nice ball on the move to Davone Bess.

"It’s an added dimension – if you can move the quarterback around in the pocket, against great pass rushers, it’s a great benefit." Philbin said there were a couple times he "could have done a little better job" sliding his feet more in the pocket.

### On Reggie Bush: "Reggie has had good patience. He’s disciplined in his aiming points. He has shown the ability to break a tackle. Part of the paycheck you’re earning is how many guys can you make miss, how many tackles can you break? He showed all of that. Yesterday showed a blend of elusiveness and breaking a tackle. He has run the ball hard and physical. The guy is a hard worker.

On the 23-yard touchdown run, Philbin didn’t want him Bush bouncing outside. But Bush did anyway, with great results. How do you coach that? “No, no, no yes,” Philbin cracked. But seriously... “Runners have to trust their natural instincts.”

### On handling a victory, Philbin said: "I said to the staff an hour ago – the mood should be the same.... I told the team our message to the media should be: We’ve got a long way to go."

### On who stood out on the offensive line in run blocking: "Richie Incognito played a really good game, better than in Houston. We’ve been impressed with Mike Pouncey both weeks. There are a lot of pictures of him finishing plays, staying engaged on blockers. It’s hard to move a guy and stay on a guy. Defensive linemen are usually better athletes than offensive linemen. He plays the game the right way. Don’t want to give him too much [credit], or he’ll start getting a big head. Those two stood out yesterday."

### On Lamar Miller's debut (65 yards rushing on 10 carries): "Sometimes a young player plays too fast, a little anxious. I don’t think that was the case with Lamar. He had elusivness, wiggled through cracks. For a first time out there, he’s gotten off to a good start."

### On Brian Hartline excelling despite missing most of the offseason program and most of training camp: "I can’t say anything good, because then I’ll have nobody here for OTAs." Good line.

### On the Dolphins offense: "Overall, they controlled the line of scrimmage. You don’t usually get a 250-plus yard rushing game in the NFL. It’s hard to come by."

### He said he doesn't say too much to his coordinators during games: "I whined a little bit in the first half and they told me to keep quiet. If I have something to say, I usually walk back to the players [during TV timeouts]. You don’t need a lot of interference. I have total faith in the guys we have calling the game."

### I asked Philbin who has particularly excelled against the run besides Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. "Cam Wake has been playing the run very well," Philbin said. "He’s been playing with excellent effort. You might think of him as a specialist."

### On areas to improve: "We felt we need to tackle better. Our tackling is still not where it should be relative to the amount of time we spend on it."

### He credited offensive coordinator Mike Sherman for calling "an excellent game." Philbin cracked: "I’d love to tell you our coaching staff got a lot smarter in one week. I’m not sure that’s the case."

 

September 15, 2012

Difficult times for Guillen, Philbin; Fins, Heat, Marlins, UM chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Professional sports owners can be just as susceptible as Dick Vitale to the coach worship mentality that infiltrates sports. We saw that last September, when Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was practically giddy about trading two players and paying $10 million to Ozzie Guillen, and again in January, when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross spoke of Joe Philbin “having a lot of the same attributes as Don Shula.”

Owners often overestimate what coaches/managers can do for them, especially in baseball, and that has been painfully obvious with Guillen, with several Marlins officials privately expressing immense disappointment about how little positive impact he has made.

It’s far too early to judge Philbin considering the limitations of his roster. Players like his attention to detail, respectful tone and  approachability. “You’re bringing in winners,” Reggie Bush said of Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. “I have a high respect for coach Philbin.”

But with winnable games looming – beginning Sunday against Oakland - it will be fascinating to see if Philbin can do what his owner fully, if perhaps unrealistically, expects (mold this team into a winner this season) and what his general manager expects (develop young players more than the former staff did).

Cam Cameron lost support in 2007 because he micro-managed, rubbed players the wrong way and lost his first 13 games. Philbin appears to command a lot more respect than Cameron. But as Channing Crowder said, Dan Marino would have laughed at Philbin if he had asked Marino to pick up trash and keep his locker area tidy – one of Philbin’s pet peeves.

With Guillen, management not only expected his presence would translate into more wins, but are irked by some of his comments even beyond the Fidel Castro fiasco, including blaming the organization for previously allowing players to delay surgery.

"He’s throwing blame on areas he doesn’t know much about,” one Marlins official said. “You look at the personnel he was given. It was good enough to compete for the playoffs. Your job as a manager is to get guys to perform. He couldn’t do that with Hanley Ramirez, John Buck or Heath Bell. He was supposed to handle Hanley, and how did that work out? Good managers are supposed to be good motivators. He wasn’t much of that this year.”

One player blamed Guillen for not doing more teaching. But many Marlins players have no issue with Guillen. Jose Reyes said his best attribute is "he tells you to your face what he expects."

One player said he thought Guillen would yell more and has been pleasantly surprised he treats them like adults. "He yells at the other team more than us," the player cracked.

Most players are amused by his unusual antics, such as writing a note on a ball and rolling it to Yankees manager Joe Girardi during an exhibition game, laughing at Giants manager Bruce Bochy when he caught Bochy looking at someone in the stands (according to a Marlins player), and affectionately telling his former White Sox player, Philadelphia’s Juan Pierre: “You’re not that good!” when he came to the plate against the Marlins.

The exchange with Pierre “is the first time I’ve heard my manager ever do that. It’s fun,” said Buck, a Guillen supporter.

One National League scout wasn’t as amused, saying Guillen “does a good job of waving to people in the stands. He leaves a little to be desired with in-game decisions. Watch how close [bench coach] Joey Cora sits by him and reminds him of stuff he’s supposed to do.”

Positives? “Ozzie’s engaging, smart and bilingual,” the scout said.

The Marlins also believe there needs to be better coaching from Guillen’s staff, and changes on the staff are expected. The Marlins have declined to give Guillen a public endorsement, though it would be somewhat surprising if they part ways with him after one season. 

Loria is now declining to comment on Guillen. Marlins president David Samson called Guillen's season "disappointing" to MLB.com.

As for Philbin, we’ve heard mostly positive reaction, though some players were disturbed when Philbin cut Chad Johnson after talking to the team about sticking together and the importance of family. One player said Philbin is “OK” but wants to see how he deals with adversity.

We also would like Philbin to stop saying “I didn’t coach the game well enough,” as he did again Monday.

The good news? “There’s more attention to detail now – that’s the biggest difference in this staff,” center Mike Pouncey said.

“If something happens like a guy jumping offside,… coach Philbin runs the whole play again. These coaches have a plan for us every day, working on a certain area where we’re lacking. It’s going to pay dividends. Our coaches were good last year, but obviously, they needed a change around here and brought in better coaches.”

Players appreciate that Philbin doesn’t yell as much as Sparano and, as Pouncey said, “treats us like pros.” Richie Incognito calls Philbin “a thinker – very cerebral.”

But as a first-year coach, will Philbin need to win for everybody to buy in? One Dolphin veteran said yes. A second player, Pouncey, said: “The coaches lay the platform; the players win the games. But if you have a coach that has a great plan for a team, then we’ll win.”

Perhaps Philbin and his coordinators will come up with a wrinkle that makes a difference Sunday. It’s questionable whether Philbin can be expected to win even half his games with this roster, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect improvement from young players.

This staff could not get that out of its most talented cornerback (Vontae Davis) or fastest receiver (Clyde Gates). But if Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin and other young players show major growth, Philbin will at least have achieved one of Ireland’s expectations.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins have told people they’re going week to week in deciding whether to add another receiver. Jabar Gaffney and Patrick Crayton are among those on Miami’s list, but former Lions receiver Roy Williams declined an offer to audition here and then retired.

### Dolphins players hope for more deep and intermediate passes to be called Sunday. Only seven of Tannehill’s 36 passes traveled more than 10 yards in the air against Houston; no other NFL quarterback threw fewer in Week 1. (Andrew Luck threw 22.) Tannehill completed two of the seven, with only one in the air more than 20 yards. A more vertical passing game “will keep the defense honest,” Brian Hartline said. But Anthony Armstrong’s injury hurts; he's doubtful for Sunday.

### One of the Marlins’ problems is none of their small number of top position prospects is close to the majors -- a group led by Single A Jupiter left fielder Christian Yelich (.330, 12 homers, 48 RBI, 20 steals) and Jupiter right fielder Marcell Ozuna (.266, 24 homers, 95 RBI). Third baseman Zack Cox, whom the Marlins believe is a year or two away, was underwhelming at Double A Jacksonville: .253, 13 RBI, 27 strikeouts and seven errors in 24 games.

### The NCAA told us that any school that’s anticipating NCAA penalties can declare itself bowl ineligible during a season, as long as it's mathetically possible to be bowl eligible. UM spokesman Chris Freet said he has heard no discussion of UM doing that again. That might earn points with the NCAA, but doing it now would remove a carrot for UM players.

### The Heat concluded a several-day audition of former Kings center Hassan Whiteside and will decide whether to sign him, Josh Harrellson or neither. So far, Miami passed on auditioning former Nuggets center Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who would love to play here, or older veterans such as Mehmet Okur… A Heat official said the team was disappointed in Dexter Pittman’s summer league work and “this is a crucial training camp for him. But the slate is clear.” Pittman has a guaranteed contract ($854,389) and seems likely to stick but has been assured nothing.

### Note: Please see our last post for postscripts from UM's win against Bethune Cookman on Saturday.

     

UM-Bethune Cookman postscripts

Some quick postscripts from UM's 38-10 victory over Bethune Cookman on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium:

### Duke Johnson single-handedly is making this Hurricanes team worth watching, serving up the second extraordinary performance of his three-game Hurricanes career.

### Johnson had 133 all-purpose yards in the first quarter alone (highlighted by a 95-yard kickoff return). Of course, it would have been 198 yards if Stephen Morris hadn’t overthrown an open Johnson on a deep pass on UM's first offensive play of the game, which should have been a 65-yard touchdown catch.

But Johnson made Morris’ overthrow moot, scoring four touchdowns – the kick return; a one-yard touchdown run; a beautiful 50-yard weave through traffic off a short pass from Morris; and a splendid 28-yard run when he burst to the left, then cut right, leaving Bethune defenders in the dust.

Johnson finished with 246 all-purpose yards: the 95-yard kickoff; 94 yards on 14 rushes; and 57 yards on three receptions. He averaged 198 all-purpose yards in his first two games, which was leading the ACC.

### Mike James and Johnson made a nifty one-two punch, with James closing with 79 yards on nine rushes.

### Morris was off much of the day, overthrowing and underthrowing receivers. The most egregious? The Johnson overthrow to start the game, and a third-quarter overthrow of Phillip Dorsett that was intercepted.

Morris opened 6 of 16 for 21 yards and finished the day 20 for 35 yards for 211 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The lack of a deep passing game remains a glaring deficiency offensively.

### The Hurricanes’ offense sputtered early on, stumbling through missteps and near misses. A sample: On the first drive, Brandon Linder committed an illegal motion penalty, forcing Miami into a third and nine from the Bethune 39. (What’s up with the usually reliable Linder, who had two penalties against Kansas State?) Nobody on the Hurricanes bothered to pick up a blitz on the next play, forcing on an incompletion….

On the second drive, a false start by Ereck Flowers – after a timeout – turned a 4th and 2 into a 4th and 7 from the Bethune 37. Morris then threw incomplete…. Next drive, Rashawn Scott couldn’t hold onto a high pass from Morris, forcing a punt. You get the picture.

### The defensive effort was clearly Miami’s best of the season, albeit against modest competition. Bethune punted eight times, and Dallas Crawford intercepted a fake punt attempt.

### Among the encouraging signs: Good work from some of the young freshmen defenders…. Jelani Hamilton had a two-yard tackle for loss…. Tyriq McCord had his first career sack, then added another on the last play of the game…. Deon Bush, starting at safety, overcame apparent cramps and was sharp, including a nice open field tackle to prevent a first down on a screen pass.

### Denzel Perryman left for good with an ankle injury in the third quarter.  He was replaced by Jimmy Gaines. Long snapper Sean McNally and safety Andrew Swasey also left with injuries.

### Senior cornerback Brandon McGee was sharp… Shayon Green missed two sacks well within his grasp.

 

September 13, 2012

More alarming news for the Dolphins; Friday media notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Even beyond the team’s poor on-field product and difficulty selling tickets, this also should very much alarm the Dolphins: Never in at least the past decade – probably much longer – has a season-opening Dolphins game generated a local television rating nearly as small as the shockingly low 13.5 against the Houston Texans.

That not only trailed the Dolphins’ 17.7 average local rating last season, but also was by far the worst rating for any NFL market’s home team on opening weekend.

For perspective, consider that the Dolphins averaged a 20.2 rating for their previous 10 openers, meaning 20.2 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets were tuned to the game.

Last year, 21.8 percent watched the Dolphins-Patriots prime-time opener, equal to 345,000 homes. This year’s opener, on CBS-4, was viewed in 213,813 homes.

That means the Dolphins somehow lost 131,000 Dade/Broward households (far more, in terms of actual number of viewers) from one opener to the next, which is stunning. And that obviously doesn’t include the 66,000-plus who attended the Dolphins-Patriots opener but couldn’t attend Sunday’s game in Houston.

Sunday’s rating also significantly trails those for the Dolphins’ previous two Sunday afternoon openers -- a 20.5 in 2009 at Atlanta and a 17.3 in 2010 at Buffalo.

By comparison to the 13.5 for Sunday’s opener, 50.3 percent tuned in for the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 30.2 percent in Minneapolis for the Vikings, 23 percent in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. Next-lowest, after the Dolphins? The Falcons-Chiefs opener, viewed in 18.5 percent of Atlanta homes.

Well, at least Dolphins-Texans wasn’t beaten locally by any other NFL games (that would have been embarrassing) and wasn’t as low as the 12.1 local rating for Dolphins-Patriots on Christmas Eve day last season.

Here’s what should concern the Dolphins: At some point, does fan anger turn to apathy? It probably will not for the majority of Dolphins fans, but it is clearly happening for some who apparently are no longer motivated to spend Sundays watching a team that continues to flounder.

Season ticket sales, which reached 61,121 in 2006, sunk to 42,584 last year – lowest since 1983 – and Miami has been struggling to approach that number.

MEDIA NOTES

ESPN says it is interested in hiring former Heat and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, but network president John Skipper told us this summer that Stan likely would not be paired with his brother Jeff on ABC’s lead NBA team.

ESPN has neither confirmed nor denied this week’s SportsByBrooks.com report that Van Gundy and Bill Simmons will replace Chris Broussard and Jon Barry on the ABC/ESPN studio show. A source said Simmons replacing Broussard is very likely; Van Gundy's discussions with ESPN are still ongoing.

Broussard would return to his role as ESPN's NBA information man; Barry would do games and appear on SportsCenter and other NBA studio shows.

### Stan Van Gundy was at his feisty best this week in a Grantland.com podcast with Jeff Van Gundy, Dan Le Batard and Jon Sciambi.

“David Stern loves all the controversy unless it’s about David Stern,” Stan said. “David Stern likes all these other controversies, but if his name is involved or his integrity is questioned, well, My God, that’s off limits. We can drill everyone else in the league. We can drill 450 coaches, 30 head coaches, 30 general managers. David Stern and the referees… are the only untouchable people whose performance cannot be evaluated, criticized, or anything else. It becomes absurd.”   

### Live video of Saturday’s UM-Bethune Cookman game is available only on the Internet (for free, on WatchESPN.com), and only to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection from an affiliated service provider, the list of which is provided on the web site.

### Despite some omissions in play-by-play and a delayed recognition of an early fumble, Chris Berman’s call of the Chargers-Raiders opener wasn’t the train wreck that some feared. But Berman couldn’t resist his usual shtick. He said merely “Bang!” on the opening kickoff instead of identifying who made the tackle, and name-dropped former Raiders and Oakland A’s players for no reason other than to amuse himself. But he took the right approach in being more understated than many expected.

Berman wasn’t helped by the meandering analysis of Trent Dilfer, who used odd verbiage (who else refers to quarterback pressure as “conflict in the pocket?”) and was too simplistic in saying: “If Philip Rivers is your quarterback, you should be the favorite to win your division.” (But what if Peyton Manning plays in the same division, Trent?)

### In a joint effort with CBS, Showtime – beginning in November – will air a monthly “60 Minutes of Sports,” featuring two original stories, one updated story that previously aired on 60 Minutes, and an interview.

### Dumbest Week 1 remark: Fox’s Michael Strahan saying the Jets might bench Mark Sanchez eventually because of “crowd chants.” Even Terry Bradshaw responded with a dismissive, “Please!’

### NFL Network has this bad habit of running the words “Breaking News” on its scroll before presenting news that’s two days old, as it did on opening Sunday with the alleged “bounty players” being reinstated. But credit NFL Network for running the inactive player list on a scroll on Sunday mornings – unlike ESPN.

### Absurd: USC football coach Lane Kiffin banned Los Angeles Daily News beat writer Scott Wolf from covering the team for two weeks because he reported USC's kicker had knee surgery. Kiffin has a policy that injuries cannot be reported that were observed in practice. But the injury wasn't observed at practice, so Kiffin had no case. Wolf was reinstated, two days into the ban, after his sports editors complained to athletic director Pat Haden.