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2 posts from October 4, 2012

October 04, 2012

Dolphins league's worst in gut-wrenching category; Canes, Marlins, Heat chatter


If it seems like the Dolphins subject their fans to more late-game heartache than most teams do, you’re right.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that since the start of 2010, no team has been worse in very close games than Miami. Over the past two-plus seasons, the Dolphins are 2-10 in games decided by three points or fewer.

It hasn’t helped that Dan Carpenter is 10 for 25 on field goals of 46 yards or longer since 2010, with nine misses overall in those 10 narrow defeats.

The only team with a record as poor, percentage-wise, in tight games is Carolina, which is 1-5 in games decided by three points or fewer since 2010. 

Reggie Bush spoke this week of the Dolphins getting "brain freeze" late in close games.

And by the way, Miami is just 3-8 in overtime since 2000.

Ryan Tannehill has been similarly snake-bitten. Over the past 13 months, he is 1-6 as a starting quarterback in games decided by a touchdown or less: 1-4 at Texas A&M, 0-2 with Miami.

Though others are as accountable or more accountable for that 1-6 record, ESPN’s Jon Gruden said last month that his late-game play “is the big concern I had with Tannehill.

“You would like to see a quarterback that finishes games better,” Gruden said. “I would like to see more dominant, consistent play down the stretch. At Texas A&M, they had an opportunity to finish some teams off in the second half and didn’t quite do that.”

The Dolphins do not blame either of their overtime losses on Tannehill, because they say his interception in Arizona was caused by a failed blitz pickup (he was hit as he threw), and because he led Miami into Jets territory before Carpenter missed a 48-yarder.

Down the stretch of his four close losses at Texas A&M last year, Tannehill played well in one (a four-overtime loss to Kansas State) but threw a late-game pick against Oklahoma State and couldn’t sustain drives against Missouri and Arkansas. In his one close win last year (45-40), Texas Tech scored the game’s final 10 points.

The sense here is Tannehill is too poised and talented to keep losing so many close games. And his 94.8 fourth-quarter rating this season is encouraging: 11th-best in the NFL and best among rookies.


The Dolphins are feuding with prominent NFL agents John Rickert and Peter Schaffer, who filed a grievance against the Dolphins with the players association this week because Miami is refusing to pay guard Artis Hicks’ $1.2 million salary. The Dolphins claim Hicks, their first offseason signing, did not disclose a pre-existing neck condition. Hogwash, his agents says. Hicks was released last week.

Rickert said in 2006 that Hicks had a neck sprain – “totally different” from the current bone spurs on his vertebrae - and that his 2006 MRI was negative and he did not miss a game. “Peter has been in the business 25 years, and he and I have never seen a situation like this where a team is so blatantly unfair against a player,” said Rickert, who represents Dolphins linebacker Kevin Burnett and many others.

Will the agents steer players away from Miami now? Rickert said “if this is the type of treatment” players get, “it would definitely enter our thinking.”

### FOR a look at Dolphins rookies (beyond Tannehill) and other Dolphins notes from this week, please see our last three posts.

### We hear UM wants Duke Johnson more involved against Notre Dame after he got 16 touches against North Carolina State…  Prices for Saturday's game in Chicago are averaging $450 on the secondary market.

### With UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst leaving for Nebraska, UM might re-consider one other finalist for the job in 2011: ACC senior associate commissioner Michael Kelly. The other external finalist, Norwood Teague, left VCU for the Minnesota A.D. job earlier this year. UM acting athletic director Blake James, Maine’s A.D. from 2005-2010, also will be considered, among others.

"I think the last couple of ADs at Miami were thrown into a world they weren't prepared for and left at first opportunity," Jimmy Johnson tweeted, added he's not interested in the job.

### Marlins pitching postscripts: They couldn’t have been happier with Jacob Turner, who allowed opponents to hit .208 in seven starts. Nathan Eovaldi, conversely, was hit at a .284 clip as a Dodger and Marlin (.318 vs. lefties, .236 righties)… Ugh: Ricky Nolasco allowed the third highest-average among all National League pitchers with a minimum of 180 innings (.285)… Not only did Josh Johnson allow batters to hit 10 points above his career average (.252 to .242), but his fastball velocity dropped to 92.8 mph, from 95.0 a couple years ago… With Randy Choate traded, the Marlins need to find a lefty who gets lefties out. Lefties hit .293 off Mike Dunn....

We hear Jeffrey Loria remains conflicted about whether to dump manager Ozzie Guillen. Throughout the organization, there's unhappiness with the not-serious-enough culture Guillen has fostered in the clubhouse. But associates say Loria has gone back and forth about whether to pull the plug, with three years and $7.5 million left on Guillen's contract. He continues to mull potential replacements in the event he fires him.

### Heat forward Udonis Haslem said he took “thousands” of shots this summer, and Erik Spoelstra said he is now shooting mid-range jumpers “like he built his reputation on” - far better in practice than a year ago. “You are seeing him physically and rhythm wise where he used to be,” Spo said. Haslem shot just 26 percent on 10 to 15 footers last season, after topping 42 percent the previous five. Spoelstra is even OK with him taking occasional threes now. He's 0 for 14 on threes in his career but has been practicing them all summer.

### Couple quick broadcast notes: WQAM has picked up gravel-voiced Scott Ferrall's syndicated radio show from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. weeknights... Every first round baseball playoff game will be on TBS except two on MLB Network (on Sunday and Wednesday).... Announcers this weekend: Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock on UM-Notre Dame, Marv Albert-Rich Gannon on Dolphins-Bengals.

Mixed results for Fins rookies, beyond Tannehill

If Ryan Tannehill becomes a top-15 NFL quarterback, the Dolphins’ 2012 draft will be considered a success.

The hope internally, of course, is that the quality of this group goes far deeper that Tannehill, that this rookie class eventually is regarded as the best overall since Jeff Ireland’s arrival in 2008.

The signs, so far, are generally encouraging, with third-rounder Michael Egnew the only one among Miami’s top five picks who isn’t contributing.

Coach Joe Philbin has been so pleased with right tackle Jonathan Martin’s development that he made a point to tell him last week.

“I was watching some of the one-on-one pass rush,” Philbin said. “I usually don’t go down there, but I commented on some of the good things he’s doing. He’s getting better, there’s no doubt.

“From where he was in the preseason, to what he’s done [recently], I like the development I see. He’s a very aware player, and I think he has a chance to be a good one.”

Martin, selected 42nd overall out of Stanford, gave up a sack in the opener but hasn’t allowed another one since. He never played a single snap at right tackle until the Dolphins drafted him, and the transition “was rough at first,” he said.

“I was using muscles I wasn’t using before. My balance is better now, and it’s close to second nature now. I’ve done some good things.”

    Martin, who plays to attend law school someday, already prepares like a veteran, with a bedtime routine of studying film of himself and his opponent. “He’s athletic, strong and getting better every week,” left tackle Jake Long said.

Miller, picked 97th overall, has averaged 5.5 yards on 23 carries, compared with Daniel Thomas’ 3.2 average on 26 carries. What’s more, Miller is averaging 3.4 yards after contact, fifth-best among all NFL backs.

But Philbin said he’s not ready to anoint Miller or Thomas as his No. 2 running back. He said playing time will depend partly on matchups.

The Dolphins seem to trust Thomas more in pass protection, even though he gave up a sack last Sunday. Thomas pass-protected on 10 of his 21 snaps against Arizona; Miller had that assignment only one of his eight snaps.

“In college, you can be patient,” Miller said of carrying the ball in the NFL. “Someone will miss an assignment and a hole will open. In the NFL, people aren’t missing assignments.”

UM coach Al Golden has kept an eye on Miller and said: “It seems like he’s got his burst and he’s getting to the edge in the NFL, which is really hard to do.”

Vernon, meanwhile, produced four quarterback hurries in his 34 snaps against Arizona and has six in 97 snaps overall, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranks him 27th among 59 defensive ends who play in a 4-3. He also has half a sack.

“He’s getting better,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He has some lapses here and there at times, but he’s competing hard.”

Vernon and Miller, former teammates at UM, appreciate being able to begin their NFL journey together. “It has helped a lot,” Miller said. “We stay on each other, tell each other to pick it up.”

Vernon said when he and Miller are together, special teams coach Darren Rizzi “will say: ‘Look -- It’s the U boys!’”

Egnew, who hasn’t been active for any of Miami’s four games, remains the one disappointment in the group, with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman acknowledging this week that the 78th overall pick is still making “rookie mistakes.”

The Dolphins believe Charles Clay is clearly ahead of Egnew as a No. 2 tight end and like using Jaron Mastrud for about a dozen plays a game, because of his value as a blocker.

Egnew, whom the Dolphins envision as a potential stretch-the-field threat, wasn’t asked to block a lot at Missouri.

 “I’m way better as an in-line blocker than when I got here,” he said. “I’ve got to be more consistent with pass catching. [General manager] Jeff Ireland tells me to keep getting better. He views me as a weapon.”

Egnew said he’s not scarred by Sherman telling him in preseason that he would cut Egnew if Sherman were general manager – a scene aired on HBO’s Hard Knocks. “I have thick skin,” Egnew said. “He’s a great coach and his methods are not questionable.”

But he said he needed to become more “private” on social media after that unfortunate moment on Hard Knocks, because so many people were commenting about it.

Tannehill, Martin, Miller and Vernon aren’t the only rookies contributing. Jorvorskie Lane, four years out of college but listed as a rookie, starts at fullback. Defensive linemen Derrick Shelby and Kheeston Randall have played 50 and 44 snaps, respectively.