WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (sprained knee) likely won’t face his former team Sunday – “I’m going to be out for a while” – but a few things are clear two months after the trade: The Dolphins’ suspicion that Davis wasn’t on the verge of blossoming into an elite cornerback so far has proved true. So was their conviction that Nolan Carroll had genuinely improved.
With the Colts awaiting Sunday, here are a few developing points to consider on that big August trade:
### Even though Richard Marshall struggled before being sidelined with a back injury, the production of Marshall (four games) and Carroll (overall, and in his three games as a starter) is far superior to Davis’ play with the Colts and not much different than Davis’ performance last year.
This season, Davis has allowed a dismal 15 of 19 passes thrown against him to be completed for 191 yards (12.7 average), with two touchdowns allowed, no picks, and a 143.6 quarterback rating against (second-worst in the league - ahead of only Kyle Arrington), according to ProFootballFocus.com. Factoring in three penalties, an unfathomably awful 18 of 22 passes thrown against Davis have had bad results, among the league’s worst. Davis missed two games earlier with an ankle injury.
Conversely, in the games they have started, Marshall and Carroll have combined to allow 27 of 46 passes to be completed against them for 340 yards, a 12.5 average, with two TDs allowed (against Marshall) and one pick (by Marshall).
### Carroll has been better than Marshall, with a 71.8 quarterback rating in his coverage area, compared with 101.2 for Marshall. Carroll deserves to start when Marshall returns.
### Davis played decently in 2011, including three touchdowns allowed, four picks and 68.8 QB rating against. But he regressed in training camp, and Marshall and Carroll are allowing more than a yard less per catch this season than Davis did last year.
### And this, too, is significant: The players who have filled Miami’s third corner role (Carroll the first four games, Jimmy Wilson the last three) have combined in those games to allow just 21 of the 43 passes thrown against them to be completed, for a 12.9 average and no touchdowns --- not only better than Davis in 2011 or 2012, but a much better percentage that last year’s No. 3 corner, Will Allen, who’s on injured reserve for the Patriots.
So one of Miami’s biggest concerns after the Davis trade (third corner) hasn’t been a problem after all.
“They have both really stepped up,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said of Carroll (a fifth-round pick) and Wilson (a seventh-rounder). “We have developed some depth in the secondary as a result of this injury to Richard. We’ll be strong down the stretch because of it.”
And they are helping in other ways: Wilson’s sack and punt block Sunday, Carroll’s sack that forced a fumble. Plus, Sean Smith’s improvement has helped soften Davis’ loss.
### One negative: The Colts’ surprising success means Miami’s second and sixth-round picks might not come until the middle of those rounds, perhaps later. And the trade can’t be fully judged until we see what Miami gets with those picks.
### On his weekly Big 105.9 radio show Tuesday, Reggie Bush said he spoke to Jets coach Rex Ryan during Sunday’s game and “made sure he knew it’s going to be a long day for him. I can’t repeat it on radio.” What did Ryan say? “I don’t really know and I don’t really care.”… Bush played only 20 snaps Sunday, compared to 43 for Daniel Thomas. Lamar Miller, who played none, said he must “be more physical in pass protection” so “coach can trust me.”
### Couple of Heat opening night postscripts: Mario Chalmers, who had a poor 1.56-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, played a marvelous floor game (11 assists, one turnover) and made some pointpoint passes, including one to Chris Bosh that helped thwart a late Celtics rally. The Heat had generally good results when it played a three-guard lineup at times (Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen), including when LeBron James was out late with leg cramps.
Talk about the newcomers paying dividends early: Allen (5 of 7, 19 points) and Rashard Lewis (4 of 5, 10 points) combined for 29 points on 9 of 12 shooting... Wade was the only Heat starter with a negative plus/minus -- the Heat was outscored by six points with him on the floor -- but moved well without the ball and was sharp offensively (10 for 22, 29 points). Elias says he's the sixth-fastest guard to reach 15,000 points (597 games). Michael Jordan did it in 460.. Erik Spoelstra went 10 deep, but Norris Cole played only in the first half and Mike Miller only in the second half.
### Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday morning that the championship could hurt the Heat in this way: After a winning a title, “everybody comes back different. The role players want to be more than that. You let your guard down.”… Rivers told a Boston audience last month that “I bring up Miami every single day” to his players. “I want them to hate them.” He downplayed those comments on Tuesday, saying: “I don’t dislike them…. Certain guys don’t like certain guys. We just want to beat them bad.”
### Most improved Heat player? Erik Spoelstra mentioned Norris Cole: “He has put himself in position to be needed.”… Rivers said Ray Allen will accept a sixth man role here more than he did in Boston because “it’s easier to go somewhere else and be a backup than on the team where you were a star. I knew that when Ray was thinking about leaving. It’s personal here because Ray was no longer a starter.... Ray wanted the ball more, things likethat. It's like I tell my guys every year, 'If you're here for me to run stuff for you to look good, then you are in the wrong place."
### Some Heat floor seats were selling for $7500 for Tuesday’s opener, with one sold to a rapper for $12,000 – by far the highest ever for a Heat opener.
### UM’s Stephen Morris has gone from averaging 327 yards and 59.9 percent accuracy in his first five games to 193 and 52.3 in his last three, partly because of drops (UM’s 28 are among the most in the nation), his ankle injury (his feet “got a little bit crazy” against FSU, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said) and stout defenses.
UM has completed only one pass over 30 yards in the past three games, but what most concerns the staff is Morris’ intermediate passes. Morris is great inside his 40-yard-line (69 percent accuracy rate) but completes just 45 percent inside the opponent’s 40 (including a dismal 3 for 17 inside the 10).
### Among the mysteries/disappointments on this UM team: Jalen Grimble (offered by Southern Cal and many others) couldn’t crack the top four at tackle (UM’s weakest position) and some on the staff believe he might be better as an offensive lineman. He's now competing to be a backup end. “The biggest thing has been his consistency,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said…. Asante Cleveland, first-team tight end all spring and summer, has been third team since Sept. 1 (behind Dyron Dye and Clive Walford) and has just two catches (12 yards). What’s the deal? “He hasn’t played to the same level as the other guys,” Fisch said.