WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Here’s yet another reason why the Dolphins need to improve their defensive backfield: They will be facing some of the league’s best passing attacks next season.
The NFL has confirmed most of next year’s team-by-team matchups (without dates or times), and the Dolphins’ home schedule will include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina and the AFC West team that finishes in the same spot as Miami (likely Chargers, Raiders or Chiefs), as well as AFC East rivals New England, Buffalo and the Jets.
The Dolphins’ road schedule, besides the other AFC East teams, will include Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and the AFC South team that finishes in the same spot as the Dolphins (Colts, Titans or Jaguars).
That means, barring injuries, matchups against Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, much-improved Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton – and, as usual – two against Tom Brady.
### With the Patriots visiting Sunday, it’s hardly the ideal time for uncertainty at cornerback, which is happening with Nolan Carroll and R.J. Stanford now sharing snaps about equally.
Also worrisome: Over the past four games, Sean Smith has allowed 16 of 24 passes against him to be completed (including five for five against Seattle) for 249 yards and two touchdowns. And with Wes Welker looming, Miami desperately hopes for more consistency from Jimmy Wilson in the slot; quarterbacks are completing 66 percent of passes against him, with a 104.5 rating in his coverage area.
### At least Reshad Jones remains No. 1 among all safeties according to Pro Football Focus, with a 57.1 quarterback rating against. Jones has been studying All-Pro Ed Reed on YouTube: “I look at Ed Reed and say that’s the safety I want to be known as.”
### Cornerback Richard Marshall insists if Davone Bess played for the Patriots, he would produce the numbers Welker does. Welker is fourth in the NFL with 80 receptions; Bess (55 catches) is tied for 15th with Brian Hartline, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Graham and others.
### Rishard Matthews (22 snaps Sunday) has surged ahead of Marlon Moore (six snaps) for the No. 3 receiver job, but both are getting limited chances because the Dolphins are lining up Charles Clay and their running backs as receivers at times. Smith said the Dolphins’ fastest receiver is actually on the practice squad: 6-3 Brian Tyms.
TNT’s Charles Barkley, working Thursday’s Heat-Spurs game with Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, said by phone Monday: “The Heat is the favorite [to repeat]. You won’t notice their weaknesses until they play a bigger team in a seven-game series. I’m comfortable with Chris Bosh at center unless they play the Lakers; he cannot guard Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol.”
Barkley said the only other teams that “could give them trouble” are the Spurs, Celtics and Nets. Barkley loves that he’s calling a few games because “I wanted to try something different. You get bored sitting in the studio every night. This is my 14th year.”
### One reason why Erik Spoelstra’s subtle rotation change – Mike Miller replacing Rashard Lewis – can be justified: The Heat has outscored opponents by 31 in Miller’s 145 minutes but has been outscored by 17 in Lewis’ 172. Only Udonis Haslem has a worse plus/minus at minus 20.
Also, the team allows more points per 48 minutes with Lewis on the floor than any other rotation player. Lewis figures to resume playing with Shane Battier injured.
### Not only has the NCAA threatened former UM players that it will believe Nevin Shapiro’s allegations if they don’t agree to be interviewed, but they also persuaded UM to call the players to encourage them to talk. And UM has told players that it might bar them from campus if they don’t cooperate, though stopped short of saying that’s definite. This has put UM in an uncomfortable position, but school officials are being advised by UM attorneys to cooperate fully.
### Coach Al Golden wants to make more use of intriguing weapon Dallas Crawford -- as a third-down back, in the slot and potentially “four or five times” a game in a Wildcat formation. “He’s going to have a big role,” Golden said. “He’s got moxie. Coaches trust him.”
### Asked what non-freshmen the staff (and the players themselves) have to extract more from, Golden cited defensive tackles Corey King and Curtis Porter (“I’d like to see Porter get one year where he’s doing everything right and staying healthy and having a big year”); linebacker Thurston Armbrister and tight end Clive Walford (“You want to see a year, a body of work, not four or five games).”
### Duke Johnson’s per-carry average of 11.5 per game likely will rise but probably not dramatically. “We don’t want to wear him out in two years. We want to keep [his] odometer down,” Golden said, noting Johnson had 443 snaps, half as many as guard Brandon Linder.
### In the wake of Maryland bolting the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big 10, UM and FSU remain committed to the ACC, and neither the Big 12 nor SEC has called. But FSU likely would listen if other schools start to bolt.
“I think the ACC is vulnerable right now,” Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said on his radio show. “More people are going to go after people in our conference now.”
ACCSports.com reported late Tuesday night that presidents and chancellors of ACC schools will participate in a 7 a.m. Wednesday conference call to vote on possible expansion candidates to replace Maryland as the conference's 14th school, and that Louisville is most likely to receive an invitation - instead of Connecticut or Cincinnati.
### An associate said the Marlins warned manager Mike Redmond about potential payroll cuts and he wasn’t blindsided by it. Predecessor Ozzie Guillen has stayed classy, but his sons have taken mild shots on Twitter, following Guillen’s firing and the Toronto trade.
“Restore the winning culture. LOL,” son Oney cracked. Ozzie Guillen Jr. tweeted: “Thank you for the favor, Marlins. Early Christmas gift.”