Wade out vs. Orlando; Winston update; UM, UF tip times announced; Fins book more draft visits; Heat, Canes
The Sunday buzz column is below. First, three quick updates:
1) Dwyane Wade will miss his second game in a row against Orlando on Monday. He's continuing to nurse a sore/bruised right knee.
2) Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on his weekly WSVN-7 segment that free agent offensive tackle Eric Winston "would really like to play" for the Dolphins and that the Dolphins have interest, but that the situation is "fluid." But the Dolphins have had a week to strike a deal since he visited and so far have not.
The Dolphins, as of Saturday, had not shown any interest in free agent Bryant McKinnie, who also has expressed interest in the Dolphins. Miami also has considered a trade for Kansas City tackle Branden Albert.
3) UM's Sweet 16 game against Marquette was set for 7:15 p.m. Thursday on CBS, with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery announcing. Florida's regional semifinal game against Florida Gulf Coast is scheduled for approximately 10 p.m. Friday on TBS, with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr announcing.
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
A six pack of Dolphins notes:
### Though it might not necessarily be the best fit with Miami’s pick at No. 12, the Dolphins want to add defensive backs in next month’s NFL Draft and have begun quietly reaching out to several.
According to sources, the Dolphins have booked the draft’s best safety, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, to visit team headquarters and are working on bringing FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes here, too. The Dolphins like several corners in the draft, including Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.
And here’s a sleeper alert: According to an Arkansas State source, the Dolphins have spent a lot of time with explosive under-the-radar safety/corner Don Jones – the Patriots also like him – and are summoning him to Davie to meet with team executives. Jones, a great athlete with good speed, could go in the mid-to-late rounds.
A defensive back might not make sense at 12 if Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is long gone, as expected, by Miami’s pick. Mel Kiper projects Vaccaro to go 16th, noting he’s “sound in coverage, takes great angles, makes very good reads.” But safety isn’t a huge need, and he had just five career interceptions.
Draftinsider.net's Tony Pauline said No. 12 would be too high for Rhodes, and he’s not the perfect scheme fit for Miami because press man is his specialty and the Dolphins will play some zone.
Besides Milliner, Kiper has only two other first-round corners: Rhodes 29th and Washington’s Desmond Trufant 28th. Todd McShay has Rhodes 28th and Connecticut’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson 29th.
### If Miami waits until picks 42 or 54 for a cornerback, Pauline sees five possible options: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks (“problem is he’s a liability down the field, because of his lack of speed”); perhaps Wreh-Wilson (decent chance he will be gone by 42; “great cover skills but a lot of injuries the past two years”); Boise State’s 5-11 Jamar Taylor (“underrated, could go earlier than 42”); Virginia Tech’s Logan Ryan (speed a question); and Poyer.
Other evaluators also would include in that group Mississippi State’s Darius Slay (fastest defensive back at the Combine) and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden, who’s also fast but at 5-10 struggles sometimes against bigger, more physical receivers.
Southeast Louisiana’s Robert Alford, Utah State’s Will Davis, Connecticut’s Dwayne Gratz, and William & Mary’s B.W. Webb could be Miami options at 77 or 82, if they’re still available. So might North Carolina State’s David Amerson, who had 13 interceptions in 2011 but “was beaten far too much last season,” Kiper said. Some have UM’s Brandon McGee in the third/fourth round range, some later.
The cornerback class overall “looks deeper now, with Trufant, Rhodes and a handful of others running well to back up the tape,” Kiper said.
What about former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist who was kicked off LSU’s team before last season (reportedly for failed drug tests) and later arrested for marijuana possession?
Miami hasn’t shown interest so far, and Kiper said he’s a fourth- or fifth-round pick. “He’s not a great cover guy,” Kiper said. “But day three is when you roll the dice on him. He can help your defense and special teams.”
### The Dolphins are showing considerable interest in North Carolina and former St. Thomas Aquinas running back Giovani Bernard, who spent five hours at Dolphins headquarters Thursday. Bernard, an option for Miami’s picks at 42 and 54, had 1228 rushing yards (6.7 per carry), 490 receiving yards and two punt returns for touchdowns in 2012.
Miami also will do a private workout with Clemson’s Andre Ellington, another potential second-round back. The Dolphins want a back that can compete with Daniel Thomas for carries behind likely starter Lamar Miller, who “impressed us,” Philbin said because he’s “instinctive” and has “explosiveness.”
### We hear that after being badly outbid by St. Louis for Jared Cook, Miami made a late run at Martellus Bennett, but the Bears offered him a bit more. The Dolphins then signed Dustin Keller.
They love Keller’s receiving skills, but Joe Philbin admitted “we have to work with him” on blocking. Philbin said “we are going to keep looking” for tight ends. Miami prefers to add a skilled blocker to the Keller/Charles Clay/Michael Egnew troika, with Cincinnati mid-rounder Travis Kelce among those drawing Dolphins interest.
### Quarterback has gone from a liability to an asset in luring free agents. New Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson said of Ryan Tannehill: “I’ve watched tons of film and think he’s going to be one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s got a big arm, very intelligent.” Said Keller: “Very impressed with him. Like his game a lot.”
### Philbin said the Dolphins studied every catch and drop by Mike Wallace the past two years and suggests people sell him short if they view him as just a deep threat.
### Besides pursuing cornerback Brent Grimes, the Dolphins also made an inquiry on Tracy Porter, an associate said. But they’ve so far stayed away from mid-30s vets like Antoine Winfield.
### Philbin said the Dolphins believe new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler “might be able to make a couple more impactful plays” than Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. Meanwhile, the Dolphins internally have discussed the possibility of playing Koa Misi at middle linebacker, though Ellerbe still could end up there.
### One underrated key during this Heat winning streak: Erik Spoelstra is always keeping LeBron James or Dwyane Wade on the floor (before garbage time), after experimenting in January with a disastrous second-quarter lineup with Chris Bosh and four reserves.
Surprisingly, the Heat’s second-most used lineup during the streak is Wade with four backups: a group that has outscored teams by 13 and is shooting 52 percent. During the winning streak, only the Heat's starters have played more minutes, as a group, than that lineup, which often starts the second quarter.
So what are Miami’s best lineups during the streak? Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 73 in 82 minutes) and Ray Allen, Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 55 in 45). Not coincidentally, one of those two lineups usually is on the floor at the end of close games.
### The admiration from James’ ex-teammates keeps growing. “What I like,” Lakers forward and ex-Cavs teammate Antawn Jamison said, “is he always says, ‘I can improve.’ He can win the MVP five straight years, but it doesn’t matter to him. Five years ago, it might have mattered. It seems like the weight of the world is off his shoulders. Winning has put him at ease, and he’s invincible.”
### So why are the Marlins waiting until after the season to make a long-term offer to Giancarlo Stanton, who cannot be a free agent until November 2016? One official said the Marlins philosophically do not like to sign players before they’re arbitration-eligible, which would be next winter for Stanton. Though it’s very difficult to see him signing here long term if the Marlins keep payroll so low, a close Stanton associate said Stanton actually loves Miami as a place to live.
At least one Marlins official advocates trading him now rather than waiting a year or two to maximize his value. But another Marlins official said: “We won’t do it [now]. He’s important to our team with what we’re trying to do.”
### Though UM’s Shane Larkin said last month he will return for his junior year, he deflected that question Thursday, and a UM source said the coaching staff isn’t certain he’ll be back. ESPN’s Chad Ford rates him 37th among all draft-eligible prospects, adding: “If he were a few inches taller [than 5-11], he would be a lottery pick.”
### The UM early enrollee drawing the most raves? First-team linebacker Alex Figueroa - and that was even before he impressed everyone with his instincts, hard hitting and coverage skills in Saturday's scrimmage. "He’s smart, tough, will be good in coverage, is stout against the run and a good blitzer,” coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said…. Coaches says Ladarius Gunter has emerged as UM’s best cornerback, with Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford battling for the other starting spot and Nate Dortch running fourth.
### For notes and thoughts from Saturday's UM scrimmage, please see our last post.
### An NCAA source says UM sent a strongly worded letter to the NCAA essentially saying that it reserves the right to sue the NCAA (that’s considered a last resort) and disputing the NCAA claim that the infractions committee doesn’t have the right to dismiss the case, which UM will formally request this week.