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2 posts from July 9, 2013

July 09, 2013

Dolphins buzz on cornerback, quarterback, tight end, other issues; UM, Marlins, Heat

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With the July 20 start of camp approaching, a sampling of the some feedback we've received from Dolphins players, coaches and others in touch with the team’s front office:

### The Dolphins enter camp feeling much better about cornerback than they did at the close of last season. Nobody was more impressive this spring than newcomer Brent Grimes, who showed no ill effects from last September’s Achilles injury.

Plus, Richard Marshall has moved past his back issues, Joe Philbin has been effusive about Nolan Carroll's offseason (we reserve judgment on Carroll until the games start) and rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis drew praise from coaches before Taylor’s sports hernia surgery in May. (Taylor will be ready for camp.) And Dimitri Patterson will be a factor in this competition.

But Grimes is the real story here. The super-athletic Grimes, 29, has surpassed the Dolphins’ expectations so far, displaying a knack for knocking away passes and not allowing Mike Wallace to dominate when they were matched up in May and June practices. “Very good instincts,” Joe Philbin said of Grimes, who made the Pro Bowl in 2010.

Grimes’ teammates rave about him. No predictions here, but he realistically has a chance to be Miami’s best, most consistent cornerback since Sam Madison or Patrick Surtain a decade ago. (Will Allen, Andre Goodman, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith all had their moments, at times, during the past decade.) If Grimes keeps this up once the games begin, re-signing him will become a top priority for 2014.

Grimes, 5-10, can compensate for his lack of height with impressive jumping ability. “I don’t look at corner as a big position,” he said. “I’m short, but I’m not 5-6!”

### Here’s the player feedback on Ryan Tannehill: He’s more instinctive, less mechanical, and less robotic in his reads. For those interested, ESPN’s Ron Jaworski rated Tannehill 24th in his ranking of starting quarterbacks, ahead of Michael Vick (25), Brandon Weeden (26), Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb, Jake Locker and Matt Flynn.

### For all the accolades showered on Armon Binns, we hear general manager Jeff Ireland also was very pleased with Rishard Matthews’ offseason. Binns and Matthews enter camp as heavy favorites for the No. 4 and 5 receiver jobs.

### The Dolphins staff believes linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler will make more plays than Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett did. One player said he sees no difference in quality between the tandems so far, but it’s difficult to gauge in offseason work. And Wheeler improved after struggling in coverage earlier in the offseason. Philbin wants quiet conformists, and Dansby and Burnett were not that, though that’s not the reason they were jettisoned.

### Among those competing for the backup tight end job, we’ve heard positive feedback from players on rookie Dion Sims and some continued skepticism about whether Michael Egnew has improved enough to contribute significantly.

### It hasn’t been determined whether guard Lance Louis, off November’s major knee injury, will be ready to open camp, but he’s not far away. If he’s healthy, he has a good chance to beat out John Jerry.

### A Dolphins official on why the team is confident Jonathan Martin can capably handle left tackle: He’s bigger and stronger than a year ago; he wants to play on the left side; and he’s smart and makes adjustments so that he’s not beaten by the same move twice.

### ESPN Monday Night Football announcer Mike Tirico mentioned to me at the NBA Finals that receiver Brian Hartline stopped him in a chance encounter and said how much he loves the team’s culture. “It feels more like a team than it has in the past,” linebacker Austin Spitler told Dolphins fans on a conference call. “Nobody complains.”  

### FYI: Ex-Washburn receiver Joe Hastings, perhaps the most obscure player on the Dolphins roster for the past month, retired Tuesday because of knee problems.

CHATTER

### UM is cautiously optimistic about elite defensive end Alquadin Mohammad’s chances of clearing academic hurdles. “He’s real close to qualifying – I expect him to be at Miami [in August],” his New Jersey high school coach, Don Bosco’s Greg Toal, said Tuesday, adding he still needs decent grades in two summer schools classes….  

### UM’s Al Golden indicated he and new coordinator James Coley plan to stick with large doses of the no-huddle offense that was used last season under Jedd Fisch’s direction… A UM spokesperson said Tuesday, that contrary to Internet chatter, no football players have been suspended for the opener…. AmericanAirlines Arena’s bid to host the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament in 2016 or 2017 was rejected, but UM is joining others in pushing for the event to be moved from Greensboro to Madison Square Garden in 2016 and beyond.

### Ex-Canes file: Former UM quarterback Jacory Harris failed to beat out three others for a spot on the Edmonton Eskimos’ active roster but landed a job on their practice squad. “I know I can still play – all the CFL teams and the Arena League called,” he said. Harris has been buoyed by encouragement from former NFL and CFL star Warren Moon: “He said he believes I’m a great quarterback.”

### Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez, elated about being an All-Star at 20, said he will bring a bat to the game “and have the whole team sign it. That would be amazing.” The player he’s most excited to meet and possibly face? Boston’s David Ortiz.… Fernandez broke the news to his mother only after pulling a prank and telling her he had been demoted to Double A.

### Though the Marlins would trade pitchers Chad Qualls and Ryan Webb (interest has been limited so far), they have told teams they would need to be overwhelmed to consider dealing Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn, because both are in the 2014 plans…. The Marlins expect to make a multiyear offer to Giancarlo Stanton at some point -- probably this winter -- and will await his response before considering a trade.

### With Chris Andersen re-signing, the Heat expects to wait for a few weeks to see if a young veteran slips through the cracks in free agency and is willing to sign for the minimum. So far, Miami hasn't aggressively pursued any outside free agent. Even several minimum-caliber players that have shown interest in the Heat -- such as Raja Bell - have not received a call from Miami. (Bell, the FIU alum, worked out for the Knicks this week, but the Heat doesn't need another veteran swingman.)

Aside from Jarvis Varnado (who still has trouble finishing around the basket), nobody on the Heat's summer league team has made an undisputed case that he's NBA-ready, though forward James Ennis (19 points Tuesday) and point guard Ian Clark (eight three-pointers in three games) have had their moments. Ennis could use polishing overseas.

### One reason the Panthers are spending not much above the $44 million NHL salary cap floor is they’re losing $15 million to $20 million a year, according to two people with direct knowledge. Plus, they have faith in their young players.

Birdman returning to Heat

The biggest unresolved key issue of the Heat’s offseason reached a favorable conclusion Tuesday, when Chris Andersen agreed to return to the Heat on a one-year deal, according to a person directly involved.

The Heat prefered Andersen re-sign for $1.7 million -– the minimum plus a 20 percent raise, but terms were still being finalized Tuesday. He had at least one offer that was more financially lucrative, according to a source. But Andersen decided to return largely because he enjoyed his Heat experience and wants to try to win another championship.

He also will receive nearly $4.4 million next season from Denver, which used the amnesty provision on him last summer to purge his contract from its salary cap.

Andersen’s decision leaves the Heat with 13 players under guaranteed contracts. Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed deal. A young prospect and a veteran might fill the final two spots. Another roster spot could be created if the Heat uses the amnesty clause on Mike Miller or Joel Anthony.

After signing with the Heat in January, Andersen delivered a needed dose of rebounding and energy off the Heat’s bench, while also displaying a knack for finishing in the basket area, often the result of lobs from Heat teammates.

“We don’t win the championship without picking up Bird midway through the season,” Dwyane Wade said. “Bird was a key to our success.”

The Heat went 39-3 in regular season games in which Andersen played --- the highest winning percentage (92.9) in NBA history.

Andersen averaged 4.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 14.9 minutes per game during the regular season, while shooting 57.7 percent.

During the playoffs, he was especially impactful against Indiana and finished the postseason averaging 6.4 points, 3.8 points, 1.1 blocks and 15.2 minutes per game, while shooting a remarkable 80.7 percent from the field. At one point, he hit 18 shots in a row.

Andersen appreciates how Heat fans embraced him.

“It feels like as soon as I got into the city, I had nothing but big support for me,” he said. “Everywhere I was going, they were rooting me on. To be able to come in here midseason and collaborate with these guys and play for such an extraordinary, talented team and play with some of the best all-time players, it’s amazing.”