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2 posts from July 27, 2013

July 27, 2013

Fins lose player for year; Jordan makes big jump; Dolphins chatter; Canes, Heat, Marlins personnel issues

Sunday night update: The Dolphins have lost receiver Armon Binns for the season after he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in practice Sunday. Binns, who impressed the team throughout the offseason program, likely would have been Miami's No. 4 receiver and was getting some snaps with the first team throughout camp.

The Dolphins very much liked the idea of playing the 6-3 Binns in the slot at times.

Meanwhile, Rishard Matthews -- the front-runner for the Dolphins' No. 5 receiver job -- will be out several weeks with an undisclosed injury.

That leaves -- for now -- Marvin McNutt, Jeff Fuller, Brian Tyms, Chad Bumphis, Kenny Stafford, Jasper Collins and newcomer Andrell Smith competing for the No. 4 and 5 receiving jobs. McNutt has had the best camp of that group. Another receiver might be signed.

Matthews could end up as Miami's fourth receiver unless he needs to begin the season on the PUP list.

Also, return specialist Marcus Thigpen has taken some snaps at receiver in camp and could play there, though the Dolphins have been using him primarily as a tailback.

The Dolphins picked up Binns off waivers from Cincinnati last season. 

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

A six-pack of Dolphins notes:

### You know those concerns raised on draft night about whether Dion Jordan would be big enough to play defensive end, especially against the run? The draft’s third overall pick is trying to make that a non-issue.

After finishing his senior season at Oregon at 245 pounds, Jordan said he has bulked up to 260 thanks to “a lot of eating -- four meals a day, plus snacks.” But he insists it hasn’t affected his quickness.

For perspective, Cameron Wake is listed at 258 and Olivier Vernon at 268.

The weight gain should lessen concerns raised by analysts; NFL Network’s Heath Evans predicted in May that Jordan would be a “liability any time he’s in the game [at] 240 pounds” and vulnerable against the run.

But Nick Aliotti, Jordan’s defensive coordinator at Oregon, said: “He was very good for us against the run” and is stronger than most people believe.

As a pass rusher – where the Dolphins believe Jordan will make the most impact initially – he is “very good” but “close to his ceiling,” Aliotti said.

Fox’s Jay Glazer, who trained Jordan in January and February at Glazer’s MMAthletics in Los Angeles, said off the air Jordan “looks like an avatar. We have a Greco Roman wrestling we do that teaches guys leverage. This guy is [6-6]. I’m 5-7, and that dude was actually able to get under me. We did really violent hand-fighting stuff. Dion would do it with one arm [before his shoulder surgery].

“There are so many things you can do with him. They’re trying to figure out how to use him. He’s a great kid, such a polite, nice person. No thug in him. But when it’s time for battle, the [expletive] comes out.”

The Dolphins put Jordan’s locker next to Wake’s and Richie Incognito's so he can soak up their knowledge.

### Several Dolphins – including Mike Pouncey – mentioned last week how much faster new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler are than Karlos Dansby (now with Arizona) and Kevin Burnett (Oakland).

But quarterback Matt Moore -- while praising all four players -- also raised a good point, noting that “Karlos was a little longer and taller. So throwing those balls in the seams” was challenging.

Whether Miami upgraded at those two positions is debatable. Dolphins players say Ellerbe and Wheeler are better blitzers than Dansby and Burnett.

But against the run last year, Burnett (6th) and Dansby (11th) graded out higher in Pro Football Focus’ linebacker rankings than Ellerbe (13) and Wheeler (25).

The Dolphins believe the new duo will be better in coverage --- Ellerbe and Wheeler allowed 9.7 and 9.6 yards per reception last season, respectively, compared with 11.8 and 11.4 for Dansby and Burnett.

But Dansby allowed a lower percentage of passes to be completed against him than Ellerbe (68.5 to 71.7), and Burnett less than Wheeler (77.6 to 83.6).

“Wheeler is a journeyman,” former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.

### The early play at cornerback has been largely encouraging, aside from Jamar Taylor being sidelined with soreness after his sports hernia sugery. Brent Grimes has continued his excellent work from OTAs, and Dimitri Patterson --- who got reps opposite Grimes on Saturday --- has been better so far than Richard Marshall.

And promising third-round rookie cornerback Will Davis has at least five pass deflections in camp. That's not surprising, considering he had 17 breakups as a senior at Utah State.

“That’s one of the reasons Miami wanted me,” he said. Davis, 5-11, didn’t play football until his senior year of high school because “I thought I was way too small.” Then he missed a year in college when Western Washington dropped football. 

Davis has an ideal skill set to line up against a slot receiver, but he also can play outside. [SUNDAY UPDATE: Davis intercepted a Pat Devlin pass Sunday morning and returned it for a touchdown.]

If Grimes, Patterson and Marshall are the top three corners, then Davis is essentially battling Nolan Carroll and Taylor for the fourth spot in a four-man corner rotation.

Grimes, Marshall, Taylor and Davis will make the team, and Patterson seems likely to stick presuming he doesn't bomb in games. Carroll, who has special teams value, would be the favorite for the sixth job, but hardly a cinch.

### Dolphins players have been buzzing about rookie tight end Dion Sims, who is getting work with starter Dustin Keller in two tight end sets. “He’s definitely opened my eyes,” Moore said. “Good blocker, great size, good hands. Really good job creating space for himself.”

Meanwhile, a veteran defensive player said Michael Egnew's blocking remains a shortcoming.

### Dan Carpenter, leading the kicker competition against injured Caleb Sturgis, was led to believe money won’t be an issue --- he would make $2.7 million, Sturgis $405,000 -- though that often is a factor.

“I was told it would be a fair competition and they will keep who’s best,” Carpenter said.

Sturgis hopes to return in the next several days, but groin injuries are tough to predict. Carpenter, by the way, is 13 of 17 on field goals in camp, with all the misses from long range.

### Among national analysts passing through Dolphins camp last week, ESPN’s Cris Carter said offensive line is Miami’s “only real question mark” and predicted “Ryan Tannehill is going to be a special player. He has the ‘it’ factor. He throws the ball exceptional on the move.”

Carter expects Mike Wallace “to run a lot more shorter routes” than in Pittsburgh. Wallace said Saturday that catching a short pattern -- such as a screen -- and going the distance is more fun for him than catching a deep ball.

Warren Sapp, also at camp, cannot seem to get his story straight. He ripped the Dolphins for signing Ellerbe on NFL Network –- “Are you kidding me?” –- but off air listed him as a reason their defense will be stout. Say what?

Then Sapp bemoaned that “this town is fickle about anything but the Canes. If you are anything but a winner, they will let you know with empty seats. The Dolphins haven’t won since I was a baby… UM was a great place [years ago]. I don’t know what happened.”

### Late update: Former Miami Palmetto High receiver Andrell Smith announced on Twitter late Saturday night that he has signed with the Dolphins. He caught 34 passes for 536 yards for Louisville in 2012 and went undrafted.... Please check the last post for a lot more Dolphins news from Saturday.

CHATTER

David Gilbert, honorable mention Big 10 last season, would become one of the top two defensive ends on UM’s roster (with Anthony Chickillo) if he enrolls, as UM expects.

So what’s the holdup? Wisconsin said contrary to reports, he has not graduated, which is necessary for Gilbert to be eligible to play at UM this season. But Gilbert hopes to graduate in August and has a UM financial package in place.

### Most improved UM players? Receiver Allen Hurns said it’s running back Dallas Crawford on offense and cornerback Antonio Crawford on defense: “Antonio is the fastest corner we have, and he’s breaking on the ball better. He could be as good as [graduated] Brandon McGee.”

### The Marlins aren’t initiating calls but are open to considering trade offers for Justin Ruggiano, Greg Dobbs, Chad Qualls, Juan Pierre and (somewhat less so) Placido Polanco and Ryan Webb.

### After an initial call, the Heat opted not to make an offer to center Marcus Camby, who reportedly met with the Bulls and Rockets last week.

Meanwhile, Miami awaits a decision from Greg Oden, which his agent said could come as early as Monday. Though it wouldn’t be surprising if Miami is outbid, his agent said he likes that the Heat could afford to bring him along slowly.

### One NBA scout said he would be shocked if any of the Heat’s summer leaguers become NBA rotation players. The Heat’s best summer leaguer, guard Ian Clark, signed with Utah; his camp said Miami did not make an offer.

James Ennis is a borderline NBA player, probably a D-Leaguer,” the scout said. “His handle is suspect and he’s not a great shooter. Jarvis Varnado’s body has gotten better, and he’s got a little right-handed jump hook, but that’s the end of story for his offense. He could be a third-string center at best. Of all the wings, Scottie Hopson is the most talented. [Point guard] Myck Kabongo was terrible.” 

### Twitter: @flasportbuzz

Notes, quotes, news, views from Saturday's Dolphins practice

Notes, quotes, musings from Saturday’s Dolphins practice:

### Good to see Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace finally connect on a deep ball for a touchdown today, albeit in 1 on 1 drills matching up Wallace and Brent Grimes. That individual battle between two of the Dolphins' best players has been among the highlights of camp, and Wallace got the better of it on this play, catching a bomb down the sideline for a 65 yard scoring play.

The crowd, predictably, erupted.

“I’m excited how things are going with Mike,” Tannehill said.

But if Wallace’s deep ball was the highlight Saturday, Grimes’ incredibly athletic play on another Tannehill pass to Wallace wasn’t far off. Grimes lunged to poke the ball away at the last second. Wallace said he’s enjoying the battle with Grimes and has ultimate respect for him. Wallace said receivers talk in their meetings about what a good player Grimes is.

### We saw the best and worst of Daniel Thomas in a 20-minute stretch. The best: Several hard runs in which Thomas chugged for yards after initial contact. Joe Philbin praised him for being “decisive” and for keeping his pad level low.

On the flip side, Thomas had a fumble, which he said was forced by Reshad Jones. Thomas was shaking his head about that miscue, noting it was his first one of training camp. Thomas also credited Reggie Bush, now with Detroit, for having “laid the foundation for us.”

### Thomas isn’t conceding anything, but Lamar Miller has done nothing to lose his firm grasp on the starter’s job. He had two impressive runs of 20-plus yards on Saturday – including one where he turned the corner – and also caught a wheel route from Tannehill for a 15-yard gain.

### Also good to see Mike Gillislee with a couple of good runs. Philbin likes that he “hasn’t been tentative.” The offensive line blocking on run plays was the best in camp to date, Philbin noted.

### Was told that John Jerry – who was not on the field or sidelines the past two days – was spotted on crutches in the last couple of days. Jerry had his knee wrapped, but the covering was more like a bandage than a brace.

The timetable for his return remains uncertain, but the Dolphins continued to experiment Saturday – again using Dallas Thomas at left guard and Richie Incognito at right guard – and then doing something that raised eyebrows: Moving center Mike Pouncey to right guard and using Josh Samuda at center.

Pouncey said those were his first practice reps at guard since before the 2009 Sugar Bowl. He conceded it felt “weird” but will do whatever he’s asked.

Thomas, by the way, had a couple of good blocks on running plays.

### Kicker Caleb Sturgis remained sidelined by a groin injury but hopes to return in several days, depending on how quickly it heals. Dan Carpenter didn’t attempt a field goal during Saturday’s practice, either.

### Jared Odrick continues his exceptional work at defensive tackle. No need to move him back to end if Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan play up to the staff’s expectations. Jordan, by the way, participated in individual drills but not in 11 on 11 team drills as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery.

### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was rewarded for his outstanding camp but getting some reps with the first team, opposite Brent Grimes. Philbin raved about Patterson afterward: “He’s playing fast. He has cat like quickness.”

Richard Marshall, who entered camp as the starter opposite Grimes, played over the slot receiver in nickel situations for portions of Saturday’s practice. Marshall has been OK in camp, nothing spectacular.

### Marvin McNutt made a couple of nice catches – including a long TD pass from Tannehill in 1-on-1 drills against Julian Posey. He has emerged as the biggest threat to Rishard Matthews for the No. 5 receiver job. Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller haven’t seized the opportunity; both had drops Saturday.

### Tannehill threw a beautiful sideline pattern for Binns for 30 yards. He had another pass knocked away by Philip Wheeler, who couldn’t corral what would have been an exceptional interception.

### Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller continue to do damage catching passes in the middle of the field.

### Tannehill began 11 on 11 drills with a pass to Dustin Keller, something we’ve seen several times previously. I won’t be surprised to see some games open with that connection. Keller beat Dannell Ellerbe in coverage on at least one reception Saturday.

### Fullback Evan Rodriguez, trying to unseat Jorvorskie Lane, got more work Saturday and looked decent. It’s questionable whether a fullback even makes the team.

### Please check back later for the Sunday buzz, including a lot more Dolphins, plus Heat, Canes and Marlins. And I'm on Twitter at @flasportsbuzz.