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3 posts from August 1, 2013

August 01, 2013

Media column: Collinsworth likes, eager to see Fins; Radio news; Dolphins' on-field notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

(Note: Please check the previous two posts from Thursday with highlights from Al Golden's news conference and Dolphins news and notes from Thursday's practice.)

You'll know the Dolphins are truly back as an NFL mover-and-shaker when they warrant a regular-season appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the league’s premier TV package. That hasn’t happened since September 2010.

But at least they will receive NBC prime time exposure during preseason, with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth calling Sunday’s Dolphins-Cowboys Hall of Fame game.

Collinsworth, who has won the Sports Emmy for outstanding game analyst each of the past four years, is eager to see the Dolphins’ augmented offense. He believes they will be a playoff contender but isn’t ready to pick against New England in the AFC East.

“You look at everything the Dolphins have added – they’re interesting,” Collinsworth said off the air, adding that in some ways, he expects them to be “fantastic.”

But, he added, “No matter how much the scale appears to tip in the Dolphins’ direction in other areas, 80 percent is quarterback. And it comes down to Tom Brady on one team and Ryan Tannehill on the other. Not that Tannehill is not going to be a player. Maybe he’s going to be a superstar. I don’t know.

"But every time I get away from the formula of ‘follow the quarterback’ to figure out who’s going to be in the playoffs, I come off looking stupid.”

That’s why, in forecasting the AFC, Collinsworth leans toward Denver (“they are truly expected to win it all”), New England, Baltimore (despite personnel losses) and Pittsburgh (“their offensive line was decimated” by injury last year). “And you don’t want to pick against Houston.”

That would leave Miami competing for a final playoff spot with the Bengals, Colts, Chargers and any surprises.

“I make the Patriots the favorites in the AFC East but with some hesitation,” Collinsworth said. “Is it possible they’re going to fall apart? They lost Brady for a year [2008] and still went 11-5. They’ve been special and unique for a decade.”

Collinsworth said if the Dolphins can go 4-0 against the Jets and Bills, “they need to go only .500 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.”

There’s a lot he likes about the Dolphins. “They’ve got the defense and receivers that can play. They’ve got a pretty good pass rush. Brent Grimes is a difference maker. They’ve got depth in the secondary. They’ve got a lot more speed at linebacker than what they’ve had. Mike Pouncey, if he’s not the best center, is close.”

But… “offensive line, quarterback, running game are questions. I’ve got to see Lamar Miller run the ball. I’m still concerned about the offensive line. If your quarterback is getting hit and you’re not running the ball, that’s a bad combination --- I don’t care who you have playing wide-out if that happens.

“Jonathan Martin is plenty athletic, but every once in a while someone does a bull rush on him and takes him into the quarterback. [Besides Pouncey], I don’t know that there’s somebody on that offensive line where you can say, ‘I can leave him one-on-one and the world is OK.’”

And what about Tannehill?

“Watching tape of the 49ers game, you say, ‘How did he miss that throw?’ And then you watch another throw, and you say, ‘That was strong, that was good.’ Do I think he belongs in the class of young quarterbacks [with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson?] Not yet. But it’s way too early to tell. He’s athletic enough and the most inexperienced of them all.

“He doesn’t have to be a runner like [Griffin], but he has the athleticism to buy time like a Ben Roethlisberger or Wilson. If they can develop Tannehill with the read option stuff, that slows the pass rush.”

Collinsworth is particularly eager to watch Dion Jordan: “He is maybe the most interesting guy in the draft for me. He makes a lot of scrambling athletic tackles in the open field. I can see [defensive coordinator] Kevin Coyle having him do anything.”

### Michaels, incidentally, will be honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio & TV award this weekend.

AROUND THE DIAL

### Dumped by WQAM-560 in March, Dan Sileo has landed a new gig, as WMEN-640’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. host beginning Aug. 5. That means three of WMEN’s four weekday hosts will be former WQAM employees: Sid Rosenberg, Orlando Alzugaray and Sileo. The one exception: early afternoon host Andy Slater.

Procuring former WQAM talent “has given us the ability to put together a very competitive lineup,” WMEN general manager Steve Lapa said Thursday. “Dan is a personality, a unique talent.”

Of the three former WQAM hosts on WMEN, only Alzugaray left WQAM by choice. But WMEN's signal remains spotty in parts of Miami-Dade.

Sileo will host during the same time slot he handled for WQAM before the station fired him and replaced him with John Renshaw. Duane Starks is replacing Sileo on UM postgame shows.

### WQAM is in no rush to replace Jorge Sedano, who will work through Aug. 29 before leaving for a nightly ESPN Radio show. WQAM likely will use current staffers to fill in before hiring a replacement. Moving Channing Crowder to Sedano's slot is one option that cannot be ruled out. But his early-afternoon co-host, Adam Kuperstein, couldn't accompany him to a later time slot because of his duties as lead news co-anchor on NBC-6.

### WQAM had a preliminary conversation with the Marlins, whose radio contract expires after this season. But 790 The Ticket has a good chance to retain the rights… One other 'QAM note: The station hired former Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain to join Brandon Guzio on Dolphins postgame shows. During off-air interviews in recent years, Surtain impressed us with his ability to thoughtfully articulate his opinions.

### One reason the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to do HBO's Hard Knocks, which debuts Tuesday: Coach Marvin Lewis said he studied every episode of the Dolphins' Hard Knocks series last year -- looking for clues on snap counts and anything else -- and Miami still beat Cincinnati during the regular season. So he concluded there is no competitive disadvantage to participating in the program.

### The NBA schedule will be announced at 6 p.m. Tuesday on NBA TV. Four Heat games already have been revealed: the Oct. 29 opener at home against the Bulls, Nov. 1 at Brooklyn (the first Friday of the season), the night before the Super Bowl at the Knicks, and Christmas at the Lakers.

News, views from Thursday's Dolphins practice; Al Golden addresses issues

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR HIGHLIGHTS FROM UM COACH AL GOLDEN’S NEWS CONFERENCE TODAY

Some Dolphins notes and thoughts from Thursday’s session:

###  While one of the Dolphins’ early-round rookie cornerbacks works his way back from surgery, the other has gone on an interception binge this week, which is certainly a way to get noticed on a team craving more takeaways.

Will Davis, a third-round pick from Utah State, grabbed three picks on Thursday, giving him five in the last four practices. Two of the five – including one on Thursday – were made in the end zone.

“He had his hand on the ball eight times today maybe,” coach Joe Philbin said. “That leads you to believe he had a very good practice. That’s one of the measuring sticks we’re looking at in our defensive backs – guys who can make a play on the ball. I’m sure there’s a lot of technique things he has to work on.”

Though Davis also has been beaten several times in camp, he has quickly developed a reputation as a ball hawk. He has deflected more than 10 passes in camp and could have had even more interceptions Thursday if he hadn’t dropped two.

“Everything is starting to click,” he said. “Definitely a good day. When the game slows down for you, you are able to make more plays. That’s happening for me now.”

Teammates have noticed. “Will is looking real good,” safety Reshad Jones said. “He’s a quick guy, and that’s what we need on that side of the ball.”

Meanwhile, Jamar Taylor, the Dolphins’ second-round pick out of Boise State, participated in team drills for the first team in more than a week after sitting out with soreness from sports hernia surgery in May. He said he hopes he’s back on the field for good.

“I’ve been antsy the whole time,” he said. “I definitely have some rust. I’m definitely not at full strength. I have great trainers working with me. I’ll get there. I’m definitely happy to be back on the field.”

Philbin said he likes Taylor’s quickness.

Taylor and Davis said they are rooting for each. “I’m proud of Will,” Davis said.

### Receivers Mike Wallace (groin) and Brian Hartline (calf strain) missed most of their third consecutive practice. Both said they were hopeful of playing Sunday against Dallas in the Hall of Fame game, but it’s possible coaches might decide to rest them.

Wallace said Thursday he feels “a lot better” and has “a lot more strength in my groin.”

He said he “badly” wants to play Sunday. “This is a new situation for me. I want to get out there and feel it out. Feel the new situation. Be with my new teammates and have a great time.”

Also Thursday, defensive tackle Randy Starks stood on the sideline with a compression sleeve on his right leg – he was limping a bit --  and defensive tackle Jared Odrick left practice early with a hamstring injury, but it isn’t considered serious.

Running back Cameron Marshall and linebacker Michael Clay also remain sidelined.

###  Rookie tight end Dion Sims continues to impress the coaching staff and has received a lot of work in two tight end sets with starter Dustin Keller.

“I like him a lot,” Philbin said. “He’s doing a lot of good things. He has a chance to be a very good blocker in this league. He’s got soft hands. He’s had a very good camp. He’s going to be a good player.”

But Sims also had a drop on Thursday. “I told him you can’t drop a ball on third and three in the red zone on the 3-yard line,” Philbin said.

### Davis’ interceptions came against Pat Devlin and Matt Moore. But Ryan Tannehill also threw his first interception in six practices, when Richard Marshall picked off a tipped ball.

Philbin said Tannehill’s lack of interceptions has been a byproduct of “primarily decision making, number one, and accuracy number two. I’m not saying accuracy, the location, has been perfect every pass. But it hasn’t been bad.”

###  The kicker competition continued with Dan Carpenter making two from 35 yards and missing from 46. Carpenter hadn’t kicked since going 3 for 5 on field goals and missing an extra point in Monday’s scrimmage. Rookie Caleb Sturgis, who was generally sharp on Wednesday, did not kick any field goals on Thursday.

PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS

### Rookie Will Davis had three interceptions – two in 11-on-11 drills. Two of his picks were on passes from Pat Devlin; the other was thrown by Matt Moore.

### Tight end Kyle Miller, who has had a good camp, caught a 30-yard pass from Devlin.

### Moore threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Julius Pruitt on a slant.

### Chad Bumphis caught a dep ball from Moore.

### Richard Marshall picked off a pass, ending a stretch of five consecutive practices without an interception by Ryan Tannehill.

NOTABLE

### Olivier Vernon had three sacks against Jonathan Martin in team drills and has had the better of their matchup in camp. But Martin didn’t allow a sack against Dion Jordan, who had two against him on Wednesday.

“I think it’s going pretty well,” Martin said of his move back to left tackle, where he played at Stanford. “You have some good days and some bad days. My goal is to try to be consistent against a talented D-line.”

### Philbin said there are ways to get both Dion Jordan and Olivier Vernon on the field with Cameron Wake at the same time. “We’ll make a decision on a weekly basis for the game plan. Coaches have to figure out, put them in the right roles.”

### Josh Samuda was the first team right guard in practice… Richard Marshall replaced Dimitri Patterson as the first-team cornerback opposite Brent Grimes… Jimmy Wilson and Kelcie McCray have been the second-team safeties.

### Though Marvin McNutt has been the most productive of the receivers competing for roster spots, Philbin said “he needs to catch the ball a little more consistently.”

But Philbin also said: “He’s made a lot of plays. He’s a hard guy for defensive backs to get around because of his size. He’s done some good things.”

### Philbin said rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins is “really making a mark in pass defense. Smart, quick, picks up the system well. Very good play speed.”

### Former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas visited practice and spoke at length with general manager Jeff Ireland.

QUOTABLE

“We have a lot of volume in. We could never execute these plays crisply in a game. We’ve got to narrow the focus down. What can we be great at? What does the quarterback like? The receivers like?... It’s a long way to go.”

--- Coach Joe Philbin, explaining that coaches have installed 95 percent of the offense with the players. 

Thursday noon update: Al Golden address issues, Dolphins news, views from Wed. practice

Highlights from Al Golden’s Thursday news conference:

### Golden wishes he would have known NCAA sanctions before camp starts Saturday, but that’s not going to happen. But “we’re not going to let this disrupt our third consecutive training camp…. We’ve been to hell and back the last two years.”

Though some parties have been told the NCAA is targeting late next week to reveal sanctions, the NCAA has cautioned that it’s not definite and could stretch a couple weeks beyond that. Nobody at UM would be surprised if this goes deep into August.

### Golden said running back Eduardo Clements (neck) will be medically cleared.

### He said incoming defensive linemen Julio Derosier and Ufomba Kamalu are expected “to be here by Saturday.” Of the signees, only Devante Bond, Rhyheem Locksley and Derrick Griffin haven’t been cleared academically. Locksley and Griffin are going to prep school, as previously announced. Bond could be headed there, too.

### Golden, on his mindset heading into the season: “I don’t know if I’m any more confident. I’m just being me. I’m a football coach, I’m not a litigator, a researcher, a defender. I had 15 different jobs the last two years. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to talk about anything but that four letter word [NCAA].’”

He mentioned Virginia Tech’s long run of success and said: “If we want this conference to be what it wants to be, Miami has to do its job.”

### Golden’s nephew Greg is a walk on receiver: “It’s a lifelong dream for him. He’s mature enough to understand I’m the coach. He’s in a good shape. I’m excited he’s here.”

### He said having difficult choices about playing time at some positions such a receiver “is a good problem. I don’t know who the starters are there, or who are the six or seven that are going to travel. I’m as anxious as you guys to see where they’re at…. We’re going to have a good rotation at every spot.”

### Players who didn’t adhere to team rules have been purged. “We have the right guys on the train. We have a team that’s focused. This is a very mature team right now.”

### He said he feels very good about eight offensive linemen and would like to identify a ninth and 10th. “I don’t know who the starting five is and that’s a good thing. I know there are at least six guys going to bed tonight thinking they’re the starter.”

### Most of the front seven has put on considerable weight, which was an offseason priority. Anthony Chickillo has gone from 260 to 275.

“Chickillo grew up on the field [and] his lack of weight and strength was evident. Now he’s going to hopefully harness all that experience and be where he [needs to be] physically.” Jelani Hamilton has gone from 258 to 285.

### He likes how tight end Beau Sandland has developed.

### He said Duke Johnson has an “elite stiff arm and protection of the football. He has to take the next step and be able to handle a little bit more. We’ve got to get his touches up a little bit more. He’s got more muscle. His body composition is better. He’s stronger.”

Fortunately, he’s not taking Duke Johnson off returns to try to conserve energy.  “For us to say we’re not going to have Randy return kicks, then he’s not Randy Johnson.”

### He said Jimmy Gaines is ahead of Raphael Kirby at middle linebacker. “If I wanted to show a kid what a middle linebacker should look like, I would go to our web site, hit [a link], and listen to Jimmy” explain “what a linebacker does pre-snap.”

### He said receiver Allen Hurns “has been a tremendous leader for us. Really proud to have him on our team. He deserves a measure of good health.”

### Will Ray Lewis be around the program more now that his son is here? “I don’t know. We haven’t had that dialogue.”

### He said one reason he came to UM is “I believed there would less Achilles’ heels here, less chinks in the armor in recruiting.”       

Please see the last post for lots of Dolphins news, views and notes from Wednesday night.