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3 posts from August 6, 2013

August 06, 2013

Dolphins' Sherman making changes; Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Mike Sherman -- honest, secure and self-aware -- admitted Tuesday what few offensive coordinators probably would:

“Last year, based on our situation, we were predictable at times,” the Dolphins’ play-caller conceded. “We want to be less predictable.”

With more weapons at his disposal, Sherman spoke Tuesday of his vision for a more "explosive" offense, one that potentially will take more chances in short-yardage situations and will throw more on first down.

Last year, the Dolphins ran 78.7 percent of the time on second and one or third and one –- well above the 68.5 league average. They also ran 55 percent of the time on first down -– five points above the league average.

“It was our first year together, and we were fairly conservative,” Sherman said. “Handing off to Reggie Bush felt like it would be a fair first down for us with a young quarterback, to avoid as many [necessary] throw down situations as possible. This year, with the quarterback and his experience, we’ll probably be a little more aggressive there.”

He likes the lineup with Dustin Keller and Charles Clay together because “we can do a lot of different formations. There’s not a play in our playbook we couldn’t use” with that tandem.

But he said he also likes the grouping with Brandon Gibson as a third receiver and one tight end. And don’t be surprised to see tight ends in the backfield and running backs in the slot at times.

“We’ll mix it up quite a bit,” he said. “If we can get all our guys on the field, we can be explosive. We didn’t get into the end zone nearly enough last year. We still have a long way to go.

“We need to get Mike Wallace healthy and get him some work…. I feel very fortunate to be offensive coordinator of this team under Joe Philbin, who I think can be one of the great head coaches.”

Sherman admitted he “might have thrown too much too soon” at his players last year. “If I look back at it, I would have done less, not more.”

That shouldn’t be an issue this season. He wants to play faster, with variation among a two-minute offense, a more deliberate no-huddle approach and lots of huddling, too.

Keller loves how Sherman “exposes matchup” advantages. And “I like that he spreads it out,” Wallace said.

Yes, Tuesday's practice was ugly offensively. And the results of Sunday's 10-play cameo by much of the Dolphins' first-team offense against the second-team Dallas defense was disappointing. But it's way premature for serious concern at this point, because this offense cannot be expected to operate at full efficiency until Wallace and Brian Hartline are back -- Hartline returned Tuesday -- and Sunday's first-team performance without them was too small a sample size for any big-picture conclusions anyway.

But this is also true: On a day Tannehill threw four picks Tuesday, Tom Brady was 44 for 48 and Andrew Luck was 26 for 35 with six TDs and no picks.  

### More Sherman nuggets: He predicted Jonathan Martin “will be a fine left tackle in this league” but has a “ways to go.”... He said rookie tight end Dion Sims was “light years away” during rookie mini-camp but "he has made phenomenal progress. We knew he would be a good blocker. Really has improved as a receiver. He’s on target to play a lot this year.”... And he said tight end Michael Egnew “has made drastic improvement from a year ago. He’s a lot more physical. His blocking has really improved. Still has to show more consistency. His peaks and valleys aren’t quite as [dramatic].”

CHATTER

### Of all the receivers competing for jobs, Philbin singled out two on Tuesday: Chad Bumphis and Keenan Davis. He's clearly concerned about Marvin McNutt's drops. But don't discount Jeff Fuller, who has come on strong in recent days, or Brian Tyms, who makes enough plays to stay on the radar... Davis, on his debut: "It was crazy! My first NFL game I've ever seen and I played in it!"

### With Clay taking snaps now as a first-team fullback, Jorvorskie Lane's job appears highly, highly precarious.

### Several Dolphins players will tell you they like Josh Samuda’s physicality and toughness, and his rise to first-team right guard is even more notable considering Miami had to be persuaded to give him a tryout, let alone sign him. 

Agent Marty Magid said he implored the Dolphins to invite Samuda to their local workout, then called the Dolphins after the 2012 draft to persuade them to sign him. Fortunately, offensive line coach Jim Turner liked him.

Samuda left practice for a while Tuesday with what appeared to be a leg injury. Lance Louis took first team snaps when he exited.

### By the way, the Dolphins again decided to pass on free agent Brandon Moore, who visited them earlier this year and graded out as the fourth-best NFL guard in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. Why is that just as well? Because just six hours after agreeing to terms with the Cowboys late last night, Moore retired this morning.

### Every day, another story surfaces about cornerback Brent Grimes’ incredible athleticism. First, Grimes told us this summer how he would jump over cars as a teenager. And Grimes and Dolphins people said he recently jumped on and off boxes stacked 48 inches in the air, doing it on one leg.

“Most athletic person I’ve ever seen on a football field,” said Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo, his former Atlanta Falcons teammate.

### More evidence that Dolphins interest has increased a bit: Sunday’s game was viewed in 11 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets – higher than the 7.1, 8.7 and 7.9 ratings for the first three preseason games last season. If you’re curious, several regular-season Heat games last season topped Sunday’s Dolphins rating, including a 17.5 for a Heat-Celtics game during Miami’s 27-game win streak.

### Bovada.com has UM with a higher over/under for wins (8.5) than the Dolphins (8). But Bovada increased the Dolphins’ number from 7.5 to 8 because 88 percent of people were betting they would win more than 7.5.

### Several summer freshman arrivals already have UM coach Al Golden excited through four days of camp. Defensive end Alquadin Mohammad “has made an impression,” Golden said Tuesday. “High energy, very explosive. [Cornerback] Artie Burns and [receiver] Stacy Coley – every day they rise to the occasion. We keep pushing them… because they can help us. [Running back] Gus Edwards looks like a guy that’s going to help us.”

### A UM official who has been at closed practices said cornerbacks Antonio Crawford and Nate Dortch appear especially improved; freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen looks polished and is very coach-able; Seantrel Henderson seems more receptive to coaching; Eduardo Clements is not running tentatively as he comes back from his neck injury; and Coley is too good to keep off the field this season.

### In fact, many players cite Coley when asked the most impressive freshman. “He runs so smooth, it doesn’t look like he’s really running fast,” cornerback Tracy Howard said. Coley and Herb Waters had the second best 40-yard times on the team, behind Philip Dorsett.

### Gionni Paul, among five defensive players not invited to return to the team this season, enrolled at Utah. Linebacker Jimmy Gaines said the departed players’ talents are missed but added: “They’re distractions. That’s something we don’t need.”... As for Gaines – who’s the front-runner over Raphael Kirby at middle linebacker -- Duke Johnson said: “He’s playing the best football I’ve ever seen him play.”

### Offensive coordinator James Coley cited receivers Waters and Allen Hurns, tight end Beau Sandland, Stephen Morris and guard Brandon Linder as particularly impressive early in camp.

### The Heat, eager to downplay expectations for Greg Oden, appear disinclined to hold a news conference for him, unlike Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis last year. But they likely will make him available to reporters via a conference call. Oden passed his physical Tuesday. "He's looked really good in workouts," Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals told Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy. "His weight looks great."

### The Marlins are leaning toward going with another stopgap at third base next season while waiting on first-round pick Colin Moran to develop; Moran is hitting .237 in 17 games at Single A Greensboro. Chris Coghlan is one option. Zack Cox, acquired in the Edward Mujica deal with St. Louis, isn’t viewed as an everyday prospect because of lack of power and defensive limitations.

## Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich – told he needed to work on making contact against off speed pitches --- has struggled since being demoted to Double A: 6 for 33 with 17 strikeouts in his past 11 games.   

6 p.m. update: Look at full Heat schedule; Dolphins chatter

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR MY DOLPHINS POST. HERE'S A HEAT SCHEDULE STORY:

 

So much for the perks of winning a second consecutive NBA championship: The Heat will not get to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas at home.

As expected, the NBA announced Tuesday, without explanation, that it is sending Miami on the road to play the Lakers at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas in Los Angeles --- the start of a four-game road trip that also takes the Heat to Sacramento, Portland and Denver.

And Miami will spend Thanksgiving in Ohio or Canada, with a game at Cleveland the day before the holiday (Nov. 27) and a game at Toronto the day after (Nov. 29).

"The schedule I got said that we are on the road for XMas and Turkey Day," Shane Battier tweeted. "I think I received a bad copy."

The Heat will receive its championship rings at its Oct. 29 opener, against visiting Chicago. Miami then travels to Philadelphia to play Oct. 30, then goes to Brooklyn for an ESPN game on Nov. 1.

The Heat will play every Western Conference team twice and every Eastern Conference team four times except Boston, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Philadelphia. They play three games against those four teams, with the Cavaliers and 76ers making only one appearance in South Florida.

The Heat will play six of its first nine games at home and will close the season with six of its final nine at home.

 The Heat has the maximum 25 national TV appearances – six on ABC, 10 on ESPN and nine on TNT.

The ABC games, besides the Christmas date, are Jan. 26 against San Antonio, Feb. 23 against Chicago, March 9 at Chicago, March 16 against Houston and April 6 against New York.

Other highlights:

### The Heat has six road games in a row on two occasions: a January trip in which Miami travels to New York and Brooklyn, then gets four days off, then goes to Washington, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Atlanta. There’s a six-game trip in February to the Clippers, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas and Oklahoma City.

### The Heat plays 17 sets of back to back games, one more than last season. Seven of those feature two road games in a row. Like last season, the Heat will not play home games on consecutive nights.

### The Heat has two five-game homestands: Dec. 14-23 and March 31-April 8.

### This will mark the 18th time in 26 seasons that the Heat has opened at home. It also marks the 10th time that Miami has played on Christmas; the Heat is 4-0 against the Lakers that day. Over the past 10 seasons, the defending champion has played on Christmas eight times -- five at home, three on the road.

### The Heat and Dolphins don't play a home game on the same day and have no direct time conflicts. The Heat and Panthers have 10 direct conflicts. There could be conflicts between one or two Heat and UM football home games, depending on whether UM's games Nov. 9 against Virginia Tech and Nov. 23 against Virginia are scheduled as night games.

### With the Heat playing at the Knicks on Feb. 1, Heat players might try to convince Erik Spoelstra to let them stay in the New York area to attend the Feb. 2 Super Bowl. The Heat hosts Detroit Feb. 3.

### Partial season plans go on sale Aug. 19 and individual tickets on Sept. 13.

            OCTOBER

           Tues.29              CHICAGO                      8:00 PM  TNT  

           Wed.30            @ Philadelphia               7:00 PM   SUN

 

          NOVEMBER

1              Fri.               @ Brooklyn                    8:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

3              Sun.             WASHINGTON              6:00 PM    SUN

5              Tues.           @ Toronto                     7:00 PM    SUN

7              Thurs.          L.A. CLIPPERS              7:00 PM    TNT            

9              Sat.              BOSTON                        7:30 PM    SUN

12            Tues.           MILWAUKEE                 7:30 PM    SUN

15            Fri.               DALLAS                         7:30 PM    SUN           

16            Sat.              @ Charlotte                   7:00 PM    SUN

19            Tues.           ATLANTA                      7:30 PM    SUN

20            Wed.            @ Orlando                     7:00 PM    SUN

23            Sat.              ORLANDO                     7:30 PM    SUN           

25            Mon.            PHOENIX                       7:30 PM    SUN

27            Wed.            @ Cleveland                  7:30 PM    SUN/ESPN

29            Fri.               @ Toronto                     7:00 PM    SUN

 

DECEMBER

1              Sun.             CHARLOTTE                 6:00 PM    SUN

3              Tues.           DETROIT                       7:30 PM    SUN

5              Thurs.          @ Chicago                     9:30 PM    SUN/TNT   

7              Sat.              @ Minnesota                  8:00 PM    SUN

8              Sun.             @ Detroit                       6:00 PM    SUN

10            Tues.           @ Indiana                      7:00 PM    SUN           

14            Sat.              CLEVELAND                 7:30 PM    SUN

16            Mon.            UTAH                             7:30 PM    SUN

18            Wed.            INDIANA                        7:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

20            Fri.               SACRAMENTO             7:30 PM    SUN

23            Mon.            ATLANTA                      7:30 PM    SUN

25            Wed.            @ L.A. Lakers                5:00 PM    ABC

27            Fri.               @ Sacramento             10:00 PM    SUN

28            Sat.              @ Portland                   10:00 PM    SUN

30            Mon.            @ Denver                      9:00 PM    SUN

 

JANUARY

2              Thurs.          GOLDEN STATE           7:30 PM    SUN

4              Sat.              @ Orlando                     7:00 PM    SUN

5              Sun.             TORONTO                     6:00 PM    SUN

7              Tues.           NEW ORLEANS            7:30 PM    SUN

9              Thurs.          @ New York                  8:00 PM    TNT            

10            Fri.               @ Brooklyn                    8:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

15            Wed.            @ Washington               7:00 PM    SUN

17            Fri.               @ Philadelphia               7:00 PM    SUN

18            Sat.              @ Charlotte                   7:00 PM    SUN

20            Mon.            @ Atlanta                       5:30 PM    SUN

21            Tues.           BOSTON                        7:30 PM    SUN

23            Thurs.          L.A. LAKERS                 8:00 PM    TNT

26            Sun.             SAN ANTONIO              1:00 PM    ABC

29            Wed.            OKLAHOMA CITY         7:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

 

FEBRUARY

1              Sat.              @ New York                  8:30 PM    SUN/ESPN

3              Mon.            DETROIT                       7:30 PM    SUN

5              Wed.            @ L.A. Clippers            10:30 PM    SUN/ESPN 

8              Sat.              @ Utah                          9:00 PM    SUN

11            Tues.           @ Phoenix                     9:00 PM    SUN

12            Wed.            @ Golden State           10:30 PM    SUN/NBA TV

18            Tues.           @ Dallas                        8:30 PM    SUN

20            Thurs.          @ Oklahoma City           8:00 PM    TNT            

23            Sun.             CHICAGO                      3:30 PM    ABC

27            Thurs.          NEW YORK                   8:00 PM    TNT

 

MARCH

1              Sat.              ORLANDO                     7:30 PM    SUN

3              Mon.            CHARLOTTE                 7:30 PM    SUN

4              Tues.           @ Houston                     8:00 PM    SUN

6              Thurs.          @ San Antonio               8:00 PM    SUN/TNT   

9              Sun.             @ Chicago                     1:00 PM    ABC            

10            Mon.            WASHINGTON              7:30 PM    SUN

12            Wed.            BROOKLYN                   7:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

14            Fri.               DENVER                        7:30 PM    SUN

16            Sun.             HOUSTON                     3:30 PM    ABC            

18            Tues.           @ Cleveland                  7:00 PM    SUN

19            Wed.            @ Boston                       7:30 PM    SUN

21            Fri.               MEMPHIS                      7:30 PM    SUN           

22            Sat.              @ New Orleans             8:00 PM    SUN

24            Mon.            PORTLAND                   7:30 PM    SUN

26            Wed.            @ Indiana                      8:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

28            Fri.               @ Detroit                       7:30 PM    SUN

29            Sat.              @ Milwaukee                 8:30 PM    SUN

31            Mon.            TORONTO                     7:30 PM    SUN

 

APRIL

2              Wed.            MILWAUKEE                 7:30 PM    SUN

4              Fri.               MINNESOTA                 7:30 PM    SUN

6              Sun.             NEW YORK                   1:00 PM    ABC            

8              Tues.           BROOKLYN                   8:00 PM    SUN/TNT

9              Wed.            @ Memphis                    8:00 PM    SUN/ESPN

11            Fri.               INDIANA                        7:30 PM    SUN/NBA TV

12            Sat.              @ Atlanta                       7:30 PM    SUN

14            Mon.            @ Washington               7:00 PM    SUN

16        Wed.            PHILADELPHIA             8:00 PM    SUN  

 

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR A DOLPHINS STORY

Undrafted Dolphins, long shots trying to win roster spots

Seemingly every August, a couple of undrafted players – often rookies - arise from anonymity and seize Dolphins’ roster spots.

Whether it be Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter, Derrick Shelby, Josh Samuda or others, the Dolphins have uncovered several under-the-radar “acorns” in recent years, to borrow a pet phrase of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.

So who, if anyone, will break through from this year’s cast of long-shots?

Receiver Chad Bumphis is certainly making a case. And there are others trying to crack through, from second-year back Jonas Gray to second-year tight end Kyle Miller to a bunch of rookie linemen.

Receivers coach Ken O’Keefe has told Bumphis all about Bess, who won a job in 2008 and went on to catch 321 passes in five seasons before April’s trade to Cleveland.

“He said, ‘Davone came in undrafted and was able to contribute,’” Bumphis said. “I said, ‘That could be me.’”

Though Bumphis made an error on a route on a tipped ball that resulted in an interception return for a touchdown Sunday night against Dallas, he also caught five passes for 85 yards. And he was outstanding during Tuesday’s practice, hauling in at least six passes.

“I know one thing,” coach Joe Philbin said. “No. 16 [Bumphis] is catching a lot of passes. Chad is a good football player.”

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said: “He’s talented. To play that slot receiver, you have to be nifty and crafty. He appears to be that.”

Bumphis, 5-10, caught 58 passes for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns for Mississippi State last season and said he feels “good” about his chances of making the team. Working largely in the slot during practice “allows me to get open.”

There’s a decent chance one or two undrafted players win roster spots at receiver, with undrafted Iowa rookie Keenan Davis earning praise from Philbin Tuesday after making three catches for 48 yards against Dallas.

Marvin McNutt, a sixth round pick of the Eagles last season, started camp strong but has dropped several balls in the past 10 days, including one Sunday. And 2012 practice squad receivers Jeff Fuller and Brian Tyms have both had good moments in camp.

Among others positions where young players are trying to beat odds and win spots on the 53-man roster:

### Running back: Jonas Gray spent last season on the Dolphins’ physically unable to perform list, recovering from a serious knee injury at Notre Dame. The Dolphins kept him around because they liked the skills he displayed in South Bend, including 791 yards on 114 carries and 12 touchdowns as a senior.

He justified that faith Sunday, with 41 yards on seven carries. It would still be a surprise if he sticks behind Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee, but Gray is making a case.

Evan Rodriguez, a fourth-round pick of the Bears in 2012, has flashed some receiving skills but faces an uphill climb. The Dolphins might not even keep incumbent fullback Jorvorskie Lane, because Charles Clay gives them more versatility as a fullback/tight end.

### Tight end: Kyle Miller, undrafted out of Mount Union in 2012, joined the Dolphins last season after Indianapolis cut him and has impressed by finding seams in the middle of the field. But he’s an underdog against improved Michael Egnew in a battle for potentially one roster spot.

### Offensive line: None of the rookies have duplicated the success of Samuda, who claimed a roster spot as an undrafted rookie last summer and now is working with the starters at right guard. Asked who impressed him among the young linemen Sunday night, Philbin could not name anyone.

Jeff Adams, Chris Barker, Chandler Burden, Sam Brenner or Jeff Braun will need to demonstrate a lot more for any to avoid the waiver wire.

### Linebackers: Undrafted Lee Robinson, 26, already has had stints with four NFL teams and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and has made several good plays over the past three months. But he’s facing heavy competition (Austin Spitler, Josh Kaddu, Jonathan Freeny and others) for one or two jobs behind the three starters and top backup Jason Trusnik and fourth-round rookie Jelani Jenkins. 

### Defensive backs: Undrafted safety Kelcie McCray, who spent all of last season on the Dolphins’ injured list, has had a good camp and appears to have a strong grasp on the No. 4 safety job.

### Defensive lineman: Tristan Okpalaugo, an undrafted rookie from Fresno State, forced a fumble against Dallas, and A.J. Francis (who wants to be governor of Maryland someday) also has had his moments in camp. But it’s difficult to see any of five undrafted long shots at this position making the 53-man roster, largely because two second-year linemen, Kheeston Randall and Derrick Shelby, have played well.

Randall, a seventh-round pick in 2012, tipped an interception in practice Wednesday. Shelby had two sacks Sunday and “is a very, very sound player,” Philbin said. “I love him because… he gives effort, he’s in the spots where he’s supposed to be.”