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Analysts, evaluators weigh in on Fins; Heat to sign center; Loria fallout; Canes-Gators


What do network analysts and former personnel executives expect from the Dolphins? Thirteen of them weighed in, and opinions varied widely. We’ll start with the most optimistic: former Colts general manager Bill Polian, ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former Dolphins Dan Marino, Ron Jaworski and Cris Carter:

### Polian loves the Dolphins: “They’re good enough now to compete with New England. This is a very athletic, physical defense with a lot of dynamic players. Brent Grimes is a top flight No. 1 corner. [Defensive tackle] is where Jared Odrick will play best [after moving over from defensive end]. Their defense is awfully good and deep, and you can be a playoff team based on defense alone.

“The last half of the season, you’ll see the offensive productivity turn up and pretty markedly. This will be a much better running team. This is a team I don’t want to see in November or December. I can’t emphasize enough how soundly this team is constructed. Extraordinary talent at a number of positions.”

### Marino sees Miami making a serious run at New England: “They should be able to contend in that division. The defense looks fast. They will be a high tempo defense that will cause more turnovers. Everything about Ryan Tannehill gives me hope, as far as physical tools. His arm strength is as good as anyone in the league.”

### Carter: “The Dolphins are a lot more talented, and New England isn’t as talented. The Dolphins’ defense could be the best in the division. Tannehill is going to be a special player. Offensive line is the only real question mark.”

### Jaworski picked the Dolphins to win the AFC East on ESPN.com: "Mike Sherman has done a great job brining along Tannehill, and now Mike Wallace gives him a big, downfield weapon. If Dion Jordan evolves as expected, he and Cameron Wake will be nightmares for quarterbacks."

### Cowher: “This team is ready to take the next step. They’re legitimately a team that could be reckoned with. Tannehill played solid last year, will be better this year. He’s got a very good surrounding core. Lamar Miller is a good running back. They’ve made a lot of very good additions. You can’t help but wonder with the Patriots; they have four rookie receivers.”

Among those mildly optimistic, and not ready to rule out a playoff berth:

### CBS’ Phil Simms: “When you have players who can hit the quarterback, that can change your team. They do have that. Dion Jordan is an unbelievable looking potential pass rusher. I watched him in the Hall of Fame game and said, ‘I’ve seen enough.’ We know about Cameron Wake. Let’s find out about the quarterback. What’s going to set him apart from being a quarterback who can just make the play when it’s there?”

### NBC’s Tony Dungy, a voter in the AP power rankings, has Miami 19th in his preseason poll but: “I do think the Dolphins have the potential to be a playoff team. There are a couple of reasons I feel they have a chance: Year two is when teams really make strides under a new coaching staff. I was impressed when I saw them at the Hall of Fame game. They were buying into Coach [Joe] Philbin's system.

“They will have a better passing game this year with an added year of experience for the quarterback and a legitimate home run threat in Mike Wallace. [And] the division they play in. I don't think they will catch New England but they are the favorites now to finish second. That will put them in the wild card hunt. I do believe they are one of the teams who might be under the radar that have a chance to be in the hunt in December.”

### CBS’ Dan Dierdorf doesn’t think playoffs are out of the question because “the traditional powerhouses have questions. I love everything about Tannehill except that he misfired on some deep balls last year. They have a strong front seven.”

But losing Dustin Keller will “impact everyone, when you subtract that speed.” And he wonders about Jonathan Martin at left tackle. “If what happened to Martin against [the 49ers’] Aldon Smith had happened to me, I might have gone to bed for a week and not come out.”

### Fox’s Jimmy Johnson: “Losing Keller was huge. The defense is good enough if Tannehill keeps turnovers to a minimum.”

Among those with doubts include three former GMs:

### NFL Network analyst and former Redskins and Texans GM Charley Casserly: “They are on the outside edge looking in. They need another year to keep fortify the roster.” His concerns? “The secondary and offense line.”

Positives? “They will give people problems on defense. I see enough good things about Tannehill, and Martin has gotten better this preseason. I like Lamar Miller and the receiving crew.”

### Former Falcons/Raiders/Packers executive Ken Herock, who now prepares draft prospects for meetings with teams: “Are they going to go 10-6? No. Are they going to be 7-9, 8-8? That’s what it sounds like to me. I don’t know why Steve Ross would expect that much more based on what they have. Expectations get out of hand and maybe aren’t realistic. Another injury and they’re screwed.

“They have an OK team, and Tannehill should be one of those starters that won’t really get you better than 9-7. The Jets and Bills could be four wins for them. But Pittsburgh is the only one of the likely playoff teams I could see them beating out.”

### Former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said “they’ve improved a little” but aren’t on par with New England. He said what the Dolphins should be asking is not if they can win the AFC East – “I don’t compare them to the Patriots” --- but whether they’re even good enough “to catch Cincinnati” and fringe wild-card contenders.

“Some of Miami’s moves made sense and some didn’t make sense. Some won’t end up working out. I don’t know that Wallace is elite. St. Louis had a chance to see Brandon Gibson and didn’t [keep him]. Tannehill was overdrafted.”

### SI’s and NBC’s Peter King predicts Miami will finish 6-10. Here’s why: “Of all the free-agents Miami signed, I felt the Dustin Keller signing was the most significant. Tight end was a huge, huge need position for a quarterback who so needs a security blanket in the intermediate area, and now with Keller out, any offensive force at tight end is eliminated. So that's a big problem.

“On defense, I like Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to shore up the middle, and I think the rush will be good. The corners concern me, especially if Brent Grimes, who I like, doesn't hold up physically.

“It'll either be Buffalo or Miami fighting for second place in the 8-8 area, I think. I could be wrong. I usually am.”


### We asked a handful of Dolphins veterans which player will break out this season. Every one of them immediately named Miller. “He will surprise people how explosive he is,” Dimitri Patterson said. “I said, ‘Wow’ when I first saw him.”

### There’s an emerging confidence internally that Martin – 20 pounds heavier and “thinking faster” – will capably handle left tackle. We’ll see. “He’s not as soft as he once was,” Richie Incognito said. “Mike Pouncey and I took that as a project – to toughen him up.”

### The Dolphins must hope they fare better than the last team that also used the advertising slogan “It’s Our Time.” That was the 2012 Kansas City Royals, who flopped (72-90) and had to discontinue it during the season.

### Center Justin Hamilton, the Heat’s second-round pick in 2012, will sign with Miami in the coming days and attend training camp, his agent J.R. Hensley told us. Hamilton, who played in Croatia and Latvia last season, did not participate in the Orlando or Las Vegas summer leagues because of a hamstring injury. He has been working out at AmericanAirlines Arena in recent weeks and said he was cleared today for contact work.

The Heat would lose Hamilton's rights if it releases him. If he had returned to Europe this season without attending camp, the Heat would have kept his rights. The Heat has 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts, and Hamilton, Jarvis Varnado and undrafted forward Eric Griffin have non-guaranteed deals.

Also, undrafted rookie point guard Larry Drew Jr., from UCLA, will audition for the Heat over several days this coming week. Drew, who averaged 7.5 points and 7.3 assists for the Bruins last season, was originally supposed to play on Miami's summer league team but could not because of a quad injury.

### Not only did Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria anger Giancarlo Stanton with last winter’s payroll slashing, but he irritated Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, by vetoing the Marlins front office’s recent decision to bring infielder Chris Valaika back to the team. Marlins people believe Loria did that because Valaika told the Marlins that ousted hitting coach Tino Martinez (Loria’s hand-picked choice) was verbally abusive.

Valaika never went to the Marlins to complain; management asked him about Martinez’s missteps when they heard his name from other players. Wolfe – who likes the Marlins’ baseball people and doesn’t blame them for any of this -- said that assuming Loria’s vetoing of Valaika’s promotion is true, “that was an unfortunate series of events seemingly very poorly handled.”

We hear Wolfe and the players union have discussed possibly filing a grievance. Asked if this could affect Stanton’s status, Wolfe – who also represents Greg Dobbs, Ryan Webb and a couple of Marlins prospects – indicated it would not, that one client “should have nothing to do” with another.

By the way, second baseman Derek Dietrich -- who accused Martinez of being abusive -- has an oblique injury, which is why he wasn't promoted when rosters expanded this month.

### Though UF’s Jeremy Foley didn’t rule out occasional neutral site UM-UF football games, the Gators so far haven’t shown a willingness to discuss any more games, though UM will keep pushing. UM athletic director Blake James told us he would be receptive to a neutral site but agrees that it’s difficult to identify a site north of Sun Life that would be truly neutral. UM would consider Tampa or Orlando; James suggests the New York area, where UM has a strong alumni base. (Seriousdly doubt the Gators would go for that.)

For lots of UM-UF postgame chatter, please see the last post.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     


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Sunny Dee

New York area? That us just plain stupid. He has to be joking.

Barry Jackson

Miami has talked for years about its interest in playing neutral site game in New York area, including Yankee Stadium. Wasn't a joke. But likely isn't going to happen with UF.


Thinking 7-9 for Dolphins. Then Steve Ross has to do something!!!


Best beat writer around. Thanks.


Play in New York.. Is Blake James that stupid?

Barry Jackson

Blake would naturally prefer Miami and Gainesville, but that's not an option. And Tampa and Orlando would be more like UF home games.


I don't mean to be unkind to Mr. Polian, but he sounds . . . unrealistic.


then lets make it opening week in atlanta baby!!

gators eat boogers and kiss Sebastian's butt

We should REFUSE to play UF on a neutral site other than NYC. WE OWN UF!!!!! Why keep catering to these arrogant morons?

MAKE them do it OUR WAY!

'Cane Defender

Blake, as rule, DO NOT bow down to Foley on this neutral site crap. Home and home or, kiss our @ss. We own you Gator trash!


REALITY BITES, where you be boy?? Time to come out and explain how the Gators would beat the Canes and how good they are. You have been talking trash for months. How does the bitter taste of ANOTHER loss to the mighty Canes make you feel?? Come out of your hole like a MAN or you gonna hide like the Gators???

John O

Polian unrealistic? Yea he only built the Bills and Colts into perennial powerhouses what would he know...

Nole Fan

U Cane fans sound just like Gator fans.

Coral Gables '81

Agree John O, look at the train wrecks that Casserly and Herock left behind. I will humbly agree with Mr. Polian.


gators eat boogers and kiss Sebastian's butt, it's the Gators that don't want to play US, it's not the other way around. To have them play us we're going to have to do something, and that something is play them on a neutral site. Try to understand what you read.

Keepin it real always

Too funny.Reality Bites is a scared little wuss.All Cane fans just waiting to jump on him.Next week,next month,whenever he gets the nerve to come out of hiding.He talked smack...put Cane fans down and now....not a peep.Hilarious and what we d expect.Mighty Gators LOST to the Canes......with the 120th ranked defense last year.If they coulsn t beat Miami...then what does that say about mighty Florida now???????


REALITY BITES, where you be boy??

Posted by: Bobbyd12 | 09/08/2013 at 07:13 AM


where O where has my little curse gone ...
O where O where can he be ...


Sad times

Reality Bites is truly a sad person, only followed this blog to dump on UM at every opportunity, never had anything of interest to say about any other Miami sports, just agreed with Barry Jackson and threw a "Go Heat!" after every post.

He's the definition of a troll, his only purpose on this blog was to rile up UM fans and try to make them feel bad.



“@ByTimReynolds: Gators OL Jonotthan Harrison: "I can't give it to Miami. It is on us."
-- Laz ‏@CutlerRidgeLAZ




Somewhere in America @marcorubio (uf & UM alum) is conflicted about today's #Canes vs #Gators game day results.
-- Batman for Florida ‏@BatmanforFL

per @chucktodd, sen. rubio is a gaturd first ...




So to sum up Miami v UF. More rings, more NFL players, all-time series lead. And, let's not forget: they have to go back to Gainesville
-- Chuck Todd ‏@chucktodd

a landlocked, remote, one-horse town replete with inbred crackers ...
nothing to do there but attend a football game ...




Miami has never had much of a fan base
-- orlandosentinel's mike bianchi

Saturday also marked a victory for Canes fans. The packed crowd of 76,869 set a UM record for the Dolphins’ stadium and included plenty of Florida fans, yes. But there were a lot more fans touching thumbs to form a U than there were slapping palms in a Gator Chomp. The Canes absolutely enjoyed the home-field advantage some doubted it would have
-- miami herald's greg cote



UM's victory was so big even Dabo Swinney was flashing our sign....go Canes!


Dabo: "How about that ACC? Spunky little old league?" Then he makes "The U" sign as he walks out.

Clemson moves up to No.3 in the new AP top 25 poll.
FSU is No.10 and Miami enters the AP poll at No.15.
-- Greg Wallace ‏@gc_wallace

Last week Clemson beat UGA...
Now Miami beats Florida...
Enjoy the bragging rights #ACC
-- Kirk Herbstreit ‏@KirkHerbstreit

ACCentuate the positive


Q: Could the ACC finally be considered a great football conference in the near future?

A: I'm hesitant to predict all-out greatness because I feel like the league has teased us many, many times in the past. However, while watching the Jameis Winston Show on Monday night, it occurred to me that the ACC may have a chance to enjoy the long-awaited national spotlight it envisioned back when it went all-in on football in 2003. Florida State, as I suspected, is really freaking good.

Meanwhile, Clemson has knocked off consecutive top-10 SEC foes dating back to last year's bowl game. Behind Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, the Tigers boast one of the most dangerous offenses in the country.

...if Florida State and Clemson do meet each other as unbeatens, they would likely be two top-five teams playing in an ACC game with national championship implications in the second half of the season. That last happened in 2005 (Miami-Virginia Tech). If the 'Canes were to beat Florida this week, suddenly they'd join the national conversation, too. So there's definitely an opportunity this year for the ACC to make some noise before even bringing Louisville into the fold.
-- SI's stewart mandel


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