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29 posts from September 2013

September 10, 2013

Good cop/bad cop playing out with two key Fins and agents; Fins, Canes, Heat chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

An amusing good cop/bad cop dynamic is playing out among two of the Dolphins’ best defensive players --- both potential 2014 free agents --- and their representation. While Randy Starks and Paul Soliai have said this week they’re not upset, their agents have publicly blasted the Dolphins’ treatment of their clients.

After Soliai’s agent, David Canter, criticized the Dolphins on Twitter for very recently giving Soliai a “lowball offer” and “ultimatum” and refusing to negotiate further, Starks’ agent, Tony Paige, lashed out at the team this week about Starks losing his starting job (to Jared Odrick).

Paige said he intends to call general manager Jeff Ireland to discuss it.

“Randy is not happy about not being a starter,” Paige said. “He’s not going to complain, but believe me, he’s not happy.

“Your starter that went to the Pro Bowl is in competition for his job? It makes absolutely no sense. We’re talking about a guy who’s 29 who has been your most versatile linemen and one of your most productive linemen the last five years.

“They don’t make Paul Soliai have a competition! They don’t make Cameron Wake have a competition! Randy is a big-time player and it blows my mind they would do this and mess up the relationship with a guy like Randy.”

Paige said he believes the Dolphins are “angry he didn’t come to OTAs” after being slapped with the $8.4 million franchise tag and are “punishing” Starks by playing him less.

If the Dolphins can’t work out a new deal with Soliai, they might make another offer to Starks. Paige said the Dolphins haven’t made a new offer to Starks since he turned down a multiyear deal in the spring that wasn’t close to what he’s seeking. They then slapped him with the tag.

“He will be here for this year. Beyond that, I don’t know,” Paige said. “There will be a market for him.”

Paige and Canter, savvy agents, are doing what they feel is necessary by staunchly defending their clients, even if it irks the team. And Starks and Soliai are playing it smart by publicly denying what associates believe are their true feelings.

That’s why Starks said Tuesday with a straight face: “I’m happy with my role, and my role is to be a backup.” And why he said “there is no point in being upset” about his contract.

And Starks wisely said he regrets flashing the middle finger at the Dolphins sideline Sunday. (Joe Philbin scolded Starks this week and told him that behavior is not acceptable.)

Starks said he and his teammates “were making some jokes about getting sacks” and his gesture, intended for them, “came out the wrong way. I didn’t think it would get blown up like that. I accept full responsibility for it.”

He said he hasn’t been fined. (Asked if the league had fined him, an NFL spokesman told our Adam Beasley that it's the team's decision.)

As for Soliai, he said he will not fret about the Dolphins’ take-it-or-leave-it offer, though a friend said he is disappointed and prepared for the possibility of moving on after this season if it comes to that. 

“I’m not going to let this bring me down, not going to let one little thing bother me,” Soliai said. “I’m going to keep playing and show people what Paul Soliai can do."

He said he still holds out hope he can remain here beyond this season: "I started here, so why not end my career here?”

The Dolphins badly need to re-sign Soliai or Starks to maintain one of the team’s greatest strengths. But doing that has become messier than they thought.

### The Dolphins, meanwhile, remain confident they made the right move by switching Odrick to defensive tackle (“it’s a spot most advantageous to my career”) and starting Olivier Vernon at defensive end.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he was “particularly impressed” with Vernon Sunday. “He did a great job rushing on their best offensive lineman all day long [Joe Thomas] and had constant pressure. It helped other guys get sacks.”

CHATTER

### Dolphins players love what Coyle calls the “speed” package featuring three defensive ends (Cam Wake, Vernon, Dion Jordan) plus linebacker Koa Misi, with all of them able to rush or drop into coverage. Vernon said he could see the confusion “in the eyes” of Cleveland players when Miami unleashed that package on some third downs.

Coyle has so many choices among pass-rush packages that he compares it to going to Baskin Robbins, with their 33 flavors.

###  Lamar Miller received words of encouragement by phone from Frank Gore after Miller’s poor opener Sunday (10 carries, 3 yards). “He said things will work out," Miller said. "I could have run harder. [But] it doesn’t affect my confidence because I know what I’m capable of.” 

### Sherman said Charles Clay’s 64 snaps (in 70 offensive plays) were probably too much. The Dolphins hope to work in more of Dion Sims (15 snaps), if he continues to improve. They believe he has a chance to be a complete tight end, and he's the best blocker of the group. Michael Egnew had 21 snaps.

### A veteran player said rookie offensive lineman Dallas Thomas has struggled in practice and coaches have been hard on him.

### UM denied when Bernie Kosar said the Hurricanes self-imposed punishment by withholding 10 scholarships in the last recruiting class. A UM person said the number ended up being around five.

### UM badly wants to add another elite receiver in the 2014 recruiting class, and Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said Miami is the front-runner –- “Alabama a close second” -- for four-star Johnnie Dixon, rated No. 16 among receivers by rivals.com. UM also is in the mix for North Carolina-based Braxton Berrios, the No. 39 receiver, but isn't terribly optimistic about Palm Beach Cardinal Newman's Travis Rudolph (No. 11). Rudolph is said to like the Gators.

### Internally, one of the biggest disappointments Saturday was the offensive line play -– Seantrel Henderson especially struggled, according to a UM staffer -– despite the high-level talent. Brandon Linder was the best of the group, that UM person said. Mel Kiper said UM has at least three NFL linemen.

### With 13 players under guaranteed contracts and three non-guaranteed (Justin Hamilton, Jarvis Varnado, Eric Griffin), the Heat is auditioning a slew of players this week to try to fill out a training camp roster, including Vander Blue (Marquette), Larry Drew II (UCLA), Je’Kel Foster (Ohio State), Justin Holiday (Washington) and ex-Heat swingman Yakhouba Diawara.

September 09, 2013

Philbin, Sherman address Wallace reaction, other news; Wallace speaks; Ross' news

Joe Philbin had to address two issues he likely wishes he did not need to on Monday -- Mike Wallace’s postgame unhappiness and Randy Starks’ obscene gesture -- while trying to address a more worrisome problem: the lack of a running game and inadequate blocking.

Wallace refused to speak at length after the game, leaving the impression he was upset about being targeted just five times and finishing with one catch for 15 yards. Wallace tried to diffuse the situation Monday, saying he was upset with himself and not coaches.

"I was mad at myself because I didn't have a good game," Wallace said. "It just wasn't a good day for me. Our quarterback made good reads. I was upset with myself. It wasn't really anything else having to do with anything. I'm always happy when we win. But from a personal standpoint, when you don't do well, you're upset. If you're not upset, you don't need to be on the team. I want to be a great player and I want to make plays. That's the only reason I'm here."

But Dolphins sources say he was upset about not getting more opportunities. "Everyone understands his frustration," receiver Brandon Gibson said. "You have to swallow your pride and continue to go about it."

Wallace said he spoke to coach Joe Philbin and "we had a good conversation. It was productive. We're ready to move on. I'm good."

Philbin declined to specifically discuss Wallace’s reaction beyond saying: “I want every player to want to make an impact and want to contribute and make a difference in the game.”

Philbin said there were a couple of additional times “we could have gone to him” but generally didn’t have an issue with Wallace not getting the ball more.

“We don’t have plays where we throw the ball to a certain jersey number just to do it,” Philbin said. “We throw it to the people who are open. Overall, our decision-making was good.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he “could have done a better job” getting Wallace the ball and spoke with Wallace on Monday.

“In no way did that bother me,” Sherman said of Wallace expressing his unhappiness. “Mike wants to feel a part of the game, as I would hope he would. He came here to be a factor in our success. Any great competitor would feel that way. The fact he’s disappointed he only caught one ball -- that’s expected. I have no problem with that. I don’t fault him for that.

“I told him he can communicate that to me anytime he wants – as long as he practices hard tomorrow… with a smile on his face, which he will and be ready to go next week.”

He said Wallace still “played a huge role” because coverage against him created “opportunities for other players.” Wallace said that pleased him: "I'm happy they had a great game," he said of Brian Hartline (9 for 114) and Brandon Gibson (7 for 77).

Sherman added: “We don’t target receivers necessarily. We go through progressions based on coverage.”

Asked if this could continue being an issue, Sherman said, “Mike will make his catches. Mike will make significant contribution to this season. He brings lot of energy to our team and practices. I love having him on the team.”

Wallace said he and Ryan Tannehill "do a really good job in practice getting chemistry going. We just have to keep that going. It will happen."

Meanwhile, CBS cameras caught Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks holding up his middle finger, while looking directly at the Dolphins sideline, after getting a sack Sunday. Two published reports speculated that Starks was giving the finger to the Dolphins' coaching staff because he lost his starting job.

Starks' agent, Tony Paige, said Starks "told me was joking with one of his teammates. It was not intended for the coaches."

Philbin joked the gesture was “probably” intended for “me directly” but then clarified that “I don’t have any reason to believe” that Starks intended that for the coaching staff.

Otherwise, Philbin refused to discuss Starks’ gesture beyond saying: “I am aware of it. It’s important for our players to act the right way on and off the field.”

Asked if he understands Starks’ disappointment about not starting ahead of Jared Odrick, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle responded: “Everyone wants to be the starter, everyone wants to show what he can do…. We’re blessed with three top level starters at the defensive tackle spot. Whoever starts one week may not start the next week.”

On Sunday, Jared Odrick played 58 snaps, Paul Soliai 43 and Starks 37.

“You have to set an atmosphere where the best players are going to play,” Philbin said.

The Wallace and Starks soap operas somewhat overshadowed the far more serious issue: The Dolphins’ inability to run against Cleveland. Miami had 20 yards on 23 carries.

“There’s times we didn’t block as well as we should have,” Philbin said. “Clearly, we have to do a better job. That’s not a good formula to have that much pass offense. We want to have better balance. This is not a good formula.”

He said the offensive line “did some good things, but we’ve got to get better. Our protection wasn’t up to our standards. We have to do a better job of run blocking.”

Sherman called the offensive line “a work in progress. John Jerry was out most of camp. Tyson Clabo is a new addition for us. We have a new left tackle [Jonathan Martin]. I believe in those guys. They work extremely hard. Yesterday wasn’t their best game. They will be much better this week than last week. It’s a good, solid group. They are extremely accountable.”

Philbin and Sherman both said tight end Charles Clay must improve his blocking. He played 62 of 68 snaps, and “that was probably too many for him,” Sherman said, while praising his work as a receiver.        

The blocking from the receivers also wasn’t good enough at times, Philbin said.

And Philbin also put some responsibility on running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, saying they could have broken more tackles and “there was one or two where we thought there was a little more than they got based on a read. But let’s face it, there wasn’t a ton there.”

Miller played 36 snaps and Thomas 32.

If the Dolphins are having success throwing but not running, why not throw every down? “Coach Philbin is of that mindset,” Sherman said. “I don’t know that I’ve quite reached that mindset yet. I like to hand the ball off once in a while just to eat up some clock time and also to say, ‘Hey, we’re still going to run the football.’  Coach Philbin could possibly convince me otherwise.”

Positives offensively Sunday? “Ryan seemed very comfortable,” Sherman said. “Ryan is a born leader. Ryan is not an in your face leader but he takes charge. The players respect him for that. He seemed very poised to me. Just his poise was a noticeable difference than last year.”

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR STEVE ROSS’ TWO SURPRISING ANNOUNCEMENTS TODAY.

Steve Ross makes surprising announcements in news conference for new CEO

We will have lots of on-field Dolphins news later. Here's an update on some off-field issues addressed a short time ago by the team's owner:

In a news conference to announce the hiring of Tom Garfinkel as the team’s new president and CEO, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross disclosed two encouraging pieces of news Monday:

### Ross assured that no Dolphins home game would be blacked out this season, even though that again might require Ross and sponsors to buy thousands of tickets.

### Ross said he’s prepared to improve his offer to help fund renovations for Sun Life Stadium.

Before Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford declined to put the matter up for a House vote in May, Ross pledged team and NFL dollars for about 55 percent of a proposed $350 million renovation, with Miami-Dade and Florida contributing yearly tax dollars to fund debt on the rest.

Miami-Dade commissioners backed raising hotel taxes to 7 percent from 6 percent, and the Florida Senate approved a new subsidy that would contribute $3 million a year to the Dolphins. Once the debt was retired in 30 years, Ross would pay back about $170 million to the county and state, representing their initial share of the construction costs.

"I offered the best deal that’s ever been offered by an owner of a professional sports team,” said Ross, who’s playing in a stadium that was funded privately by deceased former owner Joe Robbie.

“It didn’t succeed for different reasons. Some of those reasons were not in the best interest of this community and were too personal…I was to pay back almost the entire loan [from Miami-Dade County].

“I am prepared to still do that and work with the community. I am prepared to make my offer better.”

Ross suggested that any new offer would not be made in the immediate future. The Florida Legislature must approve an increase in the hotel bed tax before Miami-Dade residents can vote on the issue in a referendum.

And it’s highly questionable if Ross will get support in the Legislative session next spring. Ross launched a super PAC committee that has sent fliers attacking representatives who opposed the stadium plan. But all of those politicians will still be in office next spring.

Ross said the stadium funding issue “is nothing we’re going to foster right now” on Garfinkel. “I’m working on that,” Ross said.

Ross was asked about people who wonder why he donated $200 million to the University of Michigan last week instead of spending that money on a stadium or another investment in South Florida.

“I find that hard to believe that people are saying that when you give a gift to an educational institution you went to,” he said. “To compare that with putting up money for a stadium that benefits all of South Florida… To say I’m taking something away from this community, I find that hard to believe. My commitment to this community is as great as it was. It’s greater.”

He said the Orange Bowl Committee has approached the Dolphins to work with them on bids on future games in the new playoff system. Sun Life Stadium will host a national semifinal game after the 2015 season.

Meanwhile, in guaranteeing that every home game would be televised locally this season, Ross will extend the Dolphins’ regular-season no-blackout streak that dates to 1998. (One playoff game was blacked out since then.)

The Dolphins sold 40,192 season tickets in 2012, and are again in the low 40,000-range this year, with the Sept. 22 home opener against Atlanta still nearly two weeks away. That’s well below the Dolphins’ season-ticket count of 61,121 in 2006.

Asked if there’s a particular area that he would like Garfinkel to improve the organization, Ross made an apparent reference to the attendance. “You can judge by yourself when you go to games,” he said.

Garfinkel, who previously was president of the San Diego Padres and chief operating officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, spoke of the need to lure fans away from the comfort of their living room.

“It’s creating an environment where they don’t want to miss something,” he said. “Everyone in sports has to work harder to make sure the experience trumps staying home.”

The Dolphins considered 75 candidates, interviewed 13 and met with Garfinkel five times before hiring him to replace Mike Dee, who left last month to take the job that Garfinkel most recently had – president and CEO of the Padres.

Ross interviewed Garfinkel before he hired Dee four years ago, but Garfinkel took his name out of consideration at that time.

“We are looking for someone who can think strategically, [someone] exceptionally bright,” Ross said. “We found that man.”

Garfinkel, 44, called it “an honor” to become president of an “iconic franchise.” He told Dolphins staffers on Monday that when he played high school football, “I thought I would be a high school football coach someday, and if I can get a job with an NFL team that would be really special. It took me 22 years.”

Garfinkel will be responsible for all budget responsibilities but will not be involved in player procurement. Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin will continue to oversee all football operations.

“First and foremost, the Dolphins organization needs to be about winning football,” Garfinkel said. “We need to ensure they have the resources to do their job.”

CHECK BACK THROUGHOUT THE DATE FOR ON-FIELD DOLPHINS DEVELOPMENTS.

Herald staff writer Doug Hanks contributed to this report. 

   

September 08, 2013

Starks' version of middle finger incident; Dolphins hire president, CEO

Couple quick Sunday night items, in the wake of the Dolphins' 23-10 win against Cleveland:

### A photographer captured a picture of Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks holding up his middle finger, while looking directly at the Dolphins sideline, after getting a sack Sunday. Two published reports speculated that Starks was giving the finger to the Dolphins' coaching staff because he lost his starting job.

Starks is denying that was the case.

Starks' agent, Tony Paige, said Starks "told me was joking with one of his teammates. It was not intended for the coaches."

What matters, in this case, is what Joe Philbin thinks after speaking with Starks about it. But since nobody can read Starks' mind or be certain of his intent, Philbin faces a difficult call in determining how to handle this.

Even if Philbin is convinced the gesture wasn't intended for coaches, a fine is still very possible,if not probable, because Philbin wants his players to comport themselves properly.

"Touched down safely -- time to get back to work tomorrow," Starks tweeted a couple of hours ago.

### Tom Garfinkel, who has served as a high-level executive for two Major League Baseball teams but has never worked in the NFL, will be the Dolphins’ new president and chief executive officer, several industry sources said Sunday.

An announcement will be made Monday.

Coincidentally, Garfinkel and his Dolphins predecessor, Mike Dee, ended up filling each other’s most recent jobs. Dee left the Dolphins last month to become president and CEO of the San Diego Padres --- the jobs Garfinkel held until he and the Padres new ownership group parted ways July 9.

Garfinkel will oversee the Dolphins’ business operations and figures to be heavily involved in Ross’ continued efforts to procure funding for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. He will be responsible for the organization’s overall budget but will not be involved in player selection.

Coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland will continue to report to owner Stephen Ross. The Dolphins, who considered more than 75 candidates for the CEO job, were impressed by Garfinkel’s intelligence, skills as a negotiator and knowledge of technology, among other things.

Garfinkel served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2006 to 2009 and then accompanied the man who hired him in Arizona, former agent Jeff Moorad, to San Diego, when Moorad signed an agreement to purchase the Padres on a layaway program that ultimately fell apart.

In San Diego, Garfinkel and the Padres ownership group reportedly had philosophical differences, which led to his departure. Before breaking into baseball, he spent five years as executive vice president of Chip Ganassi Racing, a motorsports organization.

He was considered accessible as Padres president and had a regular presence on social media. Among his accomplishments with the Padres: He helped negotiate a 20-year, $1 billion TV contract with Fox; oversaw changes to Petco Park, such as shortening the outfield fences; brought concerts, international soccer and other events to the ballpark; and outfitted Little League teams throughout the country in Padres uniforms.

Padres manager Bud Black called Garfinkel “very visible, very progressive, very creative. He was very visible around the ballpark and very active with the fan base. Tom was always asking what he could do for the club and players. He worked tremendously hard.”

Garfinkel grew up in Walnut Creek, Cal., graduated from Colorado and then attended the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at Michigan, named after the Dolphins owner, who donated $200 million to the university last week.

### The UM football team was ranked 15th in the AP poll released today -- UM's highest spot in the poll since 2010.

### If you haven't read the Sunday buzz, posted late last night, please check the last post. It has lots of Dolphins and a Heat signing.     

September 07, 2013

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

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

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.”

CHATTER

### 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     

Postscripts, thoughts from UM's win against UF; Dolphins give Soliai ultimatum; Heat

Postscripts from UM’s riveting 21-16 win against Florida at Sun Life Stadium:

### A defense that seemingly could never get a big stop against quality teams last season kept making one after another --- a remarkable turnaround for a unit that couldn't have been more maligned in the past year.

No play was bigger that Tyriq McCord’s sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery at the Gators’ six yard line with 5:28 left, which led to Duke Johnson’s touchdown to push the margin to 21-9.

But don’t forget the myriad other big plays. Among them: Denzel Perryman’s huge hit, forcing a Matt Jones fumble on UF’s first possession, which Curtis Porter recovered; Anthony Chickillo snuffing out a two-point conversion; Shayon Green’s terrific stop on Jeff Driskel’s quarterback sneak on a fourth and 1 early in the game; Rayshawn Jenkins’ interception of Driskel deep in UM territory; Tyrone Cornelius knocking away a pass on a third and four; Tracy Howard’s interception deep in UM territory with 6:41 left.

And there were many others. UM had three takeaways in the red zone. And its six takeaways overall are its most since forcing seven at Duke in 2010.

“Great defensive effort – phenomenal,” Al Golden said. “We got physically and mentally tougher. Are we a great program? No. It was a great win. We have a long way to go to be a great program.”

### A UM run defense that was dreadful most of last season allowed only 2.8 yards per carry (44 for 122). Jones finished with 47 yards on 18 carries, Mack Brown 10 for 29.

“I couldn’t be happier for the guys,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “They put in such a long road to get to this point to win a great game against a great team. They had to take some beatings last year and they responded today. The guys made a commitment to get in the weight room, to get bigger.”

### One of the complaints during the Randy Shannon regime was lack of player development. That was fair, to an extent. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see several of these defensive players markedly better than when they arrived: Thurston Armbrister, Tyrone Cornelius, Jimmy Gaines, Olsen Pierre, Luther Robinson, among them. All made an impact Saturday. And you could see why UM coaches trust Gaines, even though so few major schools pursued him coming out of high school

### Beyond the fringe prospects developing, some of UM's blue-chip recruits -– especially Chickillo, Perryman and Howard –-- also were very good Saturday. UM coaches were frustrated with Howard early last season because they didn’t believe he was responsive enough to coaching.

But that changed and Howard beat out Antonio Crawford for a starting job. He read Driskel perfectly on that key late interception today.

### This past offseason’s personnel upgrades also shouldn't be understated. Defensive tackle Justin Renfro and linebacker Alex Figueroa gave UM very good snaps Saturday, and David Gilbert had a near sack.

### The front seven is dramatically better than last year's, even with Eddie Johnson and Gionni Paul being thrown off the team. It's no coincidence that virtually every key returning member of the front seven is bigger and stronger than a year ago.

### D’Onofrio on his linebackers: “That was a group everyone was worried about what’s going to happen. We lost a few guys in the offseason [Johnson, Paul]. Jimmy Gaines told me a few months ago, ‘People are doubting the linebackers. We are going to lead it.’”

### How does Chickillo explain the huge defensive improvement? “Our defense –- we heard it all this offseason and we really started hating people for it," he told WQAM. "We play with a chip on our shoulder all day. We don’t care if people like us. Awesome feeling for the guys. My dad is probably the meanest Gator hater out there.” That would former UM standout Tony Chickillo.

### UM overcame not only a blocked punt, but an absurd 38:12-21:40 disadvantage in time of possession. That has to change.

UF outgained UM, 413-212, and UM mustered only 69 yards after the first quarter. But the two big first-quarter passing plays --- TD receptions by Herb Waters (seven yards) and Phillip Dorsett (52) --- were enough, combined with the exceptional defense and Duke Johnson’s late TD run.

“The defense came through,” said Morris, who closed 12 for 25 for 163 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception and passed Brock Berlin as the 11th-leading passer in UM history. “We settled down. Defensively, they were stopping everything. We have to look at the problems we had and get better. Florida’s defense was unbelievable. They had a lot of great plays on defense.”

### Even though UM’s offense stumbled much of the game, Golden pointed out that offensive coordinator James Coley “showed a lot of poise and patience by not going into panic mode and trusting the defense.”

UM finished just 1 for 11 on third downs, and averaged a meager 1.8 per carry (28 for 49). Johnson closed with 58 yards on 21 carries. UM's yardage total was its lowest since a 2009 game against Virginia Tech.

### UM’s final receiving numbers: Allen Hurns 4 for 61; Dorsett 1 for 52;  Clive Walford 2 for 24; Waters 3 for 14; and Johnson 2 for 12.

### As ESPN noted, the winner of the last five regular season UM-UF games finished in the top five of the final AP poll. UM was essentially 26th in the AP top 25 this week but will assuredly be ranked this week.... The attendance (76,869) was the highest for a Canes game at Sun Life Stadium... Driskel finished 22 for 33 for 291 yards with one TD and the two picks.

### Seantrel Henderson replaced Jon Feliciano as the starter at right tackle, with Feliciano replacing Malcolm Bunche as the starter at left guard. Overall, there were too many offensive line breakdowns against a loaded Gators front seven, led by Dominique Easley. 

HEAT NOTE

Yahoo! reported Saturday that the Heat is considering signing Michael Beasley, whom the team drafted second overall in 2008. Beasley’s contract was terminated by Phoenix last week after he was arrested for marijuana possession.

Yahoo! said several Heat players support re-signing Beasley, and that Beasley wants to return.

### Please see our last post for lots of news today regarding Dolphins' contract negotiations. And check back later for lots of Dolphins, plus Canes, Heat and Marlins in the Sunday buzz.

September 06, 2013

1:30 update: Misi extension; Ultimatum for Soliai; Jordan eager for debut; ESPN analysts on UM-UF; Dolphins, Canes

Saturday noon update: Though nothing has been announced, the Dolphins have given linebacker Koa Misi to a 4-year contract extension, through 2017. Misi would have been an unrestricted free agent after next season.

The Dolphins see Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler as their linebacker troika for years to come. Then again, they also saw Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett as a longterm linebacker tandem before moving on from them sooner than they originally planned.

Misi is the third potential 2014 free agent to receive an extension in the past month, joining safety Reshad Jones and long snapper John Denney.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins also have offered extensions to 2014 free agents Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. It's not likely that Miami would keep both. More likely, Miami would keep only the first one who accepts. Neither has accepted.

A deal with Soliai was close, but negotiations ended recently when the Dolphins gave his agent, David Canter, an ultimatum and refused to negotiate further.

"Don't do deals when people give lowball offers and ultimatums," Canter tweeted.

As Armando Salguero and I heard, the Dolphins offered him no guaranteed money in years 2 and 3 of the deal.

Besides Soliai and Starks, the Dolphins' other key 2014 free agents include Brent Grimes (likely will get an offer if he plays as well as Miami expects, Richie Incognito, Randy Starks and Chris Clemons.

Misi played 49 percent of the Dolphins' downs last season, and Pro Football Focus rated him 10th among 43 outside linebackers who play a 4-3. Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle have repeatedly raved about him in the past year.

############################################################################################### 

Dolphins and Canes-Gators quick hits heading into a glorious football weekend:

### Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan wore a big smile on his face Friday --- not only because he’s two days from his first regular-season NFL game, but also because he’s finally healthy after a troublesome shoulder sidelined him for several weeks.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “It’s been kind of tough” dealing the shoulder – including labrum surgery in February and re-injuring it in the second preseason game. “But I understood coming out that me being patient was something I needed to work on. I feel like it’s tested me. I’ve been up to the test.”

Besides responsibilities on special teams, Jordan is expected to play in obvious passing situations (particularly third downs) – the Dolphins envision playing Cam Wake, Jordan and Olivier Vernon together at times. He said he isn’t bothered in the least that he won’t be a starter, at least initially and quite possible at all this season.

“Whatever they need me to do, I will do,” he said. “I’m really excited. Closer you get to game day, you get more anxious.”

Teammates love the young man. “He’s been nothing but a pleasure to work with,” Wake said. “He’s humble and he listens.”

### Though the Dolphins kept only four receivers on their 53-man roster, return specialist Marcus Thipgen – who can play running back and receiver – said he received no snaps at receiver in practice this week. Thigpen, 5-9, said he could play slot receiver but has never received any work at any other receiver position in his year-plus with the Dolphins.

Baltimore was left with only three healthy receivers during the second half of Thursday’s opener – a difficult predicament the Dolphins would face if any of their top four are injured. (Receivers Marvin McNutt and Brian Tyms are on the practice squad.)

### When the Dolphins released cornerback Julian Posey, who spent the entire offseason and preseason with them, it wasn’t shocking that Cleveland – Miami’s Week 1 opponent – added him to their practice squad.

Posey is in position to give the Browns a lot of information about the Dolphins’ playbook, but Joe Philbin said Friday he’s not the least bit concerned.

Will that make the Dolphins do anything differently? “Not necessarily,” Philbin said. “I don’t think that’s going to decide the outcome of the game. We are going to run our stuff. We have 1000 plays from last year on each side of the ball. It’s not about trickery. They are going to know some things we do. Good teams have tendencies.”... Please see my story on the sports home page for a look at the Dolphins' injury report and a story on Dimitri Patterson.

### While there’s no question who will be getting the vast majority of carries for UM on Saturday, that’s in doubt for the Gators. Matt Jones, who missed August practices and the opener with a viral infection, will start at running back for UF, but Mack Brown (who ran for 112 yards last week against Toledo) will play early, Gators coach Will Muschamp said.

“Whoever the hot hand is, we’ll ride,” Muschamp said.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said the “strength and quickness” of the Gator backs “will be very tough” for UM to handle. Herbstreit didn't pick a winner but expects a low-scoring game.

Muschamp, by the way, said Duke Johnson “is very similar to [ex-Gator] Chris Rainey, but a bigger version of that. We recruited him here.”

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay expressed surprise that the Gators are a two-to-three point favorite, depending on the oddsmaker. “Miami comes out victorious,” Kiper predicted. “The Hurricanes program --- the arrow is going up.”... ESPN's Mark May, considered a Canes-hater by some, also picked UM to win Saturday.

### The Gators were allotted 12,500 tickets --- with 1000 in the lower level and club level, which UM says is more than FSU and Ohio State received for past games at Sun Life. That number was negotiated, by the way.

The Gators wrote a letter to ticket holders saying this: "As you can imagine, interest and anticipation in our first visit to Miami in quite some time has helped us sell out our very generous allotment of 12,500 tickets. We are writing to alert you, however, that most of the tickets we received will be situated in the upper level 400 sections, and many are in the mid-to-upper rows of those sections.

“Only roughly seven percent of our allotment will be situated in the lower or club levels. This is not out of the norm, and is consistent with what the University of Miami provides all of its visiting ACC opponents."

#### Please see the last post, if you haven't already, for an explanation of why ESPN rejected UM's request for a night game Saturday.

### One quick UM hoops note: This won’t only be a big recruiting weekend for UM football, but also for basketball, which welcomes two recruits already orally committed to UM (guards James Palmer and Ja’Quan Newton) and three undecided players that UM has offered: 6-8 four-star Bronx small forward Terry Larrier (rated 59th by ESPN/also considering Kansas State, Wichita State and Indiana, among others);  6-10 Northwest Florida State College power forward Stephen Hurt (Kansas State and Wichita State among others in the mix) and four-star Chicago small forward Paul White (rated 54th by rivals.com; Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown also in the mix).

San Antonio-based 6-10 center Ben Lammers, pursued by Georgia Tech and others, has said he’s visiting UM next weekend.

September 05, 2013

Media column: Inside ESPN's decision to reject UM's request; Local radio, Dolphins

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

For years, television has controlled kickoff times for most college football games, and universities usually accept those decisions without public comment. That’s why it was unusual, but justified, when UM’s athletic department expressed disappointment with ESPN this summer for scheduling Saturday’s UM-UF game at noon, instead of prime time. (UM had requested a night game.)

Even ESPN’s Todd McShay said on-air this week: “Strange kickoff time for such a big game!”

So why didn’t ESPN schedule UM-UF under the lights? Ilan Ben-Hanan, the master college football scheduler for ABC and ESPN, explained his rationale:

### ABC and ESPN each carry competing prime-time games except two Saturdays when ABC has a NASCAR race. Regrettably, one of those Saturdays is this one. And ESPN committed last year to airing Notre Dame-Michigan at 8 p.m. Saturday.

### So why not air UM-UF on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. instead of Texas-BYU? Ben-Hanan said it wasn’t realistic to schedule Texas-BYU at noon on ESPN, instead of UM-UF, because that would have been a 10 a.m. start in Provo, Utah.

### So why not schedule UM-UF at 7 p.m. on ESPN2, and Texas-BYU at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN2? Ben-Hanan says they didn’t want to start a game in Provo later that 8:15 p.m. Mountain time, and doing that would have left ESPN without an appealing game at noon. ESPN networks typically allot 3 ½ hours for each game.

### ESPN is airing a tripleheader Saturday: UM-UF at noon, Georgia-South Carolina at 4:30 p.m. and Notre Dame-Michigan at night. Why not flip-flop the UM and Georgia start times so UM at least could play in the late afternoon?

Ben-Hanan said this is a rare Saturday when CBS does not have an SEC game at 3:30, and “we wanted an SEC conference game in that slot.”

### So why not schedule UM-UF at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC? Instead, ABC will air two less attractive games that will get full national exposure between ABC and ESPN2 --- Oregon-Virginia and Ohio State-San Diego State. (Viewers who receive the Oregon game on ABC will get the Ohio State game on ESPN2, and vice versa.)

Ben-Hanan said ABC always airs a game involving a Big 10 team in that 3:30 slot. And he said airing the Oregon game at noon on ESPN, and UM-UF at 3:30 on ABC, would have been unfair to Oregon players because even though the game is in Virginia, “that would have been a 9 a.m. start for them.”

Ben-Hanan said UM and UF fans should not feel offended because “a noon start isn’t inferior or diminished. Oklahoma-Texas and Ohio State-Michigan go at noon.”

But those games usually are assigned No. 1 or No. 2 announcing teams – not the case with UM/UF Saturday, when Dave Pasch and Brian Griese handle the call.

Ben-Hanan said the ACC “let us know” that a noon kickoff for UM-UF “was not their preference…. We do our best. It’s a challenge. It’s rare to get a tripleheader like ESPN has [Saturday], three games with such national appeal.”

AROUND THE DIAL

### Dan Le Batard assures us that when his local radio show begins airing nationally on ESPN Radio on Oct. 1, neither the content nor the on-air talent will change. ESPN (as well as The Ticket, locally) will carry the final three hours of the show, from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

Le Batard, who also hosts an ESPN TV show, and radio co-host Jon Weiner will work the 3 to 4 p.m. hour only on 790-AM and 104.3-FM The Ticket.

### WQAM-560’s choice of Channing Crowder and Brandon Guzio to host its 3 to 7 p.m. talk show – replacing ESPN-bound Jorge Sedano – means that three of the market’s four late-afternoon talk shows will have a heavy Dolphins component: that program, Orlando Alzugaray’s on WMEN-640, and the Finsiders on WINZ-940 at 5 p.m., the first hour of which will be simulcast on Fox Sports Florida beginning Monday. Le Batard’s show, the market’s highest-rated, always has discussed the Heat more than the Dolphins.

### Sedano’s new ESPN Radio show with Mark Shlereth will air 7 to 10 p.m. weeknights beginning Monday but won’t be carried by a Dade or Broward station. But ESPN 106.3 in West Palm Beach likely will air it a couple of nights a week, Sedano said. And the program is also available on satellite radio and mobile apps.

Sedano’s ESPN gig also will include TV appearances on First Take, SportsCenter, Sports Reporters and The Numbers Never Lie.

So ESPN Radio essentially has plucked two South Florida hosts (Le Batard and Sedano) for six consecutive hours of weekday programming.   

### Recommended viewing for all longtime Dolphins fans: NFL Films’ 60-minute documentary on Don Shula, airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday on NFL Network. Don Shula: A Football Life offers a powerful and richly detailed portrait of the legendary coach through interviews with players (Irving Fryar, Nick Buoniconti and Larry Csonka were particularly insightful), journalists, family members and others; audio of Shula barking on the sidelines and at practice; and reflections from a relaxed, engaged Shula.

Shula shares anecdotes many fans haven’t heard, including how he told the elevator operator at the team hotel to get players’ autographs on a ball late at night so Shula could determine what players were missing curfew.

Csonka noted how he unintentionally stumbled upon a copy of the Raiders’ game plan the day before they played Miami and gave it to Dolphins assistant coach Monte Clark, but Shula told Clark to throw it away because “Shula won’t cheat. He’s got integrity.” (The Dolphins lost that game.)

### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is a good and decent man, but his secretive style with the media can be puzzling at times.

Among many examples: In a profile on Richie Incognito, NFL.com's Jeff Darlington noted how Philbin began a meeting with his players by showing tape of Houston’s Antonio Smith swinging a helmet at Incognito during their preseason game and praising Incognito for not retaliating.

But when Philbin was asked by reporters if Incognito handled the situation the right way, Philbin responded: “That’s not for me to judge.” So why wouldn’t Philbin credit his player publicly? What does withholding public praise accomplish?

Philbin's secretive nature goes well beyond his refusal to publicly acknowledge or discuss any player who doesn't practice on a particular day.

Philbin wouldn't reveal his backup center this week because he suggested it would put the team at a competitive disadvantage. OK then. Nor would he say with whom he consults before deciding whether to throw a challenge flag. Nobody likes to hear the media -- the conduit for the fans -- complain, and this part of the weekly media column is certainly not intended as such.

(Dolphins writers have enough to write about regardless of what Philbin says or does not say.)

It's more of a statement of the paranoia in sports today --- with Philbin displaying more of that than many coaches. But it's odd coming from an organization where the owner (Stephen Ross) has insisted the team must be more transparent, a philosophy not shared by his coach.     

September 04, 2013

Wednesday night notes: Duke Johnson, Canes, Dolphins, Heat

Some Canes, Dolphins and Heat tidbits:

### For all of his glorious achievements as a freshman, Duke Johnson has told people that there’s at least one area where he wants to make a big jump this season: performance in big games.

He wasn’t pleased how he fared against the toughest competition last year. He’s determined to change that, and you can be sure that is on Johnson’s mind as he enters Saturday’s showdown against Florida.

Consider Johnson’s rushing numbers in the games against arguably the four best teams on Miami’s schedule last season:

Kansas State: six rushes, 19 yards, 3.2 average

Notre Dame: eight rushes, 22 yards, 2.8 average

North Carolina: 14 rushes, 47 yards, 3.4 average

FSU: nine rushes, 27 yards, 3.0 average

Johnson didn’t get enough carries in the K-State and Notre Dame games, largely because the Hurricanes fell behind big and had to throw the ball more than they would have liked.

In those four games, Johnson averaged 3.1 per carry. In the eight other games, he averaged 8.2.

Johnson had the most rushing yards of any FBS player in Week 1 (186 yards, on 19 carries, equal to a 9.8 average).

The matchup of Johnson against UF’s run defense should be one of the delicious subplots of this game.

ESPN’s Stats and Information unearthed this interesting factoid: Johnson has six rushes of 50-plus yards in 13 career games, including a 53-yarder last week. (That’s the most in major college football since the start of 2012.)

Conversely, UF has allowed only two rushes of 50-plus yards in the last 10 years -– three fewer than any other FBS school.

The last 50-yard rush on a single play against the Gators came courtesy of Furman in 2011. The Gators allowed 95 yards rushing per game last season (fourth in FBS) and have permitted only one rusher to reach the 100-yard mark in the past 16 games (Georgia’s Todd Gurley).

### UM’s Al Golden said today he expects receiver Rashawn Scott to miss a month with a shoulder injury. “In the larger scheme of things, it’s pretty fortunate that it’s not going to be anything that requires surgery," he said.

UM’s top four receivers for Saturday's game figure to be Allen Hurns, Philip Dorsett, Herb Waters and Stacy Coley, unless Malcolm Lewis surpasses Coley. Though Lewis is able to play, he understandably isn’t completely back to the form he showed before last season’s horrific ankle injury. UM said this week that Lewis is still regaining confidence in the ankle.

UM’s sixth and seventh receivers, if needed Saturday, will be D’Mauri Jones and Garrett Kidd. Jontavious Carter would have been in position to get some snaps this month if he hadn’t been bounced from the team a couple weeks ago for multiple violations of rules.

### In a conference call with Cleveland reporters in advance of Sunday’s game, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin listed three things “I’m looking for from Ryan Tannehill this year. Number one: improved decision making. Number two: better ball accuracy. And Number three, playmaking abilities at critical times in a game. Beyond that, I’m not concerned about how other people compare him to Andrew Luck, RGIII or anybody else. I am concerned about how well he plays for the Miami Dolphins.”

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of Tannehill: “You can really see the growth and progress from last year.”

And receiver Brian Hartline told Cleveland media: “It’s not like he’s going off the charts in a particular category. He’s just solidly getting better every single day…. He’s definitely more vocal."

### Asked by Cleveland reporters about how big a loss Dustin Keller was, Philbin said: “Dustin is a good pro, an excellent guy in the locker-room, certainly a skilled player. But we have a good group of tight ends, and I think we’ll be fine there.” 

### Hartline told Cleveland media that besides having a “rare skill set,” Mike Wallace “is a guy that’s really intellectual when it comes to football, probably doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for it.”

### Two players familiar to South Florida sports fans will essentially be “co-starters” at one receiver spot for Cleveland this weekend: Former Dolphin Davone Bess and former Hurricane Travis Benjamin.

### CBS will air Dolphins-Browns in 9 percent of the country (much of Florida and Ohio; Mobile and Dothan, Alabama and Waco and Bryan, Texas), with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots announcing. For those not getting the game in their local area, keep in mind that DirecTV will make Sunday Ticket available for free to all subscribers this weekend.

### Though one Internet report today listed the Heat among teams interested in journeyman center Hassan Whiteside, his agent said tonight that the Heat has shown no interest this offseason in Whiteside, who auditioned for the Heat last summer before Miami opted for Josh Harrelson instead. Former LSU center Justin Hamilton, the Heat’s 2012 second-round pick, continues to work out with the Heat.