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Disturbing trend that should concern Dolphins; Fins, Heat, UM, Marlins notes; UM-Wake postscripts

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Whenever the Dolphins face New England, we’re always reminded how Bill Belichick can take players that the Dolphins deemed expendable –-- specifically Wes Welker (now with Denver) and Rob Ninkovich (19.5 sacks over the past three-plus seasons) – and turn them into key starters.

This raises a larger disconcerting issue: Of the veterans that joined the Dolphins from other NFL teams in recent years – via trade or free agency – several have become less productive after coming here.

Conversely, several key veterans who recently bolted Miami have become more productive elsewhere.

What does this say about the Dolphins? In many ways, it’s a reflection of coaching, of personnel evaluation, of the player’s maturity, of the quality of players around them, among other factors.

A few points to consider:

### It’s notable that many of the veterans that moved on from Miami during Jeff Ireland's tenure --– though some of the early decisions were made by Bill Parcells –-- have performed clearly better elsewhere, from Brandon Marshall (averaged 83 catches in two years here; 106 in four other recent years with the Broncos and Bears); to Ninkovich (a backup and special teams player here); to Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis (cut by Miami and now rated the NFL’s No. 1 guard by Pro Football Focus), to Reggie Bush (averaging 121 yards per game with Detroit, compared with 79.8 last season in Miami).

Cornerback Sean Smith, rated the 74th best cornerback last season with Miami, is 12th with the Chiefs, and the quarterback rating in his coverage area has dropped from 85.1 to 58.2.

Vontae Davis, traded for a second-rounder that Miami used on cornerback Jamar Taylor, has risen to fourth among all cornerbacks and drew praise for his work last Sunday against Denver’s high-octane offense. He was 37th in 2011, his last season in Miami.

Jake Long, ranked 46th among all tackles last season, has jumped to 12th in his first season with St. Louis.

In Marshall’s case, it obviously helped having a better quarterback (Jay Cutler over Chad Henne). But questionable coaching and evaluation also have been  factors. The Dolphins mistakenly didn’t believe Mathis was worth developing and didn’t see the pass-rushing upside in Ninkovich that Belichick did.

This coaching staff couldn’t maximize Bush’s unique gifts in the open field. And the Chiefs are allowing Smith to play press/man coverage, which he preferred and thrives in. The Dolphins used him a lot in off-zone and off-man, which everyone knew wasn’t his strength. No wonder he's playing a lot better in Kansas City.

In fairness, a few players –-- Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo and Ronnie Brown –-- put up lesser numbers after leaving Miami, but that’s largely because they went from being starters to backups.

### Also worrisome: Though the sample size is still limited with this season’s additions, several veterans have become less productive after signing here.

Mike Wallace is on pace for fewer than three touchdowns; he averaged eight his previous four seasons. Dannell Ellerbe, ranked 14th among all inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus as a Raven in 2012, has dropped to 32nd here. Phillip Wheeler has plunged from sixth to 19th among outside linebackers since leaving Oakland for the Dolphins.

Tackle Tyson Clabo went from allowing five sacks all of last season for Atlanta to eight in six games with Miami, a pace that would easily shatter the NFL record. (He won't get the chance because he's headed to the bench.) And the list goes on, from Richard Marshall to Brandon Marshall to nearly the entire eight-man 2012 free agent class that signed and was cut months later.

There are myriad factors: injury (in Lance Louis’ case), to diminishing skills (Clabo) to an overestimation of players skills when they’re signed (Legedu Naanee, many others).

Two very recent former NFL general managers who asked not to be named said they were dumbfounded by the Dolphins giving a $27 million contract to Wheeler, who’s allowing a 121 quarterback rating in his coverage area and missed a key third-down tackle on Buffalo’s final possession before its winning field goal last Sunday.

Coaching assuredly also plays a part, including how Wallace is being used.

Conversely, what veterans acquired by Miami in the past four years have become clearly more productive after coming here? Not many: Richie Incognito (thanks largely to his improved maturity), Matt Moore and Brandon Gibson, who's on pace for 858 receiving yards, which would top his career high of 691.

So what conclusions should we draw from all this? Former Falcons, Packers and Raiders executive Ken Herock said coaching is a factor in some of this (as in Smith’s case) and noted “most GMs listen to the coach, and with a new coach, there’s always something you don’t like about a certain player.”

For example, Joe Philbin was troubled by Davis’ immaturity, which was obvious on HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2012. Philbin was excessively irked about Davis needing to go to the bathroom once during practice in August 2012 and endorsed trading him when Ireland presented the idea to the coach.

The Colts view him far differently. "Since he walked in this door, I've seen this guy every day get better and take on a leadership role," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said last week. "He's got that mental makeup you need to play out there on an island."

So Philbin probably was too hasty in judging Davis.

“Davis is still a good starting corner and those are tough to find,” Herock said. “You don’t let him go. He's better than what they have. And I would rather have Kevin Burnett than Philip Wheeler for $27 million. Reggie Bush is better than what they have.”

Bottom line: When many of your key players play better after they leave, it raises questions not only about player evaluation but whether the coaching staff can maximize their talents.

CHATTER

### Jonathan Martin hasn't complained at all about moving back to right tackle, the upshot of Miami’s trade for Bryant McKinnie. But he admitted recently he was uncomfortable playing on the right side at times in 2012, and he gave up the most quarterback hurries of any right tackle last season (47) – even more than turnstile Marc Colombo’s league-leading 40 for the Dolphins in 2011.

Martin said at times this season, “I look at film and say: ‘I’m not sure who that guy is.’” He expects more of himself…. Though McKinnie has allowed only one sack, he’s rated the worst run-blocking left tackle in the league, per PFF.

The one right tackle Miami coveted in free agency was Gosder Cherilus but the Dolphins wouldn’t match the five-year, $34.5 million deal he took from the Colts. Cherilus has allowed one sack.

### Cameron Wake, off a knee injury, wasn’t himself in 22 snaps last Sunday, and the Dolphins hope that changes against New England. Though teammates said Wake looked better this week, he said Friday: “I’m not pleased. When you do what I do, this injury is quite a bit more [impactful] than other positions.”

### One encouraging sign with the Heat’s Michael Beasley: He was often a ball-stopper during his first stint here --– partly because the Heat isolated him a lot --- but Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem said that’s changing. “It’s not sticking,” Haslem said.

Beasley cracked: “I only play 10 minutes a game. I don’t have time to hold the ball! The more the ball sticks, the less chance for our shooters to get it quickly.”

We all know, as Ray Allen said, that Beasley “can create his own shot.” But Allen said: “If he can create shots for others, if he added that, it would be lights out. If Beasley and Greg Oden get to the point where they’re playing at the high level they’re capable of, it will be a scary roster.”

### Plantation American Heritage's Sony Michel, rated the nation's No. 2 running back by rivals.com, attended the UM game Saturday and continues to be heavily recruited by Miami. But Michel told rivals.com last week that he remains "100 percent" committed to Georgia... Elite football/basketball recruit Derrick Griffin tweeted that he will enroll at UM Jan. 2, but the Hurricanes don't have official word yet that he has qualified. They remain hopeful. He could practice with the basketball team this season but cannot play this season because of NCAA rules, UM says.

### Two rookie Hurricanes basketball players cut in the past two days: forward Kenny Kadji by Cleveland and forward Trey McKinney-Jones by Milwaukee.... Please see the last post for UM-Wake Forest postscripts and reaction.

### The Marlins quietly gave three-year extensions, through 2018, to their recently promoted top two baseball executives: Michael Hill and Dan Jennings… The Marlins tell us that they have decided not to bring in the fences at Marlins Park, despite the wishes of Giancarlo Stanton, who said in September that the park is too big and “everyone” knows it. Pitchers disagree, of course.  

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

Comments

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PanamaBob

Barry Jackson's "disturbing trend" piece is insightful and fact-based on a matter of interest and concern to readers-fans, without being rancorous or lazy writing. Excellent criteria should The Herald one day get around to upgrading its sports staff. #

OneEyedJack

Confirmation of what we all suspected...this franchise is rotten to the core...stench starts with Ross and ends with least assistant coach. Players come and go and never given opportunity to excel. Florida is the Axis of NFL Crap...Tampa, Jax and Miami.

A Realist

It's saddening to read the peace about the Dolphins. It doesn't matter who they bring in to coach. It seems they are always a day late and a dollar short. Hopefully the glory days will return out if nowhere, similar to what happened to the Red Sox in baseball. Philbin is an uptight bible hugger of sorts not cut out to lead men. He kind if reminds me of Schiano. He's just not likeable and that is important when you are a leader.

Eddie

Hard to have confidence in front office or coaching staff. I see 10 more years of 7-9.

Jonny

Barry Jackson's original and timely piece is borderline amazing both in its revelations and manner of presentation. Although it deals with the rather mundane topic of (non-drug related) athletic performance, its investigative nature shows through clearly.

For negative comparative purposes. read Linda Robertson's crotchety four days late "opinion" piece dealing with the "broken" NCAA, where Googling other sports writers stories is the sole source of the one-sided "opinion", and even the word "broken" is borrowed, and the word "opinion" is a synonym for "effortless".

Dom

GO get em beas.

TRW

Ireland, Philbin - what difference does it make now? Wait, that has been said before by the lying hillary, but is relative now to the Dolphins. They are in their usual state of decline, and until they get a legitimate gm and competent coaching staff, things will not improve.

IMAWriter

Posted by: Jonny | 10/27/2013 at 10:05 AM
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Jpnny, great posting. Totally agree on both counts.
Barry, "Disturbing trends" is brilliant, timely, and for me ultimately depressing.
You backed up your opinion with cold hard facts. For me, the Evan Mathis situation speaks volumes regarding the last 6-7 years of horrible player evaluation. What's also problematic is Philbin's tight aszed persona. He's not yet, nor may never be a Bobby Knight, or Belicheat, both "my way or the highway" coaches, who back it up with great coaching skills.
The Fins locker room must be a real barrel of laughs.

IMAWriter

Posted by: PanamaBob | 10/27/2013 at 02:33 AM

xxxxxxx
A deserved +1 for you as well.

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Amazing that Barry Jackson can write such seemingly negative things about the Dolphins and not come under the wrath of the internet homers.

Just a testament to great reporting, everything he's saying is backed up by facts and no matter how big a Dolphins homer you may be there's no denying anymore that Jeff Ireland is unsubjectively awful at managing generally.

Jonny

Note to Lois, IMA and Bob: I have thought for a long time that many of the comments are more insightful and better written than the lead article. Perhaps the Herald should consider eliminating one or two by-line writers and replace them with blog space sans lead article. (..might help to reverse the readership decline...). Herald might also save money by sending a few cents per word to blogger's Paypal accounts, instead of supporting mediocrity with a paycheck (thereby contributing to its own demise)... (lol).

AnonymousCane

Spot on Jonny, especially about the piece by Robertson.

Barry is the best they have with Navarro and Blue not far behind. JMO

Really good stuff Barry!

NJ Alex

Great article. Hard to accept. But football is a team sport. Vontae Davis is better now, but we beat his team in his house. Tyson Clabo blows, but we beat his former team. Mathis is great, but the Eagles are horrible.

It's about turnovers. We win last week and this week if we limit turnovers. We'd be in 1st place.

Bullsh*t officiating never helps either.

Sigh

Very, very good article by Barry. Fair and insightful. Tough on Ireland and Philbin, but not hostile in any way. Good writing and good reporting. Nice Job!!

steven

Barry Jackson is right on, and it's time for a shake up... It starts at the top and Ireland down right SUCKS!!!! The article states it he lets productive players go and brings in less productive players... He lets Long walk (that's ok) but he never replaced him with a true LT.. Bye Bye Reggie Bush and who's there to replace him? Miller & Thomas, 2 guys that barely touched the ball last year.. He signs Wallace to a huge contract but if Tannehill doesn't have time to throw to him he's not worth the Huge contract...

Philbin and the offensive coaches Suck and except for Sherman non of the positional coaches on the offensive have real coaching experience in the NFL....

Philbin couldn't light a fire with this team using a blow torch....

We have some talent on this team but they don't know how to win, unlike the Hurricanes... Coach Golden has that team believing...

gocanes1

TRW: your post also describes the present Admin. in the WH.

Rudester

Just read this article and Barry has knocked it out of the park. Again! Wow, the facts presented are a clear indictment of the Dolphins organization. Even when they draft good players or good free agents they can't develop them.

Neil's Ghost

Not a word on how clueless Ms. Ross is. Or FIRELAND's acorns. Or Philbin's lifeless leadership. The DAAAFINS are a joke organization.

Ryan Keough

I've been saying this about Miami franchises since 2006, and all of a sudden someone knocked it out of the park? It's a culture we have in South Florida. We do not make venues sports towns. No bars are located anywhere near stadiums -- the only sporting venue that can say that is AAA with Bayside.

We do not breed sporting cultures for fans to become frenzied like they do in Boston/STL. The Marlins are one of five/six most successful MLB franchises over the last 20 years (with a brand new stadium) -- yet none of these opportunities are being capitalized on. Instead, the greatest hitter of our generation, Miggy Cabrera, was traded for a lefty-bearded long reliever and a center fielder who can't hit above .240.

Miami's front office hirings over the years have been inept. Bill Parcells showed, during his stint with the Dolphins, that the game had simply passed him by. Now replaced by Jeff Ireland -- all one can do is question his draft picks each and every year.

Shae Vertroist

An entire house cleaning is necessary. Up to and including that jackass owner. This organization has had a losing attitude since Shula was blown out. Fresh employees. Every last one. Obama will take care of them.

Austin

You deserve a raise or a promotion Barry; Nobody does it better.

Jonny

We had the chance, but missed the opportunity to suckforluck. No matter, now we can tank for Ted, or shame us for Jameis.

Personally, I would take Jameis now. If we don't, someone else will.

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