Wednesday update: The Dolphins are bringing back linebacker Austin Spitler to fill one of two roster openings created yesterday when Kelcie McCray and Tyler Clutts were cut.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
If there’s one thing we thought we could count on in the Dolphins offense, it was the presence of a better deep passing game. So it’s surprising that Miami is actually on pace to complete far fewer deep balls this season (12) than last year (20), when the Dolphins offense was often punchless.
And though Ryan Tannehill’s overall growth (the Saints game aside) is encouraging, the deep ball metrics –- and Mike Wallace’s degree of involvement –- are somewhat unsettling. Consider:
### On balls thrown 20 yards or more in the air, Tannehill has completed only three of nine such passes, for 86 yards. Only Kansas City has thrown fewer deep balls than Miami, and only the Chiefs, Jaguars and Lions have completed fewer. That’s disappointing for an offense whose most dangerous weapon is a receiver with elite speed.
By comparison, Philip Rivers has completed 8 of 17 deep balls (for 269), Aaron Rodgers 9 of 16 (305), Peyton Manning 7 of 14 (220) and even Geno Smith 12 of 21 (433), among many others. For his career, Tannehill has completed 23 of 60 such deep balls, which is mediocre.
### Wallace caught an NFL-high 14 passes thrown 20 yards or more in 2010, nine in 2011 and six in 2012. His 2012 numbers were impacted by Todd Haley taking over as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.
This season? He has only one such catch (for 34 yards), in seven throws, including one dropped pass. (He has three drops overall.) No wonder his yards per reception has dipped to 11.7, well below his 16.9 career average and just 61st in the league.
Asked Tuesday if wants more deep balls, Wallace said, “Yeah” before the Dolphins intervened and said he had talked enough today.
Asked if the Dolphins need to throw deep more to Wallace, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said that’s “easy to say [but] coverage dictates a lot of that. We’re getting more two safety-looks to take away deeper looks. We called 12 deep balls [Monday]. They didn’t go there because coverage didn’t allow it to go there. You can’t force things when they’re not there.”
### Pro Football Focus ranks Wallace 101 of 103 receivers, and his 176 receiving yards through four games ranks 53rd in the league, behind Davone Bess, four rookies and two Steelers (Jerrico Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders), among many others. For Wallace, it’s his worst four-game yardage total to start a season, and the third-worst total of any four-game stretch in his career.
### Tannehill has completed 15 of the 28 passes thrown to Wallace, and that 53.6 percent completion rate is 79th in the league and by far the worst of any Dolphins offensive player. Of course, Wallace gets thrown more deep balls than others, which skews the numbers downward. But Charles Clay is at 80 percent, Brandon Gibson 71.4 and Brian Hartline 70.
Asked if it could take a year to develop chemistry with Tannehill, Wallace said Tuesday: “We don’t have a year to wait. It’s a big season for us. You never know. It could take one day or it could take a year. We need it now. We have to connect on plays. I think we’re on the same page for the most part.”
Sherman said the progression in the Tannehill/Wallace relationship "is about where I thought it would be. I want him to catch a lot of balls. Even when he's not catching balls, he's creating opportunities for others."
Can the Dolphins offense still thrive without many deep balls to Wallace? Yes, if everything else is done with precision. But the Dolphins expected a quick-strike element, and Wallace and everyone around this team hope that comes sooner rather than later.
### Even with Cameron Wake out, No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan logged only 23 snaps Monday (he had one quarterback hurry), compared with Olivier Vernon’s 71 (he graded out well) and Derrick Shelby’s 51. Coaches are simply more comfortable using Vernon and Shelby against the run.... Wake and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are hopeful about his chances of playing Sunday.
As for second-round rookie Jamar Taylor, he made his debut with 29 snaps but allowed all three passes thrown against him to be caught, for 60 yards. Coyle said coaches opted for Taylor over third-round rookie Will Davis (who showed ball-hawking skills in preseason) because Taylor had a better week of practice and can play more positions (both the slot and on the outside).
### Please see the last two posts for highlights of what Coyle, Sherman and Joe Philbin said today, and how the Dolphins reacted to insults spewed by Saints linebacker Junior Gallette.
### Though Greg Oden says he believes he’s ready to play short minutes in a game, he participated in only half of practice Tuesday (mostly non-contact) and Shane Battier said: “He’s got a ways to go, a ways to go. It’s going to take a lot of work by him, a lot of patience. We’ll integrate him quickly when he’s ready, but he’s a ways away.”
How so? “Just playing at an NBA level,” Battier said. That's why Erik Spoelstra left open the possibility that it could be two or three months before he plays in a game, while insisting there's no timetable.
Rashard Lewis said Oden played in his first pickup game in 3 1/2 years last week, but he was only allowed to play in one of five games held that day. Lewis said Oden ran the court well considering his long layoff.
On the positive side, “he was dunking everything” in the pickup game last week, Heat guard Roger Mason Jr. said. Lewis concurred, saying Oden was very strong in the basket area.
And Udonis Haslem said: “The skill level is there. The left-handed touch, the right-handed touch. Dunking. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen see.”
### Haslem said Kevin Durant saying publicly that James Harden should replace Dwyane Wade in Sports Illustrated's list of the top 10 NBA players was “shocking. I took it personal. It makes me mad. That’s why they call me ‘Angry Black Man.’
"Dwyane doesn’t get mad about that. He gets motivated. People have to learn to stop motivating this guy. You would think after 11 years, they would figure that out.”
### Mason said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called him last week, trying to talk him out of signing with Miami by telling him the Bulls soon would offer him a guaranteed deal. Oklahoma City told him the same.
“It was a leap of faith to take a non-guaranteed one-year deal here,” he said. “But they can use another outside shooting threat here, with Mike Miller leaving, and I have a lot of confidence in my ability.”
Spoelstra said: “His skill set is a fit for how we play, the way he shoots the ball. We tried getting him five years ago.”
### UM’s Al Golden smiled Tuesday when reminded of Jimmy Johnson’s philosophy to treat every player differently. Though he disciplined Duke Johnson for his two goal-line fumbles by not allowing him to wear a first-team jersey Tuesday, it would seem highly unlikely for playing time to be affected and it should not be.
Here's how Golden approaches disciplining a star, in Johnson's case: “It was a careless mistake. For anyone to do that, there has to be consequences,” Golden said. “You cannot freelance when we clearly tell them what the parameters are in terms of goal-line running. It’s easy to sit in those chairs as his teammate and say, ‘He’s treating Duke differently.’
But “there’s a lot of good bank built up” with Johnson. “There’s a lot of carries he got rocked and carried it well.”
Johnson said coaches told him this about the fumbles: “That’s unacceptable. You can’t do that."
He said the first fumble, in which he reached across the goal-line, "was bad judgment." The second was "a horrible play," he told our Susan Miller Degnan.
### Brad Kaaya, a critical piece of UM's 2014 recruiting class and Rivals.com's No. 8 quarterback prospect, received an offer from hometown UCLA today. His mother said UCLA "is an awesome program that he respects. At this time, he is committed to the University of Miami.”
But the Los Angeles Times reported today that UCLA's offer will be considered. "Any kid in Los Angeles would be interested in UCLA," said Ed Croson, his coach at Chaminade High in Hollywood Hills. "He's firmly committed to Miami, but I think he's flattered."
### When David Gilbert, an honorable mention All-Big 10 player at Wisconsin, transferred to UM, his body of work suggested he might start ahead of Shayon Green at defensive end.
But Green continues to impress coaches with how strong he is against the run, and he has justified playing on first and second down. And Gilbert –- who plays on some third-down pass rush packages -- needed time to improve his conditioning.
“I’m sure David would like to start,” Golden said today. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of David Gilbert yet.”