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1 posts from November 14, 2013

November 14, 2013

6 p.m. update: Martin speaks; Investigation heads south; Ex-Canes assess D'Onofrio

The Friday buzz column is below. A few quick Friday notes, updated at 6 p.m.:

### Jonathan Martin gave a brief statement after meeting for 7 1/2 hours in New York today with Ted Wells, who was appointed to investigate the Martin/Richie Incognito soap opera.

Martin said he will meet with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and CEO Tom Garfinkel. He said he wants to resume his career but did not say if he wants to play for the Dolphins. He said little else newsworthy.

Here was Martin's full statement, delivered on a Manhattan street: "Today's meeting is consistent with my commitment to cooperate with the NFL's investigation into my experiences as a player on the Miami Dolphins. Although I went into great detail with Mr. Ted Wells and his team, I will not intend to discuss this matter publicly at this time. I do, however, look forward to speaking directly with Stephen Ross, Tom Garfinkel and the Dolphins' organization at the appropriate time. This is the right way to handle this matter. Beyond that, I look forward to working through the process and resuming my career in the National Football League."

### Meanwhile, the Dolphins' Tyson Clabo said he was told that Dolphins players likely will be questioned about the case next week in Miami. That means Wells will be visiting team headquarters. Dolphins players haven't been told when their exact meetings with Wells will be, or what time will be blocked off to deal with this mess, but it will be a week-long distraction, assuredly.

### Radaronline.com reported Thursday that what Jonathan Martin is receiving treatment for is post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The web site quoted a source as saying Martin's condition "is directly related to the bullying he endured by Richie [Incognito] and other teammates."

### A teammate said Mike Pouncey missed practice because he is under the weather, but teammates expect him to play Sunday. The Dolphins listed Pouncey as questionable. Mike Wallace (hamstring) also was listed as questionable; he was limited in practice but caught passes on the sideline. Dimitri Patterson (groin) was the third Dolphin listed as questionable.

### With Will Yeatman out for the season, Dallas Thomas and guard Danny Watkins are potentially now the team's sixth and seventh offensive linemen, unless recent newcomer David Arkin, who's a guard, surpasses either.

Thomas said he has been playing both guard and tackle on the scout team, and Joe Philbin said he believes he can be a capable NFL tackle, despite his struggles at that spot in training camp. Philbin said seven offensive linemen will be active for the game.

### In 2011, the Dolphins' last year in a 3-4 defense, they ranked seventh against the run. This year, their second in a 4-3, they are 25th. So should thought be given to moving back to a 3-4? Philbin said no: "I like the scheme." (See below, under chatter, for more Fins notes in the Friday buzz column, if you haven't read the column earlier.)

### South Dade three-star receiver Tyre Brady today became UM's 29th oral commitment for 2014. He de-committed from Kentucky in September. He said he also had offers from UF and FSU, among others. UM is still firmly in the mix for four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon of Dwyer High in Palm Beach.

### Ray Allen (sick) and Udonis Haslem (back spasms) were ruled out for tonight's game against Dallas.



Mark D’Onofrio has become the most scrutinized figure in the UM football program, not unlike other past coordinators here whose units frustrated fans with inconsistent play: from Patrick Nix, to Mark Whipple to Tim Walton, who now runs the St. Louis Rams’ 17th-ranked defense.

So the criticism is predictable. What’s noteworthy is the divergent opinions of D’Onofrio’s work offered by people who have played the game.

Not surprisingly, several UM players have been effusive in their praise of D’Onofrio this week, after his Hurricanes defense was pulverized for 1066 yards the past two games. “He calls great games,” cornerback Tracy Howard said. “Outside people don’t know football.”

Even after leaving the program, former UM cornerback Brandon McGee, now with the Rams, has strongly defended D’Onofrio, saying his system was sound and blaming defensive shortcomings on the players.

Meanwhile, three prominent former Canes defensive players weighed in on D’Onofrio this week, with opinions varying.

Defensively, UM is being “outcoached every week,” former Canes and NFL cornerback Duane Starks ranted on WQAM’s postgame show. “Out-coached! Out-coached! They’re predictable. There’s no disguising…. It’s embarrassing! I would get rid of some people.”

Starks said Virginia Tech “knew we were blitzing the weak-side linebacker. That’s why you saw wide open receivers. FSU did the same thing, put a guy on the right side and dragged him across the field where the blitzing linebacker can’t pick him up. When you have a receiver or running back making the catch with no one around him, that’s when you know you are being outcoached.

“They ran the same predictable things. If I’m the head coach, I’m saying, ‘Let’s switch this up. Let’s surprise somebody. We’re not defending the screen.’ We see it. You see it. Do something about it! I’m pissed! We have the talent. If you can’t coach good talent, there’s a problem.”

But that last point is where others would disagree. One standout former UM defensive player said the talent is simply not good enough, especially at linebacker. Remember, five of UM’s front-seven starters were three or two-star recruits. Safety Deon Bush clearly is diminished after offseason groin surgery.

UM hasn’t had a defensive All-American since Brandon Meriweather and Kelly Jennings in 2005.

“I like his scheme, but he doesn’t have the personnel to run it as well as he would like,” said the former Canes standout defensive player who asked that his name not be used because he’s close to the program.

“Linebacker is the biggest problem. Aside from Denzel Perryman, these guys are not [major BCS program] level. The linebackers have to cover the backs, and the middle is always open. It’s poor coverage. The safeties can’t tackle and they’re out of position. They can’t get away with playing a three-man line against good teams because the line isn’t that good.”

The player said he believes D’Onofrio is generally a good coach but has a few quibbles. He said UM should play more bump-and-run coverage because “that’s the way to re-route the receivers.” He said the defensive line is stunting too much. That’s a maneuver designed to confuse offenses but leaves the defense vulnerable.

He questioned why the defensive ends often switch sides between plays. “Why aren't we set [often enough] before plays? Virginia Tech ran a play on us and we were barely out of the huddle. That's embarrassing. 

"They should have put a spy on [Virginia Tech quarterback] Logan Thomas. And we don’t blitz enough. I don’t see delayed blitzes.”

He also said the defense “seems burned out and out of gas…. But you can’t blame the poor tackling on D’Onofrio or [Al] Golden.”

Meanwhile, former UM All-American safety Bennie Blades defended D’Onofrio and blames the players primarily.

“I think D’Onofrio does a decent job,” said Blades, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame who was previously defensively coordinator at Piper High in Broward. “Coach can’t fix the bad tackling. I know we like to blame everything on coaches, but it boils down to the players. What we’re missing is unblockable defensive linemen. We haven't had a Russell Maryland or Cortez Kennedy or Jerome Brown in a few years. I’m not overly impressed with the safety play.

“I want to see a lot more blitzing, but if you don’t have that corner who can play man to man on a consistent basis, you can’t do much blitzing. The players are not maximizing their ability, but you have to put that more on the players. The onus is on them.”


### According to a Dolphins player, the suspended Incognito has been reaching out to the offensive linemen this week –-- offering advice and encouragement before the Buccaneers game and a “keep your head up” message after the game --- but Martin has not. “Martin’s not in the group text,” one player said.

### When the NFLPA announced tonight that Incognito had filed a grievance against the Dolphins, the players union said he is pushing for an expedited hearing because "he wants to immediately resume playing for the team." That's not what the Dolphins have in mind, of course.

### NFL investigators met Thursday night with former Dolphins offensive lineman Lydon Murtha, according to WMEN-640's Orlando Alzugaray. Murtha, dropped by the team before the start of the 2012 regular season, wrote a piece for SI's Monday Morning Quarterback that was sympathetic toward Incognito.

### So much for this new and improved offense. Not only have the Dolphins plunged to 30th in total offense – ahead of only Jacksonville and Tampa Bay – but they’re averaging eight yards fewer per game than last season. Unacceptable.

### More signs of plunging interest in the Dolphins: The 16.4 local rating for Miami-Tampa Bay was very weak for a Monday night game (the game did a 22 rating in Tampa, which had a winless team entering the game). And the 13.3 for Bengals-Dolphins was the second-lowest Dolphins rating here in many years, behind only a 2011 Christmas Eve Day game.

What's more, Ticket of America’s Michael Lipman said he’s selling $400 club seats for $150 for the Carolina and San Diego games.

### In the six games started by Udonis Haslem, the Heat was outscored by a combined 65-9 at the start. But the Heat has opened decently in the past two games, when Shane Battier replaced the injured Haslem. So it’s no surprise that Erik Spoelstra wouldn’t commit to necessarily going back to Haslem when he’s healthy. Spoelstra indicated he hadn't decided. Haslem is day-to-day with back spasms.

### Heat players will wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys four times this season: the three remaining games against Brooklyn and Jan. 21 against Boston. Michael Beasley said he will use "Super Cool." Shane Battier will use "Battle" -- which he said is his real last name. The Heat says other nicknames will be announced in a week or so, after they're approved by the league.

### Encouraging to see two newcomers play well in UM's 84-69 win against Texas Southern tonight: former junior college forward James Kelly (17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) and swingman Davon Reed (11 points in 27 minutes). Down to nine healthy and eligible scholarship players, UM needs all the bench scoring it can muster.