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3 posts from November 16, 2013

November 16, 2013

Noon Sunday update; How Tannehill's first 25 starts compare with top-20 QBs & Henne; Fins, Heat, UM-Duke, Marlins

The Sunday buzz column is below. First, a few Sunday morning updates on the Dolphins bullying scandal:

### Fox's Jay Glazer said Jonathan Martin did not "single out" Richie Incognito when Martin met with NFL-appointed investigator Ted Wells on Friday. Glazer said in fact, Martin told Wells that Martin and Incognito "are friends." Glazer said Martin told Wells it is "more than just one guy" harrassing him and gave details.

### ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the NFL has received tips of other instances of harrassment inside the Dolphins, and because so much new information is pouring in, the investigation will take longer than expected.

### Schefter and Chris Mortensen said Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner is a person of interest in the investigation, and that Turner would "insult, bully and pile it on Martin." Turner, who has a military background, is known for using "loud, insulting and profane language," according to ESPN, though that isn't unusual among NFL coaches.

ESPN said Wells wants to speak with Turner about the culture within the Dolphins' offensive line. 

### Wells will spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Dolphins headquarters interviewing various people --- players, coaches, front office types.

### Incognito's expedited grievance hearing against the Dolphins will be held Thursday. Other teams are interested in both Incognito and Martin if the Dolphins part ways with both, Glazer said.

### CBS' Dan Marino, who was named by owner Stephen Ross to a five-person committee that will suggest a code of conduct for the Dolphins locker-room, said: "I wouldn't do this if this were just a PR move."

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Now that Ryan Tannehill has started 25 games, it’s a good time to assess how his career has unfolded compared with accomplished active quarterbacks.

For perspective, we compared Tannehill’s first 25 starts with the first 25 starts by 18 quarterbacks that most would consider top-20 caliber. (We had to use 24 starts in the case of Washington’s Robert Griffin III, who starts his 25th game Sunday.) We also compared Tannehill’s work to the man he essentially replaced: Chad Henne.

The good news: Tannehill produced a higher quarterback rating in his first 25 starts than Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Drew Brees.

The bad news: His numbers are remarkably similar to Henne’s and also rank at the bottom or bottom half of every key statistical category, compared to the early work of many others.

In many cases, a quarterback’s first 25 starts foreshadow how his career will unfold. But there are several glaring exceptions: the Manning brothers and Brees the most prominent. A few observations from our analysis, which was greatly aided by information provided by the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau:

### This is troubling: Tannehill has 25 touchdown passes in 25 games --– the fewest of the 18 quarterbacks used as a benchmark in our study. Those 18 averaged 35.2 TD passes in their first 25 starts, led by Tony Romo’s 52, Matt Stafford’s 46 and Peyton Manning’s 43.

Among the top rookies in Tannehill’s draft class, Russell Wilson has 41, Andrew Luck 37 and Griffin 32.

### In his first 25 starts, Henne threw the same number of touchdown passes as Tannehill and for just two fewer yards (5498 to 5500). Henne completed a higher percentage of passes (61.3 to 59.4), whereas Tannehill threw five fewer interceptions (23 to 28) and has a slightly higher rating (78.2 to 76.6).

The important caveat: Henne played behind a better offensive line and had more accomplished running backs.

### Compared with the 18 others (Henne excluded), Tannehill would rank 10th-best in interceptions, 12th in yards, 14th in completion percentage and 16th in rating. Compare his 78.2 rating to the 25-game ratings of Wilson (100.5), Ben Roethlisberger (99.0), Romo (98.1), Aaron Rodgers (96.6) Griffin (93.8), Brady (90) and Jay Cutler (90.3).

But Tannehill’s rating isn’t much lower than Luck’s (80.1) or Stafford’s (79.4).

### As for this season only, Tannehill has thrown the NFL’s sixth-most interceptions and lost five fumbles (tied for the most) and his 81.2 rating is 22nd.

So how does he project long-term?

“I don’t envision a lot of Pro Bowls, but that could change,” CBS analyst and former NFL MVP Rich Gannon said. “If they have some patience with him, he can develop into a pretty solid player. There are a couple decisions each week where you wonder where that came from. He has to throw the deep ball better. I see enough talent in his arm and feet.”

But Gannon and others say it’s difficult to make a fair assessment because the Dolphins have allowed the most sacks in the league. “The kid is not able to set his feet. He’s getting hit all the time. People don’t realize the significance of that,” Gannon said.

Might Tannehill become skittish and scarred psychologically by the constant pass rush, which seemed to happen to former Texans quarterback David Carr?

“I haven’t seen any signs of that,” Gannon said. “With David Carr, you could see it with his feet and posture in the pocket. I see Tannehill stepping up into throws, a kid that seems very confident.” 

Other views of Tannehill:

### CBS’ Phil Simms: “He needs to take advantage of his athletic ability more. Be more instinctive. If you feel there’s a little pressure, run. If he ran more, it would change what the defense does. [But] you are not going to draft a quarterback next year. I’d like to see more screens with Mike Wallace. If he’s catching less than three screens per game, that’s not enough.”

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “He’s missing throws. Decision-making hasn’t always been good. He’s very good on the move. I’d like to see him use his legs more.”

### Former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly: “I can’t put this guy in an elite quarterback class. But he can be pretty good. I’ve seen improvement. I like arm strength. His decision making is improving. He’s had a tough go with the offensive line. He’s good enough to win with.”

### NFL Network’s Joe Theismann: “How do you judge skill positions when there’s no time to run or no time to throw? But I really think he has a chance to do some special things, because he has all the tools.

“The question is: Is there enough around him to have him have that chance? The guy for him to study would be Brees, because Brees doesn’t hold onto the ball. But Miami has their quarterback of the future. He will be $60 million, $70 million guy when his first contract runs out.”

### Fox’s Brian Billick lumps him in the group with Jake Locker and Christian Ponder and said it’s too soon to tell what the Dolphins have exactly.

### Fox Sports 1’s Donovan McNabb told WQAM's Adam Kuperstein and Curtis Stevenson: “His ceiling is high. Top 10 to 12? Don’t know that he can become that now. You have to look at the weapons around him. Wallace is not really a No. 1 receiver.” 

CHATTER

### You might think that after the Richie Incognito fiasco, Joe Philbin might advise his players not to use the N-word or might tell them to hold off on making rookies pay for $30,000 dinners or might tell them not to speak to teammates the way Incognito did in that notorious voice mail for Jonathan Martin.

But several Dolphins players say Philbin has said nothing of the kind and hasn’t discussed the matter beyond lifting the players’ initial gag order to discuss it with reporters.

### By the way, Martin --- who continues to be paid by the Dolphins --- is out and about; he was photographed smiling while on the Stanford sideline for Saturday night's USC game. "Big fella needs to go back to work someplace," ABC's Brent Musburger said.

### Some people had an easier time saying no to Incognito than others. Incognito said he told Tannehill to buy the offensive linemen jet skis, but Tannehill said he refused. But he did buy them I-pads after last season.

### Incredibly, Dolphins backs were hit behind the line on 12 of 14 carries Monday, and Gannon said Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas cannot be fairly judged until “you put them behind a good offensive line that can get movement at the point of attack. John Jerry was beaten off the ball most every play. Go look at how Adrian Peterson did against the Giants, when he was being hit in the backfield [13 yards, 28 carries].”

The Dolphins likely will enter the offseason needing four new offensive line starters.

### Greg Oden’s agent, Mike Conley Sr., said Oden appearing in a Heat game is “probably a ways away. The main goal is to have him ready for the second half of the season and the playoffs.”

When he plays, Conley said, will be a “combination of a gut feeling from Erik Spoelstra and the trainers. Conditioning is big part of it. He’s very antsy to play” but he understands Spoelstra being cautious.

### It could be a few weeks before the State Attorney’s office decides whether to file charges against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, the focus of an alleged sexual assault in December 2012. But privately, FSU officials with knowledge of the case would be surprised if Winston is charged. Winston hasn’t spoken to police. FSU never considered suspending him because he hasn't been charged.

### The Marlins have expressed interest in Dodgers free agent third baseman Juan Uribe, 34, who hit .278 with 12 homers and 50 RBI in 132 games. A trade for a third baseman is also being considered. 

### Late tonight, the ACC announced times and TV information for UM's final two regular season games: Saturday vs. Virginia at noon (ESPNU) and Friday, Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m., ABC, full national). Please see the last post for thoughts and reaction from UM's loss to Duke.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Postscripts, reaction to UM's loss to Duke; Dolphins notes

Notes, quotes and observations from UM’s demoralizing 48-30 loss to Duke, its third consecutive defeat:

### And so a season that started so promisingly has deteriorated into an ugly mess, exposing all the defensive shortcomings this staff thought it had fixed.

And this one was particularly nauseating, not only because Duke bludgeoned UM on the ground, not only because Duke ended the game on a 20-0 stampede, not only because Duke hadn’t beaten UM since 1976 (spanning nine UM wins in the series), but also because Maryland had delivered a huge gift to UM by beating Virginia Tech earlier in the day. That means UM would have gone to the ACC Championship game by winning out. No longer. Now Duke controls its destiny in the ACC Coastal.

Read these numbers and weep: Duke’s 358 rushing yards were its most since 1994. The Hurricanes allowed 543 yards overall and have now permitted 1609 over the past three games. Duke averaged 6.9 yards per carry. And there’s there: UM has allowed more than 500 yards in four of its past five games.

### Al Golden’s take, afterward on WQAM: “We didn’t make enough plays. There are no excuses. We didn’t tackle well enough. We had too many penalties. We gave up too many explosive plays, especially on the ground. There’s enough blame to go around. It’s my responsibility to get it corrected tomorrow. We have to look at every aspect of what we’re doing and what we’re coaching. We’re not getting any takeaways. It’s not just the defense’s issue. It’s everyone on the team’s issue.”

### So what’s the problem defensively? Where do we start?

Curtis Porter and Justin Renfrow, so effective early in the season at defensive tackle, couldn’t unhinge from blocks. (Olsen Pierre and Luther Robinson didn’t exactly distinguish themselves, either.)

Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green couldn’t seal off the edge on several outside runs and didn't offer much help on runs inside the tackles.

Jimmy Gaines once again lost running backs and tight ends in coverage. Even when UM was rushing only three, backs or tight ends were still wide open on at least two occasions.

The pass rush has disappeared, with Chickillo, Green, Tyriq McCord, Al Quadin Muhammad and others unable to generate any kind of consistent pressure.

Tyrone Cornelius never bothered turning around on a 22-yard TD pass in the first half.

McCord and Cornelius were obliterated on Josh Snead’s 31-yard run.

Porter couldn’t get off a block and AJ Highsmith missed a tackle on Snead’s 56-yard run.

Tackling was again shoddy, with Gaines, Rayshawn Jenkins, Denzel Perryman, Highsmith and others  missing tackles.

UM defenders --– Denyel Peryman, Cornelius, Deon Bush and others --– couldn’t fight off blocks on screen plays in their area.

As Golden said, “We’re losing leverage on runs stunting inside.” (As we noted here Friday, one former UM defensive player said UM is stunting too much.)

Linebackers took poor angles, as Micheal Barrow pointed out to them on the sideline (according to WQAM).

Ladarius Gunter was beaten on a long pass, though his coverage wasn't awful on the play.

Defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu didn’t read a play correctly, allowing a sizable run early in the game.

We could go on, but you get the picture.

Bottom line: UM has no answers for anything.

By the way, defensive end David Gilbert, who was honorable mention Big 10 and a very good starter on a solid Wisconsin team last season, continues to receive limited playing time. Gilbert, who has a history of foot problems, is healthy enough to play, but UM coaches believe Green is the better player. And in fairness to Green, he had been one of UM’s best defenders before November.

### The offense --– missing four key players in the fourth quarter --- finished with an impressive yardage total (565) but stalled over the final 20 minutes, unable to come away with any points on its final five possessions.

Here’s how the final five series ended: A bad exchange, and fumble by Dallas Crawford on a third and one (UM recovered but the play lost yards); Stephen Morris threw incomplete to Allen Hurns on a 3rd and 7; Morris came up two yards short on a third down (and the Hurricanes regrettably punted, down eight, from their own 43 with 10:18 left); Hurns dropped a pass on fourth and three; and Morris ran for seven yards on a 4th and 10 late in the game. 

By the way, after that questionable decision to punt on the fourth and two, it took Duke only two plays to penetrate the UM 43, where Duke would have gotten the ball if UM had gone for it on fourth down and hadn't gained a yard. 

### Morris closed 30 of 49 for 379 yards and played without two of his best weapons (Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett) and well over half the game without Stacy Coley. Herb Waters had nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns but missed much of the second half with a groin injury. Hurns had eight catches for 107 yards.

“We are going to do a lot of focusing on ourselves the next couple of weeks, go back to the drawing board,” Morris said. “We’ve got to score more.”

Crawford ran hard, finishing with 115 yards on 19 carries.

### UM lost Coley to concussion-like symptoms not long after his punt return for a touchdown that gave UM a 10-0 lead. Artie Burns (ankle) also missed the second half with an injury.

Please see the last post for Saturday Dolphins notes.           

Noon report: Wallace, Pouncey update; Fourteen Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins and media notes

Some Saturday tidbits:

###  Though he's listed as questionable, Mike Wallace (hamstring) expects to play Sunday, barring a setback. Mike Pouncey, who has been under the weather, also hopes to play barring a setback. 

### The Dolphins plan to promote center Sam Brenner from the practice squad to fill Will Yeatman's roster spot on the 53-man roster.

### The plunge in quality of the Dolphins’ run defense (from 7th in the league in 2011 to 25th this season) was a big topic in the locker-room this week, and Randy Starks raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said: “Some people are not on the same page.” He then had to end his media session to run to a meeting.

I revisited the topic with him on Friday, asking what he meant exactly.

Starks said at times a call is made from the coaches that needs to be changed “and someone might make the call, but not everyone will get it. Some check to it and some don’t.”

But it’s disturbing those types of communication issues are happening in November.

As CBS’ Rich Gannon said, Miami was being gashed by a third-string back Monday, “guys off the street.”

Starks, by the way, has played well. PFF ranks him third-best among defensive tackles against the run.

### A few changes in personnel continue to have a corrosive effect on the run defense. Last season, Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett ranked in the top quarter at their position against the run.

Philip Wheeler, who replaced Burnett, ranks 33rd out of 35 outside linebackers against the run among players in a 4-3 defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Dannell Ellerbe, who replaced Dansby, ranks 35th out of 53. Koa Misi ranks 11th but missed Monday’s game with an injury.

What’s more, Wheeler has missed 14 tackles (third-most among outside linebackers) and Ellerbe has missed nine (sixth-most).

### If only Dimitri Patterson could stay healthy. He’s questionable for Sunday with a groin injury that has limited him to four games this season. His ratio of interceptions per snaps (four in 210) is easily the best in the league. Quarterbacks have a 36.7 rating in his coverage area, which is fourth-best in the league. But health remains an issue.

By the way, credit Jimmy Wilson for his improvement; quarterbacks have a 64.7 rating in his coverage area, second-best among Dolphins corners. (Wilson also plays safety). “My football smarts are up,” he said.

### The NFL fined Wheeler $21,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on TampaBay quarterback Mike Glennon. Wheeler was called for a penalty on the play, a costly fourth-quarter mistake because Tampa would have punted otherwise. And Mike Pouncey was fined $7,875 for striking a Tampa player in the head early in Monday’s game.

### One of the most disturbing aspects of UM’s offense this year and has been the number of three-and-outs --- far too many for a team with this much offensive talent.

No wonder UM has plunged to 123rd of 125 FBS teams in time of possession. UM has the ball just 25:40 per game – ahead of only Wyoming and Indiana. That’s down slightly from 26:22 last season. And UM had it just 20 minutes against Virginia Tech.

Al Golden agreed last week that this is a major problem, partly because it’s forcing UM’s defense to be on the field far too long.  

### Brent Musburger said Stephen Morris’ injury has been an Achilles’, not an ankle sprain. “Very untrue,” Morris said of Musburger’s report.

### UM hoops lost out on a skilled big man Friday when three-star center Satchel Pierce chose Marquette over UM and Pittsburgh. UM signed four players last week and has one more scholarship available.

### Dwyane Wade missed a couple more late-game free throws last night, and his overall free throw percentage has plunged to 62.2  -- 28 for 45. He shot a career-low 72.5 last season. Some other parts of his game have been sterling (including the career-high eight steals last night), but he must fix the free throw issue before the playoffs.

### LeBron James is shooting an absurd 61 percent through nine games – third in the league behind only 7-footers Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan.

### The Heat and UM football have had only one direct conflict this season – last Saturday. So which team drew more viewers? UM-Virginia Tech generated a 5.5 local rating; Heat-Celtics had a 5.2.

### As Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reported, the Marlins have received a lot of inquiries about Logan Morrison. The Marlins haven’t ruled out trading him if they can upgrade, but they’re not aggressively shopping him and would be OK with Morrison returning as their first baseman.

### A few people have asked us about Sunday’s NFL TV situation locally. It’s a bit complicated, but here’s the deal: Because the Dolphins are home but not playing on the network with the double-header, we can get only two Sunday afternoon games in their entirety: Washington-Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Fox and Dolphins-Chargers at 4:05 p.m. on CBS.

But the NFL will allow Miami’s Fox affiliate (WSVN-7) to join Fox’s late-afternoon game in progress at 7 p.m. Fox told us it will air Saints-49ers, in progress, in South Florida beginning at 7 p.m. It’s conceivable we could get the end of Packers-Giants if the Saints game is a blowout or if the Saints game ends before the Giants game.

That scenario of joining a game in progress, exactly at 7 p.m., seldom happens, but it's the second time it will happen in South Florida this season.... CBS assigned No. 2 team Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf to Sunday's Dolphins game.