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19 posts from December 2013

December 31, 2013

Exploring Dolphins offensive line options; Dolphins, Canes chatter, postscripts

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dolphins and Hurricanes postscripts:

### Regardless of who will be making the Dolphins’ personnel decisions, there’s no bigger priority than fixing the offensive line, which bears considerable blame for Miami allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks and for a running game that ranked 26th.

The good news: The free agent market has a bunch of tackles and guards that would be upgrades, and Miami has the cap space to address both. The Dolphins need to add three or four starting linemen between free agency and the draft.

### Among tackles, potential free-agent targets would include Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert (Miami wouldn’t give up a second-round pick for him last April, and there’s a good chance he moves on this offseason); left tackle Eugene Monroe (Baltimore acquired him in October for fourth- and fifth-round picks and doesn’t want to lose him); New Orleans right tackle Zack Strief (three sacks allowed, decent in the run game); Jets right tackle Austin Howard (two sacks allowed, not a great run blocker); Oakland left tackle Jared Veldheer (missed first 11 games because of torn triceps but well regarded), St. Louis left tackle/guard Roger Saffold (injury history but very skilled) and Cincinnati’s versatile Anthony Collins, who started the season as the Bengals’ sixth offensive lineman and now is starting at left tackle and hasn’t allowed a sack in 592 snaps this season. Any would be an improvement for Miami.

In Pro Football Focus’ final 2013 ranking of offensive linemen, Bryant McKinnie finished 64th of 76 tackles (seven sacks allowed as a Dolphin, per PFF) and Tyson Clabo 47th (11 sacks permitted). Both will be free agents.

Among other free agents, PFF ranked Jordan Gross third (he has suggested he would retire if he doesn’t re-sign with Carolina), Strief seventh, Monroe 10th, Collins 24th, Albert 29th, Howard 44th and Houston’s Ryan Harris 57th.

Two notable impending free agent right tackles that graded out poorly, especially in the run game: Michael Oher (No. 68 overall, eight sacks allowed) and Eric Winston (No. 69, seven sacks).

Among tackles in the draft, ESPN’s Scouts Inc. has four rated as top 30 picks. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan likely will be long gone before Miami selects 19th overall. Alabama junior Cyrus Kouandjio could be, too; ESPN’s Todd McShay has him 10th in his mock draft.

The player considered the fourth-best tackle, Virginia’s Morgan Moses, is rated 25th overall by both ESPN’s Scout Inc. and McShay.

The best bet would be to fill at least one tackle spot, if not both, with an established free agent.

### Among guards, at least nine who rated ahead of the Dolphins’ John Jerry in Pro Football Focus’ final ranking will be free agents, including Carolina’s Travelle Wharton (No. 5, no sacks allowed, great run blocking grades); Chicago’s Matt Slauson (No. 6), Kansas City’s Geoff Schwartz (No. 8) and Jon Asamoah (No. 21),  Saffold (18), the Jets’ Willie Colon (37th) and Detroit’s Rob Sims (39).

Jerry ranked 42nd among guards, but just 67th among 81 in run blocking, and allowed five sacks. Left guard Sam Brenner could develop into a starter but didn’t show enough to project him as one in 2014.

### Some Dolphins players privately believe coach Joe Philbin, reserved by nature, needs to improve as a motivator and in how he prepares teams emotionally for games. The flat demeanor and unemotional “stay the course, don’t get too high or low” message doesn’t resonate with some Dolphins and was reflected in their play at times. And reading to his players off index cards isn’t exactly inspiring.

But some of owner Stephen Ross’ trusted associates who have the owner’s ear, including Carl Peterson, love Philbin. Ross continues to consider potential changes in the organization.

### An associate of Ross said Ross has complained about the play-calling at times during games, which might not bode well for coordinator Mike Sherman.

### Though the Dolphins enter the offseason with $38 million in cap space ($106 million in commitments with a projected $126 million cap; plus $18 million in carryover space), it’s realistically less.

Throw in another $1.5 million for salary escalators for Charles Clay and Jimmy Wilson and a combined $1.7 million for tenders for exclusive rights free agents Pat Devlin, Armon Binns and Jonathan Freeney. And that would leave only 44 players under contract, with 51 counting against a team’s cap number.

Tendering Will Yeatman and RJ Stanford would add another $2.8 million and signing a few players to futures contracts would leave Miami with about $30 million in space.

An additional $5.4 million could be created if Dimitri Patterson is cut, but he’s clearly better than impending free agent Nolan Carroll, who struggled Sunday. Cutting Matt Moore would create an additional $4 million in cap space but would also create a need for a backup quarterback, unless the Dolphins deem Devlin ready for the job. Nate Garner has shown he's valuable, but if a new personnel czar comes here and deems him expendable, Miami would save $1.4 million against the cap by cutting him.

### The final book on Ryan Tannehill this season: He finished 10th in the NFL in passing yardage, 12th in touchdowns with 24, but 22nd in completion percentage, 30th in interceptions with 17 and 35th in fourth-quarter passer rating.

The No. 8 pick in the 2012 Draft, Tannehill had an 81.7 passer rating, which was 24th and behind four players also drafted that year: No. 88 pick Nick Foles (119.2), No. 75 pick Russell Wilson (101.2), No. 1 pick Andrew Luck (87) and No. 2 pick Robert Griffin (82.2).

Though he clearly improved this season before the final two games, the Dolphins did not expect Tannehill to be merely the fifth-best quarterback in that draft. So far, that's what he has been. Tannehill's passer rating rose from 76.1 as a rookie, but Foles and Luck had much bigger spikes this year.

### Multiple sources say quarterback Kevin Olsen and receiver Rashawn Scott didn’t attend UM’s bowl game because they were suspended. The suspensions had nothing to do with academics, legal issues or any issues involving coaches or teammates.

UM values Olsen and fully expects him to remain on the team and compete with front-runner Ryan Williams to start. Olsen's father, normally responsive, hasn't returned calls from several reporters.

Scott has had multiple suspensions and wasn’t the same player after his collarbone injury in the opener. He’s still on the team, but another incident could put him in peril.

### NFL Network reported Penn State, which reportedly is losing coach Bill O'Brien to the Houston Texans, will make a "strong push" to hire Greg Schiano, who was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday. UM's Al Golden has been mentioned, in speculative media reports, as a potential candidate. The UM administration would be surprised if Golden leaves, but Golden is a Penn State alum. We'll see.

[Wednesday afternoon update: The Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News reports that Golden and Vanderbilt's James Franklin are atop Penn State's wish list.]

### UM coaches have become increasingly enamored with safety Jamal Carter, whose playing time increased in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and will give him every chance to beat out Rayshawn Jenkins or Deon Bush next season…. UM is so bullish on incoming three-star prospect Michael Wyche, from East Los Angeles Junior College, that some UM football staffers believe he would have been Miami’s best defensive tackle if he had been a Cane this season.

### UM likely will be unranked in the final top 25. But curiously, in the final regular-season Top 25 coach’s poll, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ranked UM higher (21st) than Canes coach Al Golden did (24th). UT-San Antonio and ex-UM coach Larry Coker had Miami 25th. (It's widely believed that most coaches have associates fill out their ballots for them.)

### After meeting in the bowl game, UM hopes the ACC reconsiders and does not schedule Miami's game at Louisville as a season opener on Labor Day night or two days earlier. But UM says it hasn't been told definitively and is braced for whatever happens. UM’s other road ACC games in 2014: Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech. Home: FSU, Pittsburgh, Duke, North Carolina. Non-conference: at Nebraska, home against Cincinnati, Florida A&M, Arkansas State. 

### Happy New Year to all.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 18, 2013

Buzz will return

The buzz blog will return soon. Happy Holidays to all.

 

December 16, 2013

UM recruiting news; Eye-opening Tannehill numbers; Fins notes; Local radio update

Some Canes, Dolphins and local radio notes:

The UM recruiting class keeps getting stronger. Sunday night’s oral commitment from four-star New Jersey-based safety Kiy Hester gives Miami 14 oral commitments in ESPNU’s top 200, as well as 14 in the top 300.

ESPN rates Hester 196th among all prospects, and he’ll be the best safety prospect in UM’s class. Hester, who de-committed from Rutgers last month, had more than 20 offers, including Michigan State, Missouri and Arkansas.

UM has now picked up two safety commitments over three days. The other was three-star Palm Beach-based prospect Marques Gayot, who flipped from Louisville on UM on Friday.

And UM remains in the running for several others, including four-star receivers Johnnie Dixon (leaning toward Ohio State, according to his coach) and Travis Rudolph; four-star Immokalee cornerback J.C. Jackson (a UF oral commitment who visited Miami this past weekend and told Canesport.com that Miami is “still in it"); and New Jersey-based three-star receiver David Njoku, among others.

Central running back Dalvin Cook, a UF oral commitment who’s ranked 20th among all prospects by ESPN, also hasn’t publicly ruled out UM.

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale Dillard’s Dennis Turner is no longer a UM oral commitment. UM wanted him as a defensive back, and Turner wants to play receiver. Turner had been the only two-star recruit in Miami’s class. Everyone else, according to rivals.com's ranking system, is a three- or four-star recruit or five-star (in the case of Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas).

Here are the 14 UM oral commitments rated in ESPN’s top 300:

No. 19: Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby

No. 44: Palm Beach Central offensive tackle KC McDermott

No. 70: Thomas

No. 115: Miami Central offensive tackle Trevor Darling

No. 128: California-based quarterback Brad Kaaya

No. 131: Winter Park defensive end Trent Harris

No. 170: Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (now considering Alabama and LSU as well as Miami)

No. 176: St. Thomas Aquinas DT Anthony Moten

No. 196: Hester

No. 233: Booker T. Washington cornerback Nigel Bethel

No. 246: St. Petersburg-based OT Reilly Gibbons

No. 264: Lantana Santaluces WR Darrell Langham

No. 272: Deerfield Beach athlete Brandon Powell (told rivals.com he hasn’t made a final decision but will this week).

No. 287: OrangePark safety Darrion Owens 

UM has 28 oral commitments overall; some of them (perhaps 10 or so) are expected to enroll in January.

 

DOLPHINS CHATTER

To appreciate how well Ryan Tannehill has played, consider:

### He’s the first Dolphin other than Dan Marino with at least 23 touchdown passes in a season.

### In three December games, he has completed 73 of 113 passes for 843 yards, 8 touchdowns, two picks and 103.2 rating.

### He has risen to ninth in the league in yards passing, is tied with Tom Brady for ninth in touchdown passes and ranks 13th in completion percentage (62.4). His 86.6 overall passer rating is 20th.

### For the season, Tannehill’s and Brady’s numbers are comparable, even beyond having the same number of TD passes. Brady has the slightly higher rating (88.1 to 86.6). Brady has thrown four fewer picks (10 to 14). Tannehill has the higher completion percentage (62.4 to 60.9). Both are averaging 7.0 yards per attempt.

### On Sunday, Tannehill had a 139.6 passer rating when blitzed (6 for 9, 1 TD). His 120.6 rating Sunday was the second-highest of his career, behind the 123 in the Jacksonville game last year. "He made some really nice throws, big-time throws," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Monday.

### Tannehill has led his team on 17 scoring drives in the final five minutes of a half, and 8 in the final two minutes. Both lead the NFL.

COUPLE OTHER FINS ITEMS

### Because of injuries Sunday, Nolan Carroll ended up playing only 32 of Miami’s 81 defensive snaps, and Brent Grimes played 59.

Rookie Will Davis played 51 snaps and allowed 7 of 9 passes thrown against him to be completed, for 90 yards. Jimmy Wilson, playing boundary corner for the first time all year, allowed 4 of 6 passes to be completed for 35 yards.

Michael Thomas, plucked off the 49ers practice squad last week, played 16 snaps and made two enormous plays in the final minute (including the pick to end New England’s late drive.)

### Linebacker Jelani Jenkins played 29 snaps, and both passes thrown against him were incomplete.

### An ankle injury limited Paul Soliai to seven snaps and required Jared Odrick to play 75 snaps, more than usual. Cam Wake played 71,

Dion Jordan played 27, including 17 as a pass rusher; he didn’t have a sack or pressure.

### Offensively, Marcus Thigpen played only three snaps and caught two passes – including what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

### Please see the last post for an explanation of why the Dolphins now don’t need help to make the playoffs IF they win their last two games. 

RADIO NOTE

With Andy Slater moving from WMEN-640 to WINZ-940, WMEN-640 will audition several former NFL players in the noon to 3 p.m. slot this week: Adewale Ogunleye, former UM standout Brett Romberg, Plaxico Burress and Bryant McFadden. All are candidates for the permanent role, GM Steve Lapa said.

 

December 14, 2013

Sun. night update: Fins control destiny; Evaluators see bright Fins future; Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter

Quick Sunday night update: Before tonight, the Dolphins needed a Baltimore loss to have any chance to make the playoffs. But after Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati tonight, the Dolphins now control their own destiny and will make the playoffs if they win Sunday at Buffalo and the following week at home against the Jets.

Here's why: If the Dolphins win out, they would finish 10-6. If the Ravens win out, they would also be 10-6. But since the Ravens play at the Bengals in their finale, a Baltimore win in that game would mean the Bengals would finish no better than 10-6, even if the Bengals beat visiting Minnesota next Sunday.

In that scenario, if the Ravens and Bengals both finish 10-6, Baltimore would win the AFC North because the Ravens would have swept Cincinnati, and Miami would win a tiebreaker with Cincinnati for a wild card spot based on beating the Bengals on Halloween.

Meanwhile, if the Ravens lose once (to either Detroit on the road or home against New England or at Cincinnati), then the Ravens would finish with 7 losses. Miami, by winning out, would have only 6 losses. And the 7-7 Chargers cannot catch the Dolphins if the Dolphins win out.

If Baltimore and Cincinnati tie in their finale, the Ravens could then finish with no more than 9 wins (even if they beat the Lions and Patriots in the next seven days). The Dolphins would have 10 if they win out.

The Dolphins can win the AFC East only if they win out and the Patriots lose to Baltimore and at home against Buffalo.

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

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

In sports, what happened most recently often carries disproportionate weight over everything before it. So the result Sunday against a New England team that has dominated the Dolphins assuredly will skew perception. And it should to an extent, because at some point the Dolphins will need to get past Brady & Belichick to get where they want to go. 

But know this: From talking to people around the league, there’s clearly more optimism about this team’s long-term potential than we're accustomed to in recent Decembers. No, we’re not talking Super Bowl-optimism, not with this offensive line, the unknown variable of Ryan Tannehill’s ceiling and other issues.

But when you combine the talent assembled, the improvement of Tannehill and several other key young players, the portent of at least $38 million in cap space this offseason and other factors, “I see no reason why the future isn’t bright,” ESPN analyst and former Colts general manager Bill Polian said last week.

“They have a good defense already. If you’re going to go far, you need pass rushers and they have that. The running game is good now and will get better as the offensive line gets better. It’s a good group of talent in the passing game. Tannehill is right on schedule. Fixing the offensive line is not as hard as you think. If you get the tackle situation squared away, you can manufacture guards.”

Another former GM, Charley Casserly, also told me the Dolphins now look like long-term playoff contenders: “I would be optimistic. I like the moves they made, and they have a nucleus to work with. Tannehill is an above average quarterback. I like their long-term prospects better than the Jets and Bills because it starts with the quarterback, and I have a lot more confidence in Tannehill than Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel.”

Said CBS analyst Phil Simms, by phone: “I would be encouraged about their future. But the difference between making the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl is dramatic. There is a long way to go. But at least it’s a start. They are a fast team. They have some great elements that do well in the NFL.” 

More reason for hope: The Dolphins have just $106 million in cap commitments (including dead money) for 2014, well under the projected cap of $126 million. They also have about $18 million in unused 2013 cap space that can be carried over.

That adds up to $38 million in space for this upcoming offseason, and they can clear even more space if they cut Dimitri Patterson (which would be a $5.4 million saving) or ask him to take a pay cut after he played in only five games. (I'm not endorsing that, because Patterson was very good when he played, but his inability to recover from a groin injury raises questions about whether Miami will want to pay him that much.) They also could clear space by restructuring Mike Wallace’s contract to reduce his 2014 cap number from $17.2 million.

They should have enough to re-sign Brent Grimes and either Randy Starks or Paul Soliai; re-sign Nolan Carroll and either Chris Clemons or another safety; add an offensive tackle and guard that aren’t obscenely expensive; maybe sign Dustin Keller to a low-money deal if he’s healthy, add some depth and pay draft picks.

Miami then could use early-round draft picks, hypothetically, on two offensive linemen and to replenish defensive tackle depth if Soliai or Starks leaves.

Using the franchise tag on either Grimes (the cornerback tag cost next season is projected to be $11.2 million) or Soliai ($8.8 million range) or Starks (similar range) are also decent possibilities.

Astute former Browns scout Matt Williamson, of ESPN’s Scouts Inc., also sees Miami now in position to be a playoff contender for years.

“I am more encouraged by their future than before the preseason,” he said. “They have three good edge pass rushers. Grimes is a top five to 10 corner. I don’t see a ton of needs except offensive line.

“Can you rebuild your offensive line in one offseason, where you need three or four starters? That’s going to be difficult, but you can dedicate a draft to that. John Jerry is fine as your fifth guy. Tannehill will be in the franchise quarterback group of guys.... that you can win a Super Bowl with. There’s a lot more bust potential with Robert Griffin than Tannehill.”

Tannehill has thrown 20 touchdowns (tied for 11th in the NFL) compared with 14 picks, has a decent 84 rating (still in the bottom half but just narrowly behind Andrew Luck and seven points better than Joe Flacco) and is ninth in completions, 10th in yards and 15th in completion percentage.

“There’s no doubt Tannehill is improving right before our eyes,” said Simms, who works Sunday’s game for CBS. “There is a different presence with him, a little bit of an aura. You can tell he’s the man. He’s throwing with more confidence.”

CHATTER

### The league confirmed the Dolphins’ 2014 out-of-division schedule, and it’s challenging. Home: Kansas City, San Diego, Green Bay, Minnesota and the comparable finisher in the AFC North. Away: Denver, Chicago, Detroit, the comparable finisher in the AFC South and Oakland in London.

### Another sign of coach Joe Philbin being looser with his players this season: After Grimes started “trash talking” Philbin about how he could beat the coach in table tennis, Philbin last week picked up a racket and beat Grimes in a game, with players looking on and offering commentary.

“I said I would spike the ball on him, and then I folded under the lights,” Grimes said.

People outside the locker-room don’t see that side of Philbin, but Grimes said: “He’s got a personality. You just have to bring it out of him.”

### A close associate of Jonathan Martin insists that contrary to a network report, he has turned over all text messages requested of him by investigator Ted Wells. That ESPN report was retracted.... NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the New York Times that he expects the Dolphins' bullying scandal will result in new NFL workplace rules this offseason. Stephen Ross already has appointed a committee to formulate workplace rules for the Dolphins; Tony Dungy, one of the committee members, said they will begin work on that project after the season.

### UM junior defensive end Anthony Chickillo submitted his paperwork to the NFL Draft advisory board, according to a family member, and will make a decision about his future after the bowl game.

Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman has not submitted paperwork yet, his father said, but might at some point. He has said he won't decide whether to turn pro until after the season.

“I think he should stay another year and I think he will,” Desmond Perryman said. “He knows I kind of know what I’m talking about. He had a good season [but] he has room for improvement. He’s not the tallest linebacker in college and a lot of people will be reluctant to take him early because of his size [6-0].”

### UM named Allen Hurns its team MVP, Brandon Linder its offensive MVP and Perryman its defensive MVP in its awards banquet tonight... West Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels told The Palm Beach Post that Ohio State is "probably in the lead" for four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon, whom UM covets. Dixon planned to announce last Sunday but delayed his decision.

### Erik Spoelstra has months to decide, but with Miami again last in the league in rebounding, the question remains about whom to start at power forward alongside the Big Three and Mario Chalmers. Undersized Shane Battier, championship-tested in that role, shot 11 of 35 with eight rebounds in his past eight games heading into Saturday.

And though Battier’s presence allows the Heat to spread the floor, Chris Bosh said that when Battier, 6-8, tried to defend Indiana’s 7-2 Roy Hibbert for a stretch Tuesday, “you couldn’t see him after Hibbert caught the ball.”

With Battier playing alongside the four definite starters, the Heat has outscored teams by nine points in 114 minutes. Conversely, Miami is plus-7 with Rashard Lewis (23 minutes) alongside Chalmers and the Big Three; minus-11 with Udonis Haslem (48 minutes); and minus-seven with Michael Beasley (14 minutes).

Spoelstra refused to say whether he would ever consider starting Beasley, who remains out with a hamstring injury. His scoring is more valuable on the second unit, but his rebounding would help the first unit, considering he’s second on the team behind Chris Andersen in rebounds per 48 minutes.

Bosh said that in a starting lineup with Beasley: “The speed and athleticism and decision making and scoring ability would really put pressure on teams.” The question is whether Spoelstra will be motivated to experiment with that lineup later in the season.

### A Seattle official said the Marlins “came to us about trading Logan Morrison for [reliever] Carter Capps, not the other way around” and added the Mariners really liked his arm and upside, despite his difficulty with left-handed hitters (.321 career average).

Capps has struck out 94 in 84 big-league innings but allowed 98 hits and 34 walks. Capps, who said he has thrown as fast as 102 miles per hour, allowed a ridiculous 12 homers in 59 innings last season. But the Marlins have identified a flaw in his delivery and plan to correct it.

### Besides calling to express interest in Casey McGehee and internally discussing Wilson Betemit as a third base option, the Marlins also reportedly have inquired about Eric Chavez. They have had some contact with Yuniesky Betancourt in the past few weeks, as well, as they move toward filling their most glaring need.

### Please see the previous post from Saturday for more Dolphins, Canes and Beckham/Miami/MLS information.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

Saturday update: Dolphins, Canes chatter; Marlins 3B search; Beckham/MLS news; Barkley rants

Some Dolphins, Canes, Marlins and David Beckham/Miami MLS chatter:

### Rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis have played only 45 and 13 defensive snaps, respectively, all season --- quite low for second- and third-round picks.

But at least one will be needed Sunday – now that Dimitri Patterson is on injured reserve - and coach Joe Philbin said each has made “good progress” and “I’m confident they’ll be ready to contribute.”

Taylor is questionable with a hamstring injury but expects to play. Safety Reshad Jones also says he expects to play even though he's also listed as questionable with a groin injury.

### This is alarming: Cornerback Justin Rogers, signed to fill Patterson’s roster spot, allowed five touchdowns, a 142.3 passer rating, and 24 completions for 462 yards (19.3 average) in five starts for Buffalo this year before being cut. Yikes!

### Asked why he’s more secretive than most coaches, Philbin, smiling, on Friday cited “extreme paranoia” and said: “I don’t want to give an opponent any information they’re not entitled to.”

### Seeking a third baseman, the Marlins are intrigued by free agent Casey McGehee, 31, who played in Japan this year and led his team to a championship by hitting .298 with 28 homers and 93 RBI.

He hit .217 with nine homers and 41 RBI for the Pirates and Yankees in 2012 but drove in 104 runs in 2010 and 67 in 2011. Wilson Betemit (.261, 12 homers in 2012, injured in 2013) also has been discussed as an option.

The Marlins want a third baseman with versatility, and McGehee and Betemit can play multiple positions.

Though MLB.com mentioned Juan Uribe as a possibility, he would be clearly more expensive, and the Marlins are already close to their payroll limit.

### As UM prepares to play Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, the Hurricanes scored a minor victory Friday night when three-star safety Marques Gayot switched his oral commitment from Louisville to UM. Gayot made the move while attending UM’s practice Friday night.

Gayot, from Park Vista High in Lake Worth, is considered one of the top prospects in Palm Beach and had four interceptions this season. UM needs the safety depth next season behind Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter.

“I always wanted to be a Cane,” Gayot told Canesport.com. “It’s a dream come true. I’m 100 percent done.”

### The NCAA will allow UM to allocate its loss of nine scholarships any way it wants over the next three years (as long as it takes a minimum one per year), and Al Golden said Friday he has decided to balance it out and take some each year.

But even so, UM – which has 28 oral commitments – can accommodate all 28 and even a few more because about 10 new players are expected to enroll in January, and those will count toward the 2013 class.

FBS school can have 85 players on scholarship; UM has about 10 fewer than that.

### Miami Chamber of Commerce president Barry Johnson, among local leaders who met with David Beckham’s people, said PortMiami on Dodge Island was the only stadium site mentioned by the Beckham group during that meeting. That’s far and away Beckham’s top choice for a stadium location.

Johnson said Beckham wants the Miami team to begin play at a tentative site in 2016 (a Beckham source said Marlins Park is the front-runner) and at a new stadium in 2018. Beckham wants to acquire a superstar player such as Lionel Messi, but that would be pricey and is merely a dream at the moment.

So is the PortMiami site viable? “We’re doing our due diligence to see if there are any fatal flaws. We haven’t found any yet,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “Is it a viable site right now? Yes, it’s a viable site right now. Is it the best site? We don’t know yet.”

Beckham’s group would pay to build the stadium and pay rent, but the Miami-Dade County commission needs to approve it. And some commissioners need convincing.

“I have concerns about that location because I don’t want to cripple the viability of the port,” Commissioner Rebecca Sousa said. “I hope we can come up with alternatives.”

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro said he “would have to study how it would affect traffic patterns.”

Among non-downtown locations discussed by the Beckham camp are sites in Wynwood, South Dade, within a few blocks of Marlins Park and north of Sun Life Stadium.

But “they want to be downtown,” Gimenez said. “And we believe an urban downtown site is the best place for it.”  

### The Heat said Michael Beasley (hamstring) will not play against Cleveland tonight.

### Please see the last post for comments from Al Golden and Charles Barkley's rant against Heat fans.  

December 13, 2013

7 p.m. update: Golden addresses issues; Fins' playoff scenarios; Barkley rips Heat fans

Please see the last post, from this morning, with updates on Dolphins' playoff scenarios in the wake of San Diego's upset of Denver last night. Here are some UM notes from Al Golden's press briefing today:

Golden, on the road recruiting the past week, hasn’t had time yet to do intensive analysis of Louisville, UM’s opponent in the Russell Athletic Bowl Dec. 28 in Orlando.

But this UM staff is fully aware that the Cardinals thrive in a few areas where UM has struggled at times. Consider:

### Louisville (11-1) is second in the country in third-down conversion, behind only LSU, at 56 percent. Conversely, Miami (9-3) is 75th of 123 FBS school in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert at a 40 percent clip. 

In the final five games, UM allowed FSU to convert 11 of 15 third downs, Virginia Tech 8 of 14, Duke 5 of 13, Virginia 11 of 20 and Pittsburgh 6 of 14.

### Also worrisome from a Hurricanes perspective: Louisville is 18th in passing offense, at 302 yards per game, whereas Miami is 71st in passing defense, allowing 233 yards per game.

And there's this: Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ranks second nationally in completion percentage and has 28 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

“We have to play really well,” Golden said before Friday’s on-campus practice, which was open to the public. “[Bridgewater] is a very talented young man. He has great command of the offense. He has speed, good corps of receivers, knows how to distribute the football, doesn’t make many mistakes, can move in the pocket. It’s going to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties…. Certainly we’re not where we want to be yet.”

Golden admitted his safeties didn’t show the level of physicality that coaches wanted at times this year. Deon Bush “has been hampered all year,” Golden said. Bush had hernia surgery during the summer and a hamstring injury recently. And Golden said safety Rayshawn Jenkins has to be “consistent.”

### Golden said injured linebacker Alex Figueroa will miss the bowl game, but he expects Anthony Chickillo (toe) and Phillip Dorsett (knee) will be able to play.

### Golden said several underclassmen have impressed in practices, including offensive linemen Taylor Gadbois and Alex Gall, linebacker Raphael Kirby (“he took charge – he needs to do that”) and safety Jamal Carter.

### Golden, on impressive UM freshman receiver Stacy Coley: “He’s very loud and proud in the meetings. He tells [offensive coordinator] James Coley or [receivers coach] Brennan Carroll or the offense exactly what he’s going to do on a play. That leads to a lot of trust. There is a preparation element in there that really exceeds his age.”

### Recruiting this past week was a lot easier with the NCAA investigation now resolved. Also, UM –-- which self imposed bowl bans the previous two years –-- was expecting as many as 40 high school juniors to attend Friday night’s practice, Golden said.

The past two years, “almost every high school we left, we left answering 20 questions about something we didn’t have any answers about,” Golden said. “We did that for 28 months. It’s very difficult to recruit under those circumstances.

“It feels totally different. You’re not going to get them all. But we feel like we’re on a level playing field for the first time. It’s unfortunate it comes at the tail end of our third class, but nonetheless, it gives us a chance to finish this one and start the 2015 class with a fresh slate.”

### Golden said “it’s not a secret we need help on the defensive line and front seven. Everyone understands that and it is reflected in numbers we have committed in those positions.

“We were not given the opportunity to recruit the type of full class we wanted to recruit last year. We’re making up for it right now. We were looking at 16 commitments going into Signing Day a year ago.

"If you’re on a regular ‘Year Two’ schedule, that number probably would have been 23, 24 or 25. Here we are the following year trying to make up for that. It’s been a challenge. There were a lot of places we would have loved to fortify our positions a year ago, and we weren’t given that opportunity.”

### Several players have signed financial aid agreements with UM, including one (Central High running back Dalvin Cook) who is orally committed to UF and also has signed financial aid paperwork with FSU.

Though unlimited contact is permitted with those players now, Golden said the rule is being changed so that contact with those players cannot happen during dead recruiting periods. Also, Golden said college coaches will not be able to attend all-star games this winter.

BARKLEY'S TAKE

### In an interview airing on CNN at 10:30 p.m. Friday night, Charles Barkley said "it'd be great for [LeBron James] to go back to Cleveland" next summer, when he can opt out of his Heat contract. "I don't think they are great fans in Miami. Listen, those were the same fans who were leaving when they thought they had lost to the Spurs. So let's don't act like they're super fans. I thought they were great fans in Cleveland....  I thought LeBron shoulda stayed in Cleveland.  Just 'cause he got them rings now, he ain't no better."

 

How Dolphins' playoff scenarios shake out after Chargers' upset of Denver

San Diego’s upset of Denver last night could help the Dolphins if everything breaks right, but also could hurt them if the Chargers keep winning and Miami and Baltimore stumble down the stretch.

Miami, of course, would win a two-tie tiebreaker with San Diego and lose a two-team tiebreaker to Baltimore, based on head-to-head matchups.

A reminder on the remaining schedules for each:

Miami (7-6): Patriots, at Bills, Jets.

Baltimore (7-6): at Detroit, Patriots, at Cincinnati.

San Diego (7-7): home against Oakland and Kansas City.

Here’s how the three-team tiebreakers would break down:

### If the Dolphins and Baltimore both go 2-1 down the stretch and San Diego 2-0, then Miami would win a three-team tiebreaker only if one of Baltimore’s losses is against New England or Cincinnati. That’s because the Dolphins would finish with a superior conference record in that scenario.

If Baltimore wins both its AFC games in that scenario but loses to Detroit, Baltimore would win the three-team tiebreaker for this reason: The Dolphins and Ravens would finish with the same conference record, which would be better than San Diego’s under any circumstances. The Chargers then would be eliminated from the tiebreaker and Baltimore would earn the playoff berth based on its win against Miami.

### If the Dolphins and Baltimore go 1-2 down the stretch and San Diego 1-1, then the Ravens’ losses would need to come against the Patriots and Bengals for Miami to win the three-team tiebreaker. Miami would finish with the best conference record in that scenario.

Otherwise, Baltimore would win the tiebreaker.

### Though San Diego’s win last night could help the Dolphins if everything breaks right for Miami in a three-team tiebreaker, the concern is that the Chargers end the year with two home games and would claim the final playoff spot if they win both AND if Miami and Baltimore both go 1-2. 

December 11, 2013

9:30 a.m. update: Marlins make another trade; Dolphins, UM recruiting, Heat chatter; Another radio change

9:30 a.m. update: The Marlins have made their second trade of the winter meetings, dealing OF Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

Bogusevic, a 28-year-old left handed hitter, hit .273 with six homers and 16 RBI in 47 games last season. He played a lot more in 2012 but hit just .203 with seven homers, 28 RBI and 15 steals for the Astros in 146 games. He has a .236 career average with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 299 major league games.

Ruggiano, who would have been slightly more expensive than Bogusevic because Ruggiano is arbitration-eligible, saw his average drop from .313 in 2012 to .222 in 2013, though his home runs increased (from 13 to 18), as did his RBI (36 to 50).

Bogusevic, taken by Houston with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2005 draft, projects as a fourth outfielder for the Marlins.

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Marlins, Dolphins, Canes, Heat and radio chatter:

### Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison, traded to Seattle today, wrote a classy farewell for FoxSportsFlorida.com. He submitted the piece when it was clear he would be traded but before he knew Seattle would be the destination.

Some snippets:

“People have speculated that I hold a grudge toward the Marlins for things that have happened in the past [My insert here: Morrison has an unresolved grievance claim against the Marlins for briefly demoting him to the minors two years ago]. I assure you that this isn't the case! Did we always see eye to eye? No, but when I look back on my time I will think far less about the bad times and far more about the good.

“Contrary to public opinion, owner Jeffery Loria has been great and generous to my family in our greatest time of need. He let us use his plane to go to my father's funeral in Kansas City. Then (president of baseball operations) Mike Hill, (general manager) Dan Jennings and (president) David Samson attended the funeral. Obviously, they didn't have to do that. So, a special thank you to them as well.

“I feel sad, because I won't be able to compete with Giancarlo (I still call him Mike in real life). I won't get to talk to (Marlins special assistant) Andre Dawson in the clubhouse. I won't be able to laugh and joke with David Samson before batting practice.

“I'm angry because I wasn't able to stay healthy enough to hold a trophy over my head and spray champagne in my teammates face.

“I will miss the M-O-R-R-I-S-O-N chant, the screaming for autographs as we leave the stadium, the people who open the doors for us in and out of the stadium and clubhouse…. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. You have meant so much to this boy turned man.”

Read the full piece – and there’s a lot more --- at FoxSportsFlorida.com.

### The player acquired by the Marlins, hard-throwing right-hander Carter Capps, has 94 strikeouts in 84 big-league innings but also has allowed 98 hits and 34 walks, as well as a 3-3 record and 5.04 ERA. Capps, 23, has struggled to get out lefties.

### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was asked to assess his clock management in the wake of a couple of questionable decisions this season --- including not calling timeout to stop the clock before Pittsburgh had to punt late in the first half Sunday.

“Some good, some bad like anything else,” Philbin said. But… “I think our two-minute production has been very good. I think we are fourth in the league in points scored with two minutes to go or less in the half. There are certainly some areas we could have done better, absolutely.”

 ### In today’s Patriots conference calls with Dolphins reporters, no player drew more plaudits than Dolphins tight end Charles Clay.

“Very explosive player, he’s got good vertical speed, very explosive with the ball in his hands,” Bill Belichick said. “The thing I’ve been impressed with really is his blocking. He’s a tough, competitive kid that has got good playing strength and definitely is willing to stick his nose in there and block defensive ends, block linebackers. You see some receiving tight ends in the league that have less, I would say interest, in blocking. He’s not one of those at all.”

Cornerback Aqib Talib said defending Clay is “tricky because they have weapons on the outside. They have a speed guy like [Mike] Wallace on the outside. They have a great route runner and a speedy guy like [Brian] Hartline. Both of those guys [are on] the outside, and then you have him [Clay] on the inside. He tends to get less attention, but you see what happens when he gets less attention. He comes out and he’s their leading receiver. So, he definitely demands more attention.” 

### Belichick turned up the heat in the team's practice bubble today to prepare his players for the 80-plus degree temperatures expected Sunday. "I don’t think you can really duplicate South Beach and the heat, especially after we’ve been playing in pretty cold temperatures here for the last six weeks,” Tom Brady said.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Patriots to 50 percent of the country, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

### No Dolphins player ranks in the top two at any position in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, which continues through Dec. 26. But several deserve consideration, especially Brent Grimes.

Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon also could warrant a look. Jason Trusnik has always been a standout on special teams and deserves acknowledgement for that this season or at some point. Trusnik has the same number of tackles as the leading vote-getting, Denver's David Bruton.

Randy Starks ranks in the top five among defensive tackles in 2013 performance, according to Pro Football Focus. And Charles Clay also could draw some consideration; he ranks among the top five in receptions among tight ends, and as noted above, Belichick raved about his blocking this week.

Fan voting comprises one-third of the process, with votes from coaches and players accounting for the other two-thirds. Fans can vote on NFL.com. For the first time, the Pro Bowl will not match the AFC and NFC. Instead, the rosters will be stocked through a fantasy draft that will be conducted live on NFL Network. 

### The Heat’s Big Three has played 196 regular season games together. And Tuesday’s loss to Indiana was the first time that not one of them scored 20 points in a Heat loss, according to Elias.

### Not only does the Heat stand 30th and last in the league in rebounds per game --- no surprise there --- but they're more than four boards behind the 29th team (Milwaukee). And Miami ranks ahead of only the Bucks in rebound differential (-4.9 per game).

### Alabama assistant coach Mario Cristobal, who angered some UM officials when he left the Canes program to join Nick Saban last spring, has been trying to persuade four-star Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine to flip his commitment from UM to the Crimson Tide. Valentine will visit Alabama and LSU next month but has indicated LSU poses the biggest threat to Miami.

### Classy move: When Al Golden made a home visit last week to three-star Orange Park (Fla.) Oakleaf High linebacker Darrion Owens, a UM oral commitment, Owens told Golden his stepfather was in the hospital after knee replacement surgery. According to Canesport.com’s Matt Shodell, Golden then drove to the hospital and called Owens’ mother from the lobby and asked if he could come up to the stepfather’s room. Golden stayed there for an hour.

### More radio changes locally: Andy Slater is leaving his afternoon show at WMEN-640 to become the 2-5 p.m. host on WINZ-940. He also will have an undetermined role on Marlins programming. WINZ acquired Marlins rights last month after the team failed to come to an agreement with 790/104.3 The Ticket.

December 10, 2013

Dolphins' o-line playing better without Martin, Incognito; Fins, Canes, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

After all the tumult and turmoil caused by the departures of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the question must be asked: Is the Dolphins’ offensive line actually better without them?

It wouldn’t seem that way logically, especially with Incognito. But in two measurable areas –-- sacks and rushing average –-- this unit has played better since those two departed. Some of this is coincidence, but the tackle play has improved without Martin. And though Incognito graded out well in run-blocking, his replacements have allowed fewer sacks.

Adding left tackle Bryant McKinnie a week before Martin left was a huge variable that paid dividends, but keep in mind Miami allowed six sacks (against New England) in the one game that McKinnie, Martin and Incognito played together. But the Dolphins have been better off playing Tyson Clabo than Martin at right tackle, which likely wouldn’t have happened if Martin hadn’t fled the building.

Just look at the numbers since the two BullyGate protagonists left:

###  In the first seven games, with Martin and Incognito starting, the Dolphins allowed 32 sacks (4.6 per game) and ran for 4.1 yards per carry.

Conversely, in the past six games (Martin missed all six and Incognito missed all but the first quarter and a half of the Bengals game), the Dolphins allowed 16 sacks, including one against Incognito (that’s 2.7 per game) and ran for 4.4 yards per carry.

### Then there’s this: Martin allowed seven sacks in 458 snaps, with only one of his starts at right tackle. By contrast, Pro Football Focus says McKinnie has allowed four sacks in 479 snaps since coming to the Dolphins from Baltimore, though he said he was responsible for only two or three.

What’s more, Clabo – who gave up eight sacks in his first six games – has allowed three in his last six.

### And consider this: At the time of his injury and suspension three days later, Incognito had permitted six sacks (most among NFL guards) in 472 snaps. In most of six games since, the Dolphins left guards have allowed only two: one by Nate Garner and one by Sam Brenner in his 187 snaps.

So why is this group better? “Bryant has helped a lot –-- his experience, leadership,” right guard John Jerry said. “Mike Pouncey [who missed two of the past six games] sets the table for all of us. We’re jelling.”

Said McKinnie: “I’ve played OK. I could be better. I like playing next to Brenner. He has done a great job.”

Brenner, who chose the Dolphins among a dozen or so suitors after going undrafted out of Utah, was promoted to the 53-man roster last month only after Will Yeatman’s knee injury in practice.

“He plays his heart out,” Jerry said. “One thing about the guy is his work ethic. He gets here at 6 in the morning, one of the first here.”

The hope is Brenner can become another Evan Mathis, who was cut by then Dolphins executive Bill Parcells in 2008 and now is PFF.com’s No. 1 ranked guard in the NFL, as a member of the Eagles. Even owner Stephen Ross complimented Brenner after a recent game: “Pretty cool to be noticed by that guy,” he said.

No lineman would ever suggest publicly that the Dolphins are better without Incognito (especially) or Martin, but guard Danny Watkins said emotionally, their loss “made us stronger. We rallied around it.”

Incognito, whose status must be resolved by Monday, is not expected back.

For Martin to even consider returning next season would take an "incredible olive branch,” an associate said. But even with that, he still prefers to be traded next year and it's very likely he will be playing elsewhere in 2014.

ESPN reported tonight that Ted Wells canceled follow-up interviews with Incognito and several Dolphins offensive linemen and likely won't release his report before the end of the year. Also, ESPN said Martin is refusing to turn over some of his text messages. 

CHATTER

### McKinnie said he would love to finish his career year, but the sides tore up the last year of his contract (2014) when the trade with Baltimore was made, and the Dolphins haven’t told him if they want him back.

ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks four offensive tackles among the top 32 prospects, with two in the mid-to-late first-round range: Alabama junior Cyrus Kouandjio and Virginia’s Morgan Moses.

### The NFL's vice president of officiating told CBS that Antonio Brown's game-ending play Sunday would have been a touchdown if he hadn't stepped out of bounds because the NFL was not able to say definitively whether Ben Roethlisberger threw an illegal forward lateral on the play. Because no penalty was called on Roethlisberger's lateral after he threw it, the play would not have been overturned. (The Dolphins claim he threw an illegal forward pass.)

### Though nobody on this team apparently challenged Incognito about using the N-word, a player said a former Dolphins defensive player reacted very angrily when Incognito called him the N-word during a practice a couple years ago and confronted him in the locker-room. Several Dolphins players said they told investigator Ted Wells they don't like the N-word being used; others weren't bothered by it.

### Though UM would never admit it, there was disappointment internally –-- including on the Hurricanes’ football staff -- about being passed over by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, which is more prestigious than the Russell Athletic Bowl. Chick-Fil-A Bowl officials told UM that their bowl committee believes they should take the best team and that Duke beat UM.

The Raleigh News & Observer said ACC commissioner John Swofford pressured Chick-Fil-A to take Duke, but UM has no evidence of that and consequently isn’t upset with Swofford.

### The ACC has discussed having UM play in Louisville in their Labor Day weekend opener next year, but that’s undecided. In Weeks 2 through 4, UM plays FAU, Florida A&M and at Nebraska.

### Palm Beach Dwyer four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon –-- considering UM, Alabama and Ohio State –-- delayed his decision for at least a few days… Palm Beach Cardinal Newman four-star receiver Travis Rudolph, a former UM commitment, said he’s considering UM again....

Miami Central High four-star running back Dalvin Cook reportedly liked his UM visit, but some consider FSU still the favorite. This is too close to call, with UF also still in the picture... Per Canesport.com, Fork Union Military tight end Ryheem Lockley --- who was supposed to be part of UM's 2013 class --- still needs to boost his SAT score by 20 points to qualify for UM.

### According to a close associate, the Marlins expressed interest in free agent Delmon Young, a former No. 1 overall pick who hit .260 with 11 homers and 38 RBI for Philadelphia and Tampa last season. An outfielder, Young has been taking grounders at first. A Garrett Jones/Young platoon at first would be very solid.... More than a half dozen teams have inquired about Logan Morrison, who will be traded.... CBS said the Marlins are one of eight teams that have inquired about free agent third baseman Eric Chavez.

### A few Heat-Pacers postscripts: Difficult to remember many games in the past two-plus years where LeBron James struggled so mightily down the stretch. He shot 2 for 8 in the second half, including an airball, plus missed two free throws and had a costly late turnover, one of his five on the night. "I had some really good looks that didn't go down," he said....

Ray Allen's struggles in Indiana are troubling. His meaningless three before the buzzer were his only points on a 1-for-5 shooting night; last year, he went scoreless in two regular-season games at Indiana on 0-for-9 shooting. Including playoffs, Allen is 9 for 41 in Indiana as a member of the Heat. And he shot just 31 percent in the Eastern Conference Finals...

Chris Bosh (12 points, 3 boards) was outplayed by Roy Hibbert (24, 5), and Erik Spoelstra might have been wise to use more of the Bosh/Birdman tandem on a night Miami was outrebounded by 10. (LeBron had 14 boards). "He takes a lot of teams out of their games," James said of Hibbert. The Heat shot 3 for 12  on shots contested by Hibbert... Perhaps Greg Oden makes a difference here eventually. "We hope so," James said. Hibbert said after the game he's looking forward to playing against Oden.

The Heat was outscored by 18 with Wade on the floor, by far the worst of any Miami player. Wade and James each closed with 17 points. "Overall, I loved our effort," Wade said....Miami shot 4 for 21 on threes, which was a major factor.... Indiana (19-3) took a three-game lead in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the East, which the Pacers have made a priority.

### Heat owner Micky Arison spares no expense with his team. Members of the team’s traveling party who aren’t players or coaches received championship rings valued at approximately $16,000 per ring. The player and coach rings were much pricier –-- believed to be around $30,000.  

### A quick heads up on a worthy event: It's from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Bokampers in Miramar and will raise money to help good guy/recruiting guru Larry Blustein in his battle with kidney disease. 

The cost is $20 for adults and includes dinner, soft drinks and dessert, with a portion donated to Larry's foundation.

December 09, 2013

More local radio changes today; Philbin, Sherman, Coyle address issues; Fins' playoff scenarios

Lots of stuff from Monday’s press conferences with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and his coordinators.

First, though a quick local radio update:

WQAM-560 has fired host John Renshaw after concluding he wouldn't be part of the station's longterm lineup. Curtis Stevenson or Brandon Guzio or Alex Donno --- or possibly some combination of the three --- likely will take over Renshaw's 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot in January. (Donno handled the show today.)

Also, Channing Crowder is moving back to WQAM's 1 to 3 p.m. slot, with Adam Kuperstein, on Jan. 1 --- three months earlier than expected. Former 790 The Ticket host Marc Hochman will take over WQAM's 3 to 7 p.m. slot on April 1; he cannot start sooner because of a non-compete clause.

The station would have been happy with Crowder continuing to handle the 3 to 7 p.m. slot (with Guzio) until Hochman took over in April 1, but Crowder liked the idea of moving back to the 1 p.m. slot three months sooner than that because it was inevitable anyway.

WQAM is still considering how to fill the 3 to 7 p.m. slot from January 1 through March 30, before Hochman arrives. The Sports Brothers --- Ed Freeman and Jeff Fox --- are a strong possibility to end up with that three-month gig.

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COMMENTS FROM DOLPHINS COACHES

There was plenty of discussion of Pittsburgh's heart-stopping final play.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle asserted “the play should never have been allowed” because Pittsburgh’s offense “was not set” when the ball was snapped.

And even before Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds, it looked like Ben Roethlisberger threw a forward pass, which would/should have ended the play. (A review of multiple replays shows Antonio Brown caught it slightly beyond the point that Roethlisberger threw it.)

Was it a forward pass? Coyle said it was. “But not my much. Looking at the TV copy, it looked like the ball was a little bit ahead.”

Philbin would not say whether it was a forward pass, saying only: “It’s close, very close.”

### I asked Coyle: When you review that play with your players, what will you point out about what to do differently in the future?

“You have to tackle the first guy that catches the ball,” he said. “That usually helps. We have to tackle and get them on the ground sooner. We had chances. The footing didn’t help. But that’s not an excuse. At one point, it looked like we were kids in the school yard playing keep away. Guys were looking around looking at who the ball might be going to next as opposed to who actually had the ball. It looked like a rugby game. It’s a game of inches – we found that out for sure yesterday. The only thing missing was the marching band [from the 1982 Cal-Stanford game that ended in similar fashion].”

Philbin said “there are things we can learn” on that last play, including the need to take “better angles.”

### Coyle said “the question has come up about whether it’s best to take a time out” in that situation. He chose not to (which was understandable) because “it’s very shaky you can get a play off.”

One problem on that play from a Dolphins perspective is “we had guys still running to get back in position. The issue was the play before as much as that play. There were two laterals on the play before so guys were dispersed all over the field.”

### Philbin said officials could have reviewed the issue of whether Roethlisberger threw a forward pass and “all reviewable aspects of the play.” In other words, they weren’t just limited to reviewing one questionable aspect. But because it was clear Brown stepped out of bounds, it wasn’t necessary to review the forward pass issue.

### What was Philbin thinking during that play? “I might have been saying a couple of Hail Marys. I know my mother probably was, wherever she was.”

What was Coyle thinking? “I was trying to be calm. I was standing there, watching. As the banter was going on, I was saying, ‘We got him! We got him! I don’t know if we got him!” When he accelerated, he was flying. It was definitely scary.”

MORE FROM PHILBIN

### Daniel Thomas, who finished with 105 yards on a 6.6 per carry average, “played a good me, really stepped up, made some big plays. Did a good job blocking as well.”

### Did Philbin need to be talked into challenging the no-TD call on the Brian Hartline catch in the end zone, which was ruled a touchdown on review. It seemed that way.

“I never met a receiver who didn’t have both feet down,” Philbin said. “You have to take it with a grain of salt. He was very confident he got both feet down. People upstairs thought he did.”

### Of the offensive improvement: “You have to credit the offensive staff and players for executing those plays. There’s not a whole lot of new stuff.”

### Besides Charles Clay’s terrific work as a receiver, Philbin said Clay had an excellent block on Ryan Tannehill’s 48-yard run.

### Sam Brenner played far more than Nate Garner at left guard because the staff was impressed by Brenner’s work in practice and games. Brenner “represented himself well,” Philbin said.

### On the upcoming New England game: “They’ve won five of their last six. You know you’re not going to get any gifts from this team. They don’t beat themselves.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE SHERMAN

### On Thomas: “It was a possibility he might not be able to come back [this season]. On Wednesday, we never envisioned him even playing this week. It’s a credit to our training staff and to him. He did some things Friday we thought we might have a chance. Certainly a critical part of the win on Sunday. Our training staff did an excellent job. I’m sure he wasn’t 100 percent but he played as if he was.”

 ### Sherman was asking why he’s tentative about making Tannehill a running quarterback in light of the fact that he has been mostly successful when he runs.

“Last year, there was a specific reason. I wanted to make sure we developed his skills as a quarterback. He’s going to be recognized as a pocket quarterback before he’s going to be recognized in this offense as a running quarterback.

"[Tannehill running] is a part of the offense. I don’t think it is THE offense.”

He said he uses Tannehill on running plays occasionally (including a read option that gained 48 yards Sunday) “just to keep people honest for the most part. Some weeks we use it. Some weeks we don’t. The element of surprise allows you to pull a run out like we did yesterday.”

### Sherman said he and Tannehill met Saturday night and “I said I just came from outside –-- it’s pretty cold out. He said: ‘It’s not going to be a problem for me.’”

Sherman then told him there could be rain and snow. To that, Tannehill said: “It won’t be a problem. Don’t worry about it.’”

Did Sherman believe him? “When he tells me stuff, I believe him. When he tells you he’s going to do something, he does it. He was confident on game day. He looked around at coaches all bundled up and he was in a short sleeve and throwing the ball around like he was in Miami.

“The only things that are going to affect him are only the things he allows to affect him. He’s very resilient, physically and mentally. He’s gone through a season where he has taken some shots [from sacks and hits] and here he is still standing at the end of the season. I’m not sure there are a lot of quarterbacks who could have been able to endure like he has. Mentally, he’s very resilient as well. He has a mindset that’s different from most people. He’s very resilient.”

## On Charles Clay breaking tackles: “The thing you’re seeing is an evolution of a younger player gaining confidence in himself and gaining feeling that we have confidence in him. I see him beaming with confidence. As long as he keeps the attitude he has currently –-- I just saw him go out to work in the weight room [even though] today is optional –-- and listens to his coach, he’ll keep getting better. He’ll have a chance to be real special, I believe.”

### On offensive line: “The group is coming together better now, but it’s still a work in progress, The guy that really impressed me in this ball game was Tyson Clabo. He has played very well. It says a lot about him and his resiliency to be able to lose his job, get it back. He’s done a nice job for us.

“Jimmy Turner is a phenomenal offensive line coach. The way he teaches is very simplistic. A lot of coaches will teach you what they know –-- he teaches what they need to know to do their job, not everything he knows.”

### Sherman ended his session with an unsolicited tribute to Philbin, saying Philbin “has done a phenomenal job to get us to this point. I’ve never had to endure what he has as a head coach [with the locker-room bullying investigation]. You have no idea what a task that is. To have the distractions we have, I have to give Philbin tremenedous credit. He demanded all of us to stay on task.”

MORE FROM COYLE, ASIDE FROM THE FINAL PLAY

He called Nolan Carroll “one of the most valuable players on the field” yesterday: “He has really stepped up his game of late.”… On playing the Patriots without Rob Gronkowski (who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury): “I don’t think there’s a team in the NFL that has done a better job utilizing personnel than they have from a week to week or year to year standpoint that the Patriots. I’m sure they’ll be some things we haven’t seen.”

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR A BREAKDOWN OF DOLPHINS PLAYOFF PERMUTATIONS, A LAMAR MILLER UPDATE AND OTHER NOTES.