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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

Comments

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Richard

Happy New Year, Barry. Thanks for all the GREAT info, all year.

Mike

Never thought I'd say this, but I hope Golden leaves. He's no better than Shannon.

Barry Jackson

Thanks, Richard!

Eddie

If Dolphins had traded for Branden Albert, they'd be in the playoffs. If not, we have Jamar Taylor and gave up a 2nd rounder for Dion Jordan. Moronic.

LongTimeCanesFan

Thanks Barry, It is always a pleasure to read your posts.

We are blessed to have Coach Golden, I hope he stays for 30 years like Bowden and Beamer at their schools.

Randy Shannons' Agent

LongTime
You clearly arent a Canes fan if you want GoldenAl around long term. Name his most impressive win in his 3 years as Canes coach

LongTimeCanesFan

Agent,
You clearly are a trolling commentard. However, AG's most impressive win is hearts and minds at the moment. Talk to me at this point next year or better yet in two. AG will be a legendary figure ala Saban or whatever and then you will all be on the bandwagon.

Serpico Jones

Barry, what do you think will happen with Ireland?

Jeff

Very good analysis. It's mind-boggling that any of those offensive lineman who are generaly a mediocre bunch are far superior to anything that the Dolphins currently have on the team. Ireland made no serious attempt to pick-up any of them in a trade and made no effort to select a potential starting lineman in the draft. All of this in spite of the fact that even with Martin & Incognito, the line was in desperate need of playmakers, particularly because he ket Jake Long go in free agency. Instead, he moved-up in round one to select Dion Jordan, who it appears, is not going to be a starter anytime soon. Just based on these facts alone, it shows that Ireland is in over his head as GM. Ultimately, the blame for this rests with Stephen Ross who hired him even though he had no direct experience as a GM and had no proven track record.

Kevin

Welcome back Barry! Hope you had a great holiday off with your family.I wanted to ask you, why do you never hear Bill Polian mentioned as a viable replacement for Ireland? Also does Ross know that Petersonnever wonanythingin his time as a GM? The men he picked for his work place committee has more wins than Peterson does, how about ask them?

Glad your back!

Time to Move On from Al Golden

Butch Davis, Greg Schiano, and Rob Chudzinksi are available. Hurry up and grab them! It is time to move on from Al Golden and secure either one of them as Head Coach, or preferably all three of them, and let Butch pass on the baton to one of them in a few years. Those three were part of the coaching nucleus that put together what has been deemed as the "greatest college team of all time" in 2001. The school would be insane to not go after them, while they're still available. Golden is in over his head. Its tiring to continue to hear him infer that we do not have the "players" and have "been playing with one armed tied behind our back" due to the NCAA restrictions. Those are excuses. He makes $2.5 million per year. Let him take the $7.5 million he has made in three years with the school, and move on. Lets give that same salary to Butch, Schiano, or Chudz. Better yet, if the school administration was smart, they'd find a way to bring all three back, similar to the late 90's and early 2000's. All three are proven commodities at the college level. Butch never used the NCAA issue as an excuse. Instead, he recruited two and three star kids, who had speed, and who had a a chip on their shoulder. Most importantly, he and his staff COACHED THE KIDS UP. Would any great coach, such as Saban, Jimmy Johnson, Urban Meyer, or anyone put up with the defense giving up the amount of yardage and points they have the past two years? Of course not. Time to move on. I don't see why we have to go through another year of this coaching staff to make a decision by consensus when three of the great coaches that built this program to be GREAT are available in the wing waiting. TIME TO MOVE ON.

Time to Move On from Al Golden

There are many posts that are comparing Golden's progress to how Butch rebuilt things in the late/mid 90's to 2000 when he departed. For that, I say... Horse Hockey! Al Golden is nowhere in the league of Butch Davis. Butch proved it and did it without any excuses. Moreover, why would one wish to make Golden another Butch Davis, when the actual Butch Davis is waiting on the sideline and can be brought in right now(to replace Al Golden). Moreover, two Davis coaching tree protege's, Schiano and Chudz, are also available. What's the problem here? Why is everyone trying to fit the Al Golden "square peg" into the Winning Tradition UM "circle", when the proven "circular pegs" WINNERS (Davis, Schiano and Chudz)are now available. This sounds so much like government bureacracy, it is amazing. If this University doesn't bring in one of those three proven commodities, in some capacity, while they're temporarily available, then the UM administration really has no interest in winning. They are simply committed to hope and a whim, versus bring in an immediate SOLUTION. Mediocrity, and the "U" branding, I suppose, will keep student enrollment active, similar to a consistent base of tax paying dollars, and I guess they would be content with exhausting that for the future, until they cannot exhaust it anymore. Sounds like another failed bureacracy...the US Government, all the way. Had Butch stuck around he would be on the same parallel as Nick Saban, winning at least 4 National Championships in eight years, and he would have kept the well oiled machine going, where UM would be reloading instead of rebuilding. UM never rebuilt in the past. We reloaded. For the administration to posture the fans to have continual patience, and settle for this mediocrity, for four or five years at a clip (with unproven and/or unsuccessful coaches), while the years ... and now decades .... keep rolling on by, before we get back to a national championship,is ludicrous and blasphemous on the part of the UM administration. When Alabama hired Saban, the AD flew to Fort Lauderdale, without an appointment, hoping to run into Saban in public so that he could attempt to personally set up an interview with Saban. Keep in mind, Mike Shula really wasn't doing that bad of job at Bama at the time. He was actually doing better than Golden is doing here, as Shula was dealing with SEC competition. Saban wasn't happy with the Fins, Bama sensed it, and pursued him relentlessly. Shows you how Alabama looks at winning. Although Shula was capable, Bama felt Saban was an AVAILABLE STEP UP. Saban, like Golden, also inherited an NCAA violated program. The NCAA actually forced Bama to forfeit five games his first season in 2007. However, he didn't make excuses or harp on recruiting. He implemented iron fisted controls/processes and "coached" up his players. Yet, by his third year, Bama won a National Championship, and AS WE ALL KNOW, has won a total of three in the past four years. Meanwhile, in year three, Al Golden has no timeline and says, "we are not yet where we need to be". Well whose fault is that? It is his, not the NCAA's. Golden has had his three years, which by today's coaching standards is all any coach is entitled to, especially at the high salaries they garner. After three years, his record is no better than Randy Shannon's during the same period,and against ranked teams, is dismal, at best. He has had his three years. TIME TO MOVE ON! It is time for the UM administration to step up and pursue Butch, Chudz or Schiano the way Alabama pursued Saban! Finally... for Bernie Kosar. I know you have the ears of both the UM Administration and the Cleveland Brown Administration. How could you condone Chudz being fired after one year, and you are being so patient with Donna regarding Golden. Do the right thing by Chudz and do whatever you can do to get him back to UM. Besides Bernie being a part of such decisions, stepping ahead, there needs to be an advisory board set up of former UM players and coaches who participate heavily in the future coaching hires. The whole Al Golden interview process was a fiasco and a joke. Someone like Jimmy Johnson, Sam Jankovich, Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy, Darren Smith, Bennie Blandes or even Randall Hill, Mike Irvin, and Lamar Thomas on the offensive side (who bleed orange and green) should have grilled Golden during the interview process on what kind of defense he was going to bring to Miami. It is terrible and a mockery (as Louisville figuratively/literally showed us the other night) that we have gone from the frying pan to the fire since 2003 (with this current coaching staff). TIME TO MOVE ON and get back to winning, not mediocrity!

cane4ever

And Bama still is involved with illegal business as far as the NCCA rules are concerned. Yahoo Sports has addressed it but not other media sources has dared touch on the article. But they are reporting Tennesse. Miss. and others. Bama Players have western union and money graham transactions, but no one is reporting the involvemnent on Luther Davis ex Bama player and his band of agents with Fluker and Carron and others. even a strenth coach who they fired and a one game suspension of Ha Ha Dixon.

long time cane

Thanks Barry for all the good work you put in and keep us updated with on our Miami teams.With my morning coffee everyday I truly enjoy it as a great daily start to my day.Happy New Year.

Barry Jackson

Thanks, LTC, LTCF and Kevin!... Serpico: Ireland is a tossup. Ross' associates think more of Philbin than Ireland, but Ross will need to make up his own mind.... Kevin: Polian, at 71, isn't considered a longterm solution, even if he wanted to get back in. Ross in the past decided not to appoint Peterson to a permanent position in a Parcells-type role but values his opinion as a friend.

Maria

Happy 2014 Barry. Thanks for all your hard work this past year. You are truly the BEST. I sincerely appreciate you and your work ethic.

Barry Jackson

Thanks, Maria.

Frankie

If ireland is still here please don't draft a tackle in the first round. the dolphins wouldn't pick the right one anyway.

Frustrated DolFan

So glad your back. Your column is always my first read. Happy New Year Barry!

Neil's ghost

Thanks to Barry Jackson
True Dolfans want Ross to sell or die.

Dennis

Please please please fire Ireland. He will not get the first pick right.
Barry thank you for your insight.

Dennis

Ireland knowing he needs a tackle will trade his 1,2 to move up and grab a water boy and draft an ot from some small div 3 school in the 3 rd round.

Community Organizer

Any one else getting tired of uncle luke bashing miami hurricanes on twitter constantly.

Rodger

D'Onofrio must go or this University will not get another dime of my hard earned $$$ and I am a booster. I want $$$ back from a wasted trip to Orlando. What an embarrassment of multitudes. Fix it Al or you'll have 2 more empty seats at Sun Life next year.

gocanes1

If Butch Davis is truly available, he would be very tempting for a return.

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