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2 posts from January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014

Determined Dion Jordan formulates plan; Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dion Jordan’s name has come up a lot early this offseason because he was the poster child for disagreement between the Dolphins front office (which thought the third overall pick should play more) and the coaching staff (which didn’t).

As it turned out, only three non-injured rookie first-round picks logged fewer snaps than Jordan, and all three (Bjoern Werner, Datone Jones and Sylvester Williams) were selected between 24th and 28th. But Jordan blames nobody; instead, he points the finger at himself.

“I need to get stronger, and I’ve got to add to my repertoire,” he said in a private moment recently. “I’m a speed rusher. I have to find a way to get around the edge. This offseason, I need to get much better. And I’ve got to get better with my understanding of the game.”

After producing just two sacks, Jordan has devised a multi-pronged offseason plan to try to become the player the Dolphins expect. That includes:

### Adding a third pass rush move. He already has a speed move and an up-and-under move, according to defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers. But Rodgers said he needs a “long arm move. Jason Taylor had that.”

Jordan agrees. He plans to meet with Taylor and add elements from JT's game. “I want to pick his brain,” Jordan said. “Watching his film is a project for me this offseason. I’ve got to continue to develop moves.”

He also plans to work with Cameron Wake on pass rush mechanics and will study tape of “Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, guys with my body type and speed.”

Jordan, who had 26 tackles, had a sack in the opener but just one after that, in Week 12 against Carolina. And in five December games, he had no sacks and just three hurries in 61 snaps when he rushed the quarterback.

Overall as a rookie, he had four hits and 18 hurries on the 205 occasions he rushed the passer, and his ratio of one sack per 102.5 pass-rush chances was well below Wake (1 every 49) and Olivier Vernon (1 every 46).

### He will hit the weight room hard to “put on more muscle mass. But I want to do it while keeping my speed.” Jordan came out of Oregon at 244 pounds, played at 260 this past season and believes 265 “would be legit for me. Getting stronger will help me push the pocket and play the run.”

### He will do sprint work to improve his speed (already a strength) and will spend a few weeks training in martial arts at MMA Athletics, the Los Angeles-based facility run by Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer.

“The martial arts helps with hand-eye coordination, leverage, teaches you how to be aggressive with your hands,” said Jordan, who worked with MMA Athletics last spring.

Jordan ended up playing 338 snaps. He logged 87 against the run --- though it’s not his strength, it’s “better than you think,” Rodgers said --- and he graded out 31st of 52 defensive ends in a 4-3 defense against the run, according to Pro Football Focus.

He played 46 snaps in pass coverage, allowing two of three passes thrown against him to be completed, for 19 yards, but bottled up New England’s Rob Gronkowski on one play.

Though some evaluators believe he is best suited for outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, the Dolphins appear likely to leave him at defensive end in their 4-3 instead of having him compete with Koa Misi at outside linebacker, because they value Misi against the run. The challenge will be figuring out how to create more playing time for him, barring injuries to Wake or Vernon.

“I’d like to be part of the group playing the run,” he said. “But I will be out there more eventually. There’s no need to feel I need so much so soon. Everything takes time.”

His teammates remain bullish. “The sky is the limit for him --– his speed and size are pretty phenomenal,” tackle Tyson Clabo said.

CHATTER

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross already has said that the new GM, whenever hired, will report to him. But an unnamed candidate for the job told The National Football Post: "Maybe they’re waiting for the second interview to lay it all out, but they were completely non-committal about how it was going to work. I honestly don’t know if you answer to the owner or to (vice president of football administration) Dawn Aponte. It’s all really unclear.”

The GM, Aponte and Joe Philbin might all report to Ross. 

"If you have three people all at the same level, you’re going to have one taking sides and that’s going to create problems,” a candidate told The National Football Post. “You just don’t know what you’re walking into at this point.

"If you’re going to take that job, you’re going to want some protection because if they fire Philbin after next season, they could bring in some experienced head coach or a guy from college and they’re going to want a lot of control."

### Besides being open to possibly adding another big man (perhaps Andrew Bynum), the Heat also has interest in potentially adding a skilled perimeter defender if a cheap, good one shakes free, according to a team that has spoken to the Heat.

### In a year, the Heat has gone from historically good in the clutch to below average. Last season, Miami outscored teams by 131 points in 176 minutes in the last five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer, and went 32-8 in those games.

This season, the Heat entered Tuesday having been outscored by nine points during those clutch minutes (12th-worst), with a record of 13-9 in those games. But Miami outscored Boston, 11-4, in clutch time in Tuesday's win.

LeBron James generally has been very good late in those tight games this season (53 percent clutch shooting) and he scored nine in clutch time Tuesday. But Ray Allen, who hit the most meaningful clutch shot in Heat history in the Finals, is shooting 4 for 14 in the clutch this season, and Mario Chalmers 4 for 16.

### Please see the last post for a lot more Heat notes from Tuesday night.

### UM coach Jim Larranaga tells us that an NBA team that changed coaches within the past year reached out to him last year to gauge his interest in their coaching job, but he said he told that team he loves Miami and has no intention of leaving. With Duke visiting Wednesday (Dick Vitale will be on the call for ESPN2), Larranaga and his staff so far have extracted the most anyone could expect from a team that lost its top six scorers, has very little depth and is limited offensively.

“This year has been tremendous fun for me,” he said Tuesday, with UM ninth in the country in scoring defense at 59.6 per game. “Every player [on this team] has challenges to overcome” –-- from freshman Davon Reed learning point guard to Belgian freshman Manu Lecomte “crossing the Atlantic…. All of them have pleasantly surprised me…. We’re fighting for survival, trying to figure out ways to overcome our limitations, mostly from… lack of experience.”

### Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, UM's only five-star oral commitment, told our Safid Deen that he will visit FSU and Alabama" because he's "making sure I'm picking the right school" but remains "100 percent committed to Miami."

### UM, which continues to explore adding a big-bodied running back, on Tuesday visited 6-3, 212-pound Solomon Hunter, according to Hunter. He's a two-star prospect who, according to rivals.com, has offers only from Sam Houston State and Houston Baptist but has drawn interest from several major schools.... UM also started recruiting another two-star prospect this week: Mississippi-based defensive end Darrius Liggins, a former Mississippi State oral commitment who had eight sacks last season. He told canesport.com that Miami asked him to visit late this month but Liggins isn't sure; he first wants to see how his visit to Louisiana-Lafeyette goes.

### Looking for a right-handed hitting backup outfielder, the Marlins have interest in free agent Jeff Baker, 32, who also can play three infield positions and hit .279 with 11 homers and 21 RBI for Texas last season. They also have discussed Vernon Wells, 35, who batted .233 with 11 homers and 50 RBI for the Yankees in 2013 and was designated for assignment last week.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

LeBron says dealing with uncertainty of Wade's status has been tough; Heat notes

Some Tuesday Heat notes:

### With Dwyane Wade missing his third consecutive game to rest his knees (against Boston Tuesday), LeBron James said Tuesday that it has been difficult establishing a collective rhythm amid the uncertainty about whether Wade would be available from game to game.

“It’s tough,” James said. “Guys think it’s easy, but it’s tough. We have a team built on chemistry, built on rhythm. With so many of the guys being in and out, and the concern with D-Wade, it’s been tough on all of us. We’ve got to go in with the mindset sometimes that he’s not playing, as opposed to: Is he playing?”

Wade has missed 12 games, but this marked the first time he has skipped three in a row. He admitted feeling “a little soreness” in the knees on Monday but wasn’t available to speak before Tuesday’s game. One of the games Wade missed earlier in the season was because of flu, with “rest” listed as the reason for the 11 other absences.

“What we try to do is not predetermine and have expectations about it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You can’t predict it. You’re going to have some good days and some days where you don’t feel great. We know as long as we stick to the routine, he should get better, quicker and stronger. Now that we’re at home we can get back on the routine of strength training and conditioning.”

Ray Allen said “there’s no concern” about Wade’s knees because “he’s not injured. Nothing has happened where it’s sidelined him for a long period of time. It’s management of his body.”

But the Heat has played worse without Wade than it has in previous years since James joined the team. Miami entered Tuesday with a 5-6 record without Wade, compared with 11-2 last season and 14-3 in 2011-12.

“We’ve had a little more guys out than just Dwyane this year,” James said. “From a rhythm standpoint, it’s kind of hurt us. We’re a team that is built on rhythm and chemistry, and we’ve had so many guys out with injuries that it’s kind of hurt our performance.

“Me watching the film, some of the things we’ve been able to cover in the past is off. Last year, when D-Wade went out, we had Mike Miller to step in. Mike Miller was in the system for a while, so we could automatically fill that void. Now, with D-Wade out, it’s given more opportunities to guys that haven’t been in the system as many years or as many situations as Mike Miller.”

DOUGLAS JOINS TEAM

### New Heat combo guard Toney Douglas, who had been training in Miami for several days since last Wednesday’s trade with Golden State and Boston, joined his teammates for Tuesday afternoon’s walkthrough and said he was pleased with the deal because “it’s rare to come to a championship team.”

Douglas, who was on the inactive list Tuesday, said he has spoken with Heat president Pat Riley twice since the trade and “he told me they liked me, been on their radar for a long time and to do what I do best.”

Douglas, who averaged 3.7 points for Golden State, said the priority is picking up the Heat’s defensive schemes. “I pick up things well,” he said. “My mentality when I step on the floor is defensive-minded. I love to disrupt an opponent…. I’m here to get better and make an impact.”

### Michael Beasley entered Tuesday have playing just seven, two, six and three minutes over the previous four games, but Spoelstra did not answer directly when asked if there has been slippage in his game.

“That’s not an indictment on Michael,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve given up 120 points. I think we’re all at fault, including the staff.”

### Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the game that the fact Joel Anthony, acquired from the Heat last week, knows the Heat’s play calls is “a benefit” but shouldn’t be overstated.

### Mario Chalmers received a warning, but not a fine, for violating the NBA’s anti-flopping rule against Atlanta.

### As an example of how Spoelstra trusts his players more than he did early in the Big Three era, James noted: “We’ve had two games this year where he’s allowed guys to change a play late in the game. I was one of them. [Bosh] was the other.”