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2 posts from March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

Tuesday night update: More nuggets and evaluation from Philbin; Heat, Marlins items

Some Tuesday night notes:

### During his hour-long meeting with reporters at the NFL owners meetings earlier today, here’s what Joe Philbin had to say about some of his new players:

On Branden Albert: “We’ve been studying him for a couple years. We feel like he’s a good fit schematically, will be good in the locker-room. All the research we did is he’s a good person. There are good clips of him on the back side and front side on outside zone plays that you want an outside tackle to do.” (And the Dolphins will remain a zone blocking team in their running game, incidentally.)

On guard Shelley Smith, who started just two of the 14 games he appeared in last season: “Really liked his ability to pull and run and move. He’s schematically a good fit for what we do.”

On cornerback Cortland Finnegan: “We studied the tape extensively. We liked what we saw on film. He will have to earn play time just like anybody else. The one thing he does give us is some position flexibility. He played some inside (slot); he can play outside.”

On safety Louis Delmas: “He’s very aggressive and he doesn’t hesitate. That play speed, that tempo he brings to the defense are things we feel he can add.”

On defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: “He runs to the football every single snap and plays hard. He’s only missed one game in four years. He’s been durable and available.”

Philbin said he and Dennis Hickey watched tape of all the free agents the Dolphins signed “so we both would have a comfort level. It’s not good if only one person has a comfort level.”

### The Dolphins will add a right tackle in the draft and possibly a guard, as well. They also will monitor the free agent market at guard.

“We still have some unsettled pieces we’re not certain of,” Philbin said. “We expect to have a competitive, competent offensive line when we open the season. There’s work to be done but there’s time to do it. We have a plan to address it and we will.”

Philbin said there are starting guard possibilities on the roster, including potentially Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner and Sam Brenner (“he made a lot of strides,” Philbin said).

### On balls thrown 20 yards or more, Ryan Tannehill completed only 6 of 36 such passes to Mike Wallace last season and Philbin said that's “going to be a focal point for us moving forward. We’ve got to connect more on the vertical throws down the field.

“Some of it’s timing between the guys. Some is ball location. Some is the receiver being in the exact right spot. We’ve got to increase our explosive plays. We’ve got to score more points. We just have to. [Deep balls are] a part of it. It’s not the only part. We’ve sliced up those routes and studied why and how. We definitely addressed that.”

### Philbin also wants Tannehill to improve his accuracy (his 60.4 percent completion percentage was 22nd-best) and throw fewer picks (he had 17, compared with 24 touchdowns).

### Philbin said “one of the things that was attractive to me” about new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor “is he’s been around some excellent coaches: Joe Gibbs, Dan Reeves, Chip Kelly, Mike Holmgren. He played quarterback [at Cornell], worked with a lot of quarterbacks.”

### How is Lazor’s offense going to be different than Sherman’s?

Here’s how Philbin responded: “The things I’m interested in seeing is, and Bill and I have discussed, is… we have to protect the quarterback better. The starting point of any deep ball or three-step drop, the focus has been on protection. The reason we haven’t scored the points you need to score to consistently win is we haven’t protected the quarterback well enough.

“We’re going to have a variety of formations. I don’t know that it’s going to be all that different. We will have multiple formations like we have in the past. What I am most interested in is the execution and protection of the quarterback, more explosive plays and protection of the football. We’ve turned the ball over too much. We had 26 last year. It’s too many.”

He said “it was not very easy at all” to part ways with Sherman.

### Philbin and Dennis Hickey wouldn’t rule out moving Ellerbe from middle to outside linebacker. Philbin, asked how the linebackers played last season, conceded: “There were some inconsistency there. There was a lot of productivity there but we’re looking for more consistency from the linebacker position, without a doubt.”

### Reshad Jones appeared to play worse in 2013 than in 2012. Asked about that, Philbin said he doesn’t necessarily agree. “We thought he played well, but there are still some things we can see him doing better --- playing a little faster, a little more decisively at times. We’re counting on him to do that this year.”

### Philbin said Jimmy Wilson will remain at safety instead of moving to cornerback.

### Philbin wouldn’t rule out re-signing Dustin Keller. Hickey said he has spoken to Keller’s agent (Eugene Parker) but wouldn’t say if he wants Keller back.

“He’s one of those guys we’re evaluating and considering like a lot of other free agents out there,” Philbin said. “We’ll see.”

### The Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns, who missed last season after a training camp knee injury. “He’s been in [the facility] every day diligently working to improve,” Philbin said. “He’s a big body type. We don’t have a lot of those 6-3 guys. He’s a little different. We like that about him. He’s a guy worth working with.”

### The Dolphins are happy with their three quarterbacks: Tannehill, Matt Moore (“We’re very confident in Matt as a backup. We like him a lot, Philbin said”) and Pat Devlin. “There is a chance we’ll add somebody,” Philbin added.

### Please see the last post for a lot more from Philbin from earlier in the day, including his plans for Dion Jordan and his thoughts on the rest of the under-utilized 2013 draft class.

### It will be interesting to see Heat center Greg Oden match up against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers Wednesday in an expected Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Memphis point guard Mike Conley, Oden's workout buddy and former Ohio State teammate, said: "He's not going to be back to where he was [previously]."

He said you will know Oden is all the way back when he is "not being as passive offensively, when he takes the pick-and-roll pop shots. He can make a jumper from the free throw line."

### The Heat (48-21) will pull even with Indiana (51-20) in the loss column if it wins Wednesday night’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

### Dwyane Wade (strained Achilles) practiced Tuesday and expects to play Wednesday. The Heat said he will be a game-time decision.

### With the Marlins’ roster moves today, the bullpen could end up being Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Carlos Marmol, AJ Ramos, Brad Hand, Henry Rodriguez and Kevin Slowey. But don't rule out lefty Dan Jennings making it. The Marlins had hoped Carter Capps, acquired from Seattle Logan Morrison, would make the team, but he needs more work at Triple A. Two scouts said they expected he would throw better this spring.

### Please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins from earlier in the day.... Twitter:@flasportsbuzz

Philbin expects expanded role for Jordan, discusses entire 2013 class; Moreno mulls options; Fins notes

ORLANDO --- No team received fewer offensive and defensive snaps from its rookie class than the Dolphins last season. But Joe Philbin made clear this morning that he expects the 2013 class to assume more prominent roles this season, starting with Dion Jordan and the rookie cornerbacks.

“We have a lot of hope for that draft class,” Philbin said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. “You usually see a significant jump from year one to year two.”

Philbin said he sees Jordan as a defensive end primarily, not a linebacker. That creates challenges in creating playing time behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, especially because Philbin said reserve end Derrick Shelby deserves playing time also. (Shelby played 446 snaps last season, Jordan 339).

Nevertheless, Jordan "will make a big jump this year,” Philbin predicted today. “We expect his role to expand. He played [339] snaps. We definitely want to see that increase. The most natural place is on third down. He’s going to have to have more snaps on first and second down. I think he will have a very good season. We know he has a lot of talent. He plays fast. When he did get snaps, they were quality. We see his role increasing somewhat.”

Philbin denied a published report that the coaching staff was dissatisfied with Jordan and his work ethic. “Not sure where that came from,” Philbin said. “He’s definitely a hard worker. He loves the game.”

He said Jordan’s progress was limited somewhat last season because of his offseason shoulder surgery ---the shoulder injury was aggravated during training camp --- and because his Oregon class schedule didn’t permit him to report until June.

“He missed a good number of practices at training camp,” Philbin said. “We don’t have a ton of individual time [during the season]. He missed a lot because of the academic calendar and injuries in the spring."

But he suggested he’s not going to bench the undrafted Shelby to play Jordan a ton more. “Shelby was one of the highest graders we had on the defensive line,” Philbin said. “Derrick Shelby earned every snap. We expect Dion will as well.”

Here’s what Philbin said to say about the other members of the 2013 draft class:

### At the moment, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are in the top four cornerback rotation and both will have a chance to beat out Cortland Finnegan for a starting job.

“We expect to see progress there,” Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. “Whoever performs best should be the starting cornerback. Those are guys we thought highly of. They had injury issues. Will was having a really good training camp; he was getting his hands on the ball a lot. That's what jumped out at us. Jamar's play speed attracted us to him in the film evaluation a year ago.” Davis played just 65 defensive snaps last season, Taylor 45.

### Philbin said the Dolphins staff needs “to find a home” for Dallas Thomas, who played just two snaps last season. He said he’s not sure whether he’s better at guard or tackle but could play either.

Philbin said Thomas has been one of the “hardest-working guys” in the team’s offseason program but the staff needs “to give him a place to anchor down. It’s a matter of consistency, gaining trust and confidence of himself and the guy next to him.

“One of the things that intrigued us when we watched him is when he played left tackle. We don't anticipate that's where he's going to be. He's going to give us roster flexibility --- either right tackle or one of the guards. He can play at either guard position. Once the dust settles, we'll figure out where the best spot is for Dallas Thomas to reach his potential. That's on us to figure it out. You want a guy to get comfortable and acclimated. A [starting job] is certainly a possibility. There's a lot of opportunity in the offensive line. We're an equal opportunity [employer] there.”

### Philbin said tight end Dion Sims, who played 280 offensive snaps, “has a chance to be a very good blocker in this league. I like what I see in that area. And he has soft hands.” But he said “his play speed has to become more consistent” and that on tape, “there were pictures of him being indecisive” at times. “But there’s a lot to work with.”

### Philbin said he does “not have a great feel yet” for Mike Gillislee as a running back but liked his work on special teams. He played only nine offensive snaps last season. He also likes the special teams work of seventh-round pick Don Jones.

### Linebacker Jelani Jenkins got more work late in the season and could earn playing on third down.

“He's very bright guy and picked up the system well," Philbin said. "He's athletic and has good zone awareness and has the skill set to run with receivers and play man-to-man. We hope he pushes for play time.”

### On Caleb Sturgis, who was a somewhat disappointing 26 for 34 on field goals, Philbin said: “He has all the qualities you look for. You see the leg strength and accuracy; there was a little spell there with a little inconsistency. We have to work through that and we will. I expect him to improve.”


### Regarding running back Knowshon Moreno --- who visited the Dolphins on Friday --- Denver coach John Fox said Moreno can return to the Broncos if he wishes, and we hear rumblings another team (besides Miami) also has him on their radar. The Dolphins remain interested but only at a price with which they’re comfortable. They remain in contact with his agent.

Moreno, who liked his visit to Miami, wasn't done considering his options as of late Monday night. One person with knowledge of the situation said it’s a toss-up whether he signs here and it could go either way at this point.

Maurice Jones-Drew remains an option, but the Dolphins haven’t yet been motivated to bring him in for a visit. Philbin declined to discuss Jones-Drew but left the door open on Moreno.

### Philbin said his linebackers need to be more consistent and that Lamar Miller must “break more tackles.”… He said he expects Dannell Ellerbe to improve playing middle linebacker but left open the possibility of moving Ellerbe outside…. He said Branden Albert and Shelley Smith are good scheme fits for the Dolphins’ offensive line and that Miami will remain a zone blocking team… He said the deep ball chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace must improve, and that will be a focus. But he said there’s no bigger priority on offense for him than pass protection.

### Philbin indicated the Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns. But offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman were not tendered, according to their agents.

### Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-rounder that the Ravens acquired from the Dolphins for Bryant McKinnie will be in 2015, not 2014 as had been widely reported.

### Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson raved about Erik Spoelstra’s speech to the Seattle team last summer, but Philbin indicated no plans to bring in the Heat coach to address his players. “I have great respect for him, for what he does as a coach,” Philbin said. Philbin added that he and Spoelstra have texted several times but not spoken. 

### Check out Armando's Dolphins blog for more from Philbin, and check back here later for more updates from the NFL meetings in Orlando.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz