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What Fins are getting with Moreno; Heat-Pacers postscripts; UM impact of major court ruling

The Dolphins have upgraded at running back by agreeing with Knowshon Moreno on a one-year deal. Some tidbits about him, some of which we posted last week:

### Here is what Pro Football Focus said about him entering free agency: "The No. 1 running back [in free agency], almost by default, comes from this year’s Super Bowl runner up. Knowshon Moreno is the only back on this list without injury, workload, or age concerns. This last season Moreno proved that he can produce effectively in an every-down role over the course of the season. In terms of pure ability, there are probably six or seven free agents I’d prefer, but none are proven commodities at this point in time. At just 27years old, and with just 992 career touches to his name, Moreno is sure to have at least a few more productive seasons in his legs before the dreaded running back decline sets in.

"2013 was by far Moreno’s most accomplished as a pro," PFF went on to say. "He set career highs in snaps (724), rushing yards (1,038), receiving yards (548), touchdowns (13), and PFF grade (+9.9). His 241 carries were more the most Moreno’s had in a season since his rookie year and his 60 receptions were a career high by a wide margin. With his rushing (+4.2 grade), pass catching (+7.0 grade), and adequate pass blocking (0.0 grade) ability, Moreno provides the ability to plug and play 600+ snaps immediately."

### But ESPN's Bill Polian said: "Solid contributor but not a No. 1 back. Most of his success from 2013 was a function of the system."

### Moreno is a productive back coming off his best season (1038 yards rushing, 4.3 per carry, 10 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving touchdowns and 548 receiving yards playing behind a good offensive line and with a Hall of Fame quarterback).

But the metrics suggest he’s not clearly better than Miami’s other backs in breaking tackles.

Last season, Moreno averaged 2.0 yards after contact, which was tied for 39th among 55 backs, according to Pro Football Focus.  Who was he tied with? Daniel Thomas, whom Moreno presumably would replace. Lamar Miller was 31st at 2.1.

### Moreno broke or avoided 21 tackles --- the same number as Thomas and one more than Miller, despite having considerably more carries than both. Those 21 were 29th most among running backs. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, conversely, had 75 broken or avoided tackles.

### Moreno doesn’t break a lot of long runs, either. He had five carries of 20 yards or more, which tied for 17th, but needed 241 carries to do it. Miller and Thomas each had four such runs in substantially fewer carries --- 177 for Miller, 109 for Thomas.

### Moreno’s 4.3 per carry averaged tied for 21st among 55 backs. By comparison, Miller averaged 4.0, Thomas 3.7.

### PFF ranked Moreno eighth among all running backs as a pass blocker. For perspective, Miller was 33rd, Thomas 34th.

### Moreno had only one fumble in 241 rushing attempts last season. He’s young (26) and coming off his best season, albeit in an offense loaded with talent.

My conclusion? Good move to sign him. He’s a more proven, accomplished back than Thomas, has a better per carry average and is a superior pass protector. A Miller/Moreno tandem is an upgrade over a Miller/Thomas combo.

 

 

HEAT-PACERS NOTES

Hard fouls. An ejection. Playoff-type intensity. Lineup changes. Dramatic swings. This was as riveting as it gets in the regular season for two teams that will be judged solely on the playoffs.

And if these teams go seven games in the Eastern Finals, it looks increasingly likely (though not certain) that Game 7 would be in Indiana, with the Pacers now up two games in the loss column with 12 games left for Miami and 10 for Indiana, and the Heat likely to rest its starters late in the season.

Miami can tie the season series by beating Indiana on April 11, but the Pacers have the better conference record, which would be the tiebreaker if the teams split their four-game season series.

### Erik Spoelstra second-guessed himself for calling the last play for Chris Bosh, who took a pass from LeBron James and airballed a jumper to end this 84-83 loss. Spoelstra said he probably should have put the ball in the hands of James, who had 38 points, on 11 for 19 shooting, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Bosh, the Heat’s best shooter in the clutch this season, was open on the play but had to rush the shot.

"You can't make two passes and set for the shot at the end," Bosh said. "There's not much you can do in two seconds. It was a 20-second timeout. We didn't have much time for discussions."

“Unfortunately that was what I diagrammed and it might not have been the best [call],” Spoelstra said. "It was probably a little too gunslinger."

Dwyane Wade wasn't in the game on the final possession of a cramp in his hamstring.

Asked about the last play, James said only: “It was the play drew up. And we got a look.” Asked again about the play, he said: “I just ran the play.”

James said he “was surprised” that two hard fouls against him weren’t called flagrants, and yet James was called for a flagrant against Roy Hibbert, which James questioned afterward, noting Roy Hibbert's face "happened to hit my elbow."

“Me and Blake Griffin take some hard hits, and they call it how they want to call it," James said. "It’s very frustrating, very frustrating. As a player, you play the game the right way, and it just doesn’t fall your way.”

Bosh was upset about the the fact Indiana didn't have a flagrant foul called against them: "We were getting punched in the face and clothes-lined out there. We are going to have to revisit what flagrant foul means. They had one (flagrant foul called against Miami) and we had none, even though LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined."

### Bosh, in foul trouble, didn’t return in the fourth quarter until there were less than two minutes left. It was a forgettable night for Bosh --- 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting and four rebounds. With Bosh’s increasing reliance on his three-point game, Jeff Van Gundy noted that Bosh “has to figure out how to get closer to the basket. He’s more versatile than he’s showing.”

### Wade left with 1:59 left, finishing with 15 points. "I felt cramping," he said. "Had to get off of it. Once you get cramps, it's not going to stop right away."

### The Heat ultimately was undone by fourth quarter turnovers (seven of them), and 19 in the game, leading to 26 Pacer points. James and Wade had six turnovers apiece....

Miami tied a season low with four fourth-quarter field goals (on 13 shots) and was outscored 21-15 in the fourth. The Heat’s 83 points were a season low, and the Heat is now 0-6 when it scores fewer than 90 points. "We didn't get our guys in the right spots," Bosh said. "We had so many empty possessions where we didn't get any movement."

### The defense, at least after the first quarter, was plenty good enough. “That part was encouraging,” Spoelstra said. But “we weren’t able to get over the hump. It’s a tough one. We didn’t get the type of looks we wanted going down the stretch.”

### Who would have thought that the Heat would play key moments down the stretch with Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis? “They need to be in the rotation,” James said.

Erik Spoelstra opted for Lewis, who scored his first basket since Feb. 21, instead of Shane Battier, which Spoelstra attributed largely to Ray Allen’s absence because of the flu. Battier has struggled against David West in the past.

“I like Rashard’s minutes,” Spoelstra said. “He always keeps himself ready. He gives us something that works for us offensively. He’s a very smart player and he competes defensively.”

Like Battier, Michael Beasley was a DNP-coach’s decision.

### Haslem, stuck to the bench for weeks, has been a revelation the past two weeks, and his defense against Roy Hibbert was exceptional.

As Gundy noted, Haslem forced Hibbert into tough shots by getting good leverage --- unlike Greg Oden, who couldn’t do anything to stop Hibbert in Hibbert’s 11-point first quarter. Haslem (four rebounds in 21 minutes) replaced Oden to start the second half, and Hibbert scored just eight points after the first quarter.

“His minutes were good,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not an indictment of Greg. I’m not down on him. This isn’t making any decisions. He’ll start the next game. He’s getting there. The bottom line is still winning, and that’s my job to make those decisions, whether they’re right or wrong. Greg is getting better.”

### A second half three-pointer by Wade was disallowed because he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. (Replays showed he didn’t.)

But Wade showed restraint by not responding to Lance Stephenson’s jawing. Stephenson, in a classic knucklehead moment, picked up his second technical foul (and automatic ejection) after yakking at Wade with 4:59 left. "I don't play the games Lance plays," Wade said. "The refs took care of it."

### Dreadful night for Mario Chalmers, who shot 2 for 10, with two assists and two turnovers and was beaten off the dribble several times.

### David West was only 3 for 12 on three-pointers last season before his key late-game three.

### Two encouraging signs: The Heat held Indiana to 37 percent shooting and played the Pacers to a 37-37 draw on the boards.

### Van Gundy said he’s “not as convinced both teams are going to get the Eastern Finals” as he was previously. He said Indiana would be more vulnerable than Miami and that Brooklyn is “very dangerous.”

UM CHATTER

### Al Golden said after practice today that Kevin Olsen is “starting to close ground” with Ryan Williams, but that “Ryan is ahead of Kevin, and Kevin is ahead of Gray Crow. Obviously Ryan has been the leader and is doing a really good job.”

### Golden can’t stop raving about Stacy Coley. “He’s raised the level of his play, and everyone is trying to catch his intensity and preparation.”

### Tight end Standish Dobard “is getting better,” Golden said. “He prepares really hard, wants to do well. Stan gives us a real physical presence on the line of scrimmage yet can get down the field and make plays because he's so long. Really excited about Stan right now."

### Freshman Darrion Owens had a sack Wednesday and UM really likes his pass rush potential.

### Please see the last post for a look at the landmark NCAA/Northwestern/union decision today and how it could affect UM.

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