The Wednesday buzz column is below. Quick noon update:
Days before the Patriots and Dolphins meet in the regular season opener, Bill Belichick has now plucked two players who were on the Dolphins a week ago and can tell him everything he needs to know about the nuances, tendencies, signals and play calls of Miami's offense and defense.
Two days after claiming safety Don Jones off waivers, the Patriots have agreed to terms with receiver/returner Marcus Thigpen, who is expected to join New England's practice squad. Thipgen has been with the Patriots since Monday, though the team hadn't announced the move as of noon today.
Asked Tuesday about the Patriots signing Jones, Joe Philbin downplayed it, saying he wasn't the least bit concerned. He shrugged off a question about why the Dolphins don't do the same and sign an ex-Patriot, suggesting it wouldn't be of much help. We're not so sure about that.
Belichick has done this to the Dolphins before, signing AJ Edds a day after Miami released him in 2011, and days before the Patriots beat Miami, 38-24, in their season opener that year.
### UM is working to finalize a game against LSU to open the 2018 season at AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Tx., where the Dallas Cowboys play. A game against Toledo had to be moved to accommodate it.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Hurricanes have been playing football since 1926, and never before --- in terms of margin of defeat --- have they been engulfed in a tailspin quite like the one they’re mired in now: Five losses in their past seven games, all five by 18 points or more.
Oh, there have been a lot of blowout losses before but never this many stretched over so few games, and it's pretty staggering when you consider the lofty company this proud program used to keep when it ranked among college football's elite.
For perspective, UM once went 10 seasons without five blowout losses (1984-93). Larry Coker had only three in six years before he was fired.
And there’s this: Against teams from major FBS conferences (even including the Big East), UM is 18-16 in Al Golden’s three-plus seasons, and seven of those 16 losses have been my margins of 18 or more. His ACC record is 13-12.
So how do former Canes standouts feel today?
“I’m fed up,” said former Canes and NFL defensive back Duane Starks, now a WQAM analyst. “Maybe I have to get over there and [give] them some pointers. [Louisville] is a mediocre team. What does it say about us?”
Starks isn’t alone; other former Hurricanes reacted angrily on Twitter and elsewhere after Monday’s loss in Louisville.
Ex-cornerback Phillip Buchanon has nicknamed Golden “Folden” and tweeted: “Folden is not getting the job done as a head coach or special teams coach. Folden’s leadership was always a major issue here….
“So he brings in a few good assistant coaches, but the changes should have come at the coordinator positions. When you have a lot of time to prepare for a game and your approach and adjustments suck, that’s a major problem.”
Former Canes defensive lineman Allen Bailey added: “Has to be some major changes done.”
Several ex-players took issue with the conservative offensive approach.
Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith tweeted: “Gotta play faster on offense and turn the QB loose. You gotta throw the ball downfield!”
Clinton Portis: “We have too many open playmakers to not open up the field. We have to open it up.”
Gino Torretta, on The Ticket: “I would have lined up in three, four wides and then run the ball. You have to do something to shake their defense.” Torretta said there were several things UM could have done, but did not do, to make it easier for Brad Kaaya. Among those he mentioned: Screen passes for Duke Johnson.
Michael Irvin bemoaned: “They know you are afraid to throw the ball!” --- which allowed Louisville to stack the box. At least Golden had the sense to admit today that UM played too conservatively Monday.
Some former players also questioned defensive decisions.
“No re-routing in this weak 3-4 defense,” Buchanon said on a Twitter rant. “We need to be more aggressive with strong zone blitzes with clearly defined zone responsibilities. The secondary is playing like robots with soft coverage and weak technique. Go back to the 4-3 defense.... The defensive linemen are in offensive linemen stance. We are not fundamentally sound on counters.”
Starks said: “If you are going to have a fourth guy standing up, send him! Don’t have him stand there in limbo.”
Warren Sapp mused, during the game, that a 3-4 defense “is covering grass if you can’t run or blitz.”
As usual, emotional Dan Sileo erupted on Twitter. “Congrats, Al Golden,” Sileo said. “Canes are now the Temple Owls.”
Sileo, now a San Diego radio host who often goes overboard in his criticism, added: "Golden used the Shapiro card for three years. Team is awful."
### Please see the last post for Golden's comments from a 4:30 conference call with reporters.
No rookie draft class played fewer snaps than the Dolphins’ in 2013. But early signs suggest it will be much different with this 2014 class, though ongoing injuries are hampering a few of them. What we're hearing:
### Offensive line coach John Benton told me Monday that first-round right tackle Ja’Wuan James --- who didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure or hit in preseason --- has exceeded his expectations: “I’m surprised how much more mature he is and ready for this level than I would have expected.”
### Rookie second-rounder Jarvis Landry has impressed everyone and is listed as the first-team punt and kickoff returner: “He’s awesome. His catching skills are off the charts,” Matt Moore said.
An NFC scout told me: “The best player in that draft class is Landry. He’s going to be a great No. 2 receiver eventually.”
### Four of their small-school picks --- Ex-Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp (out for now has a bruised sternum), ex-Marist defensive end Terrence Fede (out with a knee issue), ex-Liberty safety Walt Aikens (playing but dealing with a hand issue) and ex-North Dakota State guard Billy Turner (bone bruise on his left foot) --- have all left the staff encouraged, and all except possibly Turner are expected to play at some point this season once they are healthy.
Turner needs to improve in pass protection, but the Dolphins like his run blocking and view him as a potential future starter. Benton said he's "like a bull in a china shop" but must continue to work on refining his technique.
The Dolphins love Tripp’s speed and intelligence. “I’m not surprised; Tripp stood out to me at the Senior Bowl,” an NFC scout said. “I like his vision, instincts, motor, his will to get to the football.”
Jason Taylor raved about Fede this week. And Aikens has impressed coaches with his instincts and athleticism at safety, a position he hadn’t played much since transferring from Illinois, where he was dismissed from the team. Aikens was a cornerback at Liberty.
Also encouraging: An analysis of 2013 small-school NFL draft picks belies the notion that they do not contribute much as rookies.
A seventh-round offensive lineman from Northeast State in Oklahoma (who was kicked off Oklahoma's team) started nine games for Super Bowl champion Seattle. Rookie seventh-rounders from East Central in Oklahoma, Missouri Western, Chadron State and Harding made contributions for several teams in 2013. Arkansas Pine Bluff third-rounder Terron Armstead started twice for the Saints as a rookie and is now their starting left tackle. And there are other examples from last year alone.
Of Miami’s small-school picks, all except Aikens had a history of not being wanted. Turner and Tripp say their only scholarship offers were from the schools they attended. Only Marist and Albany recruited Fede and nobody offered him a scholarship.
“At lower-level schools, you can get away just with athleticism,” Fede said. “Here you need a lot more. Jason Taylor was a good help for me.”
### The Dolphins ended up keeping six undrafted rookies --- a very high number. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle indicated linebacker/end Chris McCain is expected to play some defensive snaps on Sunday. Anthony Johnson might get playing time as Miami's fourth defensive tackle.
### Two undrafted rookies --- Duke guard Andre Dawkins and UNLV center/power forward Khem Birch --- accepted training camp invitations with the Heat, putting Miami's roster at 18, two under the maximum permitted for camp. Dawkins, 6-5, averaged 7.9 points and shot 42.1 percent on three-pointers for Duke last season and shot 12 for 30 on threes for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando.
Birch, 6-9, averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks for UNLV last season. CSNWashington said Birch opted to join the Heat instead of Washington after playing for the Wizards' summer league team.
### Though the Heat has only two available openings, it could always cut someone who has been extended a training camp invitation to create an additional spot. It's possible another skilled shooter could be added, though that's not a certainty. Jordan Crawford, Wayne Ellington and Carlos Delfino are the top shooting guards still available.
Ellington, who shot 42 percent on threes last season for Dallas, would be a sensible addition. The Heat has been reluctant to offer guaranteed deals the past couple of weeks, according to an NBA agent who has spoken with them. But Miami could make that commitment if Pat Riley has a strong conviction about a player.
### According to Yahoo!, former Warriors and Kings coach Keith Smart is a candidate to join Erik Spoelstra’s revamped coaching staff. Smart is 93-170 as an NBA head coach, including an interim stint with Cleveland.
Ron Rothstein, who was re-assigned, is expected to do Heat community relations work and handle other assignments. The Heat expects Bob McAdoo will also accept a re-assignment. Spoelstra essentially wants to be able to select his own assistants instead of continuing to retain ones he inherited, and Pat Riley has given him that autonomy.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz