August 18, 2015

Tuesday UM update: Linebacker, safety, offensive line, defensive line

A quick Tuesday UM update:

### UM entered camp with some concern about depth at linebacker behind Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace, Darrion Owens and Tyriq McCord, the first three of whom are expected to start unless McCord can overtake Owens in the next three weeks.

So who has emerged among the others?

Al Golden today cited freshman James King out of Booker T. Washington: “Has been a real bright spot," Golden said. "He’s gotten his weight up. He’s fast --– 4.7 [in the 40] as a freshman.”

Others in the mix: former safety Marques Gayot, Charles Perry and Terry McCray. Juwon Young has been sidelined with a foot injury but “will be back at some point,” Golden said.

### Golden is very pleased with new defensive line coach Randy Melvin, who got the job when Jethro Franklin left for the Oakland Raiders.

“Jethro did a really good job for us,” Golden said. “Randy is different. Has got a different style. Randy is doing a great job connecting with them, doing a great job being a technician. And Randy’s got a lot of depth.”

Golden said it’s a big help that freshmen Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton are “pushing like they’re pushing. They both came in great condition. That changed the whole dynamic. The depth and Randy’s approach in terms of being a great mentor to them, father figure, is pretty powerful right now.”

### UM is in very good shape at safety, with Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins, Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford all pushing to start, and promising freshman Jaquan Johnson also in the mix.

“I don’t know what the final combination is going to be,” Golden said. “There’s a lot of competition; long way to go before that’s settled. Jaquan is back healthy. Rayshawn [Jenkins] is really mature and looks good; his core strength and flexibility is awesome and showing up. He’s so much lighter than he was. He got heavy when he hurt his back.

“Jamal is having a great camp.  He’s a bulldog, a hard worker, relentless. And he’s being verbal, having command of the secondary. He has always had a physical presence and now he’s settled into playing the defense and executing at a higher level. Jamal and Darrion Owens are on a different planet [on the GPS]. Jamal is a great leader for us.”

### On the offensive line, UM is waiting for starting tackles to emerge among Trevor Darling (a likely starter), Kc McDermott, Sunny Odogwu and Jahair Jones. Danny Isidora, the projected right guard, also has gotten a look at tackle.

Nick Linder will likely be the center, and Isidora and Alex Gall are favorites at guard, but Joe Brown is pushing hard.

“Joe Brown is having a real good camp,” Golden said. “Danny Isidora has been working at guard and tackle; he gives us flexibility. Everybody plays other positions. Linder and Hunter Knighton at guard [and] center. [Freshmen] Tyree St. Louis and Tyler Gauthier are in the mix.”

Twitter: flasportsbuzz... Please check back tonight for a lot of Dolphins and Canes. 

August 17, 2015

Ex-Heat player decides not to wait to see if Heat offers; Twenty Dolphins nuggets from Monday: Roster news, injury updates, position battles

Please scroll to the bottom for a 5 p.m. Heat note. Twenty Dolphins notes from today:

### The Dolphins’ 2014 draft class, its first under Dennis Hickey, sustained its first roster casualty on Monday. Tight end Arthur Lynch was released before ever playing a snap in a regular-season game.

Lynch, selected in the fifth round (125th overall), spent his rookie season on injured reserve because of a back injury sustained after the Draft. Known as a functional blocker at Georgia, Lynch never developed as a downfield receiving threat.

“I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity at some other point,” coach Joe Philbin said, adding that Lynch is a "great guy" but wasn't considered among Miami's top five tight ends, in the staff's opinion.

### Lynch’s departure leaves Gerell Robinson, Jake Stoneburner and Tim Semisch competing for the third tight end job behind Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims. Miami ultimately might consider waiver wire options for that roster slot.

Philbin was non-committal about whether Miami will even keep three tight ends. “We have to keep the 53 best guys that will help us win regardless of how many tight ends that ends up being,” he said.

### To fill Lynch’s roster spot, the Dolphins signed former Texas El Paso linebacker James Davidson, who appeared in two games as a rookie for the Giants last season.

### For the first time during training camp, left tackle Branden Albert took a handful of snaps in 11 on 11 drills as he works his way back from major knee surgery last November. The Dolphins have expressed optimism that he should be ready for start of the regular season. (Armando has more on his blog on that.)

### With Dallas Thomas continuing to work with the starters at left guard, the Dolphins gave rookie Jamil Douglas some snaps as the first-team right guard, though Billy Turner took the majority of those right-guard snaps with the starters. Douglas opened camp competing with Thomas at left guard.

“It’s a world of opportunity,” Philbin said of Douglas. “One of the things for young linemen is you want to challenge them to a certain degree to see what they’re capable of handling.”

### Beyond DeVante Parker and Don Jones (who are on PUP), only two others missed practice: Koa Misi (calf) and Jordan Tripp (ankle). Tripp, who was off crutches, said he has no idea when he will be able to play. Parker jogged around the perimeter of the field (a sign of progress) but Philbin said he was uncertain of his timetable and didn’t rule out an appearance in a preseason game, which seems ambitious.

Kenny Stills returned after missing two weeks of practice with a calf injury; Adam Beasley will have a lot more on Stills later on the home page.

### Philbin said Carolina coach Ron Rivera called him months ago and suggested the joint practices that the teams will hold at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., before playing Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C. 

This marks the first joint training camp practices in Philbin’s four years as coach.

“Last year, I almost did it with Atlanta, but it was the first week and that didn’t fit the way I wanted to install our offense, defense and special teams,” Philbin said. “If I were going to do it, it was going to be during the second week.

“I’m on a subcommittee with Ron; I think he’s a really good coach, a good person. We spoke on the phone. We met in Indianapolis. We met again at the league meeting and talked some things over. It just fits perfectly, schematically on both sides of the ball.”

Philbin cited another incentive to do this: “As I’ve told the team, we’ve got to get used to winning on the road. Let’s be honest --- That’s going to be a key to our season. We’ve got seven out of nine games away from Sun Life Stadium to start the season.”

Ryan Tannehill said “it’s going to be a game-like atmosphere every day in practice up there. Competition’s going to be high.”

### Tannehill said the Dolphins intend to “consistently continue” to “use my legs in the run game with the zone-read.” 

### Tannehill said “we would like to get” tight end Jordan Cameron “the ball probably a little bit more than he’s getting it right now. In the red zone, he’s definitely going to be a threat for us all year.”

### Terrence Fede had two more sacks at Monday’s practice, the final one open to the public at the team’s Davie facility this year. Seems like we’re writing this every day.

### Caleb Sturgis hit field goals from 41, 46 and 51 but missed from 47.

### Tannehill overthrew Jarvis Landry on one deep throw but hit Stills in stride on a 40-yard pass, beating Brice McCain.

### Brice McCain had a tough day, incidentally; he was beaten several times.

### The undrafted rookie linebackers continue to have their moments. Neville Hewitt tipped a Tannehill pass Monday. Zach Vigil remains the leader of that group.

### It’s very difficult to envision him making the team barring injuries, but receiver Cobi Hamilton continues to impress us. He stretched out on the sidelines to make an impressive catch against Tony Lippett on Monday. Hamilton, by the way, was on the Bengals' active roster for their playoff game last year.

LaRon Byrd also has had a good camp but had a drop Monday. Tyler McDonald, who was re-signed Saturday when injured Tommy Streeter was waived, had two drops.

### Derrick Shelby, entering the last year of his contract, has had a solid camp. He snuffed out a Landry reverse for a six-yard loss.

### Greg Jennings had three consecutive catches for sizable gains and continues to find ways to get open.

### The Dolphins continue auditioning returners so that they don’t feel compelled to give Jarvis Landry every single return. Christion Jones (back from injury), LaMike James (his name of choice), Damarr Aultman, Brent Grimes and Stills all got work Monday.

### Philbin, asked to assess his backup running backs: “It’s still an open competition. Damien [Williams] has had a very good camp and LaMichael James has flashed things. Jay Ajayi we want to get more evaluation on. Mike Gillislee has done a lot of good things; unfortunately he had the fumble the other night. He’s been running the ball well in practice.”

### Though it’s clear McLeod Bethel Thompson and Josh Freeman aren’t going to be here come Sept. 7 barring injuries, Joe Philbin said: “This week in practice is big for both of them. We told them right from the get go that obviously I think they both know, they’re both pros, that’s not acceptable quarterback play. They need to both improve and they need to compete to see who’s going to go into the game next.”

Both had 21.9 passer ratings in Thursday’s game at Chicago.

### NBA note: Dorell Wright, who had been in contact with the Heat, has decided to sign to play in China, freelance NBA writer David Pick reported. Yahoo! reported later that Wright's deal has no NBA out.

The Heat has maintained contact with Wright's agent and said it wanted to keep in touch but had not made an offer to him and had given no indication if it would. Wright did not want to wait around any longer.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 15, 2015

Amid criticism, UM explains its defensive approach, makes slight changes; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

By most any statistical measure, UM’s maligned defense improved last season, rising to 14th among 128 FBS schools in yards allowed per game (329.6) and 36th in points permitted (24.3).

Yet former players and others continue to criticize coordinator Mark D’Onofrio because of schemes and philosophy.

Today, we examine what prominent alums say must be changed on defense; D’Onofrio’s explanation for his approach; and areas where changes are likely and unlikely:

### UM’s defensive scheme. Al Golden and D’Onofrio believe strongly in mixing 4-3 and 3-4 alignments. That’s a hot button issue among ex-players.

“We’re not a 3-4 team! Never have been,” former star running back Clinton Portis said. “A 4-3 is the best defense ever played. A 3-4 doesn’t fit UM.”

Former Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta agrees. “Miami has had success being a 4-3 aggressive defense in the past," Torretta said this past offseason. "I would like to see more aggressiveness from the front four. That’s what we did and we had a lot of success.”

So why does UM switch between the two and make players learn how to play in both?

“We started in 2013 to build a hybrid defense to set you up so you’re not pigeonholed with personnel and you can recruit anyone to this scheme and make it fit the options that you have,” D’Onofrio said last week.

“We stayed true to that going into our third year. It has allowed us to focus on guys that do things really well for us and put them in position to do that. In Virginia, we were ranked in the top 10 and had numerous pros” with this approach.

### Overall defensive aggressiveness. Pittsburgh Steelers rookie defensive end Anthony Chickillo said UM’s scheme didn’t allow him to display his athleticism the past four years, and former UM All-American center Brett Romberg said UM needs to “allow guys like Chickillo and Chad Thomas to play a more aggressive style.”

Former assistant coach Don Soldinger said: “The criticism I have defensively is those guys need to run to the football. You need to make your reads on the run and get up-field and get to the ball. Jimmy Johnson also played quite a bit of zone but he wanted you up-field and reading everything on the run. And if guys run under a block [unlike what they may be taught] and make a play, don’t say anything to them.”

UM insists it wants players to swarm to the ball and defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu said getting upfield more quickly is being emphasized to the front seven more than ever before.

“We always had the option to rush the quarterback but never took full advantage of it,” Kamalu said last week. “The emphasis now is getting up-field more. We love it. It’s a more aggressive defense.”

New defensive line coach Randy Melvin, during a practice open to the media, put it simply to his unit: “Put your hand in the ground and go and shut... up!”

So just how much different will this defense look?

“It’s not that much different, but it’s always our job to see where guys can get better and not be stuck,” D’Onofrio said. “With the personnel, think about what they can do and how you can help them. We’re hard on ourselves. We go back and look at it and say this wasn’t working out very well. Let’s scrap it. What can we do better?

“[But] if you’re going to add new things, you better scrap some other things. What you don’t want to do is end up with too much. We’re conscious of that. You try to see if you can tweak a thing here or there to help guys without completely changing anything. That’s the challenge every year. We’ve arrived at a package we’re excited about this season and fits the 2015 personnel.”

D’Onofrio, incidentally, has said UM’s defensive backs play plenty of man defense --- more than it did initially under Golden and D'Onofrio --- and quibbles with suggestions to the contrary.

### The two-gap approach, which enraged at least one former player who complained about it to me last season.

In layman’s terms, when a team plays one gap, that defensive lineman is responsible for one gap and typically lines up directly in that gap; the hope is for the defensive lineman to get penetration for a sack or a tackle for loss.

In a two-gap, the defensive lineman is responsible for the gap on either side of the offensive lineman that he is lined up across from. The main purpose of the two-gap technique is for the defensive line to "clog" the line of scrimmage, which allows for the more athletic linebackers to make plays on the outside or gives them time to offer support on runs up the middle.

D’Onofrio said that UM ran two-gap only 25 percent of the time last season and “75 percent of the snaps were one-gap techniques or movements where guys have a chance to be really disruptive and get tackles for losses and get sacks. The misconception when people talk in terms two-gap is that we don’t want them to be aggressive. It’s just somebody is responsible for two gaps. A little too much gets put into what we play. It’s more important how we play it.”

### Where linebackers and safeties line up.

Portis: “With safeties 15 yards back, how are you going to make a play? And they had [linebacker] Denzel Perryman playing in no man’s land.”

Soldinger --- who likes Golden and this staff – said the safeties need to be more involved. “I never see safeties in the [TV screen] picture sometimes.”

And in an interview airing Sunday night, former Hurricanes All-American Bennie Blades told NBC-6’s Adam Kuperstein: “When it’s 3rd and 1 and these guys are still 15 yards deep, are you kidding me? I don’t care who you are, if you’re a 10-year-old kid, you say, ‘Man, what are you doing? We gotta get back to playing real Hurricanes football.”

UM has consistently disputed this criticism, insisting it puts its safeties in the right spot, though Denzel Perryman has said players sometimes didn’t line up exactly where they were supposed to.

Miami coaches don’t want safeties to line up too closely to the line of scrimmage so the cornerbacks aren’t left on an island and so UM isn't more vulnerable to being beaten over the top.

Also, coaches fear giving up a big play (running or passing) if eight or nine defenders are in the box and an offensive player breaks an initial tackle. If all the linebackers are crowding the line, that could leave an offensive player in the open field if he eludes the initial defender.

Also, UM’s philosophy is not to give up the big play or get beaten over the top but instead hope for a third-down stop at some point, or that an opposing offense self-destructs eventually.

Confronted by Orlando Alzugaray on WQAM last month (in an awkward moment), Golden defended an alignment when Alzugaray showed him a screen shot of a 2014 play in which five defenders were well into the end zone when Georgia Tech had the ball on UM’s 1-yard line. Tech scored on the play.

Here’s how Golden responded to Alzugaray questioning him: “Do you understand what’s going on here? I’ll help you here. As they run the option, he’s going to dive into the line of scrimmage. [The linebacker] is going to meet him, so he’s a free hitter. He has no other responsibility but to tackle the dive. On the snap, he’s roaring. But he needs action before he can roar; otherwise he’s roaring to nowhere.

“This guy [another UM defender] depending on which way he goes, is going to fill the D gap. [Another] will fill outside on the pitch. [Another] guy will lock down. It’s based on rotation…. You should watch all the teams that play them.

“We stopped them on 4th and 1 two years ago to win it using the same thing. [And] we’ve been 6-1 the last seven games against the option.”

In fairness to D’Onofrio, consider this: Of the 12 FBS teams Miami played last season, the Hurricanes defense held 11 of them under their season yardage average on offense --- on average, a whopping 81 yards under their averages. The only exception: Nebraska, which managed 456 yards –-- 3.7 yards over its season average.

D’Onofrio is bullish on this defense. Why?

“The two biggest things that stand out are the depth at the defensive line and the depth at the safety position,” he said. “Those are really big deals. Our safeties have to run our defense. We ask them to do a lot of things.  We are more experienced in those two areas.

“You hear a lot of people saying you want to be built strong up the middle. … What’s happened around here in the past is certain guys had the spot, kind of by default, and now there’s great competition.

“I’m very excited about the depth in the front four. It’s by far the best we’ve had. You want to have guys who can wreck the game up front. We’ve been quietly accumulating those players. We had a couple years it was tough to get defensive linemen.

“When you see the quality of guys getting in, we have overall depth that we’re looking for. When you have competition, guys can’t get complacent. They can’t say, ‘I’m going to play. I’m in the two deep. Who else are they going to play?’”

UM hopes that depth of pass-rushing linemen boosts its per-sack average of 2.08, which was 68th in the country.

CHATTER

### Even beyond the Dolphins’ improved offensive cast and Ryan Tannehill’s continued growth, linebacker Jelani Jenkins says this is another reason why this offense is going to give teams major problems:

More than past years, “they’re making us think before the ball is even snapped,” he said. “They end up lining up in a simple formation but the things they do before that get you all riled up, keep you from thinking about the things you’re supposed to think about. You see how smart the offensive coordinator [Bill Lazor] is in making defenses uncomfortable.”

Tannehill, incidentally, is on track to be the only opening-day AFC East quarterback who has ever started a game for his team. The other projected starters: Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots), Matt Cassel (Bills) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets).

### Evidence of renewed Dolphins interest: Miami already has surpassed last season’s final season ticket sales count of 44,623, and Thursday’s game was watched in 8.5 percent of Dade/Broward homes on CBS-4, compared with 5.8 for last year’s preseason opener.

### We’ve heard disappointment expressed so far in running back Jay Ajayi, who returned to practice Saturday after dealing with a hamstring injury.

### Please see the last post for a lot of Dolphins news and notes from Saturday.

### The Heat has maintained contact with the representation for Portland and former Heat free agent forward Dorell Wright and expressed willingness to continue talking. But Miami has not made an offer to this point.

If the Heat decides to offer a minimum deal in September and he accepts, Wright would be the favorite over James Ennis (who has a non-guaranteed deal) for the 15th roster spot, barring trades.

Wright has expressed interest in returning but is talking to several other teams, too. Wright, 29, averaged 4.6 points in 48 games for the Trail Blazers last season.

Wright spent his first six seasons with the Heat and has averaged 8.4 points in his 11-year career and shot 36.5 percent on three-pointers.

### Though the Marlins intend to make a managerial change, they want to wait until after the season ends in case managers are fired (perhaps the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly, for example), so that they know the full pool of candidates before making a decision.

There’s no front-runner, but managing experience will be an important criteria.

### There are mixed views inside the Marlins about whether to consider trades this winter for outfielder Marcell Ozuna, with some still high on him but at least one prominent Marlins person open to using him as a carrot in a deal.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see our last post for lots of Saturday Dolphins news.

Lots of Saturday Dolphins notes: Philbin assesses young guards, CBs, DL; Injury updates and more

Even during an offseason when they gave Ndamukong Suh the richest contract ever for a non-quarterback, the Dolphins were very clear about this: For salary cap and other reasons, they simply cannot throw money at every position, looking for a quick fix. Instead, they must invest in their cheap, young players, hoping several can develop into starters or key reserves.

Through 17 days of training camp and one preseason game, the early returns on those young players have been somewhat mixed, but more favorable than unfavorable.

Let’s start with guard. After uneven performances during camp practices, Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas “did a good job” against Chicago, coach Joe Philbin said Saturday. Turner, who played 33 snaps, and Thomas (24) performed well enough to keep the Dolphins from feeling any compunction to offer free agent Evan Mathis the $5.5 million he’s seeking.

“They both competed hard, both had some really good plays on tape. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect,” Philbin said, with Turner called for a holding penalty deep in Bears territory.

After a week of sometimes being thrown aside by Suh, Turner said “it was fun” to compete against somebody else.

“But it’s fun going against him everyday, too, because going against the best makes it that much easier in the game when you’re going against other guys,” Turner said. Against Chicago, “the thing I saw on film personally that I liked was I was finishing stuff.”

But Philbin said this week will be particularly telling for the young guards when the Dolphins and Panthers hold joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday in South Carolina before playing Saturday in Charlotte.

“It will be really good for them to go to Carolina and practice more against a four-man line,” Philbin said. “At times, they were uncovered. Again, they are going be uncovered some in the Carolina game. But we are going to get a lot more even defense where both guards are covered… in the two days of practice and the ball game. That’s going to be a really good next step for them.”

There were also some positive signs at cornerback, another position where the Dolphins are relying on several young players. Jamar Taylor, who has had a solid camp, allowed just one short completion (six yards) in 23 snaps against Chicago.

Will Davis, coming off November ACL surgery, made a very good play in coverage Thursday and “he climbed in my eyes,” Philbin said. “There was a big difference between Will Davis at FIU [at the previous week’s scrimmage] and the Will Davis at Chicago.”

Philbin also was pleased with Walt Aikens, the 2014 fourth-round pick who started at safety and played 39 snaps Thursday in the absence of Louis Delmas, who was resting his surgically-repaired knee.

"He’s much further along [than a year ago],” Philbin said. “He played well. Sometimes when you’re a safety, it wasn’t like he had a lot of action. Overall, solid. Wasn’t a ton of tackles but just the way the game unfolded. He feels more confident in the defense and lining up, [has] confidence in how to execute his job.”

Two negatives: Cornerback Bobby McCain, the rookie fifth-round pick who has been very good through training camp, committed three penalties Thursday and sustained a hamstring injury that sidelined him for Saturday’s practice. And safety Cedric Thompson, another rookie fifth-rounder, failed to make tackles that could have prevented the Bears’ final two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins were very encouraged by the play of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, the rookie second-rounder.

“I like the way Jordan ran to the ball,” Philbin said. “He came close on that one screen, that one screen he almost chased down. He had some penetration on some plays.”

Second-year defensive end Terrence Fede had a tackle for loss against Chicago and has made a disruptive play in nearly every practice.

“He played well in the game; his run defense was excellent,” Philbin said. “In pass protection, there were some things he can improve on… Terrence has really had a solid camp.”

The Dolphins also emerged with a good feeling about some of their young linebackers. Undrafted Zach Vigil had a sack and two tackles for loss and continues to show that he’s “productive,” Philbin said. “He’s involved in tackles. If you’re a linebacker, one of your job responsibilities is to get in on tackles and have production.

“He has good instincts. He showed pretty well. Good first outing.”

Philbin said all four undrafted rookie linebackers “didn’t look timid about going into the game. In my 13 years, I’ve seen young players kind of anxious about going into a game. I don’t think it was too big for them.

“There were some plays they didn’t make they have to do better, but I like overall their approach to the game, how they competed, what they did.”

There wasn’t a big enough sample size Thursday to judge first-team strongside linebacker Chris McCain, who was limited to 10 plays after sustaining a minor ankle injury.

McCain, who practiced Saturday, said: “I did my job [Thursday]. I did enough where the coaches can still trust and continue to put me out there. I feel really comfortable [at strongside linebacker].”

INJURY UPDATE

Linebacker Jordan Tripp, who sustained a right ankle injury against Chicago, was on crutches Saturday and is out indefinitely. Besides Tripp and Bobby McCain, receiver Kenny Stills (calf), offensive lineman Chris Martin (back) and receiver Christion Jones (hamstring) also did not partake in the team portion of practice.

But Stills caught some passes, without anybody covering him, and seems close to returning. And left tackle Branden Albert participated in a couple of 1 on 1 drills against Cameron Wake --- his biggest step yet in his return from major knee surgery.

### Rookie running back Jay Ajayi, sidelined the past week by a hamstring injury, returned to practice.

### The Dolphins released injured receiver Tommy Streeter and re-signed receiver Tyler McDonald.

### Saturday’s practice featured no 11-on-11 work, producing the dullest session of training camp.

In receiver/cornerback drills, Jarvis Landry made a great catch on Michael Thomas in the end zone; Matt Hazel had a nifty catch on Tony Lippett; and LaRon Byrd had a terrific catch over Louis Delmas.

Reshad Jones, Taylor and Jordan Kovacs had notable pass breakups.

### The Dolphins have two final local practices open to the public, at 8 a.m. Sunday and Monday. The practices at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., are also open to the public (8:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday).

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

August 14, 2015

Heat adds center; Dolphins Friday analysis, postscripts; New stadium name coming; Loria rejects overtures; Marlins issues; Heat

If you read this before 8:20 p.m., please scroll to the bottom for a Heat roster addition.

News and notes on a Friday:

### A bunch of notable nuggets from Pro Football Focus' analysis of the Dolphins-Bears game:

1) Offensively, PFF gave positive grades to four of the Dolphins' five starting offensive linemen. Billy Turner got the best grade (a 1.0) and Dallas Thomas had a barely positive grade (.2). Mike Pouncey had the only negative grade among the starters (-.1). Turner played 33 snaps, compared with 24 for Jason Fox and Thomas and 17 for Pouncey and Ja'Wuan James.

Among the backup offensive linemen, Jamil Douglas got good marks (1.1) and JD Walton (-4.1) and Donald Hawkins (-3.0) got the worst of any offensive linemen. Walton, who started for the Giants last season, is trailing Sam Brenner for the backup center job.

2) The Dolphins gave fairly equal snaps to all four players competing for the No. 3 tight end job: Gerrell Robinson (21), Jake Stoneburner and Tim Semisch (19 apiece) and Arthur Lynch (18). PFF gave all four negative grades, with Semisch graded the worst.

3) Hawkins played the most snaps offensively (56), followed by Jacques McClendon (46), Kevin Cone and JD Walton (35 apiece), Jeff Linkenbach (34) and Cobi Hamilton (33).

4) Miami's worst grade on offense went to Mike Gillislee (minus 4.3). Besides fumbling, Gillislee allowed two quarterback hurries. PFF gave the Dolphins' best offensive grade to Dion Sims (plus 1.4).

5) Ryan Tannehill was 5 for 5 for 37 yards on balls thrown between 1 and 9 yards and 1 for 1 for 19 yards on his only ball thrown between 11 and 20 yards (to Greg Jennings). His one incompletion was batted down.

6) Defensively, Anthony Johnson --- who had three neutral zone infractions --- had Miami's worst grade (minus 5.3). Miami's three best grades on defense were given to DeAndre Coleman (2.), linebacker Zach Vigil (1.9) and linebacker Mike Hull (1.4).

7) Jordan Kovacs and Cedric Thompson played the most snaps on defense --- 57 and 47, respectively. They're competing for the fifth safety job, and Thompson would presumably be the front-runner if the two players are very close. But Thompson missed chances to make plays on Chicago's final two touchdowns.

8) Chris McCain played the fewest snaps of any Miami defender (just eight) because Miami started only two linebackers and McCain injured his ankle (nothing serious) when he stepped on Derrick Shelby late in the first half.

9) Here's how the cornerbacks did: Tony Lippett (39 snaps, only pass thrown against him completed for 8 yards); Zack Bowman (31 snaps, allowed 4 of 5 passes to be caught for 33 yards); Bobby McCain (31 snaps, allowed 2 of 2 passes to be caught for 15 yards and had two holding penalties); Will Davis (29 snaps, 2 for 4 passes caught for 29 yards); Jamar Taylor (23 snaps, 1 of 2 completed for 6 yards), Brice McCain (16 snaps, not targeted); Brent Grimes (9 snaps, not targeted).

10) Walt Aikens, filling in for Louis Delmas, played the most among the starters on defense (39 snaps) and was solid. PFF gave him a .6 grade.

11) Though Zach Vigil did a lot of good things (including a sack), all four passes thrown against him were caught, for 32 yards.

12) PFF gave negative grades across the board to Miami on special teams. Coverage on punts and kickoffs wasn't good enough.

If you missed it, please see the last post for position-by-position analysis of last night's game.

CHATTER

### Sun Life Financial’s naming rights deal with the Dolphins expires at the end of January, and the Dolphins tell us that Sun Life’s name is coming off the stadium in early February regardless of whether Miami has reached a deal with a new naming rights partner or not. The Dolphins, who are rebranding their facility as a new stadium, expect to have a new stadium name by next August.

### Several wealthy people have been inquiring about buying the Marlins, but one of them said Jeffrey Loria conveyed to him that he has no interest in selling at this time, despite Miami having third-longest playoff drought in baseball.

### How tepid has the Marlins offense been? This is pretty jarring: Among the eight positions (non-pitchers), the Marlins rank 21st or lower in RBIs produced by five (left field, catcher, first base, second base, third base). Their left fielders have the third-fewest, because Christian Yelich has driven in just 29.

Marlins management says it’s puzzled with how bad they’ve been in the clutch (.202 with the bases loaded; .199 with two outs and runners in scoring position). But why has Dan Jennings sometimes batted Casey McGehee cleanup when he’s 4 for 32 hitting fourth? He's hitting fourth again tonight!

### The Heat has 17 sets of back-to-back games (same as last season), but despite their age and history of knee issues, keep in mind that Dwyane Wade scored more on the second night of back-to-backs than in any other scenario last season, and Amar’e Stoudemire numbers were very similar regardless of how many days rest he received. Stoudemire, determined to have a big year, was at AA Arena working on his game today.

### Zoran Dragic, who was OK with the Heat trading him to Boston because he wanted more playing time, signed to play in Russia, reportedly for $1 million.

### According to a team source, the Heat has agreed to terms with 6-11 center Keith Benson, who has appeared in three NBA games and played a total of nine minutes, all for Golden State on a 10-day contract late in the 2011-12 season. Benson, 28, was drafted 48th overall by Atlanta out of Oakland (Mich.) in 2011.

The deal, first reported by Real GM, is a standard training camp, non-guaranteed deal.

He has played in Italy, the Philippines, Belarus, China and this past season in Lithuania and Estonia. He also has played in the NBDL and was a member of Orlando's Summer League team last month.

Benson is the Heat's 16th player under contract and seventh power rotation player. James Ennis' deal is non-guaranteed and Tyler Johnson's partially guaranteed.

Teams can carry 20 through training camp but no more than 15 once the regular season begins.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz           

August 13, 2015

Notes, thoughts on every position after tonight's Dolphins loss; UM's two remaining five-star prospects look to make more of an impact

Some thoughts and notes, position by position, after the Dolphins' 27-10 loss at Chicago in their preseason opener, a game in which Bears backups outscored their Miami counterparts 24-0 in the second half:

### Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill was sharp and efficient in his only drive, completing 6 of 7 passes for 56 yards and a 139.6 passer rating. He had a nifty 19-yard throw to Greg Jennings and delivered a pinpoint pass to Jarvis Landry on fourth and goal for a touchdown...

Matt Moore (4-9, 43 yards) had a 59 rating and did nothing of note... McLeod Bethel Thompson completed a 34-yard throw to a lunging Laron Byrd, but his night went downhill from there. He threw two atrocious interceptions deep in Dolphins territory and finished 5 for 12 for 71 yards and a 21.9 rating... Josh Freeman, who has struggled throughout training camp, matched MBT's 21.9 rating, closing 5 for 16 with 76 yards with an interception. Yuck.. It's impossible to fathom Miami keeping more than two quarterbacks.

### Offensive line: The interior of the first-team group was solid, except for a goal-line holding penalty by Billy Turner and poor blocking on a short gain by Lamar Miller on Miami's first offensive snap. Otherwise, Turner was adequate at right guard and Dallas Thomas had a good night at left guard... Turner played longer than any starter... Jason Fox had a holding penalty...

Tackle Donald Hawkins and center Sam Brenner were the first offensive linemen used off the bench... Hawkins allowed a sack (the only one Miami gave up all night) and hasn't been very good in training camp... Brenner appears to have the edge over JD Walton as the third center. Walton had a holding penalty and struggled at times.

### Running back: Miller had a terrific 27-yard run and finished with 32 yards on three carries... Aside from Damien Williams' two catches for 28 yards (and we already knew he could do that), none of the backup running backs distinguished themselves. Williams, who averaged 3.4 yards per carry last year, had 7 for 20 tonight (2.9 average)...

LaMichael James averaged just 2.6 (5 for 13) and was merely OK in the return game (25.3 average on three kickoff returns, 1 for 8 on a punt return). He inexplicably called for a fair catch late in the first half despite having 7 to 10 yards of open space in front of him... Mike Gillislee fumbled after an impressive run and closed with 16 yards on five carries. Hard to see him making this team.

### Receiver: Byrd had the catch of the night but remains a long shot to make the team. With Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker sidelined, all three starters got targeted during the first-team offense's brief stint. Jennings had the 19-yard catch, Landry caught 2 for 11 (including the touchdown) and Rishard Matthews 1 for 11...

The second-team receivers were Byrd, Michael Preston and Matt Hazel, who had two catches for 34 yards but also dropped a pass... The third team receivers were Cobi Hamilton (4 for 49), Kevin Cone (2-30) and DaMarr Aultman. Cone, all alone, dropped a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, though the ball wasn't particularly well thrown by Freeman. Aultman returned a punt for 42 yards late in the game..... Tommy Streeter sustained a groin injury in the second quarter and didn't return.

### Tight end: Dion Sims had two catches for 15 yards, shaking off a poor week of practice in which he had several uncharacteristic drops... Jordan Cameron wasn't targeted.... Gerrell Robinson entered as the No. 3 tight end, followed by Jake Stoneburner. Bad sign for Arthur Lynch that he's no better than fifth on the depth chart.... Aside from Sims, Stoneburner was the only other tight end with a catch (2 for 13).

### Defensive line: The starters were very good, the backups less so. After Ndamukong Suh left the game, Miami allowed runs of 15, 5 and 6 yards on the next three runs, with CJ Mosley and Jordan Phillips playing tackle... Phillips had one exceptional play, penetrating into the backfield on a running play to allow Michael Thomas to make a tackle for a 3-yard loss....

Anthony Johnson, who began camp as a second-team defensive tackle, played with the third team and committed three neutral zone infractions.... Terrence Fede, who has been terrific throughout training camp, nearly sacked Jimmy Clausen, instead forcing him to scramble unsuccessfully. (Clausen fell to the ground.)

### Linebacker: Already without Koa Misi (calf), the Dolphins lost Jordan Tripp to an ankle injury. He was on crutches, with his right foot in a boot, after the game. Tripp has had bad luck early in his career; he had a chest injury and an appendectomy during preseason last year... Chris McCain injured his ankle after Derrick Shelby accidentally stepped on him late in the first half. But he returned to the sideline and seemed fine...

Miami started only two linebackers ---- Jelani Jenkins and Kelvin Sheppard --- and both were solid. Jenkins played terrific defense in coverage on an incomplete throw to Martellus Bennett and also had a tackle for loss on a running play. Sheppard was fine in his snaps at middle linebacker.

We told you last week that the Dolphins believed Zach Vigil had emerged as the best of their four undrafted linebackers. And he justified Miami's faith tonight with five tackles (including two for loss) and the Dolphins' only sack... Mike Hull also had some good moments, including a breakup of a potential touchdown in the end zone... Neville Hewitt missed a tackle on special teams and had a holding penalty. 

### Defensive backs: Reshad Jones made his presence felt early with a good play on a Bears run and a deflection in coverage... Walt Aikens filled for Louis Delmas and did nothing objectionable... Jamar Taylor was solid, allowing only a short completion... Brice McCain started in the nickel and was OK despite tweaking his groin on Tuesday....

Bobby McCain, who has been such a ball-hawk in training camp, got early snaps in the nickel but committed a couple of holding penalties... Zack Bowman was beaten twice but also broke up a pass in the end zone in the third quarter...

Tough night for rookie fifth-round safety Cedric Thompson, who whiffed on a tackle that would have prevented a touchdown on Kadeem Carey's fourth-and-1 run, and later failed to make an open field tackle on a 52-yard TD run by Sinorise Perry.... Will Davis had a very nice play in coverage.

### Kicker/punter: Caleb Sturgis kicked a 31-yard field goal but one of his kickoffs went out of bounds. ... Rookie Matt Darr averaged 44.3 yards on three punts, Brandon Fields 37.7 yards on three punts. But all three of Fields' landed inside the 20; none of Darr's did.

 

UM CHATTER

We’re down to two now, just two UM players deemed worthy of being called five-star recruits by Rivals.com when they joined the Hurricanes out of high school. And though the star system shouldn’t be overstated --- heck, there wasn’t a single five-star player in this year’s Super Bowl --- it would certainly help if Miami’s two remaining elite prospects, Tracy Howard and Chad Thomas, put together seasons worthy of that prestigious distinction.

Howard, a senior, had four interceptions as a sophomore but was a role player last season (just one start, one pick, one pass breakup) and played fewer than 25 snaps in a few games before starting the bowl game against South Carolina.

But with Ladarius Gunter graduating and Antonio Crawford transferring to West Virginia, Howard again has been thrust into a major role, one of just three experienced cornerbacks on the roster.

“I wasn’t a five-star player coming into my senior year in high school and I took my game to another level my senior year,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do this year. I’m going to be great. I’m definitely in a good place.”

Howard, from Miramar High, arrived at UM rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 1 cornerback nationally and No. 13 prospect overall. He’s circumspect as he reflects on his career here.

“Have I panned out as I should have? I didn’t have a year with crazy numbers,” he said. “I had high expectations for myself and I know a lot of people have high expectations for me.

“It comes with being a five-star coming out of high school. In my sophomore year, I was showing signs of greatness. My junior year wasn’t great. Where my game is right now, I think I’m a great player right now.”

Howard said the diminished playing time during parts of last season “was definitely tough at times, but I tried not to let it get to me. I pride myself on staying strong and fighting through whatever things I [face]. It made me better as a person.

“I never was selfish. I never turned on anybody. I never got mad at any one of my teammates because they were playing more than me. I’m glad I went through it. It made be better. It made me stronger. I learned how to fight through adversity….

“I’ve got to look at myself, too. I know what I need to do. I need to be the leader, not one of the leaders, I need to be the leader for the secondary. I need to be great.”

Howard, who doesn’t have blazing speed, must rely on instincts and intelligence and technique to maximize his potential.

Meanwhile, it will be disappointing if Thomas doesn’t make more of an impact than Howard has. The Booker T. Washington graduate entered UM as the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect but made little impact as a freshman.

“Chad looks really good out there; he’s been phenomenal,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “I’ve seen unbelievable improvement. The sky is the limit. He’s gotten stronger, letting his natural talent go. He’s not feeling his way through there. He has a chance to be a disruptive player because of it.

“It’s a hard era for guys to play in [as elite recruits]. There’s so much hype. It’s not fair to those guys. I commend them the way they fight through it and handle it.”

Here’s the type of thing UM fans wonder about: How can St. Thomas Aquinas’ Joey Bosa, rated by Rivals as the 47th player in the 2013 class, go to Ohio State and have 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as a freshman, whereas Thomas – rated the No. 22 player overall in 2014 --- had no sacks, one tackle for loss and seven tackles overall as a UM freshman?  The major caveat is Bosa got a lot more playing time than Thomas.

“Coming in, I knew I had to learn,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t just stepping in and playing. It’s not as easy as high school, where you just do a move. While you’re in college, you have to finish the move. [Defensive line coach Randy] Melvin has been working with us on that. I should be better this year.”

Thomas said his pass rush moves are better and his body is more equipped for the rigors of college football. “I was underweight last year. I’m at 265, which is up 10 to 15 pounds” from the end of last year.

He said the pressure of being a five-star recruit doesn’t weigh on him: “I know a lot of people depend on me and I’m used to it.”

One senior on last year’s team said Thomas came across as cocky to some upper-classmen, but he seemed humble in a recent interview. “I know I have to work more,” he said. “I know there are people I have to compete against to win the job.”

Bottom line: The Canes’ most ballyhooed recruits need to play like everybody expects.

Please check back tonight for Dolphins-Bears postscripts.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

August 12, 2015

Lots of Heat and NBA TV schedule nuggets; National TV appearances per team

The number of national NBA TV appearances allocated to each team has never been an issue of fairness. Instead, it’s based on the games, and teams, that the league and its national rights-holders believe will draw the most eyeballs.

Often times, the best teams are considered the biggest TV draws, because those teams have many of the league’s neon names.

But that’s not always the case. Exhibit A: The Los Angeles Lakers. They were dreadful last season, and likely won’t be a playoff team this season, and yet their 19 combined ABC/ESPN/TNT appearances are tied with Houston for seventh-most and 15 more than Milwaukee, which is vastly superior but has far fewer fans or even casual followers nationally.

Only nine teams have more ABC/ESPN/TNT appearances than the Heat’s 11.

Three teams --- Philadelphia, Denver and Detroit --- have zero appearances on the big three network rights-holders.

Here’s the breakdown of combined ABC/ESPN/TNT games:

Cleveland and Golden State --- 25 each

Clippers and OKC --- 24 each

Chicago --- 23

San Antonio ---- 21

Lakers and Houston --- 19 each

New Orleans --- 13

Heat ---- 11

Memphis --- 10

Atlanta --- 8

Boston, Dallas, Indiana and New York --- 7 each

Minnesota, Phoenix, Portland, Washington --- 5 each

Milwaukee and Sacramento --- 4 each

Utah --- 3

Toronto --- 2

Orlando, Brooklyn and Charlotte --- 1 each

Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit – 0 each

 

ABC’S NEW APPROACH

Instead of carrying two games on Christmas and 14 on Sundays, ABC this season instead will carry 8 on Saturday nights and 6 on Sundays, plus Bulls-OKC and Cavs-Warriors on Christmas.

The Heat isn’t included in the Saturday night package. ABC opted for a Warriors-Spurs game instead of a Cavs-at-Heat game on March 19.

Here’s the Saturday night ABC schedule:

NBA Saturday Night on ABC

Date

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

Sat, Jan. 23

8:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Jan. 30

8:30 p.m.

San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Feb. 20

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Feb. 27

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 5

8:30 p.m.

Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 12

8:30 p.m.

Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 19

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Apr. 9

8:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

ABC, ESPN Deportes

 Here’s the Sunday afternoon ABC schedule, which includes a Heat game on Super Bowl Sunday:

 

NBA Sunday Showcase

Date

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

Sun, Jan. 31

3:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Feb. 7

2 p.m.

Los Angeles Clippers at Miami Heat

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Feb. 21

3:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Mar. 6

3:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers

ABC

Sun, Mar. 13

3:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC

Sun, Apr. 3

3:30 p.m.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

ABC

 

 

 

            And here’s the Christmas schedule:

            NBA on Christmas Day – 13 consecutive hours of coverage

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

12 p.m. (noon)

New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

2 p.m.

NBA Countdown

ABC

2:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

5 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

ABC, ESPN Deportes

8 p.m.

San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

10:30 p.m.

Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

 

            Incidentally, the Heat has two TNT games – Dec. 2 vs. OKC and April 11 vs. Chicago.

HEAT NUGGETS

Manny Navarro has a story on the Heat schedule on the home page. Here are some other Heat schedule nuggets, courtesy of excellent Heat PR man Rob Wilson:

### The Heat will play 14 games in the month of November, 10 of which are at home. The 10 games November home games tie the franchise record for home games in the month of November.

### This marks the second consecutive year the Heat will have nine home games in the month of December, equaling the franchise record.

### The 12 road games in the month of January will set the franchise record for road games in any month.

### This marks the second consecutive season Miami will have a 7-game homestand (Dec. 8-23), one shy of the franchise record of eight straight games established from Jan. 30, 1996-Feb. 17, 1996.

### The Heat will play on nine consecutive Fridays this season from Dec. 11-Feb. 5.

### The first team Miami will complete its 2015-16 schedule against is Minnesota on Nov. 17 (10th game of the season). The first Eastern Conference team the Heat will finish a series against this season is Atlanta on Feb. 19 (54th game of the season).

### The Heat and Dolphins play on the same day on four occasions (see below). On none of the four occasions are both at home and only once (Dec. 14) are the games going on at the same time. Here they are: 

Nov. 8: Toronto @ Heat-6:00 & Dolphins @ Buffalo-1:00

Dec. 14: Heat @ Atlanta-8:00 & Giants @ Dolphins-8:30

Dec. 20: Portland @ Heat-1:00 & Dolphins @ San Diego-4:25

Jan. 3: Heat @ Washington-6:00 & New England @ Dolphins-1:00

### The Heat and the UM football team will play on the same day on only two occasions (see below) and just once (Nov. 21) are both teams home on the same day. If Miami plays in the ACC Championship game (Dec. 5) it would create a third conflict, but that Heat would be home that night (Cleveland) and the ACC title game is in Charlotte. Here are those potential conflicts:

Nov. 21: Philadelphia @ Heat-7:30 & Georgia Tech @ UM-TBD

Nov. 27: Heat @ New York-7:30 & UM @ Pittsburgh-TBD

### The Panthers and Heat play on the same day 33 times. However, of those 33 occasions only nine times (Nov. 10, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Nov. 21, Nov. 23, Dec. 20, Dec. 22, Feb. 20 and Mar. 19) are both teams home on the same day.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz                                 

Lots of Heat and NBA TV schedule nuggets; National TV appearances per team

            The number of national TV appearances allocated to each team has never been an issue of fairness. Instead, it’s based on the games, and teams, that the league and its national rights-holders believe will draw the most eyeballs.

            Often times, the best teams are considered the biggest TV draws, because those teams have many of the league’s neon names.

            But that’s not always the case. Exhibit A: The Los Angeles Lakers. They were dreadful last season, and likely won’t be a playoff team this season, and yet their 19 combined ABC/ESPN/TNT appearances are tied with Houston for seventh-most  and 15 more than Milwaukee, which is vastly superior but has far fewer fans or even casual followers nationally.

            Only nine teams have more ABC/ESPN/TNT appearances than the Heat’s 11.

            Three teams --- Philadelphia, Denver and Detroit --- have not a single TV appearance.

 

            Here’s the breakdown of combined ABC/ESPN/TNT games:

            Cleveland and GoldenState --- 25 each

            Clippers and OKC --- 24 each

            Chicago --- 23

            San Antonio ---- 21

            Lakers and Houston --- 19 each

            New Orleans --- 13

            Heat ---- 11

            Memphis --- 10

            Atlanta --- 8

            Boston, Dallas, Indiana and New York --- 7 each

            Minnesota, Phoenix, Portland, Washington --- 5 each

            Milwaukee and Sacramento --- 4 each

            Utah --- 3

            Toronto --- 2

            Orlando, Brooklyn and Charlotte --- 1 each

            Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit – 0 each

 

 

            ABC’S NEW APPROACH

            Instead of carrying two games on Christmas and 14 on Sundays, ABC this season instead will carry 8 on Saturday nights and 6 on Sundays, plus Bulls-OKC and Cavs-Warriors on Christmas.

            The Heat isn’t included in the Saturday night package, which airs in February and March. ABC opted for a Warriors-Spurs game instead of a Cavs-at-Heat game on March 19.

            Here’s the Saturday night ABC schedule:

 

            NBA Saturday Night on ABC

Date

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

Sat, Jan. 23

8:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Jan. 30

8:30 p.m.

San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Feb. 20

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Feb. 27

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 5

8:30 p.m.

Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 12

8:30 p.m.

Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Mar. 19

8:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sat, Apr. 9

8:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

ABC, ESPN Deportes

 

 

 

            Here’s the Sunday afternoon ABC schedule, which includes a Heat game on Super Bowl Sunday:

 

NBA Sunday Showcase

Date

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

Sun, Jan. 31

3:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Feb. 7

2 p.m.

Los Angeles Clippers at Miami Heat

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Feb. 21

3:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

Sun, Mar. 6

3:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers

ABC

Sun, Mar. 13

3:30 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers

ABC

Sun, Apr. 3

3:30 p.m.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

ABC

 

 

 

            And here’s the Christmas schedule:

            NBA on Christmas Day – 13 consecutive hours of coverage

Time (ET)

Telecast

Network(s)

12 p.m. (noon)

New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

2 p.m.

NBA Countdown

ABC

2:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder

ABC, ESPN Deportes

5 p.m.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

ABC, ESPN Deportes

8 p.m.

San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

10:30 p.m.

Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN

 

            Incidentally, the Heat has two TNT games – Dec. 2 vs. OKC and April 11 vs. Chicago.

 

 

            HEAT NUGGETS

            Manny Navarro has a story on the Heat schedule on the home page. Here are some other Heat schedule nuggets, courtesy of excellent Heat PR man Rob Wilson:

 

### The Heat will play 14 games in the month of November, 10 of which are at home. The 10 games November home games tie the franchise record for home games in the month of November.

 

### This marks the second consecutive year the Heat will have nine home games in the month of December, equaling the franchise record.

 

### The 12 road games in the month of January will set the franchise record for road games in any month.

 

### This marks the second consecutive season Miami will have a 7-game homestand (Dec. 8-23), one shy of the franchise record of eight straight games established from Jan. 30, 1996-Feb. 17, 1996.

 

### The Heat will play on nine consecutive Fridays this season from Dec. 11-Feb. 5.

 

### The first team Miami will complete its 2015-16 schedule against is Minnesota on Nov. 17 (10th game of the season). The first Eastern Conference team the Heat will finish a series against this season is Atlanta on Feb. 19 (54th game of the season).

 

**The Heat and Dolphins play on the same day on four occasions (see below). On none of the four occasions are both at home and only once (Dec. 14) are the games going on at the same time. Here they are: 

Nov. 8: Toronto @ Heat-6:00 & Dolphins @ Buffalo-1:00

Dec. 14: Heat @ Atlanta-8:00 & Giants @ Dolphins-8:30

Dec. 20: Portland @ Heat-1:00 & Dolphins @ San Diego-4:25

Jan. 3: Heat @ Washington-6:00 & New England @ Dolphins-1:00

 

### The Heat and the UM football team will play on the same day on only two occasions (see below) and just once (Nov. 21) are both teams home on the same day. If Miami plays in the ACC Championship game (Dec. 5) it would create a third conflict, but that Heat would be home that night (Cleveland) and the ACC title game is in Charlotte.

 

Nov. 21: Philadelphia @ Heat-7:30 & Georgia Tech @ UM-TBD

Nov. 27: Heat @ New York-7:30 & UM @ Pittsburgh-TBD

 

**The Panthers and Heat play on the same day 33 times. However, of those 33 occasions only nine times (Nov. 10, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Nov. 21, Nov. 23, Dec. 20, Dec. 22, Feb. 20 and Mar. 19) are both teams home on the same day.

 

 

 

                                       

 

August 11, 2015

Heat schedule tidbits; Insight on the Dolphins' veteran pickups; Dolphins, UM, Marlins personnel notes

The Heat schedule will be announced at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, but here are some tidbits we've learned:

As we reported last week, the Heat will host New Orleans at noon on Christmas Day.

Miami opens at home on Oct. 28 against Charlotte (a Wednesday) and then plays at Cleveland Oct. 30 (a Friday) on ESPN. That's Miami's only visit to Cleveland.

The Heat hosts the Cavaliers on Dec. 5 and March 19. 

Also, Miami will play host to the Clippers on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 7) at 2 p.m.

Check back later for more.

######################################################################

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dolphins fans finally get a look at the team’s new veteran players in a game on Thursday. So what should everyone expect? As we do every summer, we solicited views from their former teams’ radio analysts, who usually have good perspective:    

### Lions analyst Jim Brandstatter on Ndamukong Suh, who has blown up plays all training camp: The memory that stands out “for me is against Dallas last season. In the first series or two, he blew up their entire game plan because the Cowboys wanted to block him one-on-one. DeMarco Murray couldn’t run, Tony Romo couldn't pass. Ndamukong was in tears after the game because the Lions lost.

“He is as good as advertised, as good an interior defensive lineman as any I've watched [in 28 years calling Lions games]. If you try to block him one-on-one, you're in big trouble. When he gets [double-teamed], he makes other people better.

“His run stopping is close to his pass rushing ability. He limits the amount of space up front that you can run, and you may have to run away from him all day. And when a defense dictates to the offense, the defense wins. He’s a different kind of guy, marches to his own drummer to some degree.”

### Browns analyst Doug Dieken on tight end Jordan Cameron, who has had several TD catches in camp: “The concussions were a concern here; that’s always a red flag. The last one he had last season took quite a while to come back from. But if he can stay healthy, he can be a difference changer with his ability to go down the middle of the field and athletic ability to win jump balls. He won’t knock your socks off as a blocker. But he’s very good at running routes. And he hasn’t even reached his ceiling yet.”

### Vikings radio commentator Greg Coleman, on Greg Jennings, who has found ways to get open on intermediate routes throughout camp: “Did he get separation last year? Absolutely. Does he still have some stuff left in the tank? Absolutely.

“When Greg had separation on deep routes, Teddy Bridgewater missed some throws. Greg’s not a burner --- his burning days are over --- but you are not going to be able to sleep on him. He will fake and do a double move and get by you. He's smarter than fast at this point.”

Coleman raised comparisons to Cris Carter during “his later years; he was not fast but he was smart and knew how to get to open.”

### Saints radio analyst Hokie Gajan, on receiver Kenny Stills, who has missed most of camp with a calf injury:

“He does everything well but doesn’t particularly excel at anything. He’s good at intermediate routes; that’s probably his forte. He’s not a precise route runner, not a big, physical receiver. But he’s sneaky fast. He doesn’t have tremendous hands but he doesn’t drop many balls, either.

“If you lined him up for a race [against NFL speedsters], he wouldn’t win, but he has a knack to get behind defenses. I don’t know that he lulls people to sleep but he can slip in behind defensive backs. For a fifth-round pick, he was quite a surprise.

“He’s easily a third receiver for most teams. In the Saints’ case, he had to be a No. 2. I saw some shenanigans on the field I could do without; he did a little thing with Lance Moore in the end zone that cost the Saints a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. But I was disappointed to see him go. He’s a quality receiver.”

### Steelers analyst Tunch Ilkin on cornerback Brice McCain: “I was a huge fan of his since Day One. Love how he battles when the ball is in the air. Really good transitioning from man to other defenses.”

Though he excels in the slot, Ilkin said “I’ve seen him play on the boundary and he can do it.” In fact, he has a chance to win that job against slight front-runner Jamar Taylor. If he doesn’t, he’ll be the No. 1 slot corner.

### Brandstatter on defensive tackle CJ Mosley, who has gotten some work with the second team and some with the third: "Pretty decent player. Not a starter in the league. Good rotation guy. Maybe can give you 10-12 snaps a game at this point."

### Giants analyst Howard Cross, on cornerback Zack Bowman, who is on the bubble to stick here: “He was very good on the ball. When in position to make a play, he can. The problem is, you may be able to get behind him. He doesn’t have the burner speed you need at cornerback.”…

Cross on linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who has been mostly second-team throughout camp: “He was called on to start because of injuries, and he was serviceable. The problem with Spencer is he gets banged up around the lower legs a lot and that causes him to miss time. That was his main shortcoming. He’s predominantly a special teams player and does a decent job in [some] defensive packages. You have to take him for what he is.”

CHATTER

### Rishard Matthews, who backed off his trade request in the spring -- which Miami wasn’t going to grant anyway -- said Tuesday that his thinking at the time was that he "just wanted a fair competition.” And you can't blame him for that.

Matthews has been very good in camp and it will interesting to see if Miami creates much regular-season playing time for him if he outplays any of the team’s top four receivers, including injured DeVante Parker. Parker on Tuesday was non-committal about being ready for the opener.

"It’s very important [for me to play this season],” Matthews said Tuesday. “It’s my contract year. It’s important for me to contribute a lot this year, whether it’s special teams or wherever… [contribute] all over the field.”

Ryan Tannehill loves Matthews: "He attacks the ball and that's what you want to see from a receiver. He's turning heads every day."

### Running back LaMichael James, who has impressed throughout training camp, reiterated to me this week what he told The Finsiders' Greg Likens: He wants to be called LaMike James. He said that's what people who know him call him.

### Not only has UM implemented several offensive elements from the Dallas Cowboys, but the relationship is such that they call the Cowboys when questions arise.

What’s more, UM offensive players have been intently studying tape of their Cowboys counterparts --- slot receiver Cole Beasley is Braxton Berrios’ case, for example…. Like the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry, Berrios has gotten faster. “It’s crazy how fast he’s running,” offensive coordinator James Coley said.

### With UM having only three experienced corners, coaches spoke over the summer of having Deon Bush move over from safety. That was tabled. “I don’t anticipate Deon having to play cornerback; only in an emergency situation,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.

### Al Golden cited Tyree St. Louis and Tyler Gauthier as freshmen offensive linemen who are making an impression.

### Big get for UM basketball with its oral commitment from 7-0 Virginia-based center Rodney Miller, a skilled rebounder who’s rated by Rivals as the 93rd best player in the 2016 class. He was limited last season by a knee issue, but he’s past that.

“Rodney is a true center who can score inside with both hands,” his high school coach, Oak Hill's Steve Smith, told SNY.com. “He is a real presence in the lane area on both ends of the floor and a great rebounder.”

UM coach Jim Larranaga beat out ex-UM coach Frank Haith (Tulsa), Danny Manning (Wake Forest) and new UF basketball coach Michael White, among others.

### The Marlins say Justin Bour isn’t their only internal first-base option next season. “Derek Dietrich has made strides to show us he’s in contention to be that everyday first baseman,” manager Dan Jennings said.

Dietrich entered Tuesday hitting .261 with seven homers and 10 RBI in 115 at-bats. Bour was at .246 with 10 homers and 32 RBI.    

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Tuesday update: A bit of clarity on Dolphins' lineup decisions

The Dolphins’ lineup plans for Thursday’s preseason opener at Chicago came into focus during Tuesday’s practice, when the team installed its game plan. And a few things became clear, during and after practice:

### The race between Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas for the left guard job is a toss-up. Thomas began the day with the starters but Douglas also received substantial first-team work.

The quality of their performance during camp has “been close,” coach Joe Philbin said. “I thought Jamil, for a rookie, the other night, handled himself pretty well.”

For the first time during training camp, Thomas also received some work at left tackle, behind Jason Fox, but that was done merely to prepare the team for an emergency situation. Jeff Linkenbach also got work as the backup left tackle.

Billy Turner logged most of the first-team snaps at right guard, and though Jacques McClendon got some snaps with the starters for a third consecutive day, the Dolphins want to an extended look at Turner to see how he does against NFL starters other than Ndamukong Suh, who has gotten the better of Turner in training camp.

Turner has “done some good things,” Philbin said. “We want to see some consistency from him in both phases. But he’s certainly improving, without a doubt.”

### Jamar Taylor lined up as the first-team boundary cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, suggesting he will start Thursday. Brice McCain, the first-team nickel cornerback who is also battling Taylor on the boundary, left practice with a groin issue but the Dolphins do not believe it’s serious. Rookie Bobby McCain then replaced him as the first-team slot corner.

Will Davis and Zack Bowman (who picked off Ryan Tannehill on Tuesday) were the second-team boundary cornerbacks.

### With Koa Misi still nursing a calf injury, Jelani Jenkins, Kelvin Sheppard and Chris McCain were the first-team linebackers.

But Jordan Tripp joined Sheppard and Jenkins at times, and Tripp was being used with the starters in the nickel package. Tripp will get a long look on Thursday. Spencer Paysinger, Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt were the second-team linebackers when Tripp worked with the first team.

### With DeVante Parker (foot) and Kenny Stills (calf) still sidelined, Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews were the first-team receivers.

### Though safety Louis Delmas is fully cleared after last November’s ACL surgery, the Dolphins don’t want to overwork him and Walt Aikens continued to receive some of Delmas’ first team snaps on Tuesday. Expect to see plenty of Aikens on Thursday; the Dolphins believe he’s much improved.

### Jay Ajayi, on the fourth team at running back on Miami’s first depth chart, remained out with a hamstring injury. Expect plenty of carries for Damien Williams and LaMichael James (who are battling to be Lamar Miller’s backup) and Mike Gillislee.

### Philbin suggested both kickers, Caleb Sturgis and Andrew Franks, would get a chance on Thursday… James continues to get work as a returner behind Landry.

ALBERT PROGRESSING

Left tackle Branden Albert, recovering from last year’s serious knee injury, continues to increase his workload and said participation in full 11 on 11 team drills “is going to be sooner than later. I don’t have an exact date, but it’s going to be soon.”

Albert has non-committal about whether he will be able to play in preseason and said he’s still in the process of “strengthening” his knee. But “I’m not hurting. I’m not swelling up. It’s still 32 days out [from the regular-season opener]. I’m getting better. ”

### Matthews and Taylor scuffled after a play and punches were exchanged.

"It was just a little jawing going back and forth, a little shoving and pushing,” Taylor said. “It turned into a little scuffle, just part of camp. Definitely ready to play somebody else. I know Rishard is, too. We've been kind of going at it for the past couple of weeks. That's still my guy.”

### Because defensive tackle Jordan Phillips caught a punt at the end of practice, Dolphins players were excused from their afternoon walk-through. Philbin randomly selected Phillips for the stunt.

### Tripp was pleased to get some alone time with Zach Thomas on Tuesday because he is a big admirer of the former Dolphins great “It was fantastic --- I picked his brain,” Tripp said.
      

### Terrence Fede had yet another sack Tuesday. He has at least one impact play every day… Rookie safety Cedric Thompson intercepted Matt Moore

Receiver Cobi Hamilton, who was active for the Bengals’ playoff game last season, had a couple of nice catches and has made a favorable impression…. Philbin said Vigil and Mike Hull were the best of the four undrafted linebackers at Friday’s scrimmage.

### Twitter: @flasportbuzz... Please check back tonight for a lot of Dolphins, Canes and more.