10/08/2014

5 p.m. Wednesday: Update on Dolphins lineup issues; New criticism from another former Canes great; Heat news

Some Dolphins, Canes and Heat tidbits:

### Mike Pouncey and Samson Satele took snaps at both center and guard today, and the Dolphins remain very intrigued by the idea of Pouncey moving to guard, at least for now. But Samson Satele cautioned it’s not definite.

One reason it’s not a sure thing is because of health issues. Though Satele practiced, he was limited today with a fibula injury. Shelley Smith, working his way back from a knee sprain, also was limited.

The Dolphins want to get their five best linemen on the field Sunday and Satele at center (if healthy) and Pouncey at right guard would seem the best way to achieve that. But if the Dolphins feel Satele isn’t at full strength because of injury, then Pouncey could play center. Smith's health also will be factored into a decision.

### Even though the Dolphins named Jason Trusnik a starter on the depth chart, Jelani Jenkins continues to work as the first-team weakside linebacker and appears likely to start, health provided. Jenkins was limited in practice with an abdominal injury.

Trusnik has played all three linebacker positions in NFL games but has spent the least time at weakside linebacker.

### One reason the Dolphins signed receiver Damian Williams is the uncertainty of Brandon Gibson’s status for Sunday. Though Gibson said this week he plans to play Sunday, he missed both practices so far this week with a hamstring injury.

### Cortland Finnegan (neck injury) also sat out Wednesday's practice. Jamar Taylor would play more if Finnegan cannot.

### Fox is sending Dolphins-Packers to 46 percent of the country. (See 506sports.com for a map.)

Fox is shuffling its announcing teams during baseball postseason, so Sunday’s game will be worked by John Lynch (Fox’s No. 2 game analyst) and Sam Rosen (who is usually Fox’s sixth or seventh play-by-play man). Lynch’s usual partner, Kevin Burkhardt, is on baseball assignment.

### Clinton Portis today joined the long list of former Hurricanes with critical comments about the UM coaching staff.

“When the linebackers are five, six yards [back] and safeties are 15 yards deep and the cornerbacks are playing off,... you are never going to stop the run,” Portis told Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor on The Ticket. “You would think we are playing a run and shoot team from the alignment of our players.”

Offensively, Portis criticized the staff for not throwing more to Phillip Dorsett. “I don’t feel they use him the correct way,” he said.

Portis said with the amount of playmakers UM has, “you feel like there should be more plays made. That quick screen we’re using, that doesn’t work for us. Talent is not being used. We have to put our players in better position.

"I want Joseph Yearby and Duke Johnson on the field together and spread everybody out. No way I’m going to allow you to stack the box to stop Duke Johnson. You’ve got to put your team in a better position.”

UM is 79th of 125 teams in scoring, at 27.5 per game.

### Heat forward Josh McRoberts, who hasn’t played in preseason because of toe surgery, said he expects to be ready for the Heat’s opener Oct. 29 against Washington.

### We expressed concern about the Heat’s three-point shooting before camp started, and those concerns haven’t been allayed. Miami was 5 for 15 on threes in its preseason opener, 5 for 32 on Tuesday against Orlando.

### Erik Spoelstra said Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole will play a lot together this season.

### If you missed it, when Chris Bosh was asked Tuesday night if he is looking forward to seeing LeBron James in Brazil this week, he said: “I don’t know. I’m in a mode [of] I’m trying to lead this team. If guys aren’t in this locker-room, I don’t have much time for them, if any.”

### Small forward James Ennis has been very good in preseason, but Spoelstra cautioned: “He has a lot of work to do to understand our system. We’ll just continue to develop him. We want to invest time in him. Does that translate into a guaranteed role? I don’t know.”

If you missed it earlier, please see the last post for Jimmy Johnson's assessment of the UM program; Mario Chalmers' announcement yesterday about his role on the team and the Heat's decision hours later; and Heat, Dolphins and UM notes... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Intrigue, questions surround Heat points guards; J.J. assesses UM program; Fins, Canes notes

BUZZ COLUMN

Erik Spoelstra says the Heat’s point guard play has been more competitive in this training camp than in any he can remember.

But questions surround each member of the Heat’s point guard troika, and Spoelstra on Tuesday surprisingly started Norris Cole ahead of Mario Chalmers against Orlando, though he cautioned after the game not to read anything into that.

Spoelstra's move Tuesday came hours after Chalmers said there's "no doubt in my mind I'm the starting point guard" and 10 days after Cole announced "I believe I'm ready to be a starter."

Spoelstra has declined to say who will start at point guard, even though Pat Riley said during the summer that Chalmers will be the starter.

On Tuesday, Cole (two points) played a sound floor game (six assists, no turnovers) and shot 1 for 3. Chalmers (10 points) shot 2 for 8 from the field with three assists and two turnovers and logged some minutes at shooting guard alongside Cole.

Napier, a long shot to play much at least early in the season, played the final 10 minutes --- including the overtime --- and hit two free throws late in regulation but missed five of his six shots from the field.

Spoelstra made clear that the point guards will be entrusted with more freedom to attack offensively than during the LeBron James era.

“We will need them to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “Probably will have more opportunities than they’ve had in the past.”

Both of the Heat's veteran point guards came to camp in exemplary shape, Chalmers arriving at camp at what he said was his lowest reporting weight as a pro (186).

“This year will be that year to put myself out there and really see what I can do,” Chalmers said. “Coach wants me to be more aggressive, more of a leader, be another go-to guy. I’ve got to elevate my game.”

That, he said, will entail “more ball-handling, more shooting, definitely more playmaking. I’m stronger and faster.”

After averaging 4.4 points and shooting 7 for 27 in the Finals --- and losing his starting job in Game 5 --- Chalmers said he “pouted for two or three weeks” because “I was disappointed in myself and felt I let people down.”

Chalmers did not expect to be re-signed, but the Heat offered him a two-year, $8.3 million contract after James bolted for Cleveland.

Eager to be a greater factor offensively, Cole “added a couple wrinkles off the dribble” and incorporated “some footwork things with my shot” that Indiana coach Tom Crean taught him this summer when several Heat players worked out for a few days in Bloomington.

Cole’s energy and on-the-ball defense are unquestioned assets. But he must improve finishing at the basket (he shot just 52.5 percent at the rim last season), his mid-range game (he shot 28 percent from 10 to 16 feet) and avoid extended shooting slumps like the one last spring. (He shot 34 percent after the All-Star break.)

Both of the Heat’s primary point guards also could improve their floor games.

Among 47 qualifying point guards, Chalmers ranked 35th last season in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.20 to 1) and Cole was 41st (1.95 to 1).

Napier’s horrendous shooting at Summer League surprised scouts, considering he was an effective scorer at Connecticut. He averaged 18 points and shot 42.0 percent last season, including 40.5 percent on threes.

But in summer league, the two-time NCAA champion made 28 of 102 shots (27.5 percent) and averaged 4.2 turnovers.

Napier initially attributed the Summer League slump to adjusting to the texture of the NBA ball and didn’t blame a thumb injury that required protective covering for most of summer league.

“I expect a lot from myself and I was trying to figure out what was going on,” he said. “But I wasn’t down on myself. I’ve been trying to get a quicker release on my shot.”

Said Spoelstra: “There’s a shiftiness, a cleverness to the way he attacks the paint.”

But he's obviously a long shot for a rotation spot, with Cole and Chalmers clearly ahead of him.

### Swingman James Ennis is going to command playing time if he can sustain what he's displaying through two preseason games. He had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes Tuesday.

### Is Chris Bosh looking forward to seeing LeBron in Brazil this week? "I don't know," he said. "I'm in the mode of trying to lead this team. If guys aren't in this locker-room, I don't have much time for them, if any."

 

CHATTER

### Jimmy Johnson denied a broadcast report from two former Hurricanes offensive linemen that claimed that he called UM coaches after the Nebraska game and offered to help against the option but that Al Golden and Mark D’Onofrio turned him down.

“Never happened,” Johnson said by phone Tuesday. “A couple years ago, I called Mark and said, ‘Anytime you need my help I’m more than happy.’ We had a five-minute conversation. I haven’t talked to Mark in a couple years.”

On the state of the program, Johnson said: “I am as disappointed as anybody we haven’t done better. But I go back to: I trust Al Golden. Al works hard at it. He’s very diligent in his recruiting. He will recruit good players. He’s a smart guy that is going to make the right decisions….

“I want it to happen right away," he said of on-field success for the program that's still dear to him. "I wanted it to happen last year. I am as impatient as anyone. [But] Al was handcuffed a little bit. We’ve got to give him time…. I had my problems early [as coach] with the Miami program. I’m sure people weren’t real happy with me the first year. I think things will work out because I trust him. I am 100 percent behind Al Golden.”

Asked if UM needs to play a more attacking defense like his UM teams did, Johnson said: “To say my style is better than somebody else’s would be wrong for me to do. I don’t know the talents of the individuals they have. I don’t want to sit here and judge and say the way we did it was better.”

He declined to critique D’Onofrio’s approach because he said he’s not at practice to analyze the players’ skills.

Johnson said he is “very impressed” with freshman Brad Kaaya: “I really like this young quarterback. He’s really going to be a good player. He’s got a great touch on the ball.”

Johnson said he hasn’t spoken with Golden this season but has told him in the past that he’s available “any time I can help.”

He knows some former players are saying “let’s go back to the old days.” But “it’s going to be hard to get back to the old days.”

Please see the last post for details on Gino Torretta's criticism of the UM staff.

### UM’s problems extend beyond defense. Despite a bevy of playmakers, UM is 81st of 125 major college programs in yards per game, 79th in scoring (27.5) and ranks worst in the country in third-down conversion percentage (23.8). UM's 15 successful third-down conversions are tied with Temple for fewest in the country.... Fox Sports Florida picked up Saturday's UM-Cincinnati game.

### There’s a good chance the Dolphins will be able to run successfully on Green Bay, which is giving up the most yards on the ground (163) of any team since 2010.

### JJ, who works as an NFL studio analyst for Fox, said though the “jury is out,” he believes Ryan Tannehill has the talent to be a successful NFL starter. “He hasn’t been consistent. But they’re in a new system. Eli Manning struggled his first couple games in a new system” this season.

### The Dolphins are very pleased with how Reshad Jones has looked since returning to practice after a four-game suspension.

"His conditioning has been very good and his play speed has been excellent," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "Sometimes guys give each other a hard time about having fresh legs when somebody comes back from either being injured or what have you, but he’s noticeably fast and covering a lot of ground and doing a good job.”

But Jones has been playing with the second team in practice and it's undetermined if he will start Sunday. He's a backup on the depth chart.

### Besides waiting to see if he keeps his Dolphins starting job, this is also in play for Samson Satele: He makes $46,875 extra per game only if he’s on the active roster game days. Not surprisingly, Philbin declined today to discuss the likelihood of Mike Pouncey moving to guard, which Pouncey said is being considered.

If he’s not starting at center, he would be competing with Nate Garner, Jason Fox and Dallas Thomas for two active spots on game days. (Joe Philbin says he likes to keep seven offensive linemen active.)

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

 

10/07/2014

Intrigue, questions around Heat's PGs; J.J. refutes report, assesses UM program; Dolphins

BUZZ COLUMN

Erik Spoelstra says the Heat’s point guard play has been more competitive in this training camp than in any he can remember.

But questions surround each member of the Heat’s point guard troika, and Spoelstra on Tuesday surprisingly started Norris Cole ahead of Mario Chalmers against Orlando, though he cautioned after the game not to read anything into that.

Spoelstra's move Tuesday came hours after Chalmers said there's "no doubt in my mind I'm the starting point guard" and 10 days after Cole announced "I believe I'm ready to be a starter."

Spoelstra has declined to say who will start at point guard, even though Pat Riley said during the summer that Chalmers will be the starter.

On Tuesday, Cole (two points) played a sound floor game (six assists, no turnovers) and shot 1 for 3. Chalmers (10 points) shot 2 for 8 from the field with three assists and two turnovers and logged some minutes at shooting guard alongside Cole.

Napier, a long shot to play much at least early in the season, played the final 10 minutes --- including the overtime --- and hit two free throws late in regulation but missed five of his six shots from the field.

Spoelstra made clear that the point guards will be entrusted with more freedom to attack offensively than during the LeBron James era. 

“We will need them to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “Probably will have more opportunities than they’ve had in the past.”

Both of the Heat's veteran point guards came to camp in exemplary shape, Chalmers arriving at camp at what he said was his lowest reporting weight as a pro (186).

“This year will be that year to put myself out there and really see what I can do,” Chalmers said. “Coach wants me to be more aggressive, more of a leader, be another go-to guy. I’ve got to elevate my game.”

That, he said, will entail “more ball-handling, more shooting, definitely more playmaking. I’m stronger and faster.”

After averaging 4.4 points and shooting 7 for 27 in the Finals --- and losing his starting job in Game 5 --- Chalmers said he “pouted for two or three weeks” because “I was disappointed in myself and felt I let people down.”

Chalmers did not expect to be re-signed, but the Heat offered him a two-year, $8.3 million contract after James bolted for Cleveland.

Eager to be a greater factor offensively, Cole “added a couple wrinkles off the dribble” and incorporated “some footwork things with my shot” that Indiana coach Tom Crean taught him this summer when several Heat players worked out for a few days in Bloomington.

Cole’s energy and on-the-ball defense are unquestioned assets. But he must improve finishing at the basket (he shot just 52.5 percent at the rim last season), his mid-range game (he shot 28 percent from 10 to 16 feet) and avoid extended shooting slumps like the one last spring. (He shot 34 percent after the All-Star break.)

Both of the Heat’s primary point guards also could improve their floor games.

Among 47 qualifying point guards, Chalmers ranked 35th last season in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.20 to 1) and Cole was 41st (1.95 to 1).

Napier’s horrendous shooting at Summer League surprised scouts, considering he was an effective scorer at Connecticut. He averaged 18 points and shot 42.0 percent last season, including 40.5 percent on threes.

But in summer league, the two-time NCAA champion made 28 of 102 shots (27.5 percent) and averaged 4.2 turnovers.

Napier initially attributed the Summer League slump to adjusting to the texture of the NBA ball and didn’t blame a thumb injury that required protective covering for most of summer league.

“I expect a lot from myself and I was trying to figure out what was going on,” he said. “But I wasn’t down on myself. I’ve been trying to get a quicker release on my shot.”

Said Spoelstra: “There’s a shiftiness, a cleverness to the way he attacks the paint.”

But he's obviously a long shot for a rotation spot, with Cole and Chalmers clearly ahead of him.

### Swingman James Ennis is going to command playing time if he can sustain what he's displaying through two preseason games. He had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes Tuesday.

### Is Bosh looking forward to seeing LeBron this week in Brazil? "I don't know," he said. "I'm in the mode of I'm trying to lead this team. If guys aren't in this locker-room, I don't have much time for them, if any."

CHATTER

### Jimmy Johnson denied a broadcast report from two former Hurricanes offensive linemen that claimed that he called UM coaches after the Nebraska game and offered to help against the option but that Al Golden and Mark D’Onofrio turned him down.

“Never happened,” Johnson said by phone Tuesday. “A couple years ago, I called Mark and said, ‘Anytime you need my help I’m more than happy.’ We had a five-minute conversation. I haven’t talked to Mark in a couple years.”

On the state of the program, Johnson said: “I am as disappointed as anybody we haven’t done better. But I go back to: I trust Al Golden. Al works hard at it. He’s very diligent in his recruiting. He will recruit good players. He’s a smart guy that is going to make the right decisions….

“I want it to happen right away," he said of on-field success for the program that's still dear to him. "I wanted it to happen last year. I am as impatient as anyone. [But] Al was handcuffed a little bit. We’ve got to give him time…. I had my problems early [as coach] with the Miami program. I’m sure people weren’t real happy with me the first year. I think things will work out because I trust him. I am 100 percent behind Al Golden.”

Asked if UM needs to play a more attacking defense like his UM teams did, Johnson said: “To say my style is better than somebody else’s would be wrong for me to do. I don’t know the talents of the individuals they have. I don’t want to sit here and judge and say the way we did it was better.”

He declined to critique D’Onofrio’s approach because he said he’s not at practice to analyze the players’ skills.

Johnson said he is “very impressed” with freshman Brad Kaaya: “I really like this young quarterback. He’s really going to be a good player. He’s got a great touch on the ball.”

Johnson said he hasn’t spoken with Golden this season but has told him in the past that he’s available “any time I can help.”

He knows some former players are saying “let’s go back to the old days.” But “it’s going to be hard to get back to the old days.”

Please see the last post for details on Gino Torretta's criticism of the UM staff.

### UM’s problems extend beyond defense. Despite a bevy of playmakers, UM is 81st of 125 major college programs in yards per game, 79th in scoring (27.5) and ranks worst in the country in third-down conversion percentage (23.8). UM's 15 successful third-down conversions are tied with Temple for fewest in the country.... Fox Sports Florida picked up Saturday's UM-Cincinnati game.

### There’s a good chance the Dolphins will be able to run successfully on Green Bay, which is giving up the most yards on the ground (163) of any team since 2010.

### JJ, who works as an NFL studio analyst for Fox, said though the “jury is out,” he believes Ryan Tannehill has the talent to be a successful NFL starter. “He hasn’t been consistent. But they’re in a new system. Eli Manning struggled his first couple games in a new system” this season.

### The Dolphins are very pleased with how Reshad Jones has looked since returning to practice after a four-game suspension.

"His conditioning has been very good and his play speed has been excellent," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "Sometimes guys give each other a hard time about having fresh legs when somebody comes back from either being injured or what have you, but he’s noticeably fast and covering a lot of ground and doing a good job.”

But Jones has been playing with the second team on defense and it's undetermined if he will start Sunday. He's listed as a backup on the depth chart.

### Besides waiting to see if he keeps his Dolphins starting job, this is also in play for Samson Satele: He makes $46,875 extra per game only if he’s on the active roster game days. Not surprisingly, Philbin declined today to discuss the likelihood of Mike Pouncey moving to guard, which Pouncey said is being considered.

If he’s not starting at center, he would be competing with Nate Garner, Jason Fox and Dallas Thomas for two active spots on game days. (Joe Philbin says he likes to keep seven offensive linemen active.)

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      

10/06/2014

Tuesday 9:30 a.m.: Torretta latest to criticize UM coaching; Golden again defends scheme/strategy; Philbin, Golden address issues

### Add Gino Torretta to the growing list of former players who are questioning decisions made by UM’s coaching staff.

Appearing this morning with Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor on 104.3 The Ticket, Torretta said:

“You feel bad for the current players. You know there's talent there. People say why are [former players] being negative? When you watch certain things during the game, you say: Why isn't he taught this? Why isn't the adjustment made? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

“What we're not seeing is instincts. When you have guys that can run that are talented and are fast --- teach them a few things well and let them go out and play. [You] don't see guys making plays, being instinctual and being able to use one of their greatest assets, which is speed.”

Torretta said his teams “played aggressive. We attacked.” He said this defense requires a lot of thinking, where “if you don't get the quarterback, you have to catch the guard and center and look in backfield and figure out what's going on. And the linebacker has to figure out which guy is being blocked….

“You see it. I see it. The frustrating thing is we want to see improvement. We don't want to see the same mistakes and we don't want to be told we're 9-0 against scheme and four of those wins are against Army and Navy.”

He said the greatest coaches “are able to adjust their schemes to the personnel.”

His confidence Golden will get this turned around?

“It can't be any higher than five,” he told Zaslow and Taylor. “You can’t tell me we don’t have some players on the team. The only team that has beaten us in recruiting in the ACC is FloridaState. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be beating those teams?”

Torretta called the Michigan State-Nebraska game on radio Saturday night and “all I could think about was how frustrated I was watching Nebraska --- a one-dimensional run the ball team and we let a one-dimensional run the ball team do exactly what they wanted to do against us and beat us.” 

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A few Monday night quick hits:

### During his two regular Monday appearances with WQAM, Al Golden made clear today that there was nothing wrong or regrettable with the strategy or schemes UM used against Georgia Tech and again put the blame on player execution. That's very much in line with his message previous weeks.

Asked by Joe Rose why UM didn’t crowd the box more against run-heavy Tech, and not play its safeties closer to the line, Golden said: “I think the safeties were at 10 yards the whole game and we’re playing a nine-man front. If they’re any tighter than that, then they can’t get in the opposite alley on the option. We’ve played this thing for a decade. Going into this game I think we were 8-1 in our last nine against it.

“So, we’ve had success using this strategy, OK? And again, we forced them into a third-and-6, where they converted, a third-and-6 where they had a [pass interference]. Without that PI, they only score one time in the first half: a third-and-7 and a third-and-16 and they get us on a wheel route [Thurston Armbrister was in coverage].

"That should not happen. So I know they got more yards than we wanted, certainly, running the ball. But where they broke our back is we didn’t take the ball away and they got us on third down.”

When it was suggested UM could have gambled more defensively, Golden said: “We did gamble. We brought the SAM. We brought the WILL. We stunted constantly.”

He said some of the breakdowns were the result of “missing an assignment or somebody got beat.... In terms of our execution of the formula, we didn’t do what we need to do. They executed what they wanted to do better than we did. I’m accountable for it. End of story.”

But when Golden says he’s accountable for it, it’s not clear what that means because he clearly doesn’t believe coaching decisions are causing the breakdowns.

In Golden's defense, he doesn't name individual players who made mistakes. (These are college kids after all.) He didn't identify Armbrister by name, though everyone could see he messed up on the 30-yard passing play on Tech's final scoring drive.

Golden said he will tell his players that there's no time to "complain" or dwell on Tech. “[This] was a totally different gameplan," he said of Tech's option offense. "It's something we only do once a year.”

### On Hurricane Hotline, Golden said he opted not to play newcomers Michael Wyche and Anthony Moten against Georgia Tech but praised Moten’s progress.

He said Chad Thomas, who played well, “walks the walk and talks the talk.”

### Golden said he wants to redshirt defensive linemen Earl Moore and Jelani Hamilton, as well as a handful of freshmen.

### Golden praised Joe Yearby but said he needs to develop a stiff-arm like Duke Johnson’s.

### Is Joe Philbin optimistic Knowshon Moreno can play this week with a brace on his left elbow?

“Sure, I’m always optimistic, but I’m a realist," he said. "He has to prove out here that he can run, he can catch (and) he can run. He’s got to do a lot of things. If he could do all of those things, that would be great. We’ll have to see."

Is Philbin concerned about him playing with a brace? "I think it’s just a matter of him getting used to playing with it in practice. He’s got to get a feel of it and carrying the ball with it, pass protection. Obviously we just can’t have him in there when we are running the ball or free release him all the time. Those are things we take the practice week to figure out.”

### With Derrick Shelby suspended, expect to see more of rookie Terrence Fede and possibly Chris McCain.

Fede "plays hard,” Philbin said. “He missed a lot of practice time [in September with a knee injury], so there are things that we need to catch him up on. He did a good job in the [Oakland] game. There’s a ton of things to get better at, but he comes out to the field every day, gives an honest effort, he works his tail off. So that’s really all you can ask for as a coach.”

Please see the last post for details on the news Mike Pouncey shared with me today and other Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Canes notes.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

10/05/2014

Pouncey says Dolphins considering moving him to guard; Good, bad news about Dolphins' secondary; Dolphins, Wade, LeBron, UM, Marlins

3 p.m. Monday update: Might the Dolphins move Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey from center --- where he has played his entire NFL career -- to guard, where he excelled at the University of Florida? Pouncey said Monday that option is now a possibility and playing guard would be "fine with me."

Pouncey told me he took first-team practice reps at both center and guard today.

The Dolphins would like to get their five best linemen on the field Sunday against Green Bay and that appears to have them considering a lineup with Samson Satele remaining at center and Pouncey playing right guard, instead of Dallas Thomas or Shelley Smith (who is returning from a knee injury).

Pouncey, who missed the first four games while recovering from June hip surgery, said the Dolphins have not made a decision about his position and said the decision ultimately would come down to his comfort level with the switch, coupled with what coaches believe is "best for the team."

Though he hasn't played guard since his days at UF, Pouncey said guard "is easier" than center. "Guard's my position," he said. "I was kind of forced to play center when I got drafted. Guard's been the position I've played my whole life."

Pouncey practiced without limitations today and said if there were a game today: "I think I can play and play really well.... I felt great, as happy as I've been in a while."

Pouncey played right guard as a sophomore and junior at UF before switching to center as a senior, replacing twin brother Maurkice Pouncey, who graduated.

### The Dolphins released running back Orleans Darwkwa and signed receiver Damian Williams, who was cut in late August. Reshad Jones was reinstated from the suspension list to the 53-man roster, with Derrick Shelby doing the opposite.

### As we told you last week, Knowshon Moreno was indeed joking when he told reporters he would be out another month. He practiced today with a protective covering on his elbow and hopes to play Sunday, though he's still not 100 percent.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins have been fortunate in that they haven’t faced any currently-elite quarterbacks in their first four games, considering Tom Brady entered Sunday night's game with a passer rating below Ryan Tannehill’s. But that’s about to change.

Over the next seven weeks, Miami will oppose five quarterbacks in the NFL’s top half: Aaron Rodgers, who is first in NFL passer rating (his Packers visit Sun Life Stadium next Sunday), Chicago’s Jay Cutler; San Diego’s Phillip Rivers (second in passer rating), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Denver’s Peyton Manning (fifth).

Here’s the encouraging news, besides the fact the Dolphins get safety Reshad Jones back from suspension: Since the start of last season, the Dolphins have played 11 games against highly-regarded quarterbacks and done good work against nine of them. In eight of those 11 games, the opposing quarterback produced passer ratings worse, often much worse, against Miami than overall for the season.

Of the other three, Joe Flacco had a poor 73 rating both against Miami and overall in 2013, but Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger blitzed Miami, with Brees posting a 144.5 rating in a blowout win and Roethlisberger a 114.2 in a loss.

In their other games against franchise-type quarterbacks since 2013, Andrew Luck mustered just a 79.7 rating, Matt Ryan an 84.4, Andy Dalton 55.4, Rivers 90.1 (well below his 105.5 last season), Cam Newton 60.6 and Brady 69.5, 85.7 and 69.7.

And this Dolphins secondary, on paper, should be better than last year’s. Problem is, Rodgers is better than most or all of the aforementioned quarterbacks, even though safety Louis Delmas angrily dismissed a Rodgers-related query by saying “we don’t give a damn who we play.”

### Besides Rodgers’ greatness, this is troubling: The Dolphins’ defensive backs’ track record against Rodgers isn’t good. (They’re hardly alone in that regard.)

Grimes, Miami’s best cornerback, has been eviscerated in four meetings against Rodgers as a member of the Falcons, allowing 24 of 30 passes thrown against him to be caught for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

The last time Delmas faced Rodgers (Week 5 last season), he was burned for an 83-yard touchdown pass against James Jones, who’s now with Oakland. Finnegan has faced Rodgers twice and been beaten for 9 completions in 15 attempts for 135 yards.

### The Dolphins are a strong sixth in passing yards allowed per game (215) and third in passing yards allowed per play but are giving up a fairly high completion rate, including 13 for 19 against Finnegan and 9 for 12 against Jimmy Wilson.

CHATTER

### If Dolphins owner Stephen Ross makes a coaching change after the season, everybody knows he will pursue Jim Harbaugh, who probably won’t return to San Francisco even though he’s under contract through 2015, according to Fox’s Jay Glazer. In fact, Glazer said today that Harbaugh won't return next season even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, and ESPN's Adam Schefter said Harbaugh started losing support with his players when he wasn't truthful with former starter Alex Smith about his previous pursuit of Peyton Manning.

Amid reports that players have soured on Harbaugh, 49ers and ex-Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin chimed in, calling Harbaugh his best coach ever “even though he might be cheesy at times with slogans and sayings.”

But if Philbin is fired and the Dolphins cannot land Harbaugh, expect Dolphins consultant/sports agent Mike Tannenbaum --- who is respected by high-level Ross executive and former Jets colleague Matt Higgins --– to recommend two of his well-regarded clients: Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

### CBS announcers were mystified when Grimes ran off the field in London to hand-deliver an interception to someone. It was Grimes’ wife, Miko, who requests that he bring all of his interceptions to her immediately afterward if possible. Grimes said she has all 18 of them; they’re in boxes but eventually will be displayed at their home.

### So when Patriots coach Bill Belichick signs former Dolphins players before playing Miami, as he did with Marcus Thigpen and Don Jones, just how much “inside information” do the Patriots seek from them?

Thipgen, back with Miami, said his Patriots position coach asked him for the Dolphins’ offensive hands signals, but Thipgen told him the Dolphins don’t have any. A Patriots defensive coach asked

Thigpen to break down tendencies of the Dolphins receivers. But Belichick didn’t get directly involved.

### If the Marlins keep virtually all of their team together before making a few additions, their projected payroll would be close to $55 million, leaving them without enough to add a high-impact hitter and a cheap fifth starter if they stick with their initial plans to have a payroll at $60 million or slightly higher.

So in order to try to sign perhaps Michael Cuddyer or Michael Morse to play first base and have a little money left, Jeffrey Loria either will need to add a bit more to payroll (which he did last year for Jeff Baker and Carlos Marmol); or the Marlins will need to dump salary, either by finding a team willing to cover part of Garrett Jones’ $5 million salary or Jarrod Saltalmacchia’s $7 million in a trade (good luck with that), trading Steve Cishek or Mike Dunn, who could make $6 million and $2 million in arbitration; or declining the option on catcher Jeff Mathis ($2.1 million), who they value.

### Heat guard Dwyane Wade, a career 28.9 percent three-pointer shooter, said he intends to take more corner threes this season.

“I’m not falling in love with the three but [will be] shooting it more than the last couple of years,” he said. “Coach hasn’t told me I could shoot threes the last couple years. So just him saying that is a different mindset.”

 Wade took 206 threes in his first season alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh but just 56, 66 and 32 the past three. One factor that works against him?  “I don’t have a quick release.” But he worked this year with James Jones (now with Cleveland) on his three-point footwork.

### Most encouraging sign of the first week of Heat camp and the preseason opener? The bench will have some offensive punch, if what we're seeing is a harbinger for Danny Granger (responding well after a summer knee operation) journeyman Shawne Williams (17 points in the scrimmage, 12 points against New Orleans) and James Ennis, who had 17 points and six boards against the Pelicans Saturday and is making an early case to be in the rotation. 

### The Heat sees James on a court for the first time since his departure when the Heat and Cavaliers practice and play in Brazil this week. And though Miami has moved on, there are some inside the Heat who believe James should have handled his exit better by not ignoring Pat Riley’s calls and emails to him during free agency. And some suspect LeBron already had made up his mind when he had Riley travel cross-country to Las Vegas to meet with him.

James now admits playing back home wasn’t the only reason he left but “95 percent”; he also identified playing with Kyrie Irving as an incentive. Though Stephen A. Smith correctly noted James wanted more high-end seats for his friends than the Heat gave to his demanding entourage, a friend insisted that didn’t drive him away.

James, incidentally, has put his furnished Coconut Grove home on the market for $17 million but is maintaining a small South Florida presence by keeping his half ownership in Unknwn, a retail store in Aventura, while his wife retains her juice bar on Brickell. James also has an ownership interest in Blaze Pizza, which is opening stores in Broward and Palm Beach.

### Asked Sunday why UM didn't stack the box more Saturday against Georgia Tech, Al Golden said: "This is the best way to play them in our opinion."... He said nothing to suggest that he believes Miami's schemes need to be changed. Instead, as usual, he blamed "execution" for Miami's inability to stop Georgia Tech from converting on third down... Golden said he wants to keep this loss in perspective, noting that Georgia Tech's point total was fewest it has scored against Miami in three years."... Asked about fan anger, he said: "I don't listen to anything."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

10/04/2014

Postscripts, notes, thoughts from UM's 28-17 loss at Georgia Tech

So the Reign of Mediocrity continues, and this one comes with the usual supply of bang-your-head-against-the-wall questions. Such as:

Why can’t UM defenders resist their instincts and carry out their assignments?

Why can’t UM, under Al Golden, ever beat a good team on the road?

Why was D’Mauri Jones --- Miami’s sixth-best receiver AT BEST – the recipient of a critical pass on a key second-half possession deep in Georgia Tech territory? (At least his fumble was overturned on replay.)

And why is UM playing its safeties deep on a third and short against a team that runs the vast majority of the time?

There are never any answers, really, certainly not any good ones, and so the UM program remains stuck in neutral, unable to fix its shortcomings and unable to come up with any real solutions. So this is where we are:

### Since opening 7-0 last season, UM has played 12 games and lost seven of them, all by double digits. And as NBC 6 anchor/WQAM sportscaster Adam Kuperstein noted, UM has been outscored 130-50 in the second half of those seven losses.

### UM is 3-3 (1-2 in the ACC) and this increasingly has the look of a 7-5 or 6-6 season unless Miami can figure out a way to win at Virginia Tech (which dispatched the Canes by 18 points last year) or at Virginia, which has given UM all sorts of aggravation over the past several years. Beating FSU? Good luck with that.

### Against schools from major conferences (including the Big East), UM is now 19-18 under Al Golden.

### UM entered 1-16 in its last 17 road games against ranked teams. Georgia Tech, now 5-0, wasn’t ranked, so that record remains unchanged.

### The Hurricanes had beaten the Yellow Jackets five in row, but Tech's option offense flummoxed Miami; Tech finished with 311 yards on the ground on 65 carries, equaling 4.8 per carry. Tech needed to throw the ball only seven times, with Justin Thomas completing four for 53 yards. 

That makes the Yellow Jackets the fifth team since 2011 (and second in three weeks) to run for 300-plus yards against UM. And UM has allowed an opponent to rush for 200-plus yards an absurd 16 times during Golden’s tenure.

A few other numbing numbers from tonight:

### While UM was just 1 for 5 on third downs, Georgia Tech was 9 for 14, converting nearly all of them in the second half.

### The Yellow Jackets had an overwhelming edge in time of possession: 40:11 to 19:15.

Tech wrested this game from Miami by marching 75 yards on 13 plays for touchdowns on each of its first two possessions of the second half. One possession chewed up 6:50, the other 6:54. Common theme to both drives: UM couldn't make a stop on third down.

As usual, UM defensive breakdowns were plentiful. The pitch man in Georgia Tech’s offense did a fair share of the damage, with UM defenders displaying neither the discipline nor the physical ability to respond. But Zach Laskey (29 for 133) and Tech’s offensive line also gouged UM up the gut at times.

UM ultimately was undone by shrewd play-calling and scheming from Paul Johnson (including using an unbalanced line at times), the UM defensive tackles’ inability to shake blocks, linebackers too often being hoodwinked and losing sight of the pitch man; defensive backs not offering run support quickly or skillfully enough; and an offense that could muster only three second-half points.

On that first Tech scoring drive of the second half, Thurston Armbrister and Nantambu Fentress missed a tackle on one play; Deon Bush was beaten for a completion on an 3rd and 8; Armbrister was fooled on an option run; and UM looked thoroughly confused seconds before BJ Bostic’s two-yard TD run, an underhanded toss that was an easy score because Fentress came over late and Ladarius Gunter couldn’t dislodge from a block.

(Incidentally, Mark D’Onofrio opted to start the second half with Fentress in the game. He also played a lot of four-man lines, with Chickillo, Olsen Pierre, Ufomba Kamalu and Tyriq McCord opening the game as UM’s defensive front.)

On Tech's second TD drive of the second half, mistakes included Tony Zenon beat Armbrister for a 30-yard reception (on a 3rd and 16) and the linebackers were fooled on Deon Hall’s 8-yard TD run, with UM cornerbacks again unable to dislodge quickly enough from blocks.  

According to ESPN, Tyriq McCord and Denzel Perryman kept telling teammates to trust each other and carry out their assignments. But all the talk rarely seems to translate to results. And D'Onofrio made another puzzling move by playing his safeties too deep at times, just as he did against Nebraska.

### Al Golden’s take afterward, on WQAM: “We didn’t convert well enough on third down. The defense was out there too long. We threw two interceptions in the red zone. We got beat in all three phases. We didn’t get off the field on third down. That’s what hurt us the most. The third and 15 was a back-breaker. You can still win if they get 250, 270 yards rushing. It’s when they start doing that on third down and converting it, it’s unacceptable. The fullback hurt us tonight. We couldn’t stop them inside."

More stream of consciousness from Golden: "They played better than us. On the third and longs, which we should have an advantage on, we did not execute the way we wanted to. Disappointing we didn’t hold the ball more on offense and help the defense out. We weren’t good enough on third down. The only way you can beat them when you have two turnovers is if you get two or some combination of two and a fourth down stop. We didn’t get a turnover or a fourth-down stop. Not good enough. We’ve got to regroup. I’ve got to get the guys rested up and healthy. There’s no time for excuses. No time for complaining. We’ve got a lot of football left. Duke was 0-2 in the league last year and ended up winning [the Coastal].”

### By the way, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who ripped through UM's defense for 229 yards on 35 carries two week ago, mustered just 45 yards on 24 carries in a loss to Michigan State tonight. So as good as Abdullah is, it's not as if he can't be slowed.

### Brad Kaaya closed 16 for 25 for 245 yards and one touchdown (to Braxton Berrios on UM’s first drive) but also two interceptions. Golden said Malcolm Lewis didn’t see the ball on one interception and Kaaya overthrew Clive Walford on the other.

### Positives? Freshman Chad Thomas, slowed by back spasms the past two weeks, made a couple of notable plays. Duke Johnson ran 14 times for 100 yards.  And freshman Nick Linder played well in his first start at guard. “He showed he’s tough as can be,” Golden said.

### Final receiving numbers: Phillip Dorsett 3 for 75, Duke Johnson 3 for 52, Clive Walford 2 for 37, Lewis 2 for 30, Berrios 2 for 29, Herb Waters 2 for 20, and Stacy Coley 1 for 2.

Coley, whose disappointing sophomore season has been puzzling, made a contribution on kickoff returns, with three for 83 yards.

Please check back Sunday for the Sunday buzz column, with lots of Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz). 

 

 

10/03/2014

A look at how Dolphins' new starters compare with former ones; Larranaga addresses UM hoops issues

The Dolphins have played the past two weeks with 11 new starters from a year ago, seven the result of offseason personnel decisions and four the byproduct of injuries or suspensions.

And despite the Dolphins’ pedestrian 2-2 record, this is something they can feel good about: The replacements, for the most part, have performed capably.

The players substituting for injured starters Dannell Ellerbe (Jelani Jenkins) and Mike Pouncey (Samson Satele) have surpassed expectations.

And most of the players who are starting because of offseason personnel choices are performing at levels comparable or better than the players they replaced.

A look at how the new starters have fared compared with the former ones:

### Start with the tackle positions. Last season, Bryant McKinnie (10 starts for the Dolphins) allowed seven sacks, Tyson Clabo (15 starts) yielded 11 and Jonathan Martin (seven starts) relinquished seven. That’s 25 sacks permitted by the team’s top three tackles.

So far, left tackle Branden Albert and rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James have relinquished only one sack apiece in 587 combined snaps. No wonder Pro Football Focus ranks Albert second and James 20th among 67 tackles.

By comparison, Martin --- now with the 49ers ---  allowed three sacks in 257 snaps entering Sunday. Clabo, incidentally, is a backup for the Texans and McKinnie is out of the league.

What’s more, PFF ranks Albert the fifth-best run blocker among all tackles and James the 10th-best. All of the Dolphins’ tackles graded out poorly as run blockers last season.

### The Dolphins’ guard play also has improved. Last season, Richie Incognito allowed six sacks in seven-plus games and John Jerry yielded five.

This season, left guard Daryn Colledge, 32, said he has been held responsible for only half a sack in the Dolphins’ grading system.

“There are times I feel like 32, times I feel 25,” he said. “Times [my performance] has been good, sometimes bad.”

But Colledge, overall, has been competent. And Dallas Thomas has filled in serviceably for 2 ½ games in place of right guard Shelley Smith, who is considered a strong run blocker. Smith, back from a knee injury, has resumed practicing.

As for Miami’s former guards, Incognito remains unemployed and Jerry is a starter for the New York Giants; he hasn’t given up any sacks but has a negative grade as a run-blocker.

### At center, Satele has “done a hell of a job,” Albert said. He hasn’t permitted any sacks and ranks ninth-best as a run-blocker among 34 centers, according to PFF’s rankings. Satele will move to the bench with Pouncey expected to return Oct. 12 against Green Bay.

### On the defensive side, most of the new starters have performed at a level ranging from decent to excellent.

At the high end: Jelani Jenkins, who is ranked first among all 4-3 outside linebackers by PFF. He’s rated second of 31 linebackers against the run and quarterbacks have a subpar 77.6 passer rating in his coverage area.

Conversely, Ellerbe --- who is out for the season with a hip injury --- last season was ranked 50th overall among 55 linebackers and third-worst against the run. And whereas Ellerbe had 101 tackles in 15 games last season, Jenkins is on a 152-tackle pace.

### New defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has been solid. Miami gave him a four-year, $16 million contract instead of matching Atlanta’s five-year, $33 million offer for Paul Soliai.

PFF ranks Mitchell eighth among defensive tackles, compared to 19th for Soliai in his first four games with the Falcons. Though Soliai is stout against the run, Mitchell has graded out well in that area and the Dolphins got younger and cheaper at the position, while adding a player they believe has pass-rush skills.

### Safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Cortland Finnegan haven’t so far been dramatic upgrades over the players they replaced, but they have played decently. Stronger tests will come against Green Bay and Chicago the next two weeks.

PFF ranks Delmas 26th of 76 safeties so far this season and 13th against the run. Clemons, who remains unsigned after being cut by Houston in late August, was rated 19th of 86 safeties in 2013 but had a negative grade against the run.

Finnegan, who had a fumble return for a touchdown against Oakland, is rated 27th of 100 cornerbacks, with an 87.8 passer rating in his coverage area.

Meanwhile, the players who split starts opposite Brent Grimes last season are either unemployed (Dimitri Patterson) or non-factors (Nolan Carroll), who has played only 19 snaps for Philadelphia.

### Two starters who have been missed: Safety Reshad Jones, back from a four-game suspension, and linebacker Koa Misi, expected back next Sunday after missing three games with an ankle injury.

Jimmy Wilson, who filled in for Jones, ranks 18th among 76 safeties, but he has missed five tackles and has a negative grade in run support. With Jones’ return, Wilson will move back to nickel corner.

Jason Trusnik, a valued special teams player who has been filling in for Misi at middle linebacker, graded out well against the run but allowed 9 of 10 passes thrown against him to be caught for 110 yards and two touchdowns. 

UM HOOPS

A few snippets from Jim Larranaga’s pre-season news conference today:

### Angel Rodriguez, the former Kansas State point guard, has been slowed by an injury but will be “our floor leader” and Larranaga expects him to be an excellent defender. But Larranaga said Manu Lecomte --- last year's primary point guard --- will play with Rodriguez at times.

### New shooting guard Sheldon McClellan, the transfer from Texas, “needs to be a high octane scorer. He has the green light to attack the basket, shoot threes, get to the free throw line. We expect him to be dynamic in the open court. We’ll be running a good deal more than a year ago.”

### UM has nine players who have never played in a game for the Hurricanes. And of the other three players, one is out for a while with an injury (Davon Reed).

Larranaga didn’t rule out the possibility of redshirting Reed this season: “Davon and I are going to be talking constantly about his status and what we feel would be best for him.”

### Center Tonye Jekiri “needs to step up in every category…. Everything it takes to be an ACC caliber [center]. I told my coaches today that Tonye can expect me to be a blanket on him. I’m going to wear him out. He’s such a vital part of this team. We expect him to be a double-double guy. Anything less than that, he can expect me not to be happy.”

### Unless UM opts to play small, Joe Thomas, the Niagara transfer, would start at power forward, at least until Ivan Cruz Uceda returns from a half-season NCAA suspension. “We expect [Thomas] to defend and rebound but he’s very much a role player.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

   

10/02/2014

Scouts, J. Van Gundy evaluate Heat newcomers; Dolphins, Canes chatter; Jose Fernandez; NBC 6 changes

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

The post-LeBron Heat makes its preseason debut  Saturday against New Orleans in Louisville, its only non-televised game until the season ends next spring. So what’s the lowdown on the Heat’s new players? For input, we solicited the views of two veteran scouts and ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy:

### Small forward Luol Deng: Van Gundy: “He hasn’t shot efficiently the past couple of years but he’s still a very good player capable of big minutes. Very good as a defender and very good without the ball. A better corner three-point shooter than when he came into the league and a total team guy.”…

First scout: “Best as a third or fourth scoring option. He’s not making a lot of plays for other people, not that creative. He didn’t play very well in Cleveland. But in Chicago, he was very good. He can get you a basket without running a play. Can put it on the floor, take a dribble or two and score. Plus, you get complete effort every night. And really long defensively.”… 

Second scout: “Had some injuries but he’s still at an age [29] where he’s in his prime. Good defender but quick two-guards would give him trouble. Real good addition.”

### Swingman Danny Granger, who hit four threes in Wednesday’s scrimmage: First scout: “Can’t create his own shot like he used to. He’s near the end, not the same player he was, but I think he has something left. He’s still a good catch-and-shoot guy. His ability to rebound and play defense have dropped off quite a bit. He will be a good guy in their locker room, a real mature veteran.”… Van Gundy: Even at his best, “he wasn’t great in any one area but good at a lot of things. And he gives them size on the wing.”

### Power forward Josh McRoberts, healing from toe surgery: Van Gundy: “A terrific team offensive player. Can make quick decisions with the ball. But he has to fight his hesitation to shoot the open three.”…

First scout: “He and Chris Bosh complement each other well. Josh is much more aggressive than Bosh, a little tougher than Bosh. He’s obviously not as good as Bosh but he can mix it up a little more. OK as a defender, not great. Improved a lot with Charlotte.”…

Second scout: “Passing is his single best asset. He’s a facilitator and you can run offense through him, which you can’t do with a lot of power forwards. Not a great percentage shooter but can make threes. Very good athlete, good basketball IQ. Good pickup.”

### Forward Shawne Williams, who impressed with 17 points in Wednesday’s scrimmage: Van Gundy: “Mike D’Antoni thinks he can be a very effective player, really likes him.”… One scout: “I don’t see him staying in the rotation.”… Second scout: “Why did they give that guy a guarantee? I can’t understand that. The guy is a streak shooter. Had one good year with the Knicks. The rest of his game is very questionable.”

### Guard Shannon Brown: Scout: “He can't consistently make shots, was a shell of himself last year. He wasn’t even that good of a defender with the Knicks last year, and that’s supposed to be his strength. I’m not sure he’s an NBA player anymore.”

### Rookie point guard Shabazz Napier: Scout: “He couldn’t score in summer league. I was shocked, real disappointed the way he played. He was missing everything, turning it over and doing this against college competition. But this happened to Trey Burke last year and he started to play pretty well [for Utah].” (And as Erik Spoelstra noted Wednesday, Napier “looks much more comfortable than he did this summer.”)

### Rookie swingman James Ennis: Scout: “Good athlete, but I’d be surprised if he’s a longterm NBA rotation player. Needs to improve his ball-handling.” (Still, the shooting and athleticism intrigue.)

CHATTER

### Say this for linebacker Phillip Wheeler, who was justifiably a target of derision for Dolphins fans last season: He’s much better so far this year.

In 2013, he was rated the 35th and worst 4-3 outside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, was delinquent against the run, missed 18 tackles and had a 108.7 passer rating in his coverage area. This season, he’s rated third (behind only teammate Jelani Jenkins and Denver’s Von Miller), has a positive grade against the run, no missed tackles and a 68.7 opponent passer rating.

His longterm future here remains dubious, but the Dolphins believe he’s playing more disciplined and less recklessly.

### Joe Philbin is trying to curb any temptation to overdo it with his staff during the bye week. The coaches are back Sunday, the players Monday.

"Potentially, there might be one wrinkle or two that we can add," he said. "Maybe it’s a new formation. Maybe it was one new pressure on defense that fits within our scheme overall. When you have too much time, I’m prone to doing too much."

### Publicly, several Dolphins players resisted the temptation to say winning the AFC East is more realistic amid the Patriot's struggles. "Im not buying one thing about them being vulnerable," Cortland Finnegan said.

### UM’s linebackers --– who face a huge test at Georgia Tech --- also have exceeded modest expectations, beyond top defender Denzel Perryman. Thurston Armbrister’s combined sacks (four) and forced fumbles (two) are fourth nationally; Raphael Kirby comes off the best game of his career, and coaches love the improvement of Jermaine Grace and long, physical freshman Darrion Owens.

### Enamored with his skills, UM wants to keep expanding Joe Yearby’s role in the offense, including more packages where he plays with Duke Johnson. UM coaches compare Yearby to Clinton Portis and Warrick Dunn. They’re also especially bullish on Canes running back commitments Jordan Scarlett (averaging 5.2 yards per carry for St. Thomas Aquinas) and Booker T. Washington’s Mark Walton (7.9).

### And another skilled quarterback is on the way to compete to back up Brad Kaaya: 2015 oral commitment Dwayne Lawson threw for 279 yards and ran for 119, with a role in four touchdowns, in Tampa Hillsborough’s most recent game.… Privately, UM coaches are very worried about the loss of right tackle Taylor Gadbois, who had started to play as well as anybody on the line, coupled with Kc McDermott’s injury, too. UM had finally found the right buttons to push with Gadbois when he went down last week.

### UM won't get Plantation American Heritage five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, who's down to Georgia, FSU and LSU, according to colleage Safid Deen, who has more on a post on our high-school sports blog.

### We've heard positive feedback on how freshman defensive lineman Anthony Moten has come on the past two weeks; he played early fourth quarter snaps against Duke. But because of the challenges of defending Georgia Tech's triple option offense, the UM staff might be cautious in how much it uses some of the freshman backups.... Defensive end Chad Thomas' limited playing time last week was the result of him coming off back spasms, not disappointment in his play.

### Though Jose Fernandez has begun throwing after Tommy John surgery on May 16, Marlins executive Michael Hill said “we’ll have a better idea” of a projected return 9 or 10 months after the operation (February or March).

“Given the history of the procedure, it’s fair to think 12 months out, he could be ready,” Hill said.

For perspective, Stephen Strasburg needed six minor-league starts, over one month, before returning to the big leagues 12 months and one week after his Tommy John surgery. Such a speedy timetable could put Fernandez back in the majors in late May, though that’s ambitious.

### Broadcast notes: NBC-6 has told applicants that Stefano Fusaro, a Univision sportscaster in Houston, will be its new No. 2 sportscaster, replacing Courtney Fallon,who took a college football sideline role with CBS Sports Net. Meanwhile, the station has begun considering replacements for Joe Rose, whose contract is being bought out. Rose will work at NBC 6 through December....

A CBS spokeswoman said Thursday it's too early to tell whether there will be management or personnel changes after the network bought WQAM from Beasley Broadcasting in a 19-station transaction. The deal won't close until December, but WQAM's sports-talk format will remain.... As of the posting of this blog, the scoring margin of the first 3 3/4 games of CBS' new Thursday night NFL package was a ridiculous 169-34, with Green Bay rolling over Minnesota tonight. The next three Thursday games: Indianapolis-Houston, Jets-Patriots and Denver-San Diego.

Please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz)  

10/01/2014

10:30 a.m. update: Postscripts, reaction, thoughts from Heat's scrimmage; Radio change brewing; Broadcast notes; Dolphins

Please scroll below for a Thursday AM update on the sale of WQAM:

Thoughts and postscripts from the Heat’s intra-squad scrimmage in front of 9612 spectators at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday night:

### Most encouraging sign? Danny Granger’s second-half three-point outburst would rank near the top.

After missing all four of his shots in the first half, Granger sank four treys in the third, injecting the Heat with the type of offense it will need off the bench amid the departure of reserves Ray Allen, Michael Beasley and others. 

“Danny started 0 for 3 [on jumpers], and next time he put the ball on the floor,” Erik Spoelstra said. “[Assistant David Fizdale] and I told him the next time you get it, let it go. I was really happy for Danny because he has been putting in a great deal of time. Hasn’t missed a turn yet in camp. Has been fighting through leg fatigue. It’s great to see someone go through that and see it pay off.”

Granger closed with 12 points, shooting 4 for 9 from the field.

### The Heat opened with Shawne Williams filling Josh McRoberts’ spot alongside the other projected starters: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng. The Heat’s “other” team started the game with Granger, Cole, Udonis Haslem, James Ennis and Shawn Jones, who had a scrimmage-high eight rebounds.

Williams made an impact, with 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting, including three three-pointers, plus four rebounds, three assists and a steal. He’s essentially filling the role Michael Beasley handled last year.

### Chris Bosh displayed an arsenal of nifty moves around the basket, including a hook shot and a terrific spin for a layup. He closed with 13 on 5 for 9 shooting.

“I want the quintessential Chris Bosh to be everywhere on the floor,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the Chris Bosh that has been developing the last four years.”

Spoelstra still expects Bosh positioned in the high-post a lot where “he can attack or facilitate.”  

### Dwyane Wade had a quiet night, with eight points on 2 for 8 shooting.

### Ennis came alive in the second half. He hit a three, slammed through a driving dunk, put back a rebound on a potential three-point play, subsequently missed the free throw, but then rebounded his miss. He closed 4 for 6 with nine points and five rebounds.

“Seeing growth,” Spoelstra said of Ennis. “James last summer was overwhelmed with everything, our system, the NBA system, what the pro game is like. It’s so much different than college basketball and the level he was playing at. He has had great strides not only on the court but mentally, athletically. Playing in Australia really helped him grow as a person. He’s had two summers of summer league, plus the last six weeks in our gym.”

### Rookie point guard Shabazz Napier, who shot horribly during summer league, missed three of four three-pointers but was quick with his hands and had four steals defensively.

As a passer, Napier has a smoothness to his game. He had only one assist but would have had more if teammates hadn’t missed shots.

“In summer league, it was overwhelming at first but he dedicated himself the last five, six weeks,” Spoelstra said. “When you see him in camp, you see a confident player in our system. He looks much more comfortable than he did this summer.”

### Spoelstra said the point guard battle among Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Napier has been highly competitive, the most competitive it has been in years.

### Luol Deng showed a diverse offensive game, scoring a variety of ways on five second-half baskets. He closed with 15 points and six rebounds.

### Shannon Brown, the favorite to be the Heat’s backup shooting guard, hit three of four shots…. Undrafted Duke guard Andre Dawkins, a roster long shot, hit three three-pointers and beat Mario Chalmers off the dribble for a basket. “He’s been one of the dinner crews,” Spoelstra said. “Guys coming in at night, getting extra shots.”

### Chalmers threw an ill-advised pass off the backboard, an attempted alley-oop to super-athletic Tyler Johnson that went awry. But nobody scolded him!

Johnson, by the way, had a midcourt steal and dunk in transition. His athleticism jumps out and he’s on the bubble for the last roster spot.

### Three-point shooting is a question with this roster. The Heat tried a bundle tonight (46) and hit 16 of them.

“We felt we have enough shooting, guys who have a resume with it or who have really been working on it,” Spoelstra said.

### The Heat’s frontcourt was shorthanded. McRoberts (toe), Justin Hamilton (heart procedure) and Chris Andersen (sore calf) were held out. Hamilton is expected back in three weeks. McRoberts and Andersen are day to day.

### Haslem had the pass of the night, a full-court heave to Wade for a layup.

### Before the scrimmage, Spoelstra told the crowd: “Heat Nation is not going anywhere.”

Afterward, he said: “You could see the energy, the genuine enthusiasm to play in front of our fans.”

BROADCAST NOTES

### According to several industry sources, Beasley Broadcasting (which owns WQAM-560 and WKIS-99.9 FM) and CBS Radio are discussing a potential trade of Beasley stations in Tampa and Charlotte and Philadelphia for stations in Miami --- a move that would leave WQAM-560 under new ownership.

Several people at WQAM expect the transaction to happen, perhaps as early as Thursday. WQAM declined to comment today, but the station anticipates retaining an all-sports format.

[10:30 a.m. Thursday UPDATE: The sale was announced Thursday morning. Beasley gets 14 stations in Tampa, Charlotte and Philadelphia. CBS Radio gets three Miami stations: WQAM, WKIS and WPOW, and two stations in Philadelphia. CBS says WQAM will retain an all-sports format. The deal is expected to close in December.

WQAM has lagged behind 104.3/790 The Ticket in the ratings over the past year for all the major dayparts, but Arbitron no longer separates the 790 and 104.3 ratings, which makes an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. And despite trailing in the ratings battle, WQAM doesn't have high overhead costs because its only rights deals are with UM and the Panthers and it's paying less to talent than it did when Neil Rogers worked there.]

### Something unusual: The same ESPN2 announcing team (Joe Tessitore, Brock Huard) will call a UM game for the third consecutive week when UM plays Georgia Tech Saturday night.

### For those wondering where to find baseball playoff games: TBS will have the two American League series in the divisional round.

Fox Sports 1 will have the National League division round series except for Saturday night’s Dodgers-Cardinals game (which will be called by Bob Costas on MLB Network) and a Washington Nationals game on Monday, which also will be carried by MLB Network.

### In honor of their 30th anniversary, CBS-4 in Miami will air a retrospective on the Dan Marino-led 1984 Dolphins at 7 p.m. Thursday. That team finished 14-2 and set all sorts of passing records before losing to the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

### The Heat's preseason opener against New Orleans on Saturday in Louisville will be the team's only game not televised this season until their season ends next spring. (In other words, the team says every other preseason game and every regular season and playoff game would be televised.)

### For this weekend’s NFL TV regional maps, see 506sports.com.

Please check the last post for Wednesday Dolphins news.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/30/2014

Noon Wednesday Dolphins news; Fins front office talk; Kaaya/UM chatter; Heat; Marlins

A quick noon Wednesday Dolphins update:

### Former Oregon star running back LaMichael James, signed to the Dolphins ' practice squad Tuesday, said the Dolphins have given him no assurances he will be promoted to the 53-man roster but believes his skills are well suited to Miami's offensive system.

"I feel I can do some things to help the offense," he said. "I really like the zone offense scheme. I want to come in here and try to earn a job. The main thing is getting used to the weather."

James had a standing offer to join the Dolphins' practice squad since working out for them two weeks ago. He initially waited to see if a spot on a 53-man roster opened in the league but decided this week to call the Dolphins and accept the practice squad offer.

"I told them I was all in, ready to be a Fin," he said. "[Assistant GM] Eric Stokes was really positive with me. Really made me feel comfortable."

I asked him if the Dolphins gave him any idea of the likelihood of being promoted to the 53-man roster.

"It depends on me, how hard I work in practice, how I prepare myself each day," he said. "I'm not a rookie. I know how it works. Coming here with a positive attitude. Being on the practice squad is good for me. I think I will benefit from it for a little bit.

"Come time when I get moved up, I'll be ready to play. Nothing is given. It's not fair to all the other guys who have been here through training camp and the offseason. I can't come in here and say I was drafted in the second round and say it's time to go. I've got to learn the offense and get used to the Florida heat, develop a relationship with the coaches and get a feel for it."

James requested his release from the 49ers after the season opener because he wanted more of an opportunity but declined on Wednesday to discuss specifics of his departure. He got only 41 rushing attempts in two-plus seasons for San Francisco and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

"I don't feel like I have anything to prove," he said.

The 49ers gave him more of an opportunity on special teams than on offense and he averaged 28.4 yards on 26 career kickoff returns and had a 10.9 average on 23 punt returns. He ranked 10th in the league in punt return average last season.

He said the Dolphins will allow him to handle some returns in practice. Jarvis Landry, who has fumbled twice on punt returns, said he believes he's still the team's primary returner heading into the Oct. 12 Green Bay game. 

Besides James, Marcus Thigpen --- the Dolphins' primary returner the past two seasons --- is also on the team's practice squad.

“He’s got a lot of skill," Joe Philbin said of James. "He’s a talented guy. He’s got good ball skills. He’s got speed. We just got him out there today. We’ll have a chance to work with him a little bit and see what comes of it, but we like his athleticism, his playmaking ability. He’s got hands and he can run. We’ll take a look at him.”

James, who finished third in 2010 Heisman Trophy ballotting, is the sixth running back under contract with the Dolphins. The five others are on the 53-man roster, including Knowshon Moreno, who is expected to return at some point in October from an elbow injury.

#### Defensive end Gerald Rivers was released from the practice squad to make room for James.

### Each of the last two days, Moreno told different reporters from two different newspapers that he will miss another month. The Palm Beach Post, which does a good job covering the Dolphins, reported those quotes today.

When Moreno told me that yesterday, I concluded his tongue was planted firmly in cheek for several reasons: 1) A Dolphins public relations official who heard the exchange believed he was messing around and not being serious at all. 2) He insisted he was in horrible pain, which clearly isn't the case. 3) He had firmly told reporters previously that he didn't want to discuss a timetable.

So what's the truth here? Moreno originally told at least one teammate he hoped to return for the Oct. 12 Green Bay game. But since that time, a Dolphins front-office official has told others that they expect Moreno to possibly miss a couple more weeks. The Dolphins remain hopeful he will return at some point in October.

### Moreno and Randy Starks were the only Dolphins who sat out the portion of practice open to the media. It remains uncertain if Starks could be ready for the Green Bay game, but he said the injury is not a longterm thing.


The Oakland game was the first one he has missed in six-plus seasons as a Dolphin. "Weird feeling," he said. "It's a feeling I don't want to happen again. I went a long time without missing a game."

### Dolphins players will get the next four days off.

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

Some Tuesday night news and notes:

### Remember how last year's Dolphins draft class played the fewest snaps of any team in football (867)? Thanks largely to Ja’Wuan James (who has been very solid at right tackle) and Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins’ rookie draft class is on pace to surpass that snap total by early November.

They're at 483 offensive/defensive snaps in four games. Excluding special teams, James has played 302 snaps, Landry 141, Terrence Fede 26, Walt Aikens 10 and Jordan Tripp 4. Fede and Tripp made their regular-season debuts against Oakland after dealing with injuries.

The Dolphins are very pleased with James. He has allowed only one sack, graded out well as a run-blocker and is ranked 20th among all tackles by Pro Football Focus.

James, selected 19th in the draft, already has been a huge upgrade over Tyson Clabo, who allowed 11 sacks last season, and Jonathan Martin, who already has given up three sacks for the 49ers.

"He carries himself like a veteran," center Samson Satele said.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have given 123 offensive or defensive snaps to five undrafted rookies: defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (who has 50 snaps), running back Damian Williams (31 snaps), running back Orleans Darkwa (13), tight end Gator Hoskins (12) and linebacker Chris McCain (17 snaps).

McCain had a sack in the opener but has played only two defensive snaps since and did not accompany the team to London because of a death in the family.

### According to a source with direct knowledge, there is no truth to a CBS report of friction between Philbin and team executive Dawn Aponte. Their relationship remains strong and their job duties do not put them in position for conflict.

And contrary to Jason LaCanfora's report, it was owner Stephen Ross – not Aponte --- who hired former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum as a consultant.

Aponte and Tannenbaum get along well, but her job does not entail hiring of consultants. That’s Ross’ domain as owner.

Aponte reports to GM Dennis Hickey, who reports to Ross. And Philbin also reports to the owner. It’s a simple structure that has worked well since Hickey came on board, because Hickey has shown a willingness to get Philbin’s input on personnel.

Though Philbin and Jeff Ireland didn’t see eye to eye, Philbin and Hickey are getting along fine, according to the source with direct knowledge.

Philbin’s biggest challenge is whether he wins enough games this season to earn a fourth season as coach. But there are no ongoing office politics that are going to doom Philbin, contrary to that CBS report.

LaCanfora does some good work, but he has irked the Dolphins with several other inaccurate stories about them, including his persistent reports in March and April that the Dolphins were trying to trade Mike Wallace.  

### As part of doing due diligence on available players, the Dolphins on Tuesday auditioned veteran linebacker Desmond Bishop, who has started 27 games (mostly for Green Bay) in six seasons. He played four games for Minnesota last season and was cut by Arizona on Sept. 6. He has nine career sacks and eight forced fumbles.

### Please see the last post for a ton more Tuesday Dolphins news, including the team signing LaMichael James to the practice squad and Reshad Jones' comments about his return from suspension.

### Thanks in part to his deft touch on deep balls, UM’s Brad Kaaya is averaging more yards per attempt (8.4) than 100 of 125 other major college quarterbacks. And that 8.4 is barely behind two quarterbacks projected to be second-round draft picks next May: Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, and much better than potential second-rounder Sean Mannion of Oregon State.

What’s more, Kaaya’s 149.5 passer rating ranks 37th of 126 nationally. His work ethic is so impressive that on an off day, he popped his head in the coaches’ offices at 9 p.m. Sunday to start preparing for Saturday’s game.

### One of the most disappointing areas for UM this season has been the return game.

UM is averaging just 7.2 yards on punts. Stacey Coley has nine for 87, Braxton Berrios 4 for 20 and Phillip Dorsett one for minus six.

And UM is averaging just 18.6 yards on kickoff returns. Coley has six for 138, Dorsett 4 for 55, Artie Burns 1 for 27 and Walter Tucker 1 for 3.

"We're working on it very hard," Al Golden said of the return game. "We have to coach it better, execute it better, have to give them a little bit more room to run and then the returners have to hit it."

### ESPN’s Todd McShay envisions UM linebacker Denzel Perryman as a late first-rounder, but not everyone is convinced. “He’s a third-, fourth-round pick,” draft analyst Tony Pauline said. “He’s not [above] six feet, which will turn a lot of people off. How does he defend 6-5 tight ends?”…

Pauline calls junior Duke Johnson a top 40 pick, receiver Phillip Dorsett a second- or third-rounder, defensive end Anthony Chickillo a mid-to-late round pick, and center Shane McDermott and tight end Clive Walford late-round picks.

### Most questionable decision of the Heat’s off-season? Giving guaranteed money to 6-9 forward Shawne Williams to assume the Michael Beasley role.

Williams has had only one good season; he shot 40 percent for the Knicks on three-pointers (85 for 212) in 2010-11. In his five other seasons, he’s 126 for 422 on threes (29.8 percent).

But he excelled during an offseason Heat audition that also featured swingman Chris Douglas Roberts and guard MarShon Brooks.

“I impressed the Heat with my toughness,” Williams said. “People try to marginalize me by calling me a stretch-four but there’s more to my game. They’ve talked to me about playing four positions [everything except point guard]. They’ve even talked about me playing some [center]; I guarded Dwight Howard when I played for the Knicks.”

### Shannon Brown has a leg up in the battle for the backup shooting guard job. “I’m surprised we were able to get him,” Chris Bosh said. “He’s going to be a very good player for us.”

### If the Marlins can somehow lure Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73) in free agency, they would be more likely to keep Casey McGehee at third, where he led the league in fielding percentage, and use Sandoval at first than vice versa. There are also a few appealing first base options, including Michael Cuddyer….

Though the Marlins would consider signing a free agent left fielder and moving Christian Yelich to first as a last resort, Yelich said he wants to remain in left. The Marlins' preference is to sign a first baseman who could replace Garrett Jones.

Please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for immediate links on new posts, and check out the last post for more Dolphins and Canes.