12/09/2014

Coley's plan to make Kaaya better; UM recruiting and outlook; Dolphins news; Marlins; Big Heat problem

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Hurricanes chatter:

### Freshman Brad Kaaya closed his first regular season with some impressive rankings: 20th among all quarterbacks in touchdown passes (his 25 were more than FSU’s Jameis Winston and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, among many others), 21st in passer rating (three spots ahead of Winston) and 33rd in passing yardage.

But after UM’s bowl game against South Carolina, more work awaits the studious freshman. UM coordinator James Coley has started formulating a plan to help transform Kaaya from good to great.

“I’m going to wear him out this offseason as much as I’m allowed to,” Coley told me. “The biggest gain happens in the offseason for freshmen. In their sophomore year, if they remain the same, the game catches up to them. And people now know, ‘Hey that’s Brad Kaaya. This is how he plays.’

“You’ve got to elevate your game, so that when you go out there, you’re not the same guy. You’re better than you were last year. That’s the biggest part and that’s where guys fail their sophomore year: in the offseason.”

Coley’s mission for Kaaya will include improving his footwork --- “we want to make sure he’s at a good base so when he gets ready to throw, he’s not fading,” Coley said. UM believes that will improve his accuracy, just as his improved footwork has helped Ryan Tannehill's accuracy this season. That's important for Kaaya, considering his 58.6 completion percentage ranks just 69th nationally.

Coley also wants Kaaya to build up his body: “I can’t wait for him to get into the weight room to get stronger." And he needs to improve throwing on the move.

And Coley has an interesting homework assignment for Kaaya.

“One of the biggest things I’m going to do with Brad is I’m going to have him mock game plan every opponent we have next year and let him give me the scouting report,” Coley said. “Here are their top three coverages, here are the top three blitzes. OK, so how are we handling those blitzes? What’s our best protection versus it? What’s our best runs versus it?

“Then when we get to that time during the season I can say, ‘Hey this is your idea. Or remember when you thought this? You were right.’ It will make sense to him. Every player deserves a little ownership.”

Kaaya said this year’s 6-6 record is “everyone’s fault. Next year we have to flat-out win. In tight games, we have to be able to handle adversity.”

### What former UM quarterback was most helpful to Kaaya this year? He said he hears from Gino Torretta the most (“he sends me texts, with tips, before games”) and Stephen Morris also stays in contact.

### Coley said he wants to develop a special package next season for Malik Rosier, who will be the backup quarterback provided Ryan Williams isn’t granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA. (Williams has said he’s trying but doesn’t expect it to happen.)

“We could use Malik in the Wildcat and he can throw it well enough where we can do more out of that with him,” Coley said.

The challenge for Rosier this season was learning to play some under center, something he didn’t do as a dual-threat quarterback in high school in Mobile last season.

“Brad just had such a jump on him working underneath the center and the gun, doing both,” Coley said. “And when you just do [shotgun], you hurt these kids. When you’re coming into an offense like this, you have to be multiple.”

### So what reasons are there for hope next season beyond Kaaya?

A UM football staffer (not Coley) pointed to the belief Stacey Coley will be motivated to be very good after his falloff this year, the return of receiver Rashawn Scott and safety Rayshawn Jenkins from injuries, a deep secondary, a strong collection of running backs (two already here and others on the way in this recruiting class) even with the likely departure of Duke Johnson, and a skilled group of young pass rushers and offensive linemen.

But defensive tackle and linebacker remain serious concerns and neither has been addressed well enough yet in the 2015 recruiting class. Though UM has oral commitments from 10 four-star prospects, only three play defense: four-star Killian safety JaQuan Johnson, four-star Alabama-based cornerback Michael Jackson and Bradenton-based defensive end Scott Patchan, who is coming off a torn ACL.

UM has no top recruit committed at its biggest need positions. Three-star prospect Ryan Fines, UM’s only defensive tackle oral commitment, has only one other reported offer (USF).

Neither of UM’s two linebacker commitments are rated in the top 35 at their position: New Jersey based Jamie Gordinier and Royal Palm Beach’s Charles Perry, who is reportedly considering UF. That's troubling, because UM loses its best linebacker (Denzel Perryman) and another starter in Thurston Armbrister.

UM's fortunes aren't going to get appreciably better without upgrades at both defensive tackle and linebacker. The hope internally is that all four new tackles improve, especially Michael Wyche and Anthony Moten.

### Newcomers have helped fuel UM basketball’s fast start, but don’t overlook the growth of sophomore guard Manu Lecomte (who has gone from 7.7 points and 42.5 percent shooting to 12.1 and 55.3, including 24 for 47 on threes) and junior center Tonye Jekiri (from 4.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game to 7.4, 9.7 and 2.2).

Lecomte said he took 1000 three-pointers on some days this past summer and “I’m playing more off guard so it’s easier to get open shots now. I love playing with Angel [Rodriguez].”

Jekiri has gained 30 pounds (to 245) but is “more agile and mobile,” Jim Larranaga said. “We asked him to develop a jump shot and now he has good arc on it, can shoot it up to 15 feet.”

CHATTER

### We hear Jared Odrick apologized to Dolphins teammates for creating a distraction after he lost his temper during Sunday’s game and yelled at Joe Philbin.

Odrick was upset because defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers blamed him for something he didn’t believe was his fault and got under Odrick’s skin, though the two have a generally good relationship.

### Despite allowing four sacks on Sunday, we're told Dallas Thomas lined up with the starters at right tackle in practice on Tuesday, and the coaching staff inexplicably remains more comfortable with Thomas than Jason Fox, at least for now.

### Samson Satele said Mike Pouncey “saved my career. I’m thankful for him moving to guard and I told him that.”

But despite Satele’s good work this season and Pouncey’s selflessness, Pouncey has been far less productive at guard than center.

Pouncey has allowed three sacks, yielded the most quarterback hurries per snap of any guard in the NFL and ranks 73rd of 80 guards, per Pro Football Focus. No wonder Pouncey wants to return to center eventually, likely next season.

### One of the first things Bill Belichick mentioned Tuesday was that the Dolphins don’t use much no-huddle, which is something some Dolphins players expected this season. So why don't they use more no-huddle, considering it worked (very briefly) on Sunday and considering Ryan Tannehill generally plays well in the hurry-up?

Philbin indicated it’s challenging to do a lot of no-huddle with a team that uses as much pre-snap shifts and motion as the Dolphins do.

### Cortland Finnegan expressed optimism about playing Sunday. Jamar Taylor also practiced Tuesday and is adjusting to wearing a harness on his injured shoulder. He's not certain about his availability for Sunday.... Though Jelani Jenkins (foot) expressed optimism about playing Sunday, his status remains in question. With Jenkins and Koa Misi unable to practice Tuesday, the Dolphins' linebackers were Philip Wheeler, Kelvin Sheppard, Jason Trusnik, Jordan Tripp and Jake Knott.

### Cam Wake insisted today that despite the Dolphins' recent struggles against the run, "that doesn't all of a sudden turn us into a bunch of bums." OK then.

### With the Heat now third-worst in field-goal percentage defense, some outsiders have questioned Erik Spoelstra’s five men-on-a-string defensive philosophy.

But one Heat player said privately that a huge problem is the inability of the team’s wing players (guards especially) to consistently prevent blow-bys, which compromises the whole system and exposes the Heat’s lack of size.

That dearth of size is reflected not only in the Heat ranking last (by far) in rebounding and blocked shots, but also this: Among shots in the basket area (five feet and in), consider the shooting percentages against some of the Heat’s power rotation players: 66.7 against Chris Andersen (worst in the league among qualifying centers), 61.2 vs. Chris Bosh (bottom quarter among starting centers; Golden State's Andrew Bogut allows 47.3 percent shooting by comparison); 69.3 vs. Udonis Haslem (among the worst for NBA power forwards) and 66.4 vs. Josh McRoberts (below average).

All must sometimes leave their man to defend a player that has blown by a Heat guard.

The Heat entered tonight's game in Phoenix having allowed the opponent to shoot at least 54 percent in four consecutive games --- longest in franchise history.

### I've mentioned the Marlins' interest in a trade for Diamondbacks lefty Wade Miley in past columns in the past month, and Fox reports late tonight that Arizona has intensified talks with the Marlins and Red Sox, among others about a potential trade for the pitcher, who has a 39-35 career record. [WEDNESDAY 4 p.m. UPDATE: Fox reports the Marlins' attempts to acquire Miley have been thwarted and he likely will be traded elsewhere.]

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

12/08/2014

7 p.m. Dolphins roster move; Philbin, Coyle, Lazor address issues and 30 Dolphins notes

7 p.m. update: The Dolphins are promoting practice squad linebacker Jake Knott to fill the roster spot vacated by Louis Delmas, who was placed on injured reserve earlier today. Knott, who played at Iowa State, appeared in 12 games for the Eagles last season.

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A bunch of Dolphins notes on a Monday afternoon:

### As expected, an MRI revealed a torn ACL for Louis Delmas, who is out for the season. The damage to Delmas’ right knee did not extend beyond that and he should be ready for training camp. Delmas is on a one-year contract and it’s undetermined if the Dolphins will retain him.

The Dolphins placed him on injured reserve but did not announce a corresponding roster move. 

### Jamar Taylor hopes to return to this week but the Dolphins want to make sure he passes certain strength thresholds in his injured shoulder before he returns. 

### It was more of the same today from Joe Philbin—who, sounding very much like Al Golden --– said: “I have to do a better job coaching. It starts with me. We have to execute better in the fourth.

I asked how specifically he needs to do a better job. Does he regret anything with the game plan?

“I have a lot of confidence in the plan we entered the game with,” he said. “I’ve always believed the players reflect their coaches. Tackling was not good. It starts with me. Pass protection not good. It starts with the head coach…. The whole philosophy is we practice, we make corrections. We move forward to improve.”

### Philbin always says he plays the 46 players who give him the best chance to win. We understand that.

But with that being said, why didn’t he replace Dallas Thomas with Jason Fox in the second half?

Philbin didn’t bite, merely repeating: “We play the 46 guys that give us best chance to win.”

### Philbin’s views on Sunday’s game, a day later: “We’ve got to do a better job. There are a couple things we need to do better. Tackling wasn’t as good as it needs to be. Certain fundamentals in run defense that have to step up. Later in the game, we didn’t play the run very well.

“I don’t feel we played well in the fourth quarter. It starts, that’s my responsibility. That starts with me….

“We’ve got to have better execution. Better plan. Play better. Finish better. I thought we got off to relatively good start in the game.  They clearly outplayed us in second half. They deserve to win the game.”

### Kevin Coyle was asked if he simply must come to the realization that his run defense isn’t very good.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job. It starts with me and goes right on through. We were doing a decent job until the last two drives. That’s when the majority of the yards were gained. That’s inexcusable, whether it happens at the end of the game or not.

“I thought early on we played the run pretty well like we’re capable of playing. There are indications of what we can do against a good running team, we didn’t finish the way we need to finish. It’s very difficult because we take a lot of pride in that. We had a couple of misfits in the run game. They gained some big chunks at the end of the game.”

### Coyle, on losing Delmas: “Louis has had a very good season. He’s an emotional leader. We are going to miss him a lot. We started the season out and didn’t have Reshad Jones the first four games. Hopefully, we can do the same here.”

### Will Jimmy Wilson move back to safety, which appears likely? “We will look at that and other things," Coyle said.

### Coyle admits what’s obvious: “I don’t say we’re trending upward based on how these games have ended. We’ve got to get fixed areas that keep us from winning these games.”

### Coyle, on Jared Odrick’s angry sideline outburst: “There’s a professionalism everyone has to have. You try to keep your composure because outbreaks of emotion generally don’t tend to benefit the team. They can be a distraction.”

Coyle said Odrick’s relationship with coaches “is good, as it is with every guy on this team. A play had broken out. He was coming off the sideline, was upset about that. Just an emotional moment.”

### Coyle, like Philbin, insisted “the players have a lot of faith in what we do. I really believe that. When you don’t have success, there’s always going to be questioning. That’s human nature.

"At the end of the day, when the players look at the tape and see the situations we’re in, why things were called or done a certain way, they realize we are doing everything we can to put them in the best situation. Veteran players that have the experience to offer a viable suggestion, we will certainly listen to that.”

### Coyle on New England: “The players realize we can compete and that’s what we have to do. It’s not an easy place to play. They’re really on a roll.”

### Does it trouble Philbin that Miami’s longest touchdown play all season, on offense, is 21 yards?

“I’m interested in scoring points,” he said. “We want to score as many points as possible. It’s great to have 80 yard touchdown plays."

### Does this team have killer instinct? Philbin declined to answer directly.

“Yesterday we didn’t finish the game very well,” Philbin said. “Their team finished better than we did. You have to make plays in December to win games. A lot of games in the National Football League come down to execution in the fourth quarter.”

Still, he said, “We have a lot of faith and confidence in these guys.”

### Do players have the same faith in the coaches? “Absolutely believe they do,” Philbin said.

How can he tell? “The way they conduct themselves every single day.”

### Lazor, on his offense's lack of production recently: “Am I disappointed? Yes. Frustrated. At times. But I won’t let myself get discouraged. We have great opportunities ahead of us.”

### Lazor said there were deep balls called Sunday that didn’t happen for an assortment of reasons.

“There were some we called specifically,” he said. “I would be happy to score quickly on deep throws when we can. We have to find a way. That’s my job. We have to score whatever way we can do it.”

### Lazor on Dallas Thomas, who was dominated by Elvis Dumervil: “I think Dallas has played better than yesterday and I expect he will again. I do have faith in Jason Fox. He’s an option for us also.

"It’s my job to make sure we’re putting guys in the right position. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. We’ll evaluate the scheme, the way we’re helping them.” And the players will be evaluated also, he said.

### Lazor hopes the six sacks permitted Sunday was an anomaly.

“It’s a little bit embarrassing for the group to have unblocked players coming,” he said. “There were errors made we feel shouldn’t have been made.”

Lazor ran through a series of strategic things that coaches could do to help the situation --- quick throws, keeping in a running back to block. “At some point, it’s the players’ job to block them,” he said.

### Lazor agreed with one of the illegal-man-downfield call but not with the other. (Mike Pouncey was called for both.)

### Lazor didn’t quibble with the notion that Lamar Miller, who had only four second-half carries, needs to run more. He said there were several times Ryan Tannehill had a run/pass option and chose to pass but said all of those plays worked out well.

“For two weeks, in general, we’ve been a little out of rhythm, sometimes a lot out of rhythm,” Lazor said. “Not the entire time. When we get out of rhythm for me, we’re at our best when we’re balanced, [with] run/pass. Those are things as coaches we have to evaluate. Yesterday a lot of our lack of rhythm came after first two drives, every drive had sack or penalty on offense. We got ourselves in situations.”

### Lazor, on the Patriots defense: I see them playing with much more confidence. The day we played them our guys came off the field with a lot of confidence. The way they’re playing now appears different.”

### Pro Football Focus rated Mike Pouncey the worst player on the Dolphins offense Sunday, while Lamar Miller graded the highest. Dallas Thomas allowed four sacks, Ja’Wuan James one sack. Pouncey allowed four hurries. On defense, Randy Starks received PFF’s worst grade for the second week in a row.

### RJ Stanford was targeted 11 times and allowed nine completions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Philip Wheeler allowed all three passes thrown against him go be caught for 53 yards.

### Some notable snap numbers: Wheeler’s snap count skyrocketed, to 48 (of 65), on a day that Jelani Jenkins was limited to 42 yards because of a foot injury. Koa Misi played 56 and left briefly with a hamstring. Jason Trusnik played 25.

### Cameron Wake played only three more snaps than Derrick Shelby (38-35). Olivier Vernon had 48 and Dion Jordan just 20.

Asked why Wake played just 58 percent of defensive snaps, Coyle said: “We try to keep him fresh and ready for critical downs, when we feel it’s going to be best for us to give us advantage for rushing the quarterback. We go into each game trying to determine how much we’re going to use him.”

### Among defensive tackles, Jared Odrick (who argued with coaches) had 40 --- less than usual and Earl Mitchell had 40. Randy Starks had 34 and Anthony Johnson 15.

### Running back snaps Sunday: Lamar Miller 34, Daniel Thomas 12 and Damien Williams 11.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

12/06/2014

Four former general managers assess the Dolphins; UM/Golden chatter; Heat, Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN  

With the Dolphins' most pivotal game of the season looming on Sunday, I asked four former NFL general managers still involved in the game (Charley Casserly, Bill Polian, Mark Dominik and Ken Herock) to assess the team.

Some of their thoughts:

### Quarterback Ryan Tannehill: Despite the improvement, the evaluators were measured in their praise.

Casserly: “I like the progression. The ball is coming out quickly, and they’re doing what he does best. He can be an above average NFL starter and he’s good enough to take them to the playoffs. Do I see the upside of Aaron Rodgers? No, I don’t. But I see a guy that can give you some consistency. He needs to master the deep throw to take another step.”

(Tannehill is 8 for 34 on balls thrown 20 yards or more, compared with 16 of 41 for Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, who visits Sunday)…

Dominik: “He’s above average to a little better than that. He can lead a team to the playoffs. What I think is happening with him is the more they’re surrounding him with weapons, the more effective he’s becoming. [Becoming] a top 10 quarterback isn’t too ambitious. He’s got the makeup and leadership. Players respect him.”

Polian: “Tannehill is getting there but he still has a ways to go.”…

Though he is eighth in completion percentage, “that’s a misleading stat because anyone can complete short passes,” Herock said. “The intermediate and deep routes, he’s still so inaccurate at times. I think he’ll always be a 7-9, 8-8 quarterback, will be a guy that teases you.”

### Running back: Casserly: “Lamar Miller is a good back, not an elite back. He has speed, some instincts.”…  Dominik said Miller “has played a little better than I thought” but needs to “continue to break more tackles to ascend” to the next level.

### Receiver: Evaluators are impressed how Mike Wallace has been effective even with Tannehill unable to capitalize on the skill he's most known for (catching deep balls).

Dominik: “He’s becoming the player Miami was hoping to get. He’s caught the ball better away from his body with stronger hands. And you don’t hear Wallace as much this year being frustrated and disappointed.”…

Jarvis Landry, Polian said, “has been a great pickup. Runs really good routes, catches well and runs after the catch well, with a lot of energy.”

### Tight end: Dominik: “Charles Clay is very good, a little underrated. Has got a real toughness to him and makes clutch catches. Dion Sims is a big-bodied guy who creates a mismatch physically in the run game but is nimble and athletic enough to catch balls in seams.”

### Offensive line: Casserly and Herock, who evaluated Ja’Wuan James before the draft, say they are surprised how good he has been. “I thought it would be a struggle for him with speed rushers,” Casserly said. “But he’s tenacious.” … Herock: “James was soft, inconsistent coming out. He’s playing better than I anticipated.”…

Polian: “Moving from right to left tackle is really difficult, and James has done a great job getting that done.”… Dominik: “The versatility of their line has been most impressive. Mike Pouncey can move out to guard. Dallas Thomas or Shelley Smith can play both guard spots; that’s such a hard trait to have for offensive linemen. That allows them to endure the injuries they’ve had.”

### Defensive line: “Their defensive ends aren’t the biggest guys, so they are susceptible to runs on the outside,” Casserly said…. Herock: “Jared Odrick is a decent player, but [overall], their tackles are run of the mill guys.”…

Dominik: “Their tackles are physical and can penetrate and be disruptive, but sometimes they’re a little out of position…. Cameron Wake is still one of the most underrated players and Olivier Vernon is a model of consistency… Dion Jordan will have to be a situational pass-rusher. He’s got to work on his craft of being a great pass-rusher.”

Polian: “They adjusted [in the second half] against the Jets and they’ll be fine. It’s a good group.”…

### Linebackers: Lots of plaudits for Jelani Jenkins: “Athletic, good instincts, makes plays,” Polian said… Casserly says shifting Koa Misi to middle linebacker “was an enlightened move. [The Dolphins] told me every time they turn on the tape he makes plays.”… Herock: “Philip Wheeler is not the real physical guy you would want and is limited in coverage areas.”… Dominik: “You see a high energy group; they play their tail off. That’s what resonates.”

### Defensive backs: Polian: “That’s a group with a lot of strengths; Brent Grimes is excellent and those safeties make a difference in the run and pass. Louis Delmas and Reshad Jones both have really good instincts and ball skills….Defensively [overall], I compare them with anyone in the league.”…

Dominik: “That’s a good group. You have physicality and toughness of the two corners; you have vertical speed. Delmas and Jones complement each other. Signing Delmas was a good move.” (Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey worked for Dominik when Dominik was GM of Tampa Bay.)

### Sunday’s critical game: “Baltimore can’t defend the pass; the rest of team is pretty good,” Casserly said. “This will come down to the ability of Tannehill to make plays and the line protecting him. That game is a toss-up.”

All four former GMs are still involved in the game: Dominik and Polian work for ESPN; Casserly works for NFL Network and Herock works extensively with prospects before the draft.

CHATTER

### The Heat would be open to trades before the February trade deadline if things don’t improve (Norris Cole likely would be in play), but a person in touch with Pat Riley said Riley is not going to lose patience to the point that he does anything to jeopardize having enormous cap space in 2016. Trades in the league should start happening after Dec. 15, when most players who signed last summer are eligible to be dealt….

### So why did it take the Heat this long to use Danny Granger, who had a hamstring injury much earlier in the season? He said the Heat’s reluctance to use him much (and by much, we mean more than two games) before Luol Deng’s injury was because the team wants his knee to get stronger “to make sure I’m super effective” --- like Greg Oden last year.

Granger, who has been dealing with flu symptoms this week, had seven points and two blocks in 22 minutes against Milwaukee but also had five fouls, no rebounds and missed four of five free throws. There is clearly rust that he needs to work through, and it's too soon to tell how much he can provide. But the Heat must determine that, because even with Deng returns, Granger's bench scoring is needed.

### The Heat's lack of height keeps being exposed: Besides its league-worst rebounding numbers, no team averages fewer blocked shots.

### UM junior safety Deon Bush has asked the NFL Draft advisory board to give him an assessment of where he would go in the draft, according to his father. Some UM people are worried he might go pro, but his father said there’s a 90 percent chance he will return to UM and will advise him to do that so he can get his degree.

At least two other juniors --- Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers --- have considered turning pro. NFL people expect Johnson will enter the draft, and nobody at UM will be surprised if Flowers does, too. But neither has announced his intentions.

### Former UM great Alonzo Highsmith, now a Green Bay Packers executive, said he’s launching the “first-ever grass roots football fundraising” campaign to raise $25 million for UM sports but will set up a trust with a lawyer before starting to accept donations.

He hasn’t consulted with UM officials but wants the money to go toward building an indoor facility (for football practice and other sports), and constructing a new Hecht Center to complement the new Schwartz Center and a new Hall of Fame.

Though UM has significantly upgraded its facilities in recent years, Highsmith said they’re still not at the level of Alabama, Oregon and some others. He said this campaign “has nothing to do with Al Golden” and the money won’t be offered to buy out the coach.

“I’m not calling for anyone’s firing,” he told me. But he said UM fans “should be angry. We should never lose to Pittsburgh, Virginia. The standard and expectations have to be higher. Our program cannot survive not being a top 10 program year after year. The only way we’re going to get crowds is by winning."

Later in the week, he told The Ticket's Brian London: "Al Golden has to get better but everything else has to get better [also].”

### Several UM players argued in the locker-room after last Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh, according to a witness. Some younger players believed the older players should have given more effort and some older players are resentful about the amount of playing time given to some young players.

### Meanwhile, criticism from former Canes players continues to ratchet up.

“I wonder if [basketball coach Jim Larranaga] could coach the football team, too,” Tennessee Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy tweeted.

Former All-American center Brett Romberg said "a lot" of former players “are up in arms" about the administration "standing behind Golden” but there no plans for former players to go to the administration in unison.

“We’re stuck in a horrible situation,” Romberg said. “Their type of coaching isn’t what makes Southeastern U.S. athletes successful. That style is better with less athletic kids.”

### Derek Jeter, who toured Marlins Park this week (as first reported by WINZ's Andy Slater), would like to own a team someday and the New York Post reported he might end up putting a group together to buy the Marlins. But Jeter has had no discussions with Jeffrey Loria about purchasing a piece or all of the team.

###  Though National League Comeback Player of the Year Casey McGehee, arbitration eligible for the final time, said he would be interested in a multiyear contract, the Marlins haven’t offered one, though they do want him back next season. He was great before the All-Star break (.319, 53 RBI), but those numbers dipped to .243 and 23 afterward.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

12/05/2014

Friday night: Postscripts, reaction after dismal Heat loss; Dolphins, Canes chatter

The post-LeBron reality is really starting to set in now, and tonight was pretty disheartening, the Heat somehow losing by 24 to Milwaukee (109-85) in a game it led by two with three minutes left in the third.

Miami dropped to 9-10 --- the first time the Heat has been below .500 this late in a season since before LeBron arrived --- and it could get worse, with Memphis, Phoenix, Denver and Utah awaiting on this road trip.

Most jaw-dropping number of the night: The Heat --- which entered last in the league in rebounding ---had a franchise low 20 rebounds, 25 fewer than Milwaukee. The rebounding margin was a stunning 33-9 in the second half.

The Heat’s defense was again exploited, Milwaukee shooting a season-high 57 percent against a team that  entered ranked fourth-worst in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage.

In Miami’s defense, the Heat was without three rotation players --- Luol Deng, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.

Lack of continuity is an issue because of injuries, but the problems run much deeper than that. Dwyane Wade scored 28 with eight assists and Bosh 21, but the supporting case offered little.

Josh McRoberts took just one shot (which he made) and had one rebound in 22 largely ineffective minutes.

Mario Chalmers shot 2 for 9. Milwaukee’s bench, led by Kendall Marshall’s 20, outscored Miami’s reserves 60-18.

Despite the rebounding problems, Erik Spoelstra oddly never used Udonis Haslem, opting instead for Justin Hamilton, who had one rebound in 18 minutes.

“Udonis could have helped with the rebounding, looking back at it,” Spoelstra said. “I’ll look at everything in the next couple of days.”

### Spoelstra’s take afterward: “We started out by fouling early in the third quarter, got them in the bonus early. [Rebounds] are a thing we’ve talked about all season long. It hurt us again tonight.”

Any adjustments he can make? “Right now, I can’t say. I have to look at the film.”

### Wade's thought afterward: "We're bad defensively. It's pretty simple. We're not a good defensive team right now. Starting in the second quarter, they started getting all the transition baskets. Started shooting very well against our defensive system. We went for a long time without scoring. They didn't miss that many shots. There aren't many rebounds out there for you. It's the same things that have been going on the last few days. We're either going to change it or we're not."

### Bosh: "We're not getting easy buckets in transition. We have to come back with an inside/out mentality and try to get some layups, transition buckets, paint points."

### With Cortland Finnegan doubtful and Jamar Taylor out for Sunday, Jimmy Wilson and RJ Stanford will again serve as the Dolphins’ second and third corners, and Stanford admits, with a smile, that “I knew I was fresh meat out there” against the Jets Monday. So he won’t be surprised if the Ravens target him.

“I thought he did a good job” against the Jets, Joe Philbin said. “I thought he had very good recall of the things that are in our system. He competed hard. There were a couple of catches on him, but he was in relatively good position and got guys on the ground.”

Wilson said he ended up playing a bit more than a handful of plays on the boundary Monday but played the rest of the time in the slot, where the Dolphins typically use him. That left Stanford on the boundary, opposite Brent Grimes, most of the game.

### Finnegan’s ankle has been slow in healing, and though Taylor believes he could play, coaches told him that his shoulder must reach a certain strength threshold before coaches are comfortable playing him. They also told him they don’t want him to re-injure it before it’s fully healed because then it might require surgery.

But the Dolphins haven’t placed him on IR because they’re confident he will return this season.

### The area where the Ravens are most vulnerable is in their secondary. Baltimore is 31st against the pass; the Dolphins are second.

The Ravens are fourth against the run but their run defense figures to be diminished at least somewhat as Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata begins a four-game suspension.

“It’s great for us,” Samson Satele said of Ngata's absence. “We were a little bit happy that he wasn’t playing, but then we came to realize that we’re playing the Ravens.”

### Dion Jordan, who blocked a punt against the Jets and returned a blocked field goal against the Lions, is relishing the impact he’s making on special teams.

“Because of my size, I’m creating a lot of mismatches,” he said. “I’m able to line up and do multiple things to help this team.”

### Nate Garner has been missing from practice for two weeks because of migraines, according to an associate… Charles Clay (hamstring) showed improvement this week but the Dolphins – while cautiously hopeful -- aren’t certain yet if he can play Sunday. He’s Miami’s only player listed as questionable. Baltimore has several players listed as questionable, including a big one: leading rusher Justin Forsett. But the Baltimore Sun reports Forsett is expected to play.

### Don’t sweat Dredrick Snelson’s decision to decommit from UM’s 2016 class. The four-star American Heritage receiver hasn’t ruled out UM, but even without him, UM has three other quality receiver prospects orally committed for that year: St. Thomas Aquinas’ four-star prospect Sam Bruce, Gulliver four-star prospect Dionte Mullins and Wellington’s three-star Ahmmon Richards.

### UM coach Jim Larranaga expects Davon Reed back from injury later this month or by early January. He’s practicing with the team.

“What Davon provides this team is some experience at defending and rebounding the way I want our players to do it,” he said.

### UM is third in RPI, behind Kentucky and Alabama, and its Saturday opponent, 5-2 Green Bay, is curiously seventh, even though it lost by 24 to No. 2 ranked Wisconsin and by 24 to Georgia State and its best win is against Evansville. There’s no TV coverage (just espn3 broadband and WQAM) for the 2 p.m. game at BankUnited Center.

### Had a chance earlier this week to watch The U: Part 2 –-- Billy Corben’s and Alfred Spellman’s sequel on the UM football program --- and was impressed. The film covers the Butch Davis era to the present. We’ll have a lot more details closer to airing on Saturday, Dec. 13.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

12/04/2014

Media column: UM upset with Golden reporting; Golden sabotage?; NBC 6 damages sports department; Dolphins, NFL notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Viewers of WTVJ-NBC 6 might not notice yet, but slowly and sadly, we’re witnessing the deterioration of a sports department that for decades set the standard for excellence in local television sports coverage.

In the past three months, we’ve seen NBC-6:

### Buy out one of its most popular personalities, Joe Rose, with a year left on his contract. (Adam Kuperstein is expected to move back to sports to replace him.)

### Eliminate its 6 p.m. weeknight sportscast, becoming the market’s first station to do that, less than a year after it slashed the length of its 11 p.m. weeknight sportscast in half, from three minutes to 1:30.

### Cancel Sports Final, its signature Sunday night sports show for more than a quarter century, effective later this month. The final program airs Dec. 28.

“Taking the best local sports station in South Florida, by far, and just depleting it is very, very sad,” said Bernie Rosen, who guided or assisted, behind-the-scenes, on WTVJ’s sports coverage for more than half a century, until he retired for health reasons 18 months ago.

It’s even sadder when you consider the department’s rich, trail-blazing history. WTVJ was the nation’s first local station to hire a woman sportscaster, Jane Chastain, in 1967.

Under Rosen’s leadership, WTVJ always went the extra mile. Rosen remembers the day in 1959 when he took a flight to Gainesville, scurried to Florida Field to shoot video of the first half of a UF-LSU football game, raced back to the airport, flew home, rushed frantically back to the station and edited the tape for airing on the 6 p.m. news.

From Roy Firestone to Chris Myers to longtime former sports and news anchor Tony Segreto, WTVJ consistently hired quality talent. Several later moved on to network jobs: Firestone, Myers, Hank Goldberg, Karie Ross, Suzy Kolber, Kristina Pink and sports executives Ed Goren and Mike Pearl.

Rosen, 87, believes that Rose “has the best personality of anyone at NBC 6 and is the best sports personality in South Florida. I’m very, very surprised at the decision to buy him out, but they want to cut salary. And Joe said that once his contract was up, he would not keep doing television because of his radio show.”

But the station will be paying Rose not to work in 2015, which seems ridiculous. His last day at NBC 6 is Dec. 21, a week before the Dolphins’ regular-season finale.

WPLG-10 and WFOR-CBS 4 also have slashed the lengths of their 11 p.m. sportscasts over the years, but NBC 6 doing it was especially damaging because it curtailed a lot of coverage of UM and high school sports --- two areas where the station distinguished itself.

“I’ve heard the story from management so often that it’s not funny: ‘People aren’t interested in sports,’” Rosen said. “Now what they say is if people want sports they will get it from ESPN. That’s the biggest bunch of crap I’ve ever heard.

“If you are going to use that thinking, then why not do away with weather since they have a weather channel? News departments are very negative toward sports.

“It’s been like that for years. If I didn’t fight for Tony Segreto every single day, he would probably have been a shipping clerk. I was able to fight it [when Rosen ran the department from 1960 to 1985]. WTVJ’s GM at the time, Bill Brazzil, and the owner, Mitchell Wolfson, were always on my side.

“That does not exist today. You have a news director at the station [Migdalia Figueroa] that doesn’t like sports. And for whatever reason, the GM [Larry Olevitch] has allowed the news director to make all these decisions.”

Figueroa and Olevitch declined interview requests.

Firestone, the former ESPN personality, was so troubled by the station’s de-emphasis of sports that he wrote a letter to Olevitch telling him that “to withdraw coverage is an abandonment of the responsibility a local station has to its community.

“Clearly your station doesn't think it matters. It does Larry, maybe more than your station executives realize. The Dolphins, Marlins and Heat [and] the University of Miami have all won multiple championships and helped put South Florida on the map. Your map will not include [as much] coverage of these iconic symbols to the community. I find it sad and a dereliction of duty.”

Talent is not the issue at NBC 6. Kuperstein and new backup Stefano Fusaro are highly capable. But Rose --- who has declined to comment on the matter --- didn’t deserve to be bought out, and the station’s decision to dramatically diminish the time it allocates to sports is troubling.

GOLDEN COVERAGE

What is it about covering Al Golden that leads to so much inaccurate reporting? (Can’t blame Golden for this.)

In January, three media members (Gary Ferman, Andy Slater and Atlanta-based Marc James) incorrectly reported Penn State was set to hire Golden.

This week, WQAM-560’s Marc Hochman said on-air that  a “UM confidant” told him Golden might be “gone” that night and that a Trustees meeting was being held later that day. Neither part of that report was accurate.

Hochman said, on air, that he’s not at fault because he told listeners that he’s not a journalist and was merely reporting what someone told him.

But fashioning yourself as an entertainer, not a journalist, doesn’t eliminate accountability for reporting misinformation. Hochman should have investigated the tip (at least call UM for a comment, as several writers did) and determined the accuracy before sharing it.

### UM isn’t happy with WQAM, not only because of Hochman’s false alarm but also because of Kuperstein’s report Thursday that claimed Golden sent an email to his staff giving them the weekend off and citing “compliance” and “Raising Canes” videos as reasons UM struggled against Pittsburgh.

Kuperstein said UM's compliance office allowed seniors to speak to agents before the Pittsburgh game and that his source believes that is what Golden was referencing.

UM called Kuperstein’s report “patently false,” adding that Golden never said anything of the kind and that coaches don’t have the weekend off. (Golden did send a text to UM players giving them the weekend off.) Kuperstein, who has broken several UM stories including Kevin Olsen’s suspension, responded to UM’s denial by saying his source is “good.”

Kuperstein also said the purported email to coaches included a reference to UM having a grueling schedule "with nine night games." Some UM fans have mocked Golden for mentioning UM having a lot of night games --- which was offered as an innocuous comment, not an excuse for losing six games --- but college coaches typically prefer earlier games so they get a jump-start on the next week. There are assuredly reasons for criticizing Golden, but this isn't one of the better ones.

Golden, in giving his players the weekend off, mentioned the nine night games in his text to them, but only in the context of it having been a long year, according to someone briefed on the text.

WQAM general manager Joe Bell declined to comment on the Hochman or Kuperstein reports, but UM has been in contact with the station to express concern.

The bigger question raised by the Kuperstein story is whether someone on Golden’s staff is trying to sabotage him.

What was leaked to Kuperstein leaves Golden open to ridicule from a fan base that's largely looking for any ammunition to criticize him. And Kuperstein's source assuredly knows that. So all of this makes you wonder whether someone at UM is trying to undermine Golden or make him appear as if he's reaching for excuses.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Ravens to only 11 percent of the country: part of Florida, parts of the mid-Atlantic and pockets of New England, plus a small portion of Alabama and Georgia. See 506sports.com for a map.

The game, which carries great significance, is going to a limited audience for three reasons: It’s a single-header week for CBS; the network is juggling six games; and CBS deemed Cincinnati-Pittsburgh its more attractive 1 p.m. game....

Fox is taking Browns-Colts from CBS on Sunday to balance the schedules…. Andrew Catalon, Steve Bueurlein and Steve Tasker -- CBS' No. 6 announcing team ---- call the Dolphins game….

There will be two Saturday NFL games this season, both on Dec. 20. The league announced this week that NFL Net will air Redskins-Eagles at 4:30 and CBS will carry Chargers-49ers at 8 p.m. that day.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

12/03/2014

Postscripts on another troubling night for Heat; Notable changes coming to South Florida TV sports departments

For the better part of two decades, the Heat built its foundation on sound, stout, high-effort defense.

That foundation is crumbling, with Miami allowing teams to shoot at a higher percentage that it has during any season this century.

Even in shooting a season-high 56.3 percent on Wednesday, the Heat was again exploited defensively in a 112-102 loss to Atlanta that dropped the Heat to 9-9 and 4-6 at home. The Heat and Bulls are the only teams with winning records on the road and losing records at home.

What’s more, Miami lost starting forward Luol Deng, who suffered a bone bruise on two fingers on his right hand while taking a charge, forcing him to depart for good at halftime. X-rays were negative, but Deng said he could miss some time.

“Hopefully, not that long,” he said. “I tried to play” but could not.

Chris Bosh (27 points, 11 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (season-high 28 points) and Mario Chalmers (19 points, 11 assists) did their part offensively, but the Heat couldn’t muster nearly enough defensive stops, a troubling trend that shows no signs of ending.

“This was the [sixth] time we scored 100 points and lost,” Bosh said. “We’re kidding ourselves. We have to play some defense. This was eight steps back. We haven’t taken a step forward in a couple weeks. It’s hard to accept because we're used to winning games.

"We're used to playing good defense and making easy shots. Each dude is going to have to step up. If we are going to keep giving up 105 points a game, then that's on us, this team and the coaching staff. We have to stop accepting mediocrity.”

Bosh said the defensive shortcomings are “about effort. It’s us not working it. It’s nothing about the system.”

But Wade said “effort is there. We need to be smarter the way we do certain things. It’s frustrating. It just ain’t working.”

Is the talent there to play better defense? Wade said yes, then added: “If not, we are going to lose a lot of games.”

For four years in a row, Miami dominated the Southeast Division, winning 21 in a row against division opponents before the streak was snapped last January. Now, in consecutive games, the Heat has lost by 21 to first-place Washington and by 10 to second-place Atlanta, dropping its division record to 3-4.

Spoelstra started Josh McRoberts for the first time and Chalmers in place of ailing Norris Cole, and his lineup changes extended beyond his starting group, partly a result of injuries to Deng and Chris Andersen (who remains out indefinitely with a sprained ankle) and Cole’s illness.

James Ennis (two points) started the second half in place of Deng, and Spoelstra used Danny Granger (nine scoreless minutes) for only the third time this season.

Justin Hamilton, who had played just 10 minutes over the previous 12 games, was the Heat’s first big man summoned off the bench and had two points and a rebound in seven minutes.

Spoelstra didn’t use Udonis Haslem for three quarters, then played him the entire fourth.

The conversation before the season, among analysts and others, was whether this team could approach 50 wins. Now, 18 games in, the question is whether this group can stay above .500.

The Heat, at 9-9, opens a five-game road trip Friday in Milwaukee, and only one opponent on the trip (Utah) has a losing record.

### This was the first time in six games that Miami shot 50 percent and lost... Bosh has scored at least 20 in seven straight games, equaling his longest streak with the Heat, set earlier this season. His 15 games of 20 or more points leads the league....The Heat is sending guard Andre Dawkins to its NBA Development League team in South Dakota.

LOCAL TV CHANGES

Significant changes are looming in the sports departments of two South Florida television stations, with Kim Bokamper announcing his retirement from WFOR-4 on Wednesday and NBC 6 closing in on naming a replacement for Joe Rose.

According to industry sources, NBC 6 wants news anchor Adam Kuperstein to return to sports and replace Rose as the station’s lead sportscaster.

Kuperstein is losing his gig on the three newscasts he now co-anchors (5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.) but has been offered the news co-anchor slot at 5:30 p.m.

NBC 6 wants morning anchor Juwan Strader to become the station’s new co-anchor at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. alongside Jackie Nespral.

Kuperstein, who also hosts a talk show on WQAM-560, had not agreed in writing to move back to sports as of Wednesday afternoon, but associates expect him to accept because NBC-6 has decided to promote Strader to the evening newscasts, regardless of Kuperstein’s decision.

Kuperstein declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Rose is leaving the station in three weeks because NBC 6 bought out the last year of his contract.

Meanwhile, Bokamper, 60, announced he is retiring in January.

“I’ve come to re-evaluate what I want to do at this point in my life,” he said. “In particular, I want to spend more time with my daughters. I’m also looking forward to taking some time to travel and see the world.”

Bokamper’s wife, Colleen, died in February at 57 after a battle with colon cancer.

Bokamper played for the Dolphins from 1977 through 1985 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1979.

The station will search for a new No. 2 behind lead sportscaster Jim Berry.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

12/02/2014

Trustees express frustration with Golden, state of program; Golden speaks out; Dolphins, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

Several prominent University of Miami Board of Trustee members this week expressed anger and disappointment about the state of the UM football program and Al Golden's job performance but understand and accept that the administration does not want to make a coaching change.

UM athletic director Blake James reiterated Tuesday that Golden will remain UM's coach. Some trustees still believe in Golden and contrary to reports, there has not been a trustee meeting called to discuss the football program.

Of four prominent, high-ranking trustees interviewed this week, three were highly critical of the coaching. None were authorized to speak on the record.

"I was a fan of Golden's at first but becoming less and less of one," one of them said. "The program is no better now than it was under Randy Shannon, and you wonder whether these [top] recruits will continue to come if he doesn't produce."

Conversely, the high-ranking trustee who supported Golden said: "He's a class act. He's a disciplinarian, the kind of guy we need to lead us. We are under a microscope and we can't have off-field problems. I want to win the right way." 

That trustee who supports Golden said Golden needs to make staff changes but emphasized how difficult it was for Golden to recruit in past years because of the NCAA investigation.

Among Golden's critics, one trustee blamed him for the team's inability to play with much emotion in late-season games after big losses, saying it's the coach's job to inspire players and to explain to them what they're playing for.

That trustee said he and others believe staff changes should include not only replacing defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, but also defensive backs coach Paul Williams. He said he hopes the trustees can convince James to pressure Golden to make staff changes, though James likes to give his head coaches the autonomy to choose their assistants.

Among other criticisms raised by the trustees, all of whom are successful, respected members of the community: Why does the team often perform below its talent level? And why does the bar for success at UM seem to be set so low now, with simply winning the ACC's Coastal Division the stated goal?

Another trustee said several trustees are praying that Nebraska and former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst takes Golden to Nebraska. Eichhorst did not hire Golden at UM but gave him a four-year contract extension, through 2019, that pays slightly more than $2 million per season.

Though UM president Donna Shalala --- who is retiring in a few months --- supports Golden, one trustee close to her believes that she would do something to improve the situation, perhaps by pushing Golden to change his staff, if she weren't retiring, but that she has lost some level of interest in fixing the situation in her final months.

Will the school's new president, who hasn't been hired, care about sports? One trustee noted Stuart Miller, chairman of UM's Board of Trustees, is a big sports fan and expects athletics will be important to the new president. Two of the other trustees agreed.

Two of the trustees said the decision to extend Golden through the 2019 season was clearly a mistake but understood UM’s reluctance to pay the buyout, which would pay Golden a large chunk of the more than $10 million he’s still owed.

### On his weekly WQAM segment with Joe Rose on Tuesday, Golden stood firmly behind D’Onofrio, adding he’s “excited about the progress” on defense and bristled when asked if it’s difficult to evaluate D’Onofrio given their friendship.

"Look, someone's got an agenda so someone wants to talk about the relationship," Golden said. “I've known Mark for a long time. Again, there's a relationship there, a trust in terms of the business side.

"If you look at our defense this year, I feel like we stabilized. We had a lot of guys that improved. We played a lot of young guys. When Denzel Perryman leaves we have guys behind him and we're recruiting in this class as well. I'm excited about the progress we made there. We went up in a number of categories. Total defense we went from 90 to 15th.

"We lost three guys before the seasons started, three guys that were potential starters --- (Rayshawn) Jenkins, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Alex Figueroa. And we redshirted Earl Moore, Ryan Mayes, Jelani Hamilton, Demetrius Jackson. hat was the first chance we had to redshirt some guys. I'm excited about the direction we're going. There's no question about it."

### Golden was asked if the problems are an issue of coaching, scheme or players not being engaged in the last two losses.

"Before you go down the list of things to blame it's the responsibly of the head coach to get the team ready," Golden said. "I take that responsibility. It didn't happen. It's one of those things we have to
learn from and build from and do whatever we have to do to make sure it doesn't happen again."

### Asked if there would be staff changes, Golden didn’t rule it out: "It's something that I think about all the time. I’ll evaluate everyone at the conclusion of the season.”

### UM has been outscored, 181-69, in the second half of its last 10 losses but when asked by Rose if there are enough halftime adjustments being made, Golden said: “Yeah, I think our guys do a great job. Just before halftime we're saying 'OK, here's what we have to get done.' The first thing we do when we go in is meet as an offensive and defensive staff separately, make the adjustments and present it to the team.

"On Saturday the offense came out the first drive (of the second half) and scored, making a couple of adjustments. The ensuing kickoff we didn't cover. They're starting in plus territory and that's just one little
tiny example. We hadn't been as good in the second half the last three games, there's no question about it, but overall we haven't played as good the last two games. The Florida State game, that was a second
half team and we needed to play better than that to win the game.”

### Of the 6-6 record, Golden said: "I'm disappointed with it. There's a silver lining in terms of guys improving and getting better and laying it on the line. But overall disappointed with the results.

"It's hard to explain. It's something we're very disappointed in. ...Clearly we didn't perform or execute the last two weeks like we did the previous six. That's really disappointing. We have to sit down with the leadership, guys in different classes and more than anything make sure it gets fixed."

### UM offensive coordinator James Coley declined overtures from Kentucky for the same position, according to two close associates.... Though UM must give up nine scholarships over a three-year period as part of NCAA sanctions (this is year two), Golden said UM will take a full class this year.

### Former UM coach Howard Schnellenberger, who has watched a couple of UM practices and speaks with Golden occasionally, believes in Golden and likes how he runs practice but told me: “If you’re not winning, you can’t skin the cat the same way.… He needs to recalibrate and find a different way. You have to come up with something that would be new and different and positive.”

CHATTER

### Brian Hartline's knee injury isn't serious --- it's just a bruise --- and he hopes to play Sunday. Hartline was limited to nine snaps Monday; after his injury, most of his snaps went to Brandon Gibson (51), not Rishard Matthews (7).

###  Even beyond Ryan Tannehill's streak of five straight games with a 70 percent or higher completion percentage --- tied with Brett Favre’s streak (in 2007) for the NFL's third-longest in the past 10 years --- what was most encouraging was his fourth-quarter drive, considering he entered 31st in the league in fourth quarter passer rating, compared with the 11th-highest passer rating overall.

“The team’s confidence in him is better,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Tuesday.

### Dan Marino, who has been watching tape with Tannehill, has been careful not to step on coach’s toes. “There was a time he said, ‘Hey what time are you meeting? Can I come in?’ And that was about all it took,” Lazor said. “He’s been a great professional. He’s at practice most days.”

### On a night the Dolphins’ run defense was bludgeoned, Randy Starks graded out the worst of any defender (Earl Mitchell was next-lowest), according to Pro Football Focus, and his status for 2015 is in serious question: He has a $6 million cap hit if he’s kept, $1 million if he’s not… Good move to bring back Don Jones, who graded out the highest of any Dolphins special teams player Monday, along with Dion Jordan.

### Former Dolphins star Jason Taylor, on NBC's Pro Football Talk tonight: “I think the best unit on this team has been the defensive line. It’s the deepest and most talented unit…They’re the bell cow for that team, but the last two weeks have been alarming. When you put things like this on film, the next team is going to come in and see how well you’ve figured it out...But I think they will get it figured out this week and beat Baltimore."

### Please see the last post for 20 Dolphins notes from Tuesday afternoon.

### Free agent pitcher Jake Peavy has been contacted by the Marlins, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, who interviewed Peavy this week.

Peavy, 33, had a strange 2014: He was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts for the Red Sox, lost his rotation spot, was traded to the Giants, went 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts, pitched well in the NLCS but had an awful start (lasting 1 2/3 innings) in Game 6 of the World Series.

### Encouraging to see former Carol City High star DeAndre Burnett score a game-high 19 tonight to help push 15th-ranked UM past No. 24 Illinois, 70-61, as Miami moved to 8-0. Burnett averaged 37 points as a high school senior.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

Tuesday 5 p.m. Dolphins report: Injury update; Philbin, Lazor, Coyle address issues; 20 Dolphins notes; Playoff update

Quick 4:45 p.m. update: Brian Hartline's knee injury, which forced him to leave Monday's game, isn't serious. The injury is a bruise and he could play Sunday, barring a setback.

### The Dolphins’ run defense has become a serious cause for concern. The Dolphins, once fourth in the league in rush defense, have slipped to 21st after allowing 202 yards against Denver and 277 against the Jets. And Baltimore, fifth in rushing offense, visits Sunday.

Joe Philbin worries that if his team cannot stop the run more effectively, “teams are going to continue you to do that. Some of the reverses they took advantage of. Some of basic fundamentals are missing at times. We have to tackle better. Maybe a guy doesn’t wrap up when he should wrap up. Maybe he leaves his feet. Maybe he doesn’t accelerate his feet on contract.”

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the Jets’ first half, in which they ran for 210 yards, “was like a bad dream. They hit three reverses, each of them about 20 yards apiece. Then they had the long run where we missed tackles. On a 2nd and 10, I called a blitz which didn’t put us in a great situation against the reverse.

"I’m not going to defend that we gave up 210 yards [rushing] in the first half. They ran the ball almost every play. We weren’t as bad as what it comes off initially. We need to fix some things in terms of these run fits, in terms of dealing with these reverses. They had run reverses but not of the actions they showed last night…. Disappointed in the way we started the game. We have to do a better job.”

Coyle, on the state of his run defense: “There are isolated breakdowns we need to get fixed. Some of the plays that have broken out on us are not your conventional run plays, when you talk about reverses and plays of that nature. We need to do a better job of fitting the run game.”

### The Dolphins crowded the line of scrimmage more in the second half, with the safeties closer to the line.

“We tightened things down quite a bit,” Coyle said. “We didn’t anticipate they would throw the ball 13 times in the game. Early on, a lot of the things we were doing were based on what they had been doing. In the second half, we said we’re going to commit to stop the run. We showed them on the overhead at halftime. They didn’t get into passing mode until very late in the game.”

### Against the Jets, the Dolphins –--- as usual –-- shared defensive tackle snaps among Jared Odrick (54), Randy Starks (41) and Earl Mitchell (34). Rookie Anthony Johnson played eight. Starks, Mitchell and Odrick --- in that order --- were given the Dolphins’ lowest grades on defense by Pro Football Focus. With each, there were several examples of them of being unable to dislodge quickly enough from blocks on runs up the gut. 

### Coyle’s bottom line: “At the end of the day, we gave up 13 points. When we had to come up with plays to win the game, we were able to do it. We’ve been in some games where we couldn’t keep it together and finish the way we wanted to, making the adjustments we needed to make.”

### Though Jimmy Wilson played the first play of the game as a boundary corner, the Dolphins mostly used RJ Stanford as the boundary corner opposite Brent Grimes, with Wilson in the slot. Stanford played 44 snaps, Grimes all 64, Jimmy Wilson 41 and Walk Aikens 9.

“We went into the game thinking we would play three corners and see how the games developed,” Coyle said. “Jimmy, being most experienced, we felt that would be a good way to begin. As we went through the game, RJ was the first one in the game and Walt Aikens played some snaps. We wanted to get an evaluation of those guys but knowing Jimmy has played a lot of snaps.”

### Coyle, on Jelani Jenkins: “Jelani has stepped up and taken on the challenge of being the leader of the defense. He’s got very good athleticism. Instinctive player. He finally has gotten the opportunity and has run with it.”

### Dion Sims, who had catches of 18 and 17 yards on the game-winning drive, “is starting to really make a positive impact, positive contribution,” Philbin said. “Probably has been more noticeable. We’re asking him to do more things than he did in the first year. He’s got good hands. I like the trend he’s on. The staff has a lot of confidence in him.”

Said Lazor: “Evolved, grown, developed. All those words would fit Dion. Missed a little bit of time with the toe…. His production has gone up. When Charles Clay is out, we do a couple things to make up for it: We played four receivers a little more…. Our confidence in Dion is going up.”

### Philbin said Caleb Sturgis --- who made three of four field goal attempts --- needs to continue to work on his field goal consistency but praised him for “a great kickoff” that went out of the end zone with just under two minutes left. “We were trying to keep the ball away from Harvin the entire night,” Philbin said.

 ### Philbin, on Tannehill: “Ryan is throwing the ball better. Receivers are helping him better. That’s something we need to keep working on. He has pretty good command of what he’s doing.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, on Tannehill: “His confidence is better. The team’s confidence in him is better.”

### Lazor, on the Jets game: “Bad game. Good win. Sometimes you take it that way…. Two of the first three series were three and outs. It was hard to get in a rhythm because we couldn’t stay on the field. We had a hard time getting in rhythm. Some of that is my fault. Some is errors we made. I was disappointed in myself a little bit.

"The positive is we really kept our composure. I felt really good about how the team was at halftime in the locker-room. I had confidence we were going to win this game. ‘I was asking them: Let’s do it now.’ We had some good runs in that [last] drive.... When you go down the field to score to win, you’re just different after that.”

### Philbin said Baltimore, which visits Sunday, “is as good a team as we’ve seen. We will have our hands full…. I don’t want [players] to get bogged down with [playoff] tiebreakers. Sometimes you get caught up with what other teams are doing, and you start losing focus on what you have to do.”

### Philbin said he’s not sure of the immediate prognosis for Brian Hartline, who didn’t play in the second half because of a knee injury.

### With Hartline limited to nine snaps, Brandon Gibson saw his snap count soar, to 51 of Miami’s 59 offensive plays. That’s a few less than Mike Wallace (55) but more than Jarvis Landry (47). Rishard Matthews played seven. “We do a decent job of rotating the receivers so they stay fresh,” Lazor said.

### Among offensive players, Pro Football Focus gave Miami’s highest grade to Dion Sims. Samson Satele and Shelley Smith allowed sacks according to PFF (Lazor said offensive linemen were to blame for only one of the two sacks), but Smith had PFF’s highest grade on the o-line. Daryn Colledge had the lowest… Samson Satele returned to the game after leaving for five snaps because of a rib injury….

### Colledge (34 snaps) and Smith (30) split snaps at left guard, though both were needed for the five plays that Satele missed. “As we said when Daryn came back, Shelley was playing at a good level,” Lazor said.

### PFF gave Miami’s best defensive grades to Derrick Shelby and Brent Grimes… Dion Jordan played 22 of Miami’s 64 defensive snaps --- same as Derrick Shelby. Cam Wake played 45, Olivier Vernon 43…. Koa Misi played all but one of Miami’s 64 snaps, Jelani Jenkins 50 and Philip Wheeler 24.

### Coyle, on Baltimore: “I see a well-rounded team. Quarterback who can make all the throws, never gets flustered. It’s a big-time challenge. Running back [Justin Forsett] has over 1000 yards.”

### Lazor, on Tannehill’s interception off a low throw that bounced off Lamar Miller’s hands: “Throw wasn’t a great throw. Lamar couldn’t get his hands on it enough. Hard to believe at the time it happened.”

### Lazor, on the offensive tackle play since Branden Albert’s injury: “It’s been enough for us to get where we are but has to keep getting better.”

Please see the last post for an in-depth look at how Miami stands in the AFC playoff race... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

 

12/01/2014

Postscripts, notes, reaction from Dolphins' 16-13 win and breaking down AFC playoff picture

Postscripts from the Dolphins’ season-saving win in New York and how the AFC playoff picture stacks up:

### A game that was excruciating for Dolfans for much of the night essentially came down to a few plays: Koa Misi’s sack for an eight-yard loss on a third down with the game tied and just under six minutes left, forcing a longer field goal (45 yards), that Nick Folk missed…. Ryan Tannehill’s passes of 18 and 17 yards to Dion Sims on the final drive, a possession capped by Caleb Sturgis’ 26-yard field goal to put the Dolphins ahead with just under two minutes left… And, of course, Reshad Jones’ interception off a tip to seal it with 39 seconds left, a play that happened because Jelani Jenkins had tight coverage on Jeff Cumberland.

### After bludgeoning the Dolphins for 210 yards rushing on 29 carries in the first half, the Jets mustered just 67 yards on 20 second-half carries.... That's a 7.2 per carry average in the first half, just 3.4 in the second... The Jets’ 131 yards rushing in the first quarter were the most by an NFL team in three seasons. And the Jets’ 277 yards rushing were the most allowed by the Dolphins since the Raiders stomped Miami for 299 during the Dolphins’ 1-15 season in 2007.

### The Jets challenged RJ Stanford, filling in at cornerback, only a couple of times, and had virtually no downfield passing game. Geno Smith entered the final drive with only eight pass attempts all night and finished 7 for 13 for 65 yards and a dismal 35.7 rating.

### Ryan Tannehill converted two big three and seven plays on the final drive and closed 25 for 35 for 235 yards, one interception (off a carom on a low throw Lamar Miller couldn’t handle) and a 77.7 rating.

“We struggled offensively all night,” Tannehill said. “In the fourth quarter, we were able to move down the field. The Jets did a good job of making us check down. It was frustrating for us to keep dinking and dunking down the field. They were sinking under our deeper passes.”

ESPN’s Trent Dilfer asked him the one thing he needs to get better at. “Consistency,” he said. “Those guys [Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers] are the same guys every week.”

### It was the fifth consecutive game Tannehill completed at least 70 percent of his passes, something Dan Marino never did. (Of course, Marino threw a lot more downfield passes.) “That’s the only thing I have bragging rights on Dan with,” Tannehill cracked. Good answer.

In fact, Tannehill's streak of five straight games with a 70 percent or higher completion percentage is tied with Brett Favre (in 2007) for the NFL's third-longest such streak in the past 10 years. Peyton Manning had six-game streaks in 2008 and 2012.

### On Marino’s involvement, Tannehill told the ESPN crew: “To have his knowledge in the building, watching tape with him, any ideas I can bounce off him. His presence is great.”

### The Dolphins got a key second-half boost from Lamar Miller, who had 13 carries and 56 yards for the night.

### Joe Philbin: “We were due to be in a game like this. I thought the second half was more the way we need to play. We don’t want to be throwing the ball 50 times a game. Lamar did a solid job running the ball…. Dion Sims has really gotten better. Really pleased to watch him develop and come along.”

### This was Miami’s first win of the year with a margin of single digits. "It finally feels good to win a game like this," Mike Pouncey said…. Before tonight, the Dolphins had lost 48 of their last 49 road games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter. (The only win in that 49 was last December in Pittsburgh).

### Rex Ryan: “I can’t believe we are 2-10. It’s a joke.... We can't buy a win.... They outplayed us on special teams. That was the difference in the game.”

### ESPN’s Steve Young, on the Dolphins: “They have a quarterback that seems to be rising. They have a running back that seems to be rising. They have a defense that rises at times. If Miami gets in [to the playoffs], that’s a huge accomplishment. Everyone in Miami has to be excited.”

### Kudos to Jelani Jenkins, who had 16 tackles, including two for loss, and good coverage on Jones' interception in the final minutes.

### Brian Hartline missed the second half with a knee injury.

### The Dolphins had lost five in a row on Monday Night Football before tonight.

SIZING UP AFC PLAYOFF SITUATION

The Dolphins moved into the sixth and final playoff spot by virtue of a complicated tiebreaker over five other 7-5 teams.

If you presume that the Patriots (9-3) aren’t going to lose their final two games (at the Jets and the Bills), then Miami (7-5) needs to win its four remaining games (including at New England on Dec. 15) and the Patriots need to lose at San Diego Sunday for the Dolphins to win the division. Such a scenario, while unlikely,  would leave both teams at 11-5 and give the Dolphins the AFC East title, by virtue of what would be a season sweep of New England.

Of course, a wild card berth for the Dolphins is more likely than a division championship. Assessing where the Dolphins stand against the other wild card contenders: (Keep in mind that one of the four AFC North teams cited below will win the division.)

### San Diego (8-4): It isn’t necessarily problematic that the Chargers are a game ahead of Miami, for two reasons: Miami would win a two-team tiebreaker with San Diego by virtue of the Dolphins’ victory on Nov. 2. And the Chargers might have the most difficult remaining schedule of any contender: New England, Denver, at San Francisco and at Kansas City.

But if the Dolphins and Chargers are tied with the Chiefs for the final wild card spot, the Dolphins’ head-to-head victory wouldn’t give Miami the tiebreaker, because other factors would be paramount, such as head-to-head between San Diego and Kansas City. The Chiefs won at San Diego and host the Chargers in the season finale.

### Kansas City (7-5): In many ways, the Dolphins need to worry more about the Chiefs than the Chargers, because the Chiefs own a head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami and have an easier schedule than San Diego does: at Arizona (whose offense has been struggling without Carson Palmer), Oakland, at Pittsburgh and San Diego, who the Chargers already beat once this season.

### Baltimore (7-5): Beating the Ravens Sunday is absolutely essential, not only to win a two-team tiebreaker against them, but also because the Dolphins can’t expect the Ravens to lose more than one other game, if that, with a remaining schedule of Jacksonville, at Houston and Cleveland. The Ravens could be hurt by their poor conference record (3-5), but it’s difficult to see Miami overtaking Baltimore without winning Sunday. 

### Pittsburgh (7-5): The Dolphins and Steelers don’t play and have the same conference record (6-3). But Miami would have the edge, at the moment, in the next tiebreaker (common opponents) and would keep that edge if it beats Baltimore and the Jets, regardless of whether Pittsburgh beats Kansas City. The Steelers’ remaining schedule: at Cincinnati, at Atlanta, Kansas City and Cincinnati.

### Cleveland (7-5): The Dolphins look to be in good shape if they finish tied because of a superior conference record. Plus, the Browns have a tough remaining schedule: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina and at Baltimore.

### Buffalo (7-5): Miami would appear to be in good shape in a two-team tie with the Bills. The teams split, but the next division tiebreaker is games within the division. The Bills, 3-2 in the AFC East, finish the season at New England. The Dolphins, 3-1 in the division, could lose to the Patriots and still beat out the Bills in a tiebreaker if the Dolphins beat the Jets and the Bills lose at the Patriots in their finale. And the Bills have a difficult remaining schedule: at Denver, Green Bay, at Oakland, at New England.

### Cincinnati (8-3-1): Though the Bengals have a 1.5 game lead in the AFC North, they have a tough remaining schedule: Pittsburgh twice, at Cleveland and Denver. If the Bengals lose three of those games, and the Dolphins win two of their three remaining AFC games (Ravens, Patriots, Jets), then Miami would have a better conference record. But because the Bengals have only three losses, it’s better to root for the Bengals when they play Pittsburgh twice and Cleveland once.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

11/30/2014

NFL people say Dolphins need to re-evaluate how they use Jordan; Dolphins, UM, Heat, Marlins, UF coach chatter

BUZZ COLUMN

The third overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft plays just 16 to 30 snaps a game and rarely touches the quarterback in the limited number of times he gets the chance.

Dion Jordan has been back for five games since his six-game drug suspension, and the question must be asked: Are the Dolphins making the best decisions to maximize his talents? There are some smart people who believe they are not.

A respected NFL head coach has told confidantes that the Dolphins are misusing Jordan and he would be far more effective playing outside linebacker, according to someone with direct knowledge.

In Miami, Jordan could easily slide into the strong-side linebacker slot in its 4-3 defense, a spot held by Philip Wheeler, who has played even less than Jordan recently.

Two NFL people who are friends with Jordan are puzzled by how Jordan is being used, insisting he’s never going to reach his potential as a backup 4-3 defensive end playing limited snaps.

“I don’t think they have any idea how to use him; his abilities are limited by putting his hand on the ground [a lot of the time],” said one of those people, who has close ties to the Dolphins.

Jordan’s defensive coordinator at Oregon, Nick Aliotti, told me last year that Jordan would be much more effective at linebacker than defensive end.

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson, a former Browns scout whose opinion we trust, put it this way before the season: “Make Jordan your strong-side linebacker, and that allows you to get Jordan, Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon on the field more. Get your best guys out there!

“I don’t love Dion Jordan in this scheme. I see him as an outside linebacker, playing him off the line of scrimmage. He could be Von Miller, who’s a better player, in terms of how to use him. As a pure d-end, I would run right at him play after play after play. I don’t think he can hold up against the tackle and double teams consistently. He’s more of a Julian Peterson, who did a little of everything. You have to use him correctly.”

Williamson believes he could play linebacker in a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense.

One friend of Jordan said he’s too nice to complain or ask the Dolphins to move him to linebacker. And general manager Dennis Hickey has shown no inclination to tell his coaching staff how to use him.

A person close to former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, who drafted him, said that front office viewed him as a havoc-wreaking outside linebacker, potentially in a 3-4 defense.

Asked why it isn’t a natural move to shift Jordan to SAM linebacker (Wheeler’s spot), defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said: “We’ve got a lot of roles we are using Dion in. We’re in sub defense two out of three plays, and that’s where his role has been continuing to grow. Percentage wise, he gets on the field a lot that way now.”

Well, not exactly a lot. He has played in 36 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps since returning from suspension.

He stands up on occasion in a linebacker type role, but Jordan said he still considers himself a defensive end exclusively.

In five games since the suspension ended, Jordan has nine tackles, no sacks and four quarterback hurries. Coyle has wisely used him some in pass coverage, and he has responded well, including a well-defended pass to Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. But in 21 career games, he has just two sacks.

As long as Wake and Vernon are around, it’s difficult to envision his snaps increasing dramatically if he stays at defensive end.

But to this point, the Dolphins don’t agree with personnel people who feel he would be better at outside linebacker, nor the 800-plus people who signed Dolphins fan Neal Driscoll’s petition to move him to linebacker.

And Jordan --- who has a good attitude --- is diplomatic about the issue, saying he’s fine whatever position the Dolphins use him. At some point, it’s the player’s responsibility to perform at a level worthy of a top-five pick. But the onus is also on the coaches to find a way to extract that talent.

CHATTER

### This was a good day for the Dolphins, who saw the Browns, Steelers, Chiefs and Ravens all lose to fall to 7-5. That would mean the Dolphins could move into the sixth and final AFC playoff spot (by virtue of a complicated tiebreaker over five other teams) if they win at the Jets Monday to go to 7-5.

Though San Diego is 8-4, that isn't necessarily problematic for Miami because the Dolphins beat the Chargers head-to-head and because the Chargers have a tough remaining schedule: Patriots, Broncos, at 49ers, at Chiefs.

### The Dolphins' options for their No. 3 cornerback job behind Brent Grimes and Jimmy Wilson on Monday come down to a player who has 33 NFL defensive snaps (Walt Aikens), another who has none (special-teams ace Don Jones) and another (RJ Stanford) who has allowed 26 of 35 passes thrown against him to be caught in his career (for 370 yards) and who, a week ago, was learning the automotive parts distribution business and taking on-line sociology classes at Utah.

### The Dolphins were so discouraged by how they played defensively against Denver that Coyle ended the lowlight-filled film session earlier than usual. “It was basically, we’ve seen enough; time to move on to the Jets,” one Dolphins player said.

Coyle blamed himself, privately and publicly, for a few strategic decisions in the Denver game, but players did not, after having privately blamed Coyle for decisions made against Kansas City (having Wake and Jason Trusnik in coverage on faster players), Green Bay (using Wheeler in coverage on the game-winner) and Detroit (too many three-man rushes late).

### Not that we should need any reminder of what Dwyane Wade can give this Heat team when healthy, but in case you forgot, his season-high 27-point, five-rebound, five-assist game (20 in the second half) --- after missing seven games with a hamstring injury --- not only catapulted Miami past the dreadful Knicks 86-79 on Sunday night, but also helped Miami overcome subpar shooting nights by every other starter: Luol Deng (2-11), Shawne Williams (1-4), Norris Cole (1 for 3) and Chris Bosh, who shot 7 of 18 but closed with 20 and 9 rebounds.

"He has a way of making us all look better," Erik Spoelstra said after tonight's game. "He was definitely a little tired at a couple points during the game but has a way of playing at his pace. There's no question we feel a little more confident at the end of possessions when you put it in Dwyane or C.B.'s hands."

### From the grass isn’t always greener file: James Jones, who left the Heat because he didn’t believe he would get a chance to play, has logged just 15 minutes in Cleveland’s first 15 games. By the way, Mike Miller also cannot crack the Cavaliers’ rotation and is shooting 5 for 18. But the Cavaliers allowed LeBron James to dictate both signings.

### The Marlins would like to add a veteran left-hander and called about Brett Anderson (27-32, 3.72 in his career for the Athletics and Rockies)… The Marlins sold 600 full season-ticket equivalents in the first week after signing Giancarlo Stanton….

Agent Joel Wolfe managed to get bonuses in Stanton’s $325 million contract --- $100,000 for winning the MVP, $500,000 for World Series MVP, $50,000 for each All-Star appearance, among others – but admitted the Marlins (justifiably) asked him, “Why do we need bonuses of this size for a contract of that size?”

### You read UM athletic director Blake James' comments supporting Al Golden (and his commitment to Golden beyond this season) in this space on Tuesday. And before Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, UM president Donna Shalala --- who's retiring in a few months --- also reiterated her support of the coach.

"I think we have a very successful future ahead of us," Shalala told canesport.com. "There is no question. We have a very good coaching staff. I think we have to be patient. No one except maybe Al Golden, Blake James and myself know how difficult it was while we were under the cloud of the NCAA. ...

"I talked to those parents too and helped Al recruit during that time. It was just very difficult. We could not answer questions like how long this was going to take, what is this going to mean for the program.
And so in many ways this is Al's first year, and we've invested in him and his staff. We've invested in facilities. The future is very bright."

UM will end up in a low-profile bowl game, perhaps St. Pete or Shreveport or Detroit or Annapolis.

### Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, whose team is 10-2, has emerged as the leading candidate for the Gators job, Yahoo's Pat Forde reported tonight. Forde said Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze is also on the Gators' short list.

### A couple of Texas cities have approached David Beckham’s group about an MLS team --- San Antonio and Austin want franchises --- but Beckham’s people have told them they’re still focusing on trying to find the right stadium site in Miami.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz