August 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back later for more.

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHATTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBERT PROGRESSING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2015

Dolphins release first depth chart; Thoughts, notes from Monday's Dolphins practice; Brice McCain's bid; Fins fight; WQAM re-hires Crowder

Notes on a Monday:

### Depth charts for a preseason opener shouldn't be overstated, but here are a few things of note from what the Dolphins released late Monday afternoon:

1) Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are listed as the starting guards, joining Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey and Ja'Wuan James on the first-team offensive line.... Second team o-line, from left to right: Jason Fox, Jamil Douglas, JD Walton, Jeff Linkenbach, Donald Hawkins... Jacques McClendon is listed as a fourth-team guard, despite getting some work with the first team again on Monday.

2) Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jarvis Landry are listed as the first team receivers. On the second team: DeVante Parker, Rishard Matthews and surprisingly, Tyler McDonald --- who was then promptly cut an hour later. (Safety Shamiel Gary also was released; Miami signed former Seahawks practice squad running back Demitrius Bronson and safety Philip Thomas, who has four NFL starts for the Redskins.)

3) Here's the pecking order at running back behind starter Lamar Miller: Damien Williams is on the second team, LaMichael James on the third, Jay Ajayi and Mike Gillislee on the fourth.

4) Chris McCain is listed as the starting strongside linebacker alongside Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins.

Second team linebackers: Jordan Tripp, Kelvin Sheppard, Spencer Paysinger. On the third team: Rookies Zach Vigil, Jeff Luc and Neville Hewitt.

5) Jamar Taylor is listed as the first-team cornerback opposite Brent Grimes. Brice McCain and Will Davis are on the second team.

6) Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens are listed as the second-team safeties behind Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas.

7) Jordan Phillips and Anthony Johnson are the second-team defensive tackles behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell. CJ Mosley is on the third team.

8) The third-team tight ends, behind Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims, are identified as Gerrell Robinson and Jake Stoneburner. That leaves Arthur Lynch and Tim Semisch on the fourth team.

9) Josh Freeman is listed as the third-team quarterback ahead of McLeod Bethel Thompson, who clearly has had the better training camp of the two. Neither is expected to make the team.

10) Also bizarre (and it makes me question the significance of any of this, as I do every year with this team's depth charts): Bobby McCain (who has made plays all camp) is the fourth string corner (with Tony Lippett). Sammy Seamster and Zack Bowman are the third-team corners.

### When the Dolphins signed Brice McCain in March, Joe Philbin made clear that they viewed him as a slot cornerback. Five months later, McCain is immersed in a close battle with Jamar Taylor for the starting cornerback job opposite Brent Grimes.

So what exactly changed to make the Dolphins conclude that he’s capable of more than merely slot duties?

“He has played good football since he’s been here,” Philbin said today. “He’s competitive. He’s got good recovery speed. He’s picked up the system well. He’s going to get opportunities to show if he’s the second-best, third-best, whatever it may be. We will take all the body of work, preseason practices and games, and see who’s the best.”

McCain, who intercepted a Josh Freeman pass during Monday’s practice, said it sells him short to refer to him as merely a slot corner.

“I do take offense to that because I can play outside as well,” said McCain, who is Miami’s shortest cornerback at 5-9. “I’ve been playing outside my whole life. I played outside in college [Utah]. That’s what got me here. In Houston, I started outside [before Wade Phillips was hired].

“When you have quickness, you can put yourself in position to make yourself bigger. A tall corner, if you’re always behind the guy, how can you jump? How can you use your height if you’re always trailing and never can catch up with a guy? My speed and quickness and my jumping ability really help me out.”

Taylor took the first team snaps on the boundary on Monday, with McCain in the slot. But McCain, who had three interceptions for Pittsburgh in 2014, said afterward that he and Taylor continue to alternate in those roles.

“They can’t lose with whatever they go with because we’re both talented guys,” McCain said, adding that he expects to move to the slot in clear-cut passing situations even if he starts on the boundary.

### Jim Turner, who lost his job as the Dolphins offensive line coach in February 2014 after Ted Wells’ report implicated him in the team’s bullying scandal, is filing a defamation lawsuit against Wells, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

“Wells is not a good human being and when I didn’t give him the stories he wanted, he targeted me as part of a problem in Miami,” Turner said in May. “He’s not an independent investigator. He’s not doing this looking at both sides of the situation. He’s hired by the NFL and he’s going to print the story that they want printed.”

### Some Dolphins practice stuff Part 1 from Monday: In addition to DeVante Parker and Don Jones, five others missed practice: Koa Misi (calf), Kenny Stills (calf), Jay Ajayi (hamstring), Shamiel Gary (shoulder) and Christion Jones (hamstring)….

Andrew Franks hit five of six field goals, including a 56-yarder… Jacques McClendon and Billy Turner split first-team snaps at right guard.... What caused the brief skirmish between Ja’Wuan James and Kendall Montgomery? James threw Montgomery to the ground in a blocking drill. Montgomery lost his helmet and got up swinging. James then swung before Mike Pouncey came over and order was eventually restored.

### Dolphins practice stuff Part 2: Gerrell Robinson, battling for the No. 3 tight end job, continues to show flashes. He caught a 20-yard TD pass from Matt Moore…. Brent Grimes picked off Ryan Tannehill in the end zone…. LaRon Byrd had a terrific 10-yard catch from Matt Moore in the end zone, beating Tony LippettSam Brenner worked ahead of JD Walton in the center hierarchy behind Mike Pouncey….

Jordan Kovacs, an underdog in the battle for the fifth safety job, had an interception on Matt Moore…. Terrence Fede recovered a fumble on a handoff. He makes at least one impactful play every day....

Jordan Cameron had an impressive catch, from Tannehill, over Michael Thomas…. Greg Jennings and Michael Preston dropped passes. But Preston also caught a few, including a 20-yarder from Moore, as he continues his uphill struggle to make the roster (which seems unlikely barring injury)…. Tannehill’s deep ball throw to Rishard Matthews was barely beyond his grasp…. LaMichael James continued to look fast and shifty on several carries… Bobby McCain had a sack on a blitz.

### Philbin’s assessment of his backup defensive line:  “I though the two ends have really been consistent throughout camp. Derrick Shelby and Terrence Fede have really played at a high level.

CJ Mosley has come along the last couple days. We’ve seen some flash plays out of Jordan Phillips.... We need some more consistency, particularly out of the inside guys.”

### A month after being dropped by WQAM-560, former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder was re-hired by the station.

He will join Marc Hochman and Zach Krantz from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays beginning Tuesday. The show’s name, appropriately enough: Hochman, Crowder and Krantz.

“This was something we’ve been working on for awhile,” WQAM program director Ryan Maguire said by phone this afternoon. “We knew what we had in Channing. He’s so unique. Even when he goes off on weird tangents, he’s so entertaining. You want to stick around to see where he takes you on the journey.”

WQAM dropped Crowder’s and Adam Kuperstein’s 1-3 p.m. talk show in July because it wanted to go to exclusively with four-hour talk shows, like other CBS-owned stations.

Maguire believes Crowder will have good chemistry with Hochman and Krantz.

“Channing gets along very well with both those guys,” Maguire said. “There is already chemistry there. He will be able to give the athletic perspective that not a lot of our guys can give [beyond morning host Joe Rose]. I don’t think they’ll be talking over each other.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 08, 2015

Late Sunday night Mathis update; Marlins' offseason plans take shape with pitching, manager; Dolphins, Canes, Heat buzz

Quick late Sunday note: Agent Drew Rosenhaus, on his weekly segment on Channel 7's Sports Xtra, said there is "mutual interest and desire" between the Dolphins and free agent guard Evan Mathis.

Rosenhaus said "we still have a long way to go" and "we'll see if it can work out." He said there are a lot of other interested teams.

Mathis wants $5.5 million this season and the Dolphins are more inclined to pay less than half of that.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Though the Marlins want to keep their key players for 2016, this disaster of a season will spur at least some change in the months ahead.

Our ace beat writer Clark Spencer and I have both heard that the Marlins will make pitching their offseason priority and plan to add two starting pitchers, according to team sources. But as always, finances will provide challenges.

And there’s this: Though owner Jeffrey Loria is always capable of changing his mind, the Marlins are operating under the belief there will be a new manager next season, with Dan Jennings returning to the front office, according to team sources.

The Marlins don’t want to discuss the managerial situation publicly yet, but Laurence Leavy, known as Marlins Man because he wears his Marlins jersey to sporting events across the country, interviewed Jennings for Fox Sports Florida and said Jennings implied to him, off the air, that he will not be the manager next year.

After experimenting with a manager who had never done it beyond high school, the Marlins now prefer to hire an experienced one.

One Marlins player expected to be on the 2016 team mentioned that Bud Black, fired as Padres manager, works well with a young team.

And there are other credible names available --- Ron Gardenhire, Dusty Baker among many others. The preference for an experienced candidate would make it far less likely that Miami would revisit hiring Mike Lowell, an idea that was discussed previously.

As for the starting pitching staff, the Marlins are projecting Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart for their 2016 rotation --- despite Cosart’s vertigo that was caused by a sinus and inner-ear issue --- but nothing beyond that. They aren’t counting on Henderson Alvarez, who had shoulder surgery recently, or any of their top pitching prospects, though Alvarez would factor in if he’s healthy and effective.

The Marlins’ projected payroll for next season is already more than $47 million, counting 20 players who more than likely will be on the team barring trades. Throw in another $8 million due jettisoned catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and that brings the total to more than $55 million. It could even be a bit higher based on some potential arbitration rulings.

For perspective, the Marlins began this season with an $81 million payroll, but only $68 million was out of pocket. So if the Marlins decide to keep payroll in that range -- and that decision hasn’t been made --- that wouldn’t be nearly enough to sign a high-end starter and add another pretty good one, plus fill out the bench.

This could help matters: Loria’s financial obligations to fired manager Ozzie Guillen and dismissed former general manager Larry Beinfest finally end after this season.

If Loria becomes inclined to bid for a top starter --- and he did pursue James Shields last spring ---  then Royals and former Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (7-7, 2.69 ERA) is one name that interests Miami.

Other free agent pitchers expected to get really big contracts: David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake and Clay Buchholz if the Red Sox don’t pick up a $13 million team option, plus the Dodgers’ Zack Grienke if he opts out of three years and $71 million. (Obviously, most or all of these names are unrealistic within Miami’s budget.)

The next tier --- pitchers who will be costly but not quite as costly as the top tier --- include St. Louis’ John Lackey (9-6, 2.78 entering this past week but 36), Toronto’s Mark Buehrle (11-5, 3.32 but 36 and not coming back to Miami; he was furious when traded), Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (5-6, 3.14), Toronto’s Marco Estrada (8-6, 3.53), Houston’s Scott Kazmir (6-5, 2.10), Seattle’s Hishashi Iwakuma (2-2, 4.47, a year after going 15-9), Texas’ Colby Lewis (11-4, 4.92), the Giants’ Tim Lincecum (7-4, 4.13), the Dodgers and ex-Marlin Mat Latos and White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzjia (8-6, 4.35). Dan Haren has said it’s likely he will retire.  

Pitchers potentially in the next more affordable tier --- and some of these pitchers could be included in the previous group with strong finishes --- include Detroit’s Alfredo Simon (10-6, 4.55), Milwaukee’s Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.65), Seattle’s J.A. Happ (4-6, 4.64), the Dodgers’ Brett Anderson (5-6, 3.14), the Mets’ Bartolo Colon (9-10, 4.96 and age 42), Washington’s Doug Fister (4-6, 4.39), St. Louis’ Jamie Garcia (3-4, 1.98), as well as the Giants’ Tim Hudson (6-8, 4.80 and age 40), Milwaukee’s Kyle Lohse (5-13, 6.13), the Dodgers’ Bronson Arroyo (out all year after Tommy John), Philadelphia’s Aaron Harang (5-11, 3.97), and several with team options that appear unlikely to be picked up: Toronto’s RA Dickey (6-10, 4.06), St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia (3-4, 1.98) and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie (7-7, 5.65).

All stats were from the start of this past week.

CHATTER

### Dolphins players have been critical of Joe Philbin in the past, primarily for his lack of fire and motivational skills, but they are very happy with how he has run this training camp. They cite more efficient use of their time, that more is getting done in shorter periods and that their bodies feel better because they’re on the field a bit less.

### Among those who fully expect Jarvis Landry (who had 84 receptions as a rookie) to break the team record for catches in a season is the man who holds that record.

“It’s going down,” said OJ McDuffie, who had 90 in 1998. “Another Juice getting the record? I’m fine with it. He will get to 100-plus receptions.”

Landry was 14th in receptions among receivers last season but only 105th of 110th in per-catch average (9.0). The difference now, receivers coach Ken O’Keefe said, is “he’s quicker out of his breaks than he had been. And his speed is a little bit improved.”

### Memo to Dolphins receivers: If you want more balls thrown to you, don’t angrily order Ryan Tannehill to tell offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to throw you the ball more, then complain when it doesn’t change things.

That’s what the Dolphins have told people that Mike Wallace did last season. As one longtime NFL player said, it’s not the quarterback’s job to tell Lazor to do that.

The Dolphins believe there won’t be any of those shenanigans with this group. Wallace told Vikings reporters he needs to be a “better person. Some things I could’ve done better.”

### UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, asked about a former Hurricanes player saying the defense is too confusing for some players: “You wouldn’t have had the yards per game [Miami allowed last year] if guys were confused.”

The Hurricanes allowed 328 yards per game last season --- 14th-best in the country and tied with national champion Ohio State.

### Offensive coordinator James Coley said he has given quarterback Brad Kaaya more autonomy. One example: “If I give him a call and he has some uncertainties about the primary read of that call, he could not give the call to the offense and run a dummy cadence [and run the play he wants]. I don’t think that’s happened in a lot of places.”

### Coley is pushing Kaaya in unique ways. For example, he instructed him to game-plan every opponent on UM’s schedule and has given him the authority to design and install a play in every practice.

### Coley has challenged Gus Edwards, who has been the first-team running back since the spring: “He has to play through nicks and nacks. Not saying he’s soft. He’s 240 pounds. He’s a big back and he’s our fastest back.”

### UM says there has been no contact with David Beckham’s group, regarding a stadium, since the soccer group last month announced its intention to build a stadium next to Marlins Park.

And though UM would still entertain the thought if Beckham called, athletic director Blake James was impressed with his tour of Sun Life Stadium last week. “It was like walking into a new stadium. It will be a much better experience [for fans],” James said. 

### Not only does the Heat have only three first-round draft picks in the next six years, but the recent trades have left Miami with only two second-rounders during that time, unless Orlando shockingly has a top-five record next season and Boston the same in 2019.       

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz       

August 07, 2015

Notes, thoughts, stats on Dolphins' Friday night scrimmage at FIU; UM hoops adds shooting guard transfer

A few thoughts on a Dolphins’ scrimmage in which Ndamukong Suh reminded us how good he is (as if any of us needed reminding):

### Though Suh overwhelmed Billy Turner early on --- including stampeding through him for an 11-yard loss on a Lamar Miller run --- Turner held his own on a handful of snaps as the night progressed.

Turner said afterward he’s not discouraged and “I’m getting better every day.”

### Donald Hawkins, who played in one game for Dallas last season, opened as the first team left tackle because of an undisclosed injury to Jason Fox. Joe Philbin declined to say what’s wrong with Fox but there’s optimism it’s not too serious.

Jamil Douglas and Billy Turner were the first-team guards.

### This was a very good night for Miami’s rookie defensive backs. Bobby McCain, who continues to make plays, had two pass break ups (including a third-down red zone pass from Ryan Tannehill) and a terrific interception in the corner of the end zone, on a Tannehill pass to Jarvis Landry.

“He’s a tough guy, competitive,” Joe Philbin said.

Tony Lippett helped break up two passing plays and was around the ball on two other passes that weren't caught. The Dolphins clearly made the right move converting him from receiver to cornerback.

“He’s doing some good things,” Philbin said.

And safety Cedric Thompson forced a Kevin Cone fumble in the red zone.

Bobby McCain obviously will make the team; the Dolphins front office wants to keep Lippett (barring something unforeseen) and Thompson also has a pretty good chance to stick, especially if he proves an asset on special teams during preseason games.

### LaMichael James has been the best of Miami’s backup running backs in camp and that continued tonight.

He had 9 carries for 41 yards and juked a few defenders with nifty moves. He also caught two passes for 22 yards.

Damien Williams finished with 28 yards on 11 carries and fumbled once on a nice play by AJ Francis.

Remember, for all his skills as a receiver out of the backfield, he averaged just 3.4 yards on 36 carries last season.

Jay Ajayi got only one carry and made the most of it, running hard for a 12 yard gain.

Mike Gillislee, a long shot to make the team, had six carries for 27 yards.

Miller lost 11 yards on his two carries, due mostly to Suh.

Overall, the Dolphins ran for 102 yards on 30 carries.

 ### Ryan Tannehill closed 11 for 17 for 101 yards and two touchdowns – including a beautiful 26 yarder to Jordan Cameron (beating Kelvin Sheppard). He also threw two picks --- to Bobby McCain and Brent Grimes.

### Receiver stats: Jarvis Landry three for 37; Williams 3 for 19; Rishard Matthews 2 for 13; LaRon Byrd 2 for 11; Gillislee 3 for 8; Cobi Hamilton 1 for 35; Damarr Aultman 2 for 21; Cone 1 for 9; Matt Hazel 1 for 13; Jake Stoneburner 1 for 13; Michael Preston 2 for 20; Gerrell Robinson 1 for 2; Tim Semisch 1 for 12; James 2 for 22 and Cameron 2 for 28.

### Arthur Lynch dropped a pass and though he’s a good blocker, he seemingly needs to show something in the passing game to make this team. Still not sure the No. 3 tight end is on the roster.

### Caleb Sturgis and Andrew Franks each went 3 for 3 on field goals. Sturgis hit from 38, 41 and 46. Franks hit from 39, 44 and 51.

“Lot of room for improvement, but I’m trending the right way,” Sturgis said.

### Brice McCain opened as the first-team boundary cornerback, opposite Brent Grimes.

### Terrence Fede had yet another sack, and Derrick Shelby and Jordan Phillips shared one.

### Another promising night for Zach Vigil, who we mentioned yesterday is the undrafted rookie linebacker who has impressed the Dolphins the most among the four of them.  

UM ADDS SCORER

Rashad Muhammad, a 6-6 shooting guard, is transferring from San Jose State to Miami, ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported tonight, quoting his brother, Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Rashad Muhammad averaged 13.2 points as a freshman in 2013-14 and 13.9 points last season, when he shot 38.1 percent from the field and 36 percent on threes (59 for 164). He also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season.

He was the leading scorer last season on a San Jose State team that went 2-28 and winless against Division 1 teams.

Muhammad would have to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules.

The San Jose Mercury News reported in May that he could have had grounds to appeal to the NCAA to be eligible immediately at another school if San Jose State remained under a postseason ban for poor APR scores. But the school learned, after he transferred, that its APR scores had risen and it's no longer ineligible for postseason play. 

With Sheldon McClellan entering his senior season, Muhammad is in position to compete for UM's starting shooting guard job in 2016-17. He has two years of eligibility left.

He also helps replace DeAndre Burnett, who transferred to Mississippi because he was concerned he wouldn't get enough playing time or enough shots at UM.

While Shabazz Muhammad was one of the nation's most coveted players out of high school before signing with UCLA, Rashad was lightly recruited. He chose San Jose State over offers from Wyoming and Utah State.

This time around, he picked UM over DePaul and San Francisco.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 06, 2015

Buzz on Dolphins rookies and Hurricanes freshmen; Marlins address David Beckham contract

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Young players represent hope for any fan base, and as a new batch of them descend on Davie and Coral Gables, some buzz on the Dolphins’ rookies and Hurricanes freshmen:

### Even beyond DeVante Parker (who was exceptional before foot surgery and has the look of a long-term No. 1 receiver), several other Dolphins rookies have impressed in camp, while running back Jay Ajayi works on pass protection issues that have left him fourth on the depth chart.

Players love fifth-round corner Bobby McCain, who’s usually around the ball and had an interception return for a touchdown Thursday; he was the first name safety Michael Thomas mentioned when asked who has impressed him.

“Bobby really shows his ball skills,” defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said. “He’s an exciting player.”

Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense from players that because of his sheer strength and physical gifts, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips --- who has been playing ahead of veteran C.J. Mosley --- will be very good.

Mike Pouncey predicted Thursday that Phillips will be a factor this year and Joe Philbin said his effort/motor, which wasn’t always consistent at Oklahoma, hasn’t been a problem so far.

“He wants to become a very great player,” Ndamukong Suh said. “He’s got the talent to do it.”

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle sees a player on the brink. “When he really gets it, we’re going to have exactly what we thought, and that’s a very, very athletic big man, powerful guy,” Coyle said. “He’s got to do it every single snap, but I’ve seen progress.”

The front office loves Jamil Douglas, who has worked as the first-team left guard with Dallas Thomas sidelined the past two days.

“Very pleased with Jamil, particularly for a rookie,” offensive line coach John Benton said. “Handles himself like a pro. What he’s doing well [is] he’s playing under control, has a good demeanor.

“He’s physical and handling the assignments very well. What he needs to work on is the different situations that come up, anticipating things the defense is going to do.”

What about Tony Lippett? His transition from receiver to cornerback has gone decently; he had an interception this week.

“At the end of the day, he’s going to have to play in games,” Anarumo said. “When we get to next Thursday night [at Chicago], I can’t wait to see him. There are going to be some highs and there are going to be some lows. Our job is to get him where he can be consistent and eliminate those peaks and valleys.

“It’s natural for him when the ball is in the air to go find it because that’s what he has done his whole life. [The challenge is learning] the little intricacies of the technique he’s playing, the press, the off man. Once he picks up that stuff, he will be OK.”

Fifth-round safety Cedric Thompson returned an interception for a touchdown last Friday and is the front-runner over Jordan Kovacs and injured Don Jones if Miami keeps a fifth safety. “High football IQ, aggressive player, can do many things,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said of Thompson.

As for Ajayi, he made a nifty catch for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone Thursday, but pass protection is a real concern.

### We’re told Dolphins people believe Utah State’s Zach Vigil has been the best of the four undrafted rookie linebackers and has a good chance to make the team. Miami also likes Marshall rookie Neville Hewitt’s potential on special teams.

### What UM freshmen are most likely to make a difference this season from this 22-man class?

The three we’ve heard mentioned most often by players: running back Mark Walton, safety Jaquan Johnson and cornerback Sheldrick Redwine.

Linebacker Raphael Kirby cited Johnson and Redwine as the newcomers who have been most impressive.

Johnson, sidelined by injury Thursday, plays a position where UM is deep, but he’s smart and instinctive and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio says he’s “going to be a factor. He can impact our team. He’s done a really good job.”

Said Kirby: “He has a nose for the football. He plays with great leverage. He knows how to attack ball carriers, takes great angles.”

Redwine, a three-star prospect from Killian, could be UM’s No. 4 cornerback behind Artie Burns, Tracy Howard and Corn Elder – who are the only three corners with game experience. (Al Golden has said safety Deon Bush also might play some corner.)

“Everyone is excited about Sheldrick,” Golden said, before mentioning Michael Jackson and Terrance Henley, the other two freshman corners. “Sheldrick, like Jaquan, doesn't make a lot of mental errors. He plays thirsty.” (Or hungry, presumably).

Kirby raves about his technique: “I was talking to Brad [Kaaya] about him. Brad feels the same way. He’s a guy who will help us right off the bat.”

Walton, as Golden said, “has made his presence known this summer.”

Kaaya can’t stop raving about a player who ran for 1470 yards and 22 touchdowns and averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a senior at Booker T. Washington, and also caught 24 passes for 282 and four touchdowns.

“Great kid,” Kaaya said. “He already gets it. He just gets it. He’s a different mentality. Knows protections already. His lateral movement stands out.”

Among other freshmen who should be in the mix for playing time this season: offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis (“had a good summer,” Golden said); linebackers Jamie Gordinier, Charles Perry and James King (UM doesn’t have great depth there) and offensive lineman Jahair Jones (had some good moments this spring).

### UM players like what they’ve seen from freshman receiver Lawrence Cager, but it’s difficult to envision him cracking the Hurricanes’ top five, at least initially (Rashawn Scott, Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Lewis and Herb Waters).

Cager is “really tall, long, he has a wide catch radius,” Kaaya said. “He can go up high for it. He’s made some good plays one-on-one. We have to see during camp [if he can help this season]. A lot of guys look good in shorts and T-shirts.”

Said offensive coordinator James Coley: “He’s lean, fast, long, can avoid contact and avoid tacklers.”

### One of the more interesting stories is 6-5, 255-pound tight end Jerome Washington; UM offered him a scholarship after his club team in New Jersey mailed his highlight tape last October.

UM, Alabama and Nebraska --- among others --- then started recruiting him and Rivals.com elevated him to a four-star recruit. Washington is raw, which was evident in spring ball; he ranks behind at least Standish Dobard and Chris Herndon on the depth chart.

“Jerome still needs to make a lot of strides,” Coley said. “But you still see his athleticism. He’s so fast with his size. He’s got to keep learning.”

Kaaya said he’s already a “grown man” and “will be a good in-line tight end.”

### Because of UM’s depth at defensive end, there probably won’t be a need to rush four-star prospect Scott Patchan, who’s coming off an ACL injury last August.

UM has a good group of incoming defensive linemen: Patchan, Richard McIntosh (“a guy we have high expectations for,” D’Onofrio said) and tackles Ryan Fines and Kendrick Norton.

MLS/MARLINS NOTE

### Though the Marlins have numerous contract stipulations with Miami-Dade County that could make it more difficult for David Beckham’s group to strike a stadium deal next to Marlins Park, Marlins president David Samson made clear this week that the Marlins will not be an impediment to any deal.

What if Beckham requests changes to the Marlins contract?

“We are always open to conversation and we would work with David and [Marcelo Claure]… very closely to make sure they are successful and the Marlins are successful,” Samson said.

“We look forward to working with them and creating a sports complex that all Miamians can be proud of and will be used year-round. We’ve always believed Major League Soccer… west of Marlins Park is a perfect situation for Miami.”

Among those rights the Marlins were given by the county, as reported by Miami Today last week: Beckham can’t sell stadium naming rights until baseball sells its own.... The soccer stadium cannot reflect light toward Marlins Park. ... The Marlins get to review all soccer stadium architectural plans and leases... No soccer ads may conflict with a major Marlins sponsor....

Soccer stadium construction may not interfere with baseball from two hours before a game or event to one hour after.... The Marlins get first choice of dates and can't schedule any games at home from March 15 to Nov. 15 until the Marlins choose their dates... Soccer games cannot begin until four hours after a baseball game ends..... And there are several other stipulations.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Thursday report: Dolphins practice nuggets, injury updates; Golden's thoughts after Day 1 of camp

LaMichael James took a risk when he requested his release from the 49ers early last season, frustrated after receiving just 41 carries in two-plus seasons.

He found a job with the Dolphins three weeks later, initially on the practice squad and then on the 53-man roster beginning in mid-November. But he had only three carries, for nine yards.

Now the former Oregon star is challenging for the backup running back job behind Lamar Miller. James has been productive in the first week of camp, both running the ball and as a receiver out of the backfield.

“I can do anything,” he said. “I can play receiver, running back, returner. Any situation they put me, I feel I’ll be good at…. I love my chances against anybody. I just have to believe in myself.”

Asked to assess the battle for the No. 2 running back job, Joe Philbin on Thursday said: “I think Damien Williams has had a really good camp. LaMichael James has done well as well.

Jay (Ajayi) is picking things up and improving. I think it’s a good group.” He also mentioned Mike Gillislee’s work in the red zone, though he’s seemingly a long shot to stick.

“I think the preseason games will help iron it out a little bit, but I really like the group,” Philbin said.

James, a 2012 second-round pick, assuredly didn’t expect to have fewer than 50 career carries heading into his fourth season.

“You’ve got to persevere,” he said. “Never get discouraged. A lot of guys in the face of adversity start to question their ability. You can’t do that.”

###  Dallas Thomas (shoulder) and Koa Misi (calf) missed practice but both said neither of their injuries would keep them out an extended period. Louis Delmas, Cam Wake and Greg Jennings were given a “rest” day, and Will Davis sat out practice to rest his surgically-repaired knee.

### Jordan Phillips and emerging Anthony Johnson have received most of the second-team work at defensive tackle, leaving veteran CJ Mosley at risk. Mosley, 32, who’s close with Ndamukong Suh, has played 10 years in the NFL and started eight games for Detroit last season.

Asked if Mosley will be on the team, Philbin said: “We’ll see what happens.”

Mosley hasn’t received a lot of snaps with the top two groups and Philbin said “sometimes younger players we want to get exposed to a little bit more than some maybe an older player…. But some of it is based on merit, too.”

Johnson has been very disruptive in practice this week, including a sack Thursday.

"The thing I really like about him,” Philbin said, “is the way he plays the game first and foremost. I think he’s aggressive. He plays hard and fast. His technique has improved over year one.”

 ### The Dolphins expect FIU Stadium to be near capacity, if not sold out completely, for Friday night's intrasquad scrimmage.

With Sun Life Stadium unavailable because of ongoing renovations, the Dolphins decided to hold their annual practice game in Miami-Dade, where some 40 percent of their fan base lives.

As of Thursday morning, more than 12,000 tickets had already been sold. Tickets remain available at Dolphins.com and can also be purchased at the gate.

"We haven't done a scrimmage down there, to our knowledge, since the Shula era," said Jeremy Walls, the team's chief revenue officer. "A lot of our fans have told us, we would love if you did something down that way -- the Coral Gables, Kendall, Doral area. ... This is one of the great venues down there that can hold a lot of people."

Parking lots open at 4 p.m. and tailgating will be allowed. The practice starts at 6:30 p.m., with the scrimmage beginning at 7. Fireworks and player autographs will follow.

### Our Adam Beasley reports that the NFL has directed the Dolphins (and all 31 other franchises) to offer their season ticket holders the opportunity to reserve non-binding playoff tickets -- in August and September.

The Dolphins are giving their fans the chance to opt in if the team makes the playoffs. Those who sign up are committed to buy postseason tickets once the team qualifies, but will only be charged if the team hosts a game.

The move is in response to the embarrassing situation two years ago with the Green Packers, who needed help from local businesses to sell out their home wild card game against the 49ers.

### Philbin, on what he wants in Friday’s scrimmage:

"We want to see a lot of different combinations of people. We want to get a lot of people involved, we want to get a good evaluation on really hopefully everybody on the roster that’s going to go. That’s number one. We want to get some situational work accomplished, continue to work on the red zone, continue to work on two-minute.

“Obviously, defensively, offense didn’t do much yesterday. They did quite a bit, first-team offense was successful. We want to do another two-minute thing. So a lot of situations and also just exposure, the younger guys will probably get a little bit more so we get a good evaluation so they get their feet wet before we go to Chicago.”

### Ryan Tannehill, who struggled with the deep ball throughout camp last year, has improved his touch dramatically. He completed two more vertical throws today, including a 50-yarder to Rishard Matthews, who beat Louis Delmas.

### Regarding Evan Mathis, Armando Salguero (as reported in his blog) and I both heard this morning that dialogue remains ongoing.

The Dolphins have interest in Mathis but not (yet) at the price he wants, which is in the $5.5 million range. The Dolphins might be motivated to increase what they're willing to pay if the young guards struggle in Friday's scrimmage and/or Thursday's preseason opener at Chicago. 

GOLDEN’S THOUGHTS

Direct conflict between Dolphins and Canes practices today, and I was at Dolphins, where practice is open (unlike Canes' practice, except for Friday).

A few thoughts from Al Golden on the first day of camp:

### On Joe Yearby, who’s back with the team: "He missed the workouts with the team but he didn't miss the voluntary workouts. He came back a few days later and passed the conditioning test and that spoke volumes to the team.

“Look, we had kids who needed to lose weight, kids that needed to gain weight, kids that needed to take more classes than I would want anyone to take during the summer. He needed to take care of some personal things and some family things and we gave him a space and he rewarded that trust incredibly.”

### On Brad Kaaya: “I'm not worried about Brad. He's too busy doing the things you're supposed to do, you don't have to worry about what's going on outside, and he's the ultimate team player here so I think part of that is to make sure everybody understands that he's leading by example every day.

"He's putting the work in. He's made a lot of progress obviously with his body and command of the offense, and his conditioning with everything over the last year.”

### On the receivers: “Braxton Berrios looks great. He's a year and a half removed from his ACL. Now he looks so much leaner then a year ago. Herb [Waters is] 197 pounds pounds, Rashawn [Scott] is 205, Stacy [Coley] is in the 190s now. Those guys worked their tails off, you know? Malcolm Lewis looks good. It's an exciting group."

### What needs to improve? "So many. But if we don't become a smarter and more disciplined team we're going to continue to have to have the same results. There is so much lost in penalties. We went 825 yards in the wrong direction.

“We didn't operate very well on third down; we've got to do better there. We've got to be the smarter team and execute a little bit better and we finished minus-1 in the turnover ratio. It's hard to win like that. That's been the challenge since January 12. I am hopeful that these guys understand what they need to do to play good ball.”

### On the return of Rayshawn Jenkins and Hunter Knighton: “Obviously Hunter is representative of who we want to be. He smart, he's tough, he's disciplined, and he's a worker.

"And Jenks, as I told the team last night, just a tremendous job. Just a long road for him, he went from being the starter to being out for 18 months so I'm happy for him. He's lean, he's worked hard and there is going to be a lot of opportunities for him.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for a lot more Dolphins and Canes. 

August 05, 2015

Heat scheduled for Christmas again; Ten Dolphins notes from Wednesday's practice; UM, Marlins

We’ll get to 10 notes from Wednesday’s Dolphins practice in a minute, but first, a quick NBA note:

The NBA schedule will be released Tuesday, and a tentative schedule that has been circulating around the league has the Heat playing host to New Orleans at noon on Christmas, according to a league source.

The source called that matchup likely but stopped short of saying definite because the NBA reserves the right to change anything before the schedule is announced.

That game would be on ESPN, with the 2:30 and 5 p.m. games on ABC.

The Heat is 9-2 all-time in Christmas games, including 4-0 at home, and has won six in a row on Christmas overall, including a 101-91 win against Cleveland last season.

DOLPHINS NOTES

Like all NFL kickers who have displayed shaky accuracy, Caleb Sturgis stands at risk, no longer in position to afford another season like the last two.

He ranked 29th and 28th in field-goal percentage his first two seasons, and his performance has been uneven on long kicks in training camp. On Wednesday, he hit two field goals from 46 yards but missed from 44 (off the upright) and came up short from 52.

He has a challenger in camp, Andrew Franks, a rookie from Division III RPI in New York, and special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Wednesday that Franks “is going to get an opportunity in games. It’s an open competition. We’re going to look at the whole body of work at the end of camp and make a decision.”

Though Rizzi didn’t say this, Sturgis remains the favorite, partly because Franks also has been inconsistent on field goals, both in college and during training camp.

“The biggest thing with Sturg is consistency,” Rizzi said, adding that Sturgis is healthy after injuring his groin in a team-organized kickball game in June.

“We’ve got to keep him healthy No. 1. With the kicker, it’s much more tangible than any other position. You’ve got to put it through those yellow posts and do it consistently. He’s had a good start. His warm-ups are looking more and more like the old Caleb. I’ve been very encouraged.”

What makes the Dolphins want to make it work with Sturgis?

“We still think he’s the same guy we drafted, a very talented guy,” Rizzi said.

Sturgis made 76.5 percent of his field goals as a rookie and 78.4 percent last season. “You’re always shooting to be above 90 percent overall,” Rizzi said.

Sturgis was 8 for 10 on field goals from 40 to 49 yards as a rookie, 6 for 10 last year.  “Between 40 and 50, if you’re 85 percent and up, that’s a realistic goal,” Rizzi said.

Over 50 yards, he’s 6 for 13 in his career.

As for Franks, Rizzi said he “has an NFL leg. Going to a Division III school, he kind of coached himself for four years. He did kickoffs, field goals, punts. He never got great at one of them. He was good at all of them. Now we’re trying to limit him to field goals and kickoffs. He’s got a big leg as long as his consistency stays [up].”

###  Rizzi said Jarvis Landry is the front-runner to keep the punt and kickoff return jobs. Landry ranked fourth in the NFL in kick return average last season and 14th on punts.

“There’s many starters in the NFL that are returners, maybe don’t do both, maybe [do] one,” Rizzi said. “We have to decide down the road what the formula is going to be. We’re trying to develop a
pool of guys and make a decision from there.”

Those options include LaMichael James, Kenny Stills, Bobby McCain, Brent Grimes and roster long-shot Christion Jones.

### Koa Misi left practice early with a leg issue, but linebackers coach Mark Duffner said: “I think he’ll be fine.”

Kelvin Sheppard and Chris McCain --- who are competing for one starting linebacker job – both played on the first team with Jelani Jenkins in Misi’s absence.

### With a shoulder injury sidelining Dallas Thomas on Wednesday, Jamil Douglas took most of the first-team snaps at left guard, with Jeff Linkenbach also receiving some. Billy Turner played with the first team at right guard and was again manhandled by Ndamukong Suh on several plays.         

 “No one’s earned anything yet,” Joe Philbin said of the two guard openings.

 ### Ryan Tannehill gave the diplomatic response when asked if he feels comfortable with the team’s guards.

“Yeah, I feel safe. They’re competing, I’m not sure who’s going to end up being in that spot, but those guys are competing and they’re facing one of the best, if not the best d-tackle in the league. It’s not always going to be pretty no matter who’s up there. You could have an All-Pro guy out there coming against (Ndamukong) Suh and it’s going to be a battle. I don’t expect those guys to be able to lock Suh down each and every play, but they’re competing and they’re getting better and that’s what you want to see.”

### Receiver Kenny Stills (calf) missed his third practice in a row and receiver LaRon Byrd (knee) also was sidelined. Defensive lineman Derrick Shelby sat out with a knee issue that isn’t considered serious.

### Tannehill continued to show much-improved touch on his deep ball, completing a 60-yard pass to Jarvis Landry for a touchdown, beating Louis Delmas.

Can Landry be more of a deep threat this season?

“I think he’s got a chance to do that,” Philbin said. “He’s lined up in a variety of spots. He’s done some things outside. I think his natural home base is still inside, but he certainly has shown the ability.

“He’s a real quality route runner. He can run different routes that you want on the outside. The beauty of him is he doesn’t slow down when he’s coming out of cuts. So if he can get on top of the DB (defensive back), he doesn’t waste any time whatsoever. That’s really, to me, is what makes him effective.”

### As for Tannehill, Joe Philbin told Joe Rose and Curtis Stevenson on WQAM that his overall completion percentage is up.

“I feel a lot more comfortable, making quicker decisions, knowing exactly where to put the ball versus certain looks in these newer routes, that were new last year,” Tannehill said.

But there’s another factor in play, Tannehill said: “Our receivers are making plays, that’s a big part of it as well. When you have receivers out there that are adjusting with the tough catches in traffic, it definitely increases your completion percentage.”

### Couple more sacks today from Terrence Fede, who has been a menace against the second-team offensive line in training camp.

“He’s just a lot more confident I think in everything that he’s doing,” Philbin said. “I think the adjustment that he had to make coming from what I used call 1-AA football to the NFL is significant. He handled it well then too, but I just think he’s stronger, he’s more confident in the scheme, in the system that we’re running and the techniques that we’re using. I think he’s just well ahead of where he was.”

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle made clear that Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain are very much in competition for the starting job opposite Brent Grimes. For more of what Coyle had to say, check out Adam Beasley’s story on the home page shortly.

Please see the last post for an in-depth look at UM’s front seven; what Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton admitted about his unit; and a couple of names suggested to Jeffrey Loria for the manager’s job next year.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

August 04, 2015

UM still waiting for return of dominant front seven; Dolphins OL coach assesses situation; Heat, Marlins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As visions of Hurricanes greatness become blurrier  in the rearview mirror, we’re still waiting for the day that UM assembles a dominant front seven again. Odds are, that will probably be the day the Hurricanes return to being a top-10 program.

One UM person said for all the talk of the Hurricanes not maximizing their talent in recent years --- and they assuredly have not --- people also should realize that UM has had only one defensive lineman drafted in the first two rounds since 2005: Calais Campbell, a second-rounder in 2008.  

Conversely, UM had four first-round defensive linemen selected between 2001 and 2004. That’s telling, and reflective of the fact that defensive linemen with game-changing potential either aren’t coming here (in most cases) or still too green to wreak havoc (Chad Thomas). Olivier Vernon, who left UM early, has averaged more sacks per game with the Dolphins than the Hurricanes.

And when San Diego took Denzel Perryman 48th in this past NFL Draft, it marked the first time in eight years that UM had a linebacker selected in the first two rounds. Heck, the 2004 Canes had two linebackers picked in the top 17 (Jonathan Vilma, DJ Williams).

Whereas some progress clearly was made last season (opponents averaged 3.7 yards per carry, which was 30th nationally), the Hurricanes were bludgeoned against Nebraska and Georgia Tech and their 27 sacks were 72nd in the country.

So how can a front seven that lost its best player (Perryman) be better this year? Al Golden insists UM has more skilled pass rushers than the Hurricanes have ever had in his tenure.

With practice opening Thursday, some chatter on UM’s front seven:

### One thing we keep hearing from players is how much of a difference defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad is going to make after his 2014 season-long suspension from school.

“His physicality is going to bring something really different as far as setting the edge, allowing things not to go outside,” defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou said. “It's going to make a big difference.”

UM coaches stuck by Muhammad after his semester suspension last fall not only because they desperately need him, but also because some coaches believe it was unfair that he was suspended for a semester last year for punching a student who had incited him in the Sun Life Stadium parking lot.

### Besides needing Muhammad, UM needs some of the other four-star defensive players who haven’t given them much yet to make a significant impact: junior Jelani Hamilton (much improved, according to coaches), and redshirt freshman Demetrius Jackson (who had 12 sacks as a senior at Booker T. Washington). UM believes they're ready to help.

“Demetrius has done some good things,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said this offseason. “He’s very talented, has gained about 25 pounds since he got here. He’s strong at the point of attack.

“He’s a physical guy for a guy who has played only two years of football. He’s got to lock in and not worry about where everybody else is. He’s got a real high ceiling and is really going to be a good player.”

Privately, some UM people credit new defensive line coach Randy Melvin for Hamilton’s improvement. Hamilton admitted he’s responding better to coaching.

“Randy is doing a great job with the group; I see a difference,” D’Onofrio said. “I see them getting better. As a group, we wanted to focus on making more progress toward the quarterback. We want to keep collapsing the pocket, keep making progress toward the quarterback.”

### Difficult to see this line being close to great over the next three years without Muhammad and Thomas (a five-star prospect) playing a lot and fulfilling their potential.

With that in mind, some found it curious that Muhammad and third-stringer Jackson remained behind Trent Harris at rush end this spring, while Thomas was second-team behind Hamilton at the other end spot.

What’s the reason for the defensive staff’s continued fascination with Harris? “For a young player, Trent is really a technician in the run game and the pass game,” D’Onofrio said. “He knows how to use his hands to beat guys. He knows how to set up moves.”

### UM is still waiting for a game-changing tackle to emerge and push decent-but-not dominant Heurtelou and Courtel Jenkins. Golden said Heurtelou and Ufomba Kamalu have distinguished themselves at that position this offseason. Kamalu, who also can play end, “has made some really big strides,” D’Onofrio said.

But has Michael Wyche shown he’s starter caliber?

“Oh yeah,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s made a lot of progress. He’s the lightest he’s been since he’s been with us, which has helped him regain his quickness and his twitchiness. It’s also enabled him to play harder and longer and impact the game the way he can. He’s got another level to go. But he made great progress this spring.”

Kirby said the credit goes partly to Heurtelou, who has taken Wyche under his wing.

Heurtelou said this summer that Wyche “looks a whole lot different. He lost some weight. He's more confident now. Last year, he came relatively late, coming out of junior college. It was a tough transition. I understand the transition because I [did that]."

Anthony Moten had a strong first 10 days of spring, then faded. UM sees impact potential there.

### Linebacker, which was initially a concern for UM after losing Perryman and Thurston Armbrister, isn’t nearly as much of one now.

Raphael Kirby, moving to the middle, displayed playmaking ability this offseason and has improved in being in the right spot at the right time.

Jermaine Grace is very good in coverage, “blazing fast,” as Brad Kaaya put it, physical and has improved greatly against the run. A UM football person said his football IQ is similar to Sean Spence’s.

In fact, Heurtelou pointed to Kirby and Grace as the defensive players who have most impressed him this summer, “especially Kirby. You see how he becomes a general on the field, takes control of the defense. And it has been a smooth transition for Tyriq [McCord, from end to linebacker]. He’s really smart.”

McCord is competing with sophomore Darrion Owens, who flashed pass rush skills and opened eyes this spring. Coaches love him.

“We have to finalize the right spots for everybody,” D’Onofrio said. “We have Kirby, Grace, Darrion and Tyriq who have all played a lot of football.

Juwon Young improved quite a bit in the spring. Marques Gayot was making a lot of improvement but unfortunately missed the last week of spring.

Charles Perry came in. Michael Smith came in off a redshirt year, off an ACL [in high school]. We have Terry McCray who can play [middle linebacker].

We have [New Jersey-based] Jamie Gordinier, [Booker T. Washington’s] James King coming in. Last year, we played five, which was not what you want to play with. [Ideally you want] seven guys who can go in the game.”

Considering college players are optimistic by nature, it isn’t surprising that Heurtelou predicts “our front seven is going to be something pretty nasty.”

Unfortunately, nobody expects Warren Sapp/Cortez Kennedy nasty. But going from generally decent to very good – and somehow doing it without Perryman – would be a start.

CHATTER

### Though Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton said Tuesday the team’s young guards have improved, “I wouldn’t say [it’s] to the point of saying, ‘I’m impressed.’”

He called the guard play “a little bit inconsistent.”

Who has been the best among left guards Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas and right guard Billy Turner?

“That’s a tough question to answer,” Benton said. “One guy has a real good practice, and the other guy maybe doesn’t and the next day it’s switched. It’s going to be who does well consistently over time.

"I’m not 100 percent sure we have a real front-runner. Dallas has been doing really well. He got dinged up a little today [but I don’t think it’s serious].”

The Dolphins gave Douglas some work at right guard Tuesday in case they settle on a Thomas/Douglas pairing. As Benton said, the Dolphins want to “make sure we are able to put the best two guys on the field.”

Benton wants more consistency from Turner. “We love the aggression and physicality he plays with,” Benton said. “We don’t want to temper that. We just want to do it the right way.”

Benton said shoring up the play of the interior of the line “was our No. 1 concern coming out of last season. That has been the major focus of our group from the start. It’s going to happen… I’ve seen some progress in the three practices [in pads]. That’s all you can do, find a way to get incrementally better every day.”

### Yet another sack today for defensive end Terrence Fede, who has been among the most impactful players in training camp.

“Once I came in and saw Fede,” Ndamukong Suh said, “I didn’t know much about him, but as I’ve seen him and saw some of the old tape on him, he’s definitely a young guy last year that’s made great progression coming into his sophomore year.”

### Please see the last post for Dolphins nuggets from Day 5 of training camp on Tuesday.

### Even after dumping three players, the Heat is on track to have a $23 million luxury tax bill if it keeps 15 players, with James Ennis or another player at the minimum as the likely 15th.

That’s why Mario Chalmers and potentially Chris Andersen remain in play, should a team suffer an injury in training camp and have the cap space to take on either player’s salary without needing to send salary to Miami.

### Though studies show pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery usually lose velocity, Jose Fernandez surprisingly has gained a mile-per-hour on his fastball, to 95.5 --- his highest since he broke into the majors.

“I’m not trying to throw harder [but] I feel stronger,” he said.

### Several people inside the Marlins expect Dan Jennings to leave the dugout and return to the front-office this winter. And beyond the obvious 2016 managerial candidates (Mike Lowell, Bud Black, Dusty Baker), people who have Jeffrey Loria’s ear also have suggested others to him, including former All-Star catcher Terry Kennedy (a Manager of the Year twice in the minors and now a scout for the Cubs) and Twins Double A manager Doug Mientkiewicz, the former big-league first baseman.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Tuesday Dolphins notes: WR questions emerge; More from Tannenbaum; Suh opines; What's irking Philbin

Some Dolphins notes from Tuesday’s practice:

### So is DeVante Parker good enough and knowledgeable enough about Miami’s offense to play and contribute in the opener if he doesn’t play in preseason?

“This is the NFL; there is going to be a learning curve no matter what,” receivers coach Ken O’Keefe told me today. “He’ll have to shake some rust off. But he’s here to play.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure he’s ready to go when we’re given the word it’s time. He’s doing a great job for a young guy staying engaged from a mental standpoint. Physically he’s doing what’s being asked of him according to the rules. I’m not concerned about it. I think he’ll be in good shape.”

### Kenny Stills, meanwhile, has missed two consecutive practices with a calf injury. But O’Keefe likes what he has seen: “Kenny runs out of his routes well. He has the speed you look for down the field.”

The Dolphins could keep six receivers to start the season – one more that usual --- if Parker needs more time. Michael Preston, Matt Hazel and LaRon Byrd have all had some good moments in camp and would be top candidates if Miami keeps a sixth. Byrd left Tuesday’s practice with what appeared to be a leg or hip issue.

"All those guys are climbing a little bit,” O’Keefe said. “Hazel has improved every day. Preston has made a lot of plays from OTA, minicamp right to now. We need all of them to keep pushing.”

Tommy Streeter, Christion Jones, Cobi Hamilton, Damarr Aultman and Tyler McDonald are also competing. [UPDATE: Miami, late today, claimed receiver Kevin Cone off waivers from Cleveland cut offensive lineman Dionte Savage. Cone spent training camp with Miami last summer.]

Rishard Matthews, who had several catches Tuesday, remains the front-runner for the No. 5 job behind Jarvis Landry, Parker, Stills and Greg Jennings.

“He’s had a very good camp,” Philbin said. “I like the way he catches the ball. He’s tough…. What can he do better? Catch the ball he dropped in two-minute [drills] today.”

### Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ vice president/football operations, made clear during a WQAM-560 interview that the running backs must be competent in pass protection, regardless of their running skills.

On fifth-round pick Jay Ajayi, Tannenbaum said: “There are things we like about him, but if he can’t pass protect, he will never be active. I don’t care how talented he is between the tackles. If Jay Ajayi can’t pass protect, he won’t be active.”

Conversely, Philbin said LaMichael James has made a strong impression in that area.

“Everyone knows he’s not the biggest guy [at 5-9 and 200 pounds],” Philbin said. “I like his aggressiveness in pass protection. Everybody can see the escapability, the quick feet, the elusiveness. If he’s going to play for us, he has to be able to sit in there and protect on occasion.”

### Ndamukong Suh, asked about having second-round pick Jordan Phillips come train with him this offseason: “I guess he told you he came out and worked out with me, which was true. At the end of the day, I just wanted to build a relationship with him. I mean you’re only as strong as your weakest link, not saying he’s out weakest link, but he’s our youngest guy, most inexperienced.

"So we want to push him along and get him into the pace of where all of the other vets are and all of the other guys because he’s going to be expected to play. I expect for him at some point in time throughout the year, whether it’s the first game or the last game of the year or into the playoffs hopefully – that’s he contributing in his own particular way. The quicker I can push his process along like Kyle Vanden Bosch did for me, Corey Williams did for me, all of those guys in Detroit and all of those other veterans like Larry Fitzgerald, Amobi Okoye, just talking to me, texting to me, telling me what I should expect and what should I focus on. That’s where I feel that it’s my duty to do that for a younger guy.

“He’s a good kid. Obviously, he’s quiet, very similar to me. I think at the end of the day he wants to become a very great player. I think in my opinion he just has to learn how to do that, but he’s got all of the talent to do it.”

### But Suh had much less to say when asked if the team has NFL-starting caliber guards: “That’s not my decision to make. I’m sorry I can’t answer that.”

### Another interception today for Will Davis, who’s starting to play better after being beaten deep twice early in camp.

### Here’s what’s bothering Philbin:  “We’ve had a little bit too many pre-snap movements. We had a couple again today on the offensive line and we have to clean that up, we’ve got to do a better job. One thing during camp that I’m not real pleased about is the yellow flags have been coming out too much.”

### Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on the offense’s evolution: “There’s a constant adaptation. We studied some of the teams in the league that are the best statistically at what they do and then you really try, you take the emotion of a weekly game plan out of it, you look at it and you really evaluate what do our players do best. And then I think being out here with Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron, over time being with those guys, we’ll have to answer those same questions - what do they do best.” (Adam Beasley will have a full story on Lazor's comments posted later.)

### Lazor said good naturedly: “I’ve heard rumors that guys were intimated by me” last season.

### Asked about the two games against his former team, Buffalo guard Richie Incognito told 104.3 The Ticket: “You better believe those games are circled in red on my calendar.” But he says he has no ill will against his former teammates.  

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for UM football, Dolphins and Marlins and check back this evening for a lot more.