12/02/2014

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

11/29/2014

Postscripts, reaction, thoughts, disturbing realities after UM's 35-23 loss to Pittsburgh

You thought the simmering rage over the state of the University of Miami football program couldn’t grow louder?

Guess again.

This embarrassing 35-23 defeat to a 6-6 Pittsburgh team that had lost by 11 points to Akron --– Akron!!! --- was a new low, but also a clear indication that change is needed.

Consider:

### If UM (6-6) loses its bowl game --- which at this point, would surprise nobody --- it would result in the Hurricanes’ third losing season in 35 years. The only others since 1980: 5-7 in 2007 and 5-6 in 1997.

### With his third loss in a row, Al Golden dropped to 28-21 at UM, barely better than Randy Shannon’s 28-22 record before his dismissal. UM is just 16-16 in the ACC under Golden.

### Under Golden, UM dropped to 18-20 against teams from power five conferences.

### UM was outscored 14-10 in the second half, meaning the Hurricanes have been outscored 181-69 in the second half of its past 10 losses under Golden.

### More evidence of how UM is underachieving:

Miami’s last five recruiting classes were 16th, 36th, 9th, 20th and 12th, according to rivals.com. Pittsburgh's were 33rd, 59th, 47th, 35th and 44th.

But then again, UM also lost to Virginia, whose classes were 67th, 25th, 27th, 28th and 41st. And UM lost to Georgia Tech, whose classes were 43, 41, 57, 85 and 47. And, of course, Miami lost to Louisville, whose 2010-14 classes were 48, 29, 42, 50 and 42.

Unless you believe the rivals.com rankings are all wrong, then that’s a scathing indictment of this coaching staff.

### UM athletic director Blake James told me last week that Golden will remain the coach next season, as I reported. That means unless Golden leaves for another job (and the offers aren’t exactly going to pour in), then the most realistic change would be if Golden shakes up his staff.

You would think Golden would be smart enough to realize that he cannot return with everything status quo, that he would be committing career suicide if he does. But James also has said he believes his coaches should decide the fate of their assistants, so this is ultimately in Golden’s hands, though it’s possible the administration could cajole him to make changes.

Golden could start by hiring someone to coach special teams, a role he handled this season. UM’s special teams have been atrocious at times, especially in return coverage. Tyler Boyd produced 190 yards in kickoff returns tonight, allowing the Panthers to consistently win the field-position battle.

Here’s what’s also discouraging: UM loses three to five of its top 8 to 10 players (Phillip Dorsett, Denzel Perryman, Clive Walford) and potentially loses its biggest star, Duke Johnson, and its best offensive lineman (Ereck Flowers), who did not have a good night.

Johnson said after the game that he hasn't decided if he will turn pro, but a scout told me last week that UM people expect he will. (His mother wants him to get a degree but also has expressed concern about him getting injured if he comes back next season.)

“Who is your building block?” ESPN’s Brock Huard said. “Who are your centerpiece guys? Who is your difference maker next year at Miami?”

Start with Brad Kaaya and Joe Yearby (if Duke leaves), but there are lots of issues elsewhere.

Consider that UM has two five-star recruits on defense and neither made much of a difference tonight. Junior Tracy Howard, one of those five-star recruits, plays sparingly.

Chad Thomas, UM's other five-star recruit on defense, was barely noticeable during his limited playing time tonight. Whereas St. Thomas Aquinas’ Joey Bosa collected 7.5 sacks as a freshman at Ohio State last season, Thomas didn’t have one in his first year at Miami. Thomas is too talented not to develop into a good player over time at UM.

Still, there’s the issue of whether this staff can develop elite talent on defense. (Artie Burns and Jamal Carter --- two four-star kids --- are still experiencing some growing pains as sophomores.)

But there’s also the issue of finding talent. Despite the high recruiting rankings, UM hasn’t been able to procure high-end defensive tackles, which remains its biggest recruiting shortcoming under Golden.

I lost count on how many times Calvin Heurtelou was sealed off on Pittsburgh runs tonight. Yet UM stuck with him for much of the game, instead of Michael Wyche (who received some snaps), Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten.

Heuretelou and Olsen Pierre (playing his final regular season game at UM), received little help from the rest of the front seven.

Tyriq McCord was poor in run support, raising questions about whether he should be full-time at linebacker instead of playing that hybrid d-end/linebacker spot.

Freshman defensive end Trent Harris was mauled, Heurtelou was sealed and linebacker Raphael Kirby was late on James Conner’s 13-yard run to open the scoring.

McCord and Jermaine Grace couldn’t unhinge from blocks on a 16-yard run on a third and two on Pittsburgh’s third touchdown drive.

Pierre and Burns were blocked off and McCord simply went the wrong way on Chris Jones’ 15 yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

As usual, there were plenty of foolish mistakes: A Carter pass interference helped set up Pittsburgh’s third TD. Burns committed pass interference on a third and seven, leading to Pittsburgh’s fifth touchdown. Walter Tucker lost his cool and committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the game.

### Pittsburgh, which entered 15th in the country with 253.6 yards rushing per game, closed with 226 yards on the ground, on 4.8 per carry. Quarterback Chad Voytik needed to throw only 12 times, because the Panthers were bludgeoning UM on the ground.

"It was embarrassing to watch," Duane Starks said on WQAM's postgame show.

### Meanwhile, Brad Kaaya went cold in the second half, completing only one of 10 throws during one stretch. After an 11 for 19,174 yard first half, Kaaya went just 11 for 26 for 122 yards after intermission.

### Highlights? This wasn’t one of Duke Johnson’s better games this year (18-89), but as most of you know, he set UM’s career rushing record.

Phillip Dorsett again made a mark: 5 catches for 103, including a 51-yard touchdown.

Stacy Coley, who had an immensely disappointing sophomore season, made a few nifty catches (4 for 42).

### Golden’s take afterward: “We're responsible for the record. I'm responsible for the record. We are what our record is. Period. I'm disappointed....

"We played hard. We didn't play well enough tonight. I don't want to get into excuses or rationalizations. We didn’t make enough plays, not enough red zone stops on defense. We gave them a short field on the kicking game. [Some of the penalties] were just selfish. Disappointing.”

Regarding Pittsburgh’s running game: “We let them stay ahead of schedule. You can’t do that. We didn’t get enough negatives against a really good running game. They were able to play the game on their terms because of it. We needed to get [Duke] a couple more touches. He started to be more productive in the second half. Just coming from behind, we were against the clock and had to get away from the running game….

“Despite the loss to Florida State, I thought we played well [that night]. I think we played hard tonight. We just didn’t do enough.”

### Kaaya's reaction: "I hate losing. I hate it. I want to be great.... Things are going to start changing next season."

### Duke Johnson: "We have a lot of talent on this team and we just aren't showing it."

### Clive Walford left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury “but I think he is going to be OK,” Golden said.

### James had said New York or El Paso were UM’s likely bowl destinations with a win tonight. Instead, UM could end up in one of several cities, including Shreveport, St. Pete, Charlotte, Nashville, Washington D.C., Annapolis or Detroit. James said a matchup against UF in a bowl game would be appealing, and several bowls with ACC tie-ins (Shreveport, Charlotte, Nashville, Jacksonville) are authorized to have an ACC-SEC matchup.

At 3-5 in the ACC, UM likely would be well down the pecking order for bowls with ACC tie-ins.

Saturday 5 p.m. Dolphins update; Marlins address trade; Media notes

Some quick hits on a Saturday afternoon:

### The Dolphins likely will enter the Jets game without starting tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) and starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), with both listed as doubtful. Left tackle Ja’Wuan James, who sustained a neck injury in the Denver game, is listed as questionable but expects to play.

As Armando notes on his Dolphins blog, the Dolphins have experimented in practice with Wilson playing opposite Brent Grimes in two-cornerback alignments, with Wilson moving to nickel when the team uses three cornerbacks. RJ Stanford or Walt Aikens then could play boundary corner when Wilson moves inside.

Aikens, who played cornerback at Liberty, has worked at corner this week in anticipation of being needed there Monday. But getting practice work at safety for much of the season “helped me out. I got to see the big picture.”

At corner, Aikens, 6-1, says he “has good speed for my size. And I’m physical.”

### Nate Garner (illness) is doubtful for the Dolphins, and Mike Wallace, Lamar Miller, Daryn Colledge, Samson Satele and Rishard Matthews are probable.  Tight end Jace Amaro and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (toe) are out for the Jets.

### Lamar Miller’s 4.9 per carry average ranks sixth among all running backs and his 673 yards rank 11th.

So why is Miller carrying just 12.4 times per game?

Most would conclude it's done to keep Miller relatively healthy because he has been dealing with a shoulder issue for several weeks and a minor knee issue last week. But Joe Philbin doesn't cite that as an explanation.

“We like the different running backs we have,” Philbin said. “We like the kind of different skill sets. We feature certain guys different ways. That’s kind of how the snaps have worked themselves out. Really, I think the Detroit game, [when] he got four carries... skewed things a little bit, but we want to get different guys involved and get their hands on the football as well. But we certainly like the contribution he’s made.”

### Couple of notable comments Ryan Tannehill made to Jets media this week: He said receiver Jarvis Landry has "some of the best hands I’ve ever seen, if not the best. He’s constantly making plays for us. Once I saw him on the practice field, some of the catches he made in the first couple of days, I knew he was a special player. He’s one of the most fun guys to play with because every time he touches the ball he can do something with it.”

Tannehill said of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor: "Right now we’re on the same page. We think about the game the same way and I really like the way he’s been calling the games."

### On alarming sign about new Marlins reliever Aaron Crow is that his velocity dropped about 2.5 miles per hour last season, to 92.0.

But Marlins executive Michael Hill said: “Our reports have been solid. He’s an effective major league pitcher. If he was the dominating pitcher he was the previous years, we probably would not have had the ability to [acquire] him. Given the depth of Kansas City’s bullpen and the emergence of those three guys at the back end, that made him available.

"It’s good for us we could acquire a proven bullpen arm that adds versatility. That’s what we like so much in our pitching. We’ll explore the starting option, but we know he’ll be a reliable bullpen piece. Our people felt comfortable there was definitely enough fastball and good, late movement, and an arm that would fit nicely in our park and in our club.”

### Hill wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Crow moving into the rotation if needed: “We know he has started. It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility. We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”

### With the MLB GM meetings in San Diego more than a week away and the Marlins actively looking for a first baseman, starting pitching and help elsewhere, Hill said there is “nothing imminent. A lot of conversations. I anticipate things will pick up as we head to San Diego for the meetings. We’re looking for ways to improve our ball club. We came up short last year, but we like the overall core we have in place and are just trying to look for ways to upgrade and get us over the hump.”

BROADCAST TIDBITS

### Why is CBS carrying Mississippi-MississippiState on Saturday instead of Auburn-Alabama? CBS had to make a choice between the two a few weeks ago, and with MississippiState unbeaten at the time, it gambled on that Rebels-Bulldogs game being the better one. So ESPN gets Alabama-Auburn.

### ESPN threw a bone to Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer, who were assigned to Alabama-Auburn after being relegated to the SEC Network all season. Lead team Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit instead will work Florida-FSU… Joe Tessitore and Brock Huard call their fifth UM game of the season Saturday, against Pittsburgh on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

### Fox wisely switched WSVN-7's 1 p.m. game Sunday from Giants-Jaguars to Saints-Steelers.

### Craig Sager, who has been battling leukemia for much of the year, hopes to return to TNT soon, according to NBA.com.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Saturday report: Dolphins (Miller, cornerbacks, Tannehill), Marlins quick hits (Hill's thoughts); Broadcast notes

Some quick hits on a Saturday afternoon:

The Dolphins likely will enter the Jets game without starting tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) and starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), with both listed as doubtful. Left tackle Ja’Wuan James, who sustained a neck injury in the Denver game, is listed as questionable but expects to play.

As Armando notes on his Dolphins blog, the Dolphins have experimented in practice with Wilson playing opposite Brent Grimes in two-cornerback alignments, with Wilson moving to nickel when the team uses three cornerbacks. RJ Stanford or Walt Aikens then could play boundary corner when Wilson moves inside.

Aikens, who played cornerback at Liberty, has worked at corner this week in anticipation of being needed there Monday. But getting practice work at safety for much of the season “helped me out. I got to see the big picture.”

At corner, Aikens, 6-1, says he “has good speed for my size. And I’m physical.”

### Nate Garner (illness) is doubtful for the Dolphins, and Mike Wallace, Lamar Miller, Daryn Colledge, Samson Satele and Rishard Matthews are probable.  Tight end Jace Amaro and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (toe) are out for the Jets.

### Lamar Miller’s 4.9 per carry average ranks sixth among all running backs and his 673 yards rank 11th.

So why is Miller carrying just 12.4 times per game?

Most would conclude it's done to keep Miller relatively healthy because he has been dealing with a shoulder issue for several weeks and a minor knee issue last week. But Joe Philbin doesn't cite that as an explanation.

“We like the different running backs we have,” Philbin said. “We like the kind of different skill sets. We feature certain guys different ways. That’s kind of how the snaps have worked themselves out. Really, I think the Detroit game, [when] he got four carries... skewed things a little bit, but we want to get different guys involved and get their hands on the football as well. But we certainly like the contribution he’s made.”

### Couple of notable comments Ryan Tannehill made to Jets media this week: He said receiver Jarvis Landry has "some of the best hands I’ve ever seen, if not the best. He’s constantly making plays for us. Once I saw him on the practice field, some of the catches he made in the first couple of days, I knew he was a special player. He’s one of the most fun guys to play with because every time he touches the ball he can do something with it.”

Tannehill said of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor: "Right now we’re on the same page. We think about the game the same way and I really like the way he’s been calling the games."

### On alarming sign about new Marlins reliever Aaron Crow is that his velocity dropped about 2.5 miles per hour last season, to 92.0.

But Marlins executive Michael Hill said: “Our reports have been solid. He’s an effective major league pitcher. If he was the dominating pitcher he was the previous years, we probably would not have had the ability to [acquire] him. Given the depth of Kansas City’s bullpen and the emergence of those three guys at the back end, that made him available.

"It’s good for us we could acquire a proven bullpen arm that adds versatility. That’s what we like so much in our pitching. We’ll explore the starting option, but we know he’ll be a reliable bullpen piece. Our people felt comfortable there was definitely enough fastball and good, late movement, and an arm that would fit nicely in our park and in our club.”

### Hill wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Crow moving into the rotation if needed: “We know he has started. It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility. We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”

### With the MLB GM meetings in San Diego more than a week away and the Marlins actively looking for a first baseman, starting pitching and help elsewhere, Hill said there is “nothing imminent. A lot of conversations. I anticipate things will pick up as we head to San Diego for the meetings. We’re looking for ways to improve our ball club. We came up short last year, but we like the overall core we have in place and are just trying to look for ways to upgrade and get us over the hump.”

BROADCAST TIDBITS

### Why is CBS carrying Mississippi-Mississippi State on Saturday instead of Auburn-Alabama? CBS had to make a choice between the two a few weeks ago, and with Mississippi State unbeaten at the time, it gambled on that Rebels-Bulldogs game being the better one. So ESPN gets Alabama-Auburn.

### ESPN threw a bone to Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer, who were assigned to Alabama-Auburn after being relegated to the SEC Network all season. Lead team Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit instead will work Florida-FSU… Joe Tessitore and Brock Huard call their fifth UM game of the season Saturday, against Pittsburgh on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

### Fox wisely switched WSVN-7's 1 p.m. game Sunday from Giants-Jaguars to Saints-Steelers.

### Craig Sager, who has been battling leukemia for much of the year, hopes to return to TNT soon, according to NBA.com.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

11/27/2014

5 p.m. Friday: Dolphins roster move; Marlins trade; Napier, Ennis drawing praise; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins notes

Quick Friday update (please scroll down for Dolphins' roster move today):

### The Marlins bolstered their staff today by acquiring right-handed reliever Aaron Crow from Kansas City for pitchers Brian Flynn and Reid Redman.

Crow was 6-1 with a 4.12 ERA and three saves for the Royals last season, holding all batters to a .240 average and right-handers to a .215 average. But lefties hit .271 off him and he struggled after the All-Star break, going 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA.

Crow is 20-11 with a 3.43 ERA and six saves in 254 career appearances over four seasons. His 20 wins are tied for the second-most among American League relievers since 2011.

Marlins executive Michael Hill didn't rule out the possibility of trying him as a starter, but said that's to be determined.

The Royals drafted him 12th overall in 2009. Crow made $1.5 million last season and is arbitration-eligible for the second time.

Flynn, a left-hander, was 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA in six career appearances for the Marlins. Redman, a decent prospect, was 7-3 with a 2.00 ERA in two seasons, mostly in the low-level minors.

### Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan couldn't practice today, and it's increasingly unlikely he will play Monday. That means RJ Stanford or Walt Aikens will start at cornerback opposite Brent Grimes.

### The Dolphins claimed former Dolphins defensive back Don Jones off waivers from the Patriots and released cornerback Lowell Rose. Jones is an excellent gunner on special teams --- which has been an issue for the Dolphins --- and can play cornerback or safety.

He played in nine games for the Patriots this season (all on special teams) after appearing in 16 for the Dolphins as a rookie seventh-round pick last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones has never played a defensive snap in a regular season game.

### Offensive linemen Nate Garner, who is dealing with an illness, also wasn't at practice today. And tight end Charles Clay didn't practice, leaving his status for Monday very much in doubt.

### Former Dolphins QB Tyler Thipgen was arrested and charged with DUI after being found asleep in a Wendy's drive-through in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Please scroll down for more Dolphins and Marlins chatter.

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

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Golden State’s Steph Curry, the NBA’s highest-scoring point guard, has already seen enough of Shabazz Napier to predict greatness. Kevin Garnett was so impressed with James Ennis that he turned to him at the free-throw line recently with a simple message: “You have huge upside” and keep working.

Let’s be clear: Neither rookie is remotely close to a finished product, and youthful mistakes are to be expected. Whether Napier can become an above-average point guard, or Ennis a reliable rotation player, must still play out.

But the rookies have given the Heat a fresh new element in the post-LeBron era: an infusion of youth, prospects that can be nurtured and developed. “We haven’t had that a lot since I’ve been here,” Dwyane Wade said.

Plus/minus statistics shouldn’t be overstated, but it’s interesting that the Heat has played better with Napier and Ennis on the floor than with virtually anybody else. Miami has outscored teams by 24 with Napier playing, best on the team. (Starter Norris Cole, conversely, is a minus-40). Ennis and Josh McRoberts are tied for second at plus 22.

With Napier, NBA people believe that isn’t a coincidence.

“He’s definitely a starting point guard longterm,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said this week. “He’s not just a backup. This is a temporary role I think.”

Why? “Because he shoots with range,” Kerr said, “and he’s a great leader. He’s a winner and he’s an excellent pick and roll player, and those are all things you need in the NBA. He’s a handful.”

Count Curry among those impressed by Napier. “He’s special,” Curry said. “He’s competitive. He’s all about winning. He’s aggressive, attacking and this system fits his talent. He’s going to be a great player in this league.”

Point guard, Napier said, “is the most scrutinized position, like quarterback. You have to have a high IQ.” 

Napier spends some of his free time studying tape of other point guards --- Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Chris Paul --- an exercise he started doing at Connecticut.

“That’s what got me here so I’m going to continue to do it,” he said. “One of the biggest things I took from Tony Parker is his creativity, when to be aggressive, when not to be.”

He isn’t happy with his 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (35 of each), and that must improve. But after shooting poorly in summer league, Napier is now at 46.8 percent from the field, seventh among all point guards. He’s shooting 50 percent in the fourth quarter, as Erik Spoelstra continues to entrust him with late-game minutes.

Ennis’ playing time could diminish when Wade returns (potentially Sunday), but Tuesday's 21 minutes against Golden State demonstrated his ability to fill the box score: eight points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks in 21 minutes.

There isn’t a day that Ennis, who’s a fan favorite because of his athleticism and dynamic dunks, isn’t approached by a fan who showers him with plaudits.

“You’re awesome” is a common greeting, he said. But it was a bit awkward when the guy standing next to him at the urinal recently told him “how happy the [fans] are to have me here.”

He says the Heat’s system has been “pretty difficult to grasp” and he still sometimes makes defensive mistakes that make coaches cringe. “He’s going to get involved in a play whether it’s right or wrong,” Spoelstra said. “As he gets more familiar with NBA situations, he’ll get it eventually.”

Ennis believes “once I learn how to use my length more and stay low all the time, I’ll be a really good defender.”

Offensively, Ennis’ shooting improved during his stint in Australia last season but he needs to become  more consistent from three-point range (4 for 13, 30.8 percent).

“Once I knock down threes, it will open what I’m good at, which is driving,” he said. “Going overseas really helped me develop.”

Wade has nicknamed Ennis Jagged Edge. Ennis likes the fans’ nickname for him, James The Truth, because “I didn’t want to call myself Ennis The Menace.”

CHATTER

### Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey never showed much interest in Dimitri Patterson. But with the Dolphins depleted at cornerback, Hickey was remiss in not at least offering a workout to the veteran free agent, who played well for Miami last year when healthy (four interceptions in six games).

Meanwhile, Bill Parcells reminded WQAM’s Joe Rose,  on-air, that the Dolphins “let two corners get out of there – [including] one of the top five in the league,” referring to two players that his regime drafted --- Indianapolis’ Vontae Davis (now rated second among all corners by Pro Football Focus) and Kansas City’s Sean Smith (eighth).

### Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan remains unsure if he will be able to play Monday. He was limited in practice again on Thursday. Jamar Taylor was ruled out for Monday's game.

### Fans aren’t the only ones who believe UM underachieved. Players do, too.

“We did,” Duke Johnson said. “It wasn’t the talent [that was the problem]. We didn’t come out and play to the talent level.”

Said center Shane McDermott: “We have tons of talent and our record doesn’t show it. We're way better than 6-5 talent wise.”

### Not only is UM losing several of its top players, but next year’s schedule poses challenges, with Clemson and Nebraska both visiting Sun Life Stadium, and Duke and FSU on the road.

Other home games in 2015: Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech and likely Bethune Cookman.

Other road games: Cincinnati, FAU, North Carolina and Pittsburgh.

### UM ruled Deon Bush and Herb Waters out for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.

### Not only have the Marlins inquired about potential trades for Evan Gattis and Chris Davis in an effort to upgrade at first base --- as we reported Tuesday ---- but my colleague Clark Spencer hears they also have explored a deal for Boston's Allen Craig, who who hit .215 with eight homers and 46 RBI for the Red Sox and St. Louis in 2014, but .315 with 13 homers and 97 RBI for the Cardinals in 2013.

Oakland's Brandon Moss, whose name was raised by MLB.com, also hasn't been ruled out as a potential trade target but isn't the Marlins' first choice.

One thing is clear: The Marlins want to go into next season with a first baseman better than Garrett Jones.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

11/26/2014

1 p.m. Thursday: Dolphins injury update; Rex Ryan opines on Dolphins; Golden's view; Wade; Granger

### Quick Thursday Dolphins update, updated at 1 p.m.: Cortland Finnegan was practicing this morning in the portion open to the media, but his status for Monday remains in question. Finnegan was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday and said he isn't sure whether his injured ankle will be healed enough to allow him to play Monday. He's still not 100 percent but told me Wednesday that the ankle is feeling a lot better....

Also from the injury report: Charles Clay, JaWuan James, Mike Wallace and Daryn Colledge also were limited Thursday. Wallace has a chest injury but plans to play Monday. James suffered a stinger in his neck on Sunday but said he could have gone back in the game.

Jamar Taylor said he wants to get back quickly, but the Dolphins didn't allow him to practice Wednesday or Thursday because of his separated shoulder. He's going through rehab and hopes to return within two weeks but won't play Monday. Jonathan Freeny also remains out with a hamstring injury.

### Beating the 2-9 Jets twice over the next five weeks shouldn’t be too much to ask of the Dolphins, considering New York has been outscored, 303-177, ranks last in the league in passing, has the NFL’s fewest takeaways (seven), has allowed more points than any team except Jacksonville while scoring fewer than any team except the Raiders and Jaguars.

But you can never assume anything in Dolphins-Jets games.

Not only did the Jets cost the Dolphins a playoff spot last year, but the Dolphins have swept the Jets only twice in the past 16 years --- in 2003 and 2009.

“It’s going to be a dog fight every time you play them,” Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick said of Monday night's game at Met Life Stadium.

Said Jets coach Rex Ryan: “Don’t expect to see this team being a typical two-win team. Our team has a lot of pride. ... They are a team we’re excited to play against. Dolphins-Jets has obviously been a strong rivalry for years.”

### Ryan's future in New York is being doomed partly because he doesn't have a quarterback. He admires Ryan Tannehill from a distance.

“The big thing that jumps out at you is Tannehill is running the ball more with the zone read,” Ryan said. “He’s got a pretty good command of that system and it really fits him. He’s always had the talent. He’s got the arm talent. He’s leading the AFC in rushing from the quarterback position. He’s having a heck of a year.”

### I asked Ryan what most impresses him about the Dolphins. He ran through a list of things.

“They’re really an outstanding team; this is heck of a defense we’re getting ready to play,” he said.  “You’ve got the usual suspects. Cameron Wake, the [Olivier] Vernon kid. Brent Grimes has been special for them. The addition of [Louis] Delmas and the [Reshad] Jones kid at safety are playing really well.

“I’ve always been a big fan of [Mike] Pouncey – him and his brother both. It looks kind of funny with him not over the ball, [because] he's playing guard, but he’s doing a great job. And Lamar Miller is averaging [4.9] yards a carry. He’s really been impressive. I love the way [Jarvis] Landry plays –-- a rookie but plays like a vet; he’s physical. Seems like [Brian] Hartline has been there since the Don Shula days. All he does is make plays. And you’ve got the speed burner Mike Wallace outside. It’s a group I’ve really been impressed with, the team top to bottom.”

### After watching Michael Vick produce a 27.5 quarterback rating in a 38-3 drubbing by the Bills on Monday, the Jets are going back to Geno Smith, who has the league’s lowest passer rating among qualifiers (67.4) with seven touchdowns and 10 picks.

“We want to get Geno another opportunity to show what he can do,” Ryan said.

### WQAM’s Joe Rose asked Al Golden who’s responsibility it is when players don’t come out fired up for a game (which seemed to be a problem against Virginia).

“It's my job,” he said. “It's my responsibility. I didn't do a good enough job last week following the Florida State game getting us focused on what we need to do. It's not even a debate.”

But then Golden disputed the notion that UM wasn’t ready to play.

### Rose asked if a loss like Saturday’s hurts recruiting.

“No,” Golden said. “A lot of guys want to come to the University of Miami and help us. Teams at the top, there's not a lot of opportunities to be impact players. Guys know they can help us and help us get it turned” around.

### Dwyane Wade, who has missed seven games in a row with a hamstring injury, said he hopes to play in the Heat’s next game, Sunday night at the Knicks.

### Danny Granger, back from a hamstring injury, has played just two games and 27 minutes for the Heat, and Erik Spoelstra confirmed today that his lack of playing time recently is a coaching decision.

“He’s on my mind,” Spoelstra said. “It’s still very early.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Happy Thanksgiving!  

11/25/2014

UM wants Golden to return; UM bowl update; Marlins trade talks; Dolphins, Heat chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Regardless of how this season ends, the University of Miami indicated this week that it wants Al Golden to remain the Hurricanes’ football coach, which isn’t a surprise but should end any speculation about the matter. Asked this week whether Golden will return as coach next season, UM athletic director Blake James made clear he will.

“Al is our coach and will continue to be our coach,” James said.

With Golden under contract through Feb. 1, 2020, the only way he does not return next season is if he decides to leave for another job, which would be surprising.

Meanwhile, James said in October that excluding cases of rules violations, he likes his coaches to have the authority to choose their assistants and Golden is "the one that needs to have the power to make all those [staffing] decisions, the specifics of it.”

James said Monday he was “disappointed” but not “discouraged” by Saturday’s loss at Virginia and likes the “progress made in the last month” before that game.

“It’s a building process; it’s not a flipping of the switch,” James said. “Anybody watching would be disappointed with the results on Saturday night. With that said, I’m committed to getting our program back to the top. Al is committed to getting the program back to the top.

“Sometimes you take a few steps forward and might take a step back. That’s the reality of life. We’re experiencing that, but I’m confident we’re going in the right direction.”

In fact, James said is “very encouraged” about the program: “We have a very bright future ahead of us. You see a quarterback like Brad Kaaya. How can you not be excited about the future of Hurricane football? [And defensively], there are tremendous improvements that unfortunately has gone a little unnoticed. Credit to everyone on that side of the ball with Al and [coordinator] Mark [D’Onofrio].”

Yes, James is aware that some fans are angry and want change.

“If people weren’t upset about a loss, you probably have a bigger concern because that means they have grown to accept it,” he said. “Nobody here accepts losses and I wouldn’t expect anything less of our fans.

“Do I get emails after losses? I do. I get emails from people that are very supportive, people pushing us to continue down the road of building this back to where it needs to be and others very passionate and upset and need to voice their frustration, and I understand that. It’s great to have such a passionate fan base. We want to continue to grow that. I hope everyone understands it’s a process.”

James said no donors have said they will stop donating because of unhappiness with the football program. “We’ve seen significant growth [with donations] even though we haven’t had the type of success we’ve had historically [on the field],” he said.

CHATTER

### James said if UM beats Pittsburgh to finish 7-5, bowl games in the Bronx, N.Y. (the Pinstripe Bowl) or El Paso, Tx. (the Sun Bowl) would be “more likely" for the Hurricanes than bowls in "Nashville or Charlotte. If we are able to win on Saturday, I would say New York wouldn’t be surprising. We would be a great fit for them and they feel we would be a great fit. So much depends on Saturday.”

James said playing the Gators --- something that could happen in either the Music City Bowl in Nashville or the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana -- “is a possibility” and would be “great” as well.

### When comparing the UM and FSU programs, here is one tiny, frustrating snapshot from a Canes perspective: FSU’s five-star defensive back (sophomore Jalen Ramsey, the No. 3 corner in the 2013 class) created havoc against UM and has two picks, three sacks, a blocked extra point and has become a difference-maker recently.

Conversely, UM’s five-star defensive back (junior Tracy Howard, No. 1 corner in 2012) hasn’t started a game all season after starting 12 last year – “I would have never thought” that would happen, he said Tuesday --- and estimated he played just a dozen snaps against Virginia. He said he won’t leave school early or transfer.

Howard said he doesn’t know why he’s not playing more, but we’re told UM loves the skill sets of Artie Burns and Corn Elder and believe they have earned more time. And Howard’s average speed has been an issue at times.

### With the Jets looming this week, keep in mind that the road team has won four in a row and six of the last eight in the series. We hear that’s one reason why it was somewhat palatable for the Dolphins to move their Jets home game to London on Oct. 4 next season.

By the way, even in moving the game to London, the Dolphins have received no assurances they will host a Super Bowl (2019 or 2020 are the next ones available). But the Dolphins want Sun Life Stadium to be empty for at least a couple of weeks in a row next fall to continue with renovations, and UM is aware of that.

### Ryan Tannehill has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in four consecutive games --- something no other Dolphins quarterback has ever done. Of course, Dan Marino attempted a lot more vertical throws than Tannehill does.

### Determined to upgrade over Garrett Jones at first base, the Marlins have begun exploring trades. Colleague Clark Spencer and I confirmed that the Marlins are interested in Atlanta’s Evan Gattis and Clark was told they also have inquired about Baltimore’s Chris Davis. Both Gattis and Davis are 28.

Gattis --– who is primarily an outfielder and catcher but has played a bit at first --- hit .263 with 22 homers and 52 RBI last season and isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018.

Davis, arbitration-eligible, hit just .196 with 26 homers and 72 RBI last season but was third in AL MVP voting in 2013 (.286, 53 homers, 138 RBI). The Marlins would need to offer quality pitching in return for either, potentially including top prospect Andrew Heaney.

There's not much left of great quality in the free-agent first base market. The Marlins have lukewarm interest in Giants free agent first baseman Mike Morse (.279, 16, 61).

### Golden State coach and former TNT analyst Steve Kerr, assessing the state of the Heat before Tuesday’s game:

“They still have great talent. What I expected is there would be a burden off their back. It’s not easy being the king of the hill and everyone trying to knock you off year after year and being in the media spotlight every day. The media throng followed [LeBron James] to Cleveland. They’re here in South Beach, great place to live, not too much pressure now and it shows in their play. They’re free and loose. What they still have is the continuity and confidence that comes from being a champ.

“You might say that should be gone with LeBron’s departure. I don’t think so. They still have two of the top 15 players in the game with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They picked up Luol Deng. They have Shawne Williams knocking down threes.

“[Mario] Chalmers looks more comfortable than he has the last couple of years. [Shabazz] Napier is playing so well, they’re really similar whether Napier or [Norris] Cole plays…. And they have the continuity of playing under Erik [Spoelstra] for seven years. And it shows. They execute really, really well.”

### Kerr's Warriors, led by Steph Curry's 40, then closed the game with a 19-2 run to beat the Heat, 114-97. The Heat's 11 points in the fourth were a season low, as was the Heat's 38.8 percent shooting for the game... Still, beyond the 26 points and 9 boards from Bosh, there were good moments early on from Deng (16 points) and Chalmers (14) --- though Chalmers air-balled two shots in the fourth --- and eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 22 minutes from James Ennis....

Crazy plus/minuses in this game: The Heat was outscored by 28 with Chalmers in the game and was a minus-32 with Shawne Williams on the floor, but a plus-17 with Ennis (Spoelstra said he loved his energy tonight) and a plus-15 with Josh McRoberts.

Afterward, Kerr --- whose Warriors moved to 11-2 --- called this "probably the biggest challenge we've faced all year." But Bosh said of the Heat's defense against Curry: "I don't know how you lose the best shooter in the world."

### Meanwhile, 17th-ranked UM basketball continues to maximize and develop its talent, with Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan (career-high 31 points, plus 11 rebounds), Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez (14 points, six assists) much-improved Tonye Jekiri (13 boards) and much-improved Manu Lecomte (18 points) pushing UM to 6-0 with a 77-74 win against Charlotte minutes ago, UM's second-win against Charlotte in three days.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz        

4:30 p.m. Tuesday: Dolphins sign CB, cut one; Heat health; Golden's thoughts

A few quick hits:

### Concerned about injuries in their secondary, the Dolphins signed cornerback RJ Stanford today, according to his agent David Canter. Cornerback Jalil Brown, who was signed last week, was released to make room.

Stanford played 12 games for Carolina in 2011 and 29 games for the Dolphins over 2012 and 2013. He has one career interception, with the Panthers.

He re-signed with the Bengals in March but was released in August.

Jamar Taylor (shoulder) and Cortland Finnegan (ankle) are both nursing injuries that leave their status precarious for another week or two.

Besides Brent Grimes, Stanford and the two injured players, the Dolphins also have Lowell Rose and Walt Aikens at cornerback.

### The Heat said Dwyane Wade will miss his seventh straight game with a hamstring injury tonight against Golden State and Chris Andersen is out for an unspecified period with an ankle injury.

But the Heat said Norris Cole is probable after missing two games.

### Erik Spoelstra said new Heat center Hassan Whiteside is a developmental prospect that the team wants to spend time on.

Whiteside was amusing during a session with reporters today. Asked what the team indicated it wants from him, he said: “Just bringing rim protection and rebounds and dunking on a lot of people.”

He said Pat Riley told him he likes Whiteside’s “length and athleticism.”

Whiteside has worked out for the Heat twice in the past three years. He has spent time playing in Lebanon last year but left because "it was dangerous over there."

### UM’s Herb Waters, who sustained a neck injury against Virginia, won’t play Saturday, according to Al Golden.

### Golden, on Denzel Perryman, who plays his final regular season game Saturday against Pittsburgh: “We’re not where we need to be yet, but we have some guys trying to chase that, to be elite again. Denzel Perryman has left that print. His pass defense – his man to man coverage – he’s doing better.”

### Among the concerns at UM: Tracy Howard said players can’t get used to losing.

Does Golden agree? “I don’t think anybody would ever get used to losing in this organization,” he said. “Our guys had a good attitude today. Nobody likes to lose. Nobody wants to lose. Saying that is one thing; the other is addressing the things you need to address and getting them fixed.”

### Asked if the team was ready to play against Virginia, Golden said: "I'm answering the question and clarifying and saying there’s no excuses. We scored early. How can you say we weren’t ready to play the game?"

### Golden, asked to assess how the season has gone: “The time to assess is afterward. Every game we’ve had on the road, we’ve gotten back at 4 or 5 in the morning [and immediately got to work on the next opponent]. I’m not geared to looking back at the season. We’ve got too much we have to work on right now.”

### Golden is reluctant to answer question on why things are going badly because he doesn’t want to sound like he’s making excuses. One thing he knows for sure: “We’ve turned the ball over on the road too much to win.”

### Why hasn’t UM gotten more pressure on the quarterback the past two games?

“We didn’t get sacks against Florida State, but I felt we got a lot of pressure on them," Golden said. "[Against Virginia], we didn’t get them in enough third and shorts. [He said shorts but presumably meant third and long]. We’ve got to get a better rush."

Please check back tonight for the Wednesday buzz column with lots of other stuff.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz