09/30/2014

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

A quick noon Wednesday Dolphins update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Some Tuesday night news and notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolphins sign LaMichael James; Reshad Jones said he's in midseason form; Tuesday afternoon Dolphins news; Golden addresses issues

Tuesday 6 p.m. update:

After on-and-off discussions for two weeks, the Dolphins on Tuesday signed former Oregon star running back LaMichael James to their practice squad.

James, 5-9, requested and received his release from the 49ers after the season opener because he wanted to find a team that would give him a bigger role. With the 49ers, he was third on the depth chart behind Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde.

He hopes he can parlay a practice squad job with the Dolphins into a meaningful role on a 53-man roster, here or elsewhere.

In 15 games over two-plus seasons for the 49ers, James has averaged 4.5 yards per rush on 41 carries and has five receptions for 45 yards.

He also has career averages of 28.4 yards on 26 kickoff returns and a 10.9 average on 23 punt returns. He ranked 10th in the league in punt return average last season.

James finished third in Heisman Trophy ballotting in 2010 and left Oregon ranked 14th in NCAA history in rushing yardage with 5082 yards. The 49ers drafted him 61st overall in 2012.

James gives the Dolphins six running backs under contract. The other five ---  Knowshon Moreno (expected to be out a couple more weeks with an elbow injury), Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Orleans Darkwa and Damian Williams --- are on the 53-man roster.

### Veteran linebacker Desmond Bishop, who has 27 starts in six NFL seasons (mostly for Green Bay) worked out for Miami today. Arizona released him Sept. 6.

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A Tuesday afternoon Dolphins and Hurricanes update:

Not only did the Dolphins wake up Tuesday tied for first in the AFC East, but reinforcements are on the way.

Safety Reshad Jones returned from a four-game suspension Tuesday and center Mike Pouncey has said in the past week that he expects to play in Miami’s next game on Oct. 12 against Green Bay. Linebacker Koa Misi (ankle) and right guard Shelley Smith (knee sprain) also practiced Tuesday and look close to returning. Branden Albert (shoulder) said he’s fine and will play against the Packers.

There are still questions about when Knowshon Moreno and Randy Starks will return from elbow and back issues, respectively. Neither practiced Tuesday but the Dolphins remain hopeful Moreno can return at some point this month --- if not for Green Bay, then potentially Chicago. And the running game is thriving without him.

For Jones, his return Tuesday felt “like the first day of school when you’re in junior high, being back with all my friends. [Green Bay] will be a good test to come back and make some impact plays.”

Joe Philbin said Jones returned in “good” shape and “moved around pretty well.”

That wasn’t a coincidence. Jones said he approached the past four weeks “like I was playing. I’ve been working with my trainer in Miami, studying the playbook. I’m in a game shape, lost a couple pounds. I’ve been working my butt off. I’m in midseason form.”

Watching the four Dolphins games on TV was frustrating knowing “you can’t help them. It’s tough for me watching my boys. [The four weeks] went by slowly. It hurts not being out there. I’m happy I’m back now.”

Last season, Jones didn’t play up to the expectations created by the four-year, $30 million contract that Jeff Ireland gave him after the 2012 season. But Jones quibbles with the notion that his play feel off dramatically last season. “I had 94 tackles in 2012, 107 in 2013,” he said.

But here are two big differences: He had four interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2012, just one pick and no forced fumbles last season.

And there’s there: In 2012, only 19 of 39 passes thrown with Jones in coverage were caught for 247 yards, with quarterbacks having a 38.0 passer rating in his coverage area, which ranked third among 88 safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. Last season, those numbers were poor: 37 for 45 for 474 yards and a 123.5 opposing passer rating, 13th-worst among 86 safeties.

Jones vowed: “I’m going to be running around there with my hair on fire. That’s what I do. I’m a ball-hawking safety who makes plays. That’s what they’re looking for me to do and that’s what I’m going to do.”

He figures to resume starting Oct. 12, but Philbin typically was non-committal about that and Jones said: “It’s not about me. I’m happy to be back whatever role I have.”

As for Pouncey, he “looked good today,” Philbin said. “He’s moving around well.”

Samson Satele has filled in admirably and Philbin did not rule out giving him work at guard, a position he has never played in an NFL game. But Satele said the Dolphins haven’t broached the issue. “I’m willing to do whatever coach wants,” Satele said.

Satele (leg injury) was on a bike on the sideline during practice but said he will be able to play Oct. 12.

### The Dolphins signed undrafted Utah rookie tight end Jake Murphy to the practice squad and cut defensive back Rod Sweeting. Murphy, who spent training camp with the Raiders, is the son of former Braves star Dale Murphy and the brother of former Dolphins draft pick Shawn Murphy.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have re-engaged former Oregon star running back LaMichael James about potentially joining their practice squad. The sides discussed it two weeks ago and conversations are ongoing this afternoon, according to sources.

Miami also signed undrafted Georgia Tech rookie defensive end Emmanuel Dieke to the practice squad. He spent training camp with the Giants.

GOLDEN'S THOUGHT 

Some snippets from Al Golden’s news conference today:

## He said UM is moving on this week without injured right tackles Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott.

### Is he surprised how good Brad Kaaya has been? “I'm surprised from the standpoint of May, June and July. But after watching him in August, no we're not surprised. Pleased with his progress, the fact he protected the football last week - it's going to be critical this game. He accepted a lot of coaching last week, he really did. He did what he had to do for us to win. We left a couple of plays out there. Hopefully he'll continue to make progress, stay humble, stay hungry, stay focused.”

### Golden has told James Coley to make sure “the ball doesn’t stick,” that a lot of people are involved: “It's important. It's something I've always talked about, distribution of the football. It makes it hard for [defenses] to defend. It's not just an explosive route or underneath. There's a lot of different guys touching the ball in a lot of different areas of the field. So he's going through his progressions and we're protecting him better. That's going to be a challenge this week against zone pressure and these two inside guys. We have to let him go through his progression, continue to distribute the football. But a lot of guys are touching the ball, which is great”.

### On Trayone Gray: “He's continuing to make progress with special teams. His conditioning is starting to improve. He's starting to get into a little bit of a groove. We have to keep pushing him along.”

### On why UM’s newcomers are making an impact: “I think our recruiting was good last year. Chad Thomas, Anthony Moten, Darrion Owens, Courtel Jenkins, Calvin Heurtelou, KC, Trevor Darling, Nick Linder, Chris Herndon, all of those guys are playing for us, Joe Yearby, Trayone Gray, Braxton Berrios, Brad. We're playing a lot of guys. We talked about it [with reporters] that if a lot of freshmen are playing it's because they're good. Those guys are going to make us better. But each instance is different. Those guys are competitors, want to play, make a difference.”

### Golden said Tyriq McCord’s performance against Duke “was his best game I thought last week. I really did. A very mature game. And it's not easy to play defensive end against these teams. These read option teams, the quarterback pulls it and he's going for 20. You have to be disciplined, pin the hips, stay square. Then there are certain downs he has to go rush the quarterback. I thought he prepared better last week than he ever has. I think his strength is up. His conditioning is the best it's been in his career.”

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[11:15 p.m. Tuesday: I have a new Tuesday night post up with more Dolphins and UM news, plus Marlins and Heat. Please click on that in the upper left corner of this blog].... And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for immediate links on new posts. 

09/29/2014

Monday 3 p.m. Dolphins report: Philbin, Lazor, Coyle address issues; Lots of notes

### Inconsistent week-to-week performances by Joe Philbin’s teams have been one of the hallmarks of his 36-game tenure as Dolphins coach (17-19 record), and nobody is more irked by that or cognizant of that than Philbin.

There have been a number of impressive wins in the two-plus seasons (at Indianapolis, twice against Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, New England twice, Seattle, among others) but also a fair share of embarrassing, puzzling losses.

This season has mirrored Philbin’s first two seasons: two resounding wins and two lopsided losses, one to a team (Buffalo) that hasn’t made the playoffs this century (the only NFL team that can say that) and another to a Kansas City team that entered 0-2 and without several top starters.

This team’s future, and probably Philbin’s, rest largely on whether the Dolphins --- and to a large extent, their quarterback - can snap out of that exasperating penchant of mixing dynamic games with dreadful ones.

“I am looking for consistency out of this team,” Philbin said Monday, a day after the Dolphins dismantled Oakland, 38-14, in London to move to 2-2 heading into the bye week. “I see things on tape I really like. We have to consistently put it together for 60 minutes. I told the team there is still a lot of untapped potential there, a lot of room for improvement.

“The one thing we talked to the team about is how do we capture momentum and how do you sustain it. There were periods of time we had momentum in the second half of those [two losses this month]. After the opening kickoff yesterday we grabbed some momentum. That’s one of the things we’ll pose to the ball club. Now we have to play at a consistently high level. It’s time. I told them before the game we‘ve been at this since July 24. We haven’t changed a lot. Let’s go out and play football."

### Safety Reshad Jones, suspended the first four games because of a violation of the league’s drug policy, is eligible to practice beginning Tuesday but the Dolphins do not need to reinstate him to the 53-man roster until next week, according to the team.

Philbin was guarded in discussing Jones. Can he be a contributor for the Green Bay game? "We’ll see," Philbin said, offering little else. 

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle sounded far more excited about having him back.

He said “we have to see where he is from a conditioning standpoint,” but wants to reincorporate him into the defense “as quickly as we can. He’s an outstanding player. We want to get him up to speed as fast as possible. He can be a difference maker for us.”

### Coyle also anticipates the return of linebacker Koa Misi from an ankle sprain. “Our depth is going to be better than it has been,” he said. “I’m excited because having a healthy Koa Misi makes our team better.”

### Jones’ return would suggest that he and Louis Delmas would start at safety, with Jimmy Wilson moving from safety back to nickel cornerback. But Coyle said there still should still be opportunities for Will Davis or Jamar Taylor against teams that play a lot of four-receiver sets, such as Green Bay, Miami’s next opponent on Oct. 12.

Taylor played more than Davis on Sunday (33 snaps to 23), and Coyle said the plan going into the game was to split their snaps.

### Philbin, on Tannehill and the offense Sunday: “He threw the ball well in practice last week. It was clicking. He made a heck of a throw on the opening drive of the second half. I like what [the offense] did. The production was good. The balance was good. There weren’t a lot of third and longs. That’s always helpful. [Oakland] came in 12th in the league in defense. We were able to keep them at bay. We got sloppy in the second half.”

### Here’s what offensive coordinator Bill Lazor liked about Tannehill Sunday, when he posted a 109 passer rating: “I felt like mentally, he was really on top of what was happening. He understood his mistakes. He will have a chance to learn from each of them.

“It shows the experience of the first three games and preseason is adding up for him. The way he acted and reacted on the sideline tells me he’s going to continue to learn. He was very accurate in the pocket on the route throw up the seam to Brian Hartline. He was accurate on a number of the quick catch-and-throw screens he threw to the outside, which seemed like a little thing, but aren’t always that easy."

Lazor, by the way, said whether Tannehill runs (he ran five times for 35 yards Sunday) would be based in large part on what the defense is showing.

“A lot of times that people think he has the option [of running], he doesn’t,” Lazor said, adding the opposite is also true.

### Philbin said he will use the two practices during the bye week (Tuesday and Wednesday) on areas that need work (“our third down offense isn’t great”), areas they haven’t gotten enough work on during games, plus some preparation for Green Bay.

### Philbin and Lazor were effusive in their praise of Mike Wallace.

“I go back to the OTAs when the whistle blew and practice was over and he was at the jugs machine catching 150 passes,” Philbin said. “His attitude has been better; his work ethic has been better. Good things happen when you’re busting your tail.”

Said Lazor: “When Mike comes to me on the sideline and tells me he can get open, right now I think Mike is putting his money where his mouth is. I’ve seen him break tackles on the field. I’ve seen him try to run through people and certainly it was fun to watch him kind of barrel his way into the end zone yesterday. He blocked very well on some of the screens to the other guys. I think you see Mike be a very productive blocker. I’m excited about the leadership by example that Mike is showing.”

### Lazor took the Wallace praise a step further, adding that “one of the things that stood out to me [Sunday] was the way our receivers played. You saw guys excited to have the ball in their hands. Working as hard as I have seen them work.

“They were physical blocking for each other on the perimeter. They started to develop an attitude of how they wanted to play with the ball in their hand." 

### Philbin was non-committal about whether he would stick with Jarvis Landry as his punt-returner or promote Marcus Thigpen from the practice squad. Landry has fumbled two punts, including one on Sunday, and his 5.7 punt return average ranks 20th in the league.

“We like what he’s done,” Philbin said of Landry. “He has made plays. He’s a playmaker.”

### Philbin, on Daniel Thomas, who ran for 35 yards on five carries: “I like what he did. He had a little bit of patience and you saw some acceleration through the hole.”

### Coyle’s defense enters the bye ranked seventh overall in the league --- 14th against the run and sixth against the pass.

“If we can pull it all together collectively, we can be a very good defense,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve played in any of the games, quite frankly, a full 60 minute game from start to finish. There were periods very good and then some lapses. The encouraging thing is we are taking the ball away” --- including Miami’s first three interceptions of the season on Sunday.

Also, “we have as many fumbles recovered as any team of the league [five], which has been an Achilles’ heel for us over the last couple of seasons. We are generating good pressure on the quarterback. Our rush defense was better yesterday. There are a lot of encouraging things. There is a lot of room to be optimistic.”

### Rookie defensive end Terrence Fede played 25 snaps Sunday and was a “little bit rusty [but] did a good job,” Coyle said. “He’s a guy that can make a contribution.”

### Lamar Miller is averaging a robust 5.7 yards per carry, second in the league behind Baltimore’s Justin Forsett at 5.8. “He’s an improving player,” Lazor said. “There were some areas coaches in the past felt he needed to improve.”

### Tight end Dion Sims played 46 of Miami’s 70 snaps Sunday --- more than starter Charles Clay’s 46.

Lazor said that was partly because of how the game played out but also because Sims excelled in practice last week. He said if players on this team believe their snaps will increase if they practice well, “it a great motivating factor.”          

### Other notable snap counts Sunday: Landry (31) again got narrowly more snaps than Brandon Gibson (30) at receiver, with Rishard Matthews getting 28…. Among running backs: Miller had 36 snaps, Thomas 21, Damien Williams 10 and Orleans Darkwa four…. Jason Fox played 16 of 70 snaps and Nate Garner 13 of 70 in place of injured Branden Albert and Samson Satele, who both expect to be fine for the Oct. 12 Packers game….

The Dolphins compensated for Randy Starks’ absence by giving 25 snaps to Anthony Johnson and 18 to DeAndre Coleman… Jordan Tripp made his Dolphins debut by playing on special teams and logging four snaps on defense… Derrick Shelby (38 snaps) played nearly as many defensive snaps as Cameron Wake (40).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

09/28/2014

Quick hits on Dolphins' win against Oakland

A few quick notes after Miami’s much-needed 38-14 dispatching of Oakland in London:

### This marked only the fifth team in 36 career games that Ryan Tannehill reached or surpassed a 100 passer rating.

He closed at 109.3, and it would have been higher if Dion Sims hadn’t deflected a pass into the arms of an Oakland player for Tannehill’s only interception of the day. (That pass could have been thrown better.) Tannehill finished 23 for 31 for 278 yards, with two touchdowns.

Tannehill posted ratings of 79.9, 73.6 and 70.4 over the first three games.

This was his highest rating since posting a 120.6 in the win against New England last December.

His highest career rating was 123 against Jacksonville in 2012.

He had 14 completions in a row at one point, three short of the team record held by Chad Pennington and Chad Henne.

### Good to see Tannehill also taking advantage of his mobility. He ran five times for 35 yards and threw a nifty pass to Jarvis Landry on one read option play.

### Brandon Albert left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury but told reporters afterward that he’s fine. Samson Satele, who sustained a leg injury, said he also could have gone back in the game if needed.

### The Dolphins will have a decision to make about whether to stick with Landry as their punt returner or promote Marcus Thigpen from the practice squad. Landry had a fumble on a return Sunday, his second of the season.

Damian Williams handled kickoffs, finishing with 61 yards on two returns.

### Though Sims had a holding penalty and a drop, his 18-yard touchdown reception was exceptional and his blocking was very good, including a key one on the Mike Wallace 13-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

### The Dolphins scored on their first four possessions for the first time since playing Houston in 2007.

### What's more, Miami's 284 first-half yards were the most since a game against the Jets in 2000.

### Cortland Finnegan's 50 yard fumble return for a TD was the fourth longest in team history. The longest: Jason Taylor's 85-yarder vs. Denver in 2005.

### The Dolphins defense, dissected on the ground by Kansas City, allowed Oakland to rush for only 53 yards on 18 carries, equaling 2.9 per attempt.

### Walt Aikens (43 yards), Brent Grimes (32) and Jimmy Wilson (31) all had long returns on interceptions.

### Derrick Shelby had Miami’s only two sacks, but the Dolphins came close to several other sacks.... Jelani Jenkins, who came into the day leading the league in tackles with 35, had only three but played well.

### For the first time in four games, Brian Hartline was targeted the most among Miami’s receivers. Tannehill threw seven passes to him and six were completed for 74 yards. Landry, Mike Wallace, Charles Clay and Brandon Gibson were targeted four times apiece.

Hartline's 275 career receptions are ninth-most in Dolphins history.

### Lamar Miller averaged 5.3 per carry (12 for 64) and Daniel Thomas averaged 7.0 per carry on his five rushing attempts.

### Terrence Fede and Jordan Tripp made their NFL debuts.

### So Miami goes to the bye week at 2-2.

How bad would it have been at 1-3? Since 1990, only 15 percent of teams that start 1-3 make the playoffs.

Conversely, 36 percent of 2-2 teams have made the playoffs since 1990.

### The Dolphins have tentatively planned to practice Tuesday and Wednesday, then take four days off. The league requires that players get a minimum of four consecutive days off after a bye week.

09/27/2014

Tannehill fiasco not only uncomfortable Dolphins coach/player issue; Fins, UM, Heat, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Joe Philbin’s refusal to publicly name Ryan Tannehill his starting quarterback, which upset Tannehill and puzzled numerous players, wasn’t the only uncomfortable issue between the coaching staff and Dolphins players last week.

According to multiple sources, an emotional defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle let his players know, loud and clear, that he was upset that The Miami Herald reported Monday, quoting sources, that players were furious about aspects of Coyle’s strategy against Kansas City, including having Cameron Wake or Jason Trusnik cover speedy running back Joe McKnight on two passing plays that both resulted in touchdowns.

Several players thought that approach was ridiculous. But Coyle angrily told his players that he doesn’t want the media to know about any more of their complaints.

Meanwhile, some Dolphins players thought the team should have departed for London earlier than Thursday evening so that players could get acclimated to the five-hour time difference.

What’s more, receiver Brian Hartline believed it was “silly” that Philbin characterized Hartline’s excessive celebration penalty against Kansas City as a poor reflection on Philbin. But Philbin was so peeved about the penalty that he brought it up in a team meeting on Tuesday, saying that can never happen again.

Players appreciate that Philbin told the team that he would have handled the Tannehill fiasco differently if he had to do it over again. But several privately blamed Philbin for making this a “distraction,” as Tannehill phrased it.

And finally, one Dolphins player complained that coaches have told him two completely conflicting things regarding technique, leaving him unsure what to do.

Let’s be clear: There are some very good coaches on this staff. But the past seven days weren’t good for Philbin, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (who didn’t run the ball enough against Kansas City) or Coyle (who advocated the McKnight coverage debacle). And Philbin’s long-term future will look even more precarious if Miami loses Sunday.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

### Though no Dolphin would say it publicly, there is some frustration on the defensive side about the offense’s shortcomings. All the three-and-outs on offense are wearing out the defense, one defensive player said.

### Couldn’t find anybody last week who agreed with Philbin’s refusal to publicly name a starting quarterback.

CBS analyst Rich Gannon, the former NFL quarterback, said off air: “I’ve never heard a coach do that. Never. He better be careful. You start messing with the psyche of a quarterback, especially a young one, it affects his ability to lead and credibility with his teammates. I would not do that.

"The issues Ryan’s having now are the same as before - - accuracy, anticipation, moving through progressions more quickly. But it’s too soon to make a change. He’s really starting over, learning a new system.

“It’s one thing if you have this other young whippersnapper. But do you really think Matt Moore is an upgrade and if not, why make the move? You have to find out one way or the other about Tannehill.”

### Gannon, by the way, asked Philbin if he considered asking new coordinator Bill Lazor, after his hiring, to “adjust his system and verbiage and terminology so the quarterback and receivers wouldn’t have to learn a new system.” That would have made the transition easier, but Philbin said that was given no consideration.

An NFL source told us in March that Lazor agreed to take the job only after Philbin gave him total control of the offense, though Philbin has final say on lineup decisions.

### One Dolphins receiver said last week that the learning curve has been steep for the receivers in this offense because some of Lazor’s routes are “much different” than Mike Sherman’s.

“It’s been a big adjustment,” the receiver said. Gannon said Dolphins coaches told him that receivers “need to be more detailed and precise in their routes.”

### Credit Lamar Miller for studying his 2013 carries on tape this past offseason and realizing that “I was too hesitant sometimes. The biggest area I’ve improved is being more decisive.”

UM-DUKE POSTSCRIPTS

### Here are seven words seldom heard about the Hurricanes the past few years: Impressive defensive effort against a quality opponent.

Duke, which entered averaging 44 points, managed just 10 points and 264 yards overall, which amounted to 3.5 yards per play (on 76 plays). What's more, Duke was just 2 for 16 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth down. Remember, Duke had won 12 in a row dating back to last season.

A bunch of Canes players deserve plaudits for their work in this 22-10 Miami win. Denzel Perryman had a forced fumble and interception. Three freshmen -- Darrion Owens, Trent Harris and Anthony Moten -- each made dynamic plays. (Owens had more than one, in fact.) Nantambu Fentress had a tackle for loss on a Duke rushing attempt on third and two at the Miami 14 yard line early in the fourth, forcing the Blue Devils to kick a field goal.

Ladarius Gunter had a pick. Linebacker Raphael Kirby played one of his best games at UM. Thurston Armbrister and Kirby led UM with six tackles apiece. Jermaine Grace had a tackle for loss. Ufomba Kamalu had the first two pass breakups of his career. Antonio Crawford was beaten a few times in coverage but had UM's only sack.

Miami had four tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups.

"For four games we played good defense this year and for one unacceptable. Our defense was outstanding," Al Golden said on WQAM, referencing last Saturday's debacle at Nebraska. "Our guys wanted to take a stand. If we learned anything from Lincoln, we had some guys who said, 'We're not taking it anymore.'... I'm proud of that."

### Brad Kaaya opened 11 for 14, and it should have been 13 for 14 if not for drops by Stacy Coley on a deep ball and Duke Johnson on a screen. He closed 20 for 34 for 223 yards and two touchdowns --- a 28-yarder to Herb Waters and a 47-yarder to Joe Yearby.

"They hadn't been covering the running back [in pass coverage]," Kaaya said of the strategy behind the beautiful deep ball to an open Yearby.

### Besides his three catches for 59 yards, Yearby ran 9 times for 61 yards. Duke Johnson had 155 yards on 25 carries. "Everything we ask Duke to do, Joe can do [also]," Golden said. They combined for 285 all-purpose yards.... Among the few blemishes: UM was 2 for 13 on third down.... UM players gave the game ball to Golden's wife Kelly, who was hospitalized this past week from Sunday through Thursday.

### With right tackles Taylor Gadbois and KC McDermott sustaining injuries, UM moved guard Jon Feliciano to right tackle and inserted Nick Linder at left guard. Gadbois and McDermott will have MRIs.

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### Forward Udonis Haslem, who opted out of his contract to give the Heat more flexibility before LeBron James bolted for Cleveland, will end up making at least $500,000 less combined over the next two seasons ($5.6 million) that he would have if he hadn’t opted out.

“I don’t regret it,” said Haslem, who sacrificed $12 million to stay with the Heat in 2010. “I can’t miss it if I never had it. It never hit my bank account. [Taking less] has always worked out for me.”

### Haslem played in just 46 games last season and admitted Friday “it was uncomfortable for both of us [himself and Erik Spoelstra] last year.”

After playing a lot of small ball in 2013-14, “I think we will play a little different style this year, more accustomed to what I bring to the table.” Haslem stopped a no-carbohydrate diet after losing 10 pounds this summer because “I almost shriveled up and passed away.”

### Though Pat Riley identified Mario Chalmers as the Heat’s starting point guard over the summer, Norris Cole declared Friday: “I’m ready to be a starter.”

### Power forward Josh McRoberts was heartened that Bosh and Dwyane Wade immediately reached out to him after he signed here.

“People say you’re not any good because you’ve bounced around,” said McRoberts, now on his sixth team in eight seasons. “But for that many teams to want you, you must be doing something right.”

A skilled passer and three-point shooter, McRoberts is essentially “a guard in big man’s body,” Bosh said.

### With the Marlins’ season ending Sunday, we solicited views from three scouts.

On Nathan Eovaldi’s mystifying regression: “He falls in love with a pitch. He faced [Braves shortstop] Andrelton Simmons and threw six straight breaking balls. You can’t do that. And his velocity has dropped a bit.”… On Jarred Cosart: “Love what he has done since the trade, but he needs better endurance. Third time through the lineup, his stuff isn’t as good. How Houston gave him up is mind-boggling.”… On Steve Cishek: “I would pay him the $6 million or whatever he will get in arbitration. He’s reliable, has good command and good mound presence…”

All three scouts blasted catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Garbage,” one said. Said another: “Boston gave him up for a reason. He can’t catch. The ball slips by him too much.” Another said his “glove actually takes the ball out of the zone, so he’s taking away strikes from his pitchers.”….

Two said Garrett Jones' disappointing season shouldn't have surprised management. "This is what he is," one of them said, adding an upgrade at first base is essential. (The Marlins seem to agree.)... On center fielder Marcell Ozuna: “Impressed by the power this season, but still too reckless. Has to swing at strikes more. Still throws to the wrong base at times.”

Please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz).   

09/26/2014

Friday 6 p.m.: A ton of Heat media day notes: Everything notable from Wade & Bosh; Granger's surgery and more

Lots of stuff from Heat media day today:

### New Heat forward Danny Granger, limited to 46 games because of knee injuries the past two seasons, said Friday he underwent minor arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two months ago but expects to be available for the Heat’s regular-season opener Oct. 30 against Washington.

Granger said he will be on the “maintenance program” the Heat has used on Dwyane Wade, an approach that appealed to him when he was recruited by the Heat in July. He said there’s no soreness in the knee, which has been surgically-repaired twice, but it still needs to get stronger.

“It’s making sure it’s there before I go out and try to make some move and my muscle is not strong enough and something happens to my knee,” he said. “We don’t want to burn me out through training camp and the preseason.  I’m doing everything fully now. Every day I’m getting a little stronger.”

Granger, 31, averaged 24.1, 20.5, and 18.7 points for Indiana over three consecutive seasons before the knee problems limited him to five games in 2012-13 and 41 games for the Pacers and Clippers last season, when he averaged 8.2 points on 37.8 percent shooting.

“The skills are always there, just a matter of if your body is going to let you do it or not,” he said.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat has “a history of taking on players like Danny that are still young and in their prime, and helping them achieve things they want to with a lot of work and commitment. He has been very committed this summer.”

Granger said he embraces the sixth-man role that he might assume here. When he was traded to the Clippers last season, guard Jamal Crawford --- voted the NBA’s top sixth man last season --- sold Granger on the idea of coming off the bench.

“Jamal kept telling me it’s not that bad, you get a lot more touches,” Granger said.

He said he asked Spoelstra what position he will play and “Spo said, ‘We don’t have positions.’ He keeps telling me that.”

Granger said when he committed orally to the Heat (two years and $4.2 million), he thought LeBron James would be re-signing with Miami.

He spoke to several teams, including Indiana, after James signed with Cleveland, “but still came to the conclusion this would be the best place for me. Trying to come back to where I was, it gives me the opportunity to play more with him not being here, so it was a good place for me either way. [And] it’s Miami. We have a dock behind our house, can go fishing with my son.”

Granger, who changed his jersey number from 33 to 22 because Alonzo Mourning’s 33 jersey is retired, said he gained respect for the Heat as a member of the Indiana Pacers during contentious playoff battles.

Friday’s media day “was the first time I put the [Heat] jersey on and it’s kind of weird,” he said.

WADE’S TAKE

Some snippets from Dwyane Wade’s media briefing:

### Asked how his knee is: “It’s feeling all right.” And that was that.

### How many games will he play? Wade, who missed 28 games last season, said in August that he wanted to play in at least 75. He didn’t give a number Friday but said he wants to be available as much as possible.

### Any LeBron-decision hangover? “There’s no hangover. Everyone in the organization has had time to get used to the idea it’s going to be a different team…. We can’t replace LeBron. We’re a different team. Everybody’s opportunities [and] responsibilities will be different.”

### “Training camp will be more teaching and learning that the last couple of years.”

### Wade is in very good shape. He said he is still “trying to adjust” to the diet that Ray Allen used last summer. Wade said the first 30 days, with no carbs, “sucked” and he had mood swings.

“After 30 days, it becomes part of your lifestyle. It was a challenge I wanted to do. It worked out well. I was able to lose some weight. I’m not going to say how much. When other people want you to do something, you don’t want to do it. When you want to do it, it makes it easier to do.”

Wade said he is somewhere between the 212 pounds he weighed as a rookie and the 225 he weighed last season. “Losing weight doesn’t do anything,” he said. “You have to put on the right muscle as well.”

### On how his role will change: “I don’t know for sure. Obviously I’ll have the ball in my hands a little more. I have always been a playmaker for this team. I will continue to do that. I’ve always been someone who’s scored the ball at a high rate. And I will always try to do that. I’m not coming in looking like I have to do anything that LeBron did, that I have to do anything that I did before the Big Three…. I’ve always been a leader in this organization. That doesn’t change.”

### On Luol Deng: “Tough, hard-working, professional, consistent. That’s a comfort for the coaches and us as players. It was a good pickup by the organization.”

### On Granger: “We’re happy to have Granger here. Hopefully, he can bring to us what he brought to Indiana: a dynamic scorer at times. We understand he has something to prove, and when he’s physically ready to be able to do it, we’re excited.”

### On Chris Bosh: “He’s really looking forward to the challenge. I don’t want him to put too much on himself. We have enough. He’s one of the most talented guys at his position. He’s just got to be Chris Bosh.”

Does he need to be Toronto Chris Bosh? “No, we go to the playoffs!” Wade said. “He didn’t go to the playoffs much when he was in Toronto. I don’t want that Chris Bosh. I want the playoff Chris Bosh.”

### Who’s the Eastern Conference favorite? “The Heat,” he responded.

BOSH MUSINGS

Highlights from Chris Bosh’s media briefing:

### As we reported in this space two weeks ago, Bosh confirmed he is going to play in the post more, “working in the mid-post areas and being able to be effective anywhere on the court.”

Of playing more in the post, he said: “I know I can do it. The question for me is how consistent and how much. Just the quantity and volume of touches is going to change. That’s why I worked so hard this summer so I could be ready for that.”

### He said he didn’t bulk up. “I’m done with that. I play fast. My advantage is my quickness. When you bulk up, you want to get into a wrestling match and that’s no good for my game. I’m focusing on being light, strong, being quick, being effective. I can’t do that if I’m wrestling with other big guys. That’s not up my alley.”

### Asked if he has extended his prime by not playing a lot in the post during the past few years, he said: “Maybe. I’m 30. I feel 29. I feel good. There is a physical demand when you’re down there in the post, shouldering that load night in and night out. Maybe it has preserved my legs a little bit and now I’m ready to give this team a lot more.”

### Bosh said “this is a huge opportunity for this team and every individual who’s here to really show what they can bring to the table.

“I think I can bring a lot to this team. I had to play a role the past four years. Moving forward, I can show the city and the organization what value I can be, how much I can turn up the intensity, how much I can put more weight on my shoulders and bring more wins to Miami. It will be a bigger challenge. I’m really looking forward to it.”

### He said “I’m a much better player, more complete player, a better leader” than when he played in Toronto. “I know I can score 20 points a game. What I always had more focus on was winning at the same time."

### Though he said he would put Chicago “ahead of the pack” in the East, Bosh also said he believes the Heat is as good as any team in the East --- “We’re not better, but we’re as good.” It irks him when people refer to the Heat as a middle of the pack team.

“I don’t like that. It gives you a lot of motivation. Middle of the pack. My thing is, ‘Who’s supposed to be better?’ That’s the question I ask. We are trying to be one of the elite teams in this league. You don’t want to come from going to the Finals four years in a row to being the fifth, fourth seed. We want to be better than that.”

### Is there a letdown that the Heat didn’t have a chance with LeBron to make a fifth straight Finals, and beyond?

“I was disappointed. There was a letdown initially from not being able to keep that going. You get over it. You have to move on. We would have liked to have seen that run keep going. But when we look back at it, it will be a very special time because it was only a short period of time we had. It was a great four-year run. It was a special time, a special era. It’s over.”

### More Bosh on LeBron: “We owe that respect to each other to knock each other’s heads off when we’re playing.” He said even beyond LeBron’s on-court greatness, he will miss James because “he’s very funny, put everybody at ease.”

### Bosh said “it wouldn’t have been easy to leave [Miami]. It would have been hard to leave. I didn’t want to be the enemy in my household. I didn’t know how I was going to tell my wife and kids we were moving. This was an easy decision, based on what this organization has done for me, what they accomplished before we even got here.”

THIS AND THAT

### Josh McRoberts, who committed orally to the Heat before James left for Cleveland, said he never reconsidered that decision after James bolted.

Spoelstra said even though McRoberts “had a breakout season last year,” he told McRoberts in their first meeting that there is potential for more.

“Who knows what the ceiling is?” Spoelstra said. We don’t want to put a ceiling on him. His skill is very unique. It’s hard to put him in a box, the type of versatility he brings, the ability to play inside and out, see the floor, make the game easier for other players. We always respected that skill set, but when you competed against him in a playoff series [with Charlotte] it went to a different level because of his ability to compete.”

### Spoelstra said he wants to use his bench and as an example, said he has no desire to play Bosh 41 minutes a night.

### Chris Andersen said he lost 10 pounds this summer. Udonis Haslem said he lost 10 pounds over seven days on a no-carbohydrate diet, but discontinued it, joking that he “almost shriveled up and passed away.”

### A prediction from Haslem: “We are going to surprise a lot of people. They will not be disappointed in the way we play the game. People will be proud of this team.”

### Haslem also said: "We are going to find out who the real Heat fans are."

### Luol Deng said he has spoken to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who is on leave, and forgiven him for offensive remarks that he made about Deng during a meeting with Hawks ownership in June. Ferry has said he was reading off a scouting report that he did not write.

Among the comments Ferry read: that Deng has "some African in him."

Deng said he doesn't believe Ferry is a racist. He also said he nearly signed with the Hawks before opting for the Heat.

Please follow us on Twitter (@flasportbuzz).

Friday noon: Spoelstra addresses life without LeBron, Wade, Bosh, new players, other issues

Here's most everything Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had to say during his news conference a few minutes ago:

### On how long it took to process the loss of LeBron: “Less than 10 minutes it took to let the news sink it. It was like Jerry Maguire. We were looking at the board, trying to figure out what’s our next step. Not even 10 minutes, a minute seven or eight. We were working the phones, trying to get organized, trying to put together a plan with an objective play of attack with the rest of free agent. It was very invigorating. It seemed like it would be the other. But it wasn’t.”

### On how things change without LeBron: “The Heat culture, the Heat code will remain the same. The standard, the expectations of what our organization is all about remains the same. It was a big change this summer. After the series ended against San Antonio, we all felt there would be some change. I don’t know if we anticipated how big the change would be, but it happened. That’s what pro sports is all about. We’re looking forward to this challenge. It’s been a different process than we’ve had the last four summers. But it has been an exciting, invigorating staff for all of us. We’re looking forward to starting the entire process anew.”

### ESPN asked Spoelstra what about LeBron is irreplaceable. “We’ll have to see,” he said. “Any team will have to adjust when you lose a player of LeBron’s magnitude. But that chapter is closed. Going back to that, the mind is so far gone from that from the last two seasons. When the landscape changes like that, it’s up for grabs.”

### Spoelstra, by the way, didn't refer to James by name for the first 15 minutes of the press conference before slipping in a "LeBron." Mario Chalmers called James "that guy."

### On Pat Riley saying in June that Spoelstra needed to reinvent himself: “We better have. It’s a new team. Look I gave our team the book: Reinvent…. Each year competition forces you to have to reinvent and change. We all have to get better. We’re all on board for that.”

### On coaching without LeBron: “That’s what coaching is about, different challenges. We have a much different challenge. I can’t believe this, but I am starting my 20th year here. This business is about embracing change, adapting.”

“While things change in pro sports, you can count on the Miami Heat and the bedrock core values of things we stand for, toughness and competition. That’s a product you always want to watch. We always have the expectation of competing for the highest prize. Not every organization is truly committed to that.”

### “It’s not about coming in here with a chip on your shoulder, not just to try to surpass somebody else’s thought of where this basketball team could go. It’s pushing yourself to the limit for one goal. That’s the single-mindedness we have to develop. It’s not going to be there from day one.”

### “Am I telling people every spot is open to competition? I haven’t said that necessarily, but I’m open minded. I sincerely hope we’re a much different team in the springtime than now.”

### Mario Chalmers indicated there are changes in the offense, but Spoelstra said: “It’s not a new offense. It’s an emphasis on moving the basketball. We have to do it a little bit differently.”

### On expectations: “To be an elite team is a very vague standard. We have a Heat standard which is to compete for an NBA title. That’s what we expect for this team.”

### On Bosh: I can’t wait to see C.B. grow into a new role. He doesn’t have to become Chris bosh from Toronto. That won’t help us. He’s a better player, much more versatile, better leader and a proven leader. Where he can really impact this team is starting No. 1 with his leadership. He knows what it takes to win at the highest level, to sacrifice. I want him to be able to embrace shouldering all the responsibilities. We still expect him to play with great versatility that’s unmatched. Will he have more opportunities particularly at the end of offense? Yes. But does that mean we’re just going to be pointing at him to get shots? That’s not how we play.

"Defensively, we still expect him to be the most versatile anchor in the league. He’s right in the prime of his career."

### On Dwyane Wade: “He had a terrific summer of training, working…. Being the transcendent player. He doesn’t have to try to be the player he was in 08. That might not necessarily be important for this team. It’s important to be the player, along with CB, that we can put other people around and build a cohesive team.

### "We have to start anew. There are certainly bedrock foundations about how we want to play, our philosophy of being a defensive minded team. And on the other side, being a team that shares the basketball and makes the game easier for each other."

### He spoke of the importance of developing depth.  “Playing guys, not overextending them. I don’t know if guys will play the amount of minutes they did in other places. That’s what Heat sacrifice is about. Hopefully, we have the depth to go through a season with all the unpredictable things that happen.” He doesn’t want to have to play Bosh 41 minutes a game.

### On Luol Deng: “Not a surprise to anyone we sought after Luol Deng. Intangibles, winning, defensive minded. He’s an underrated multi-skilled offensive player that fits the versatility we want to have on our team. He’s great off the ball, cutting, can play multiple positions. Can do a lot of x-factor things. The type of person he is and player. Qualities he embodies are similar to the Heat code and the type of qualities we want here. We feel very fortunate we were able to get him.”

### Josh McRoberts: “He had a breakout season last year. In my first meeting with him, I mentioned that should not be the barometer. Who knows what the ceiling is? We don’t want to put a ceiling on him. His skill is very unique. It’s hard to put him in a box, the type of versatility he brings, positionless, the ability to play inside and out, see the floor, make the game easier for other players. We always respected that skill set, but when you competed against him in a playoff series our respect went to a different level because of his ability to compete.”

### He said Norris Cole “blasted our workout/conditioning test. This is the best shape I’ve seen him.”

### On Mario Chalmers: “Mario has come in in his best shape. Worked on his game, worked on improving, things we need him to do more than he has done in the past. His strength, the sturdiness of his body – people will notice that right away.”

### On Danny Granger, who was limited to 46 games because of injury the past two years: “He’s been working extremely hard. What we have is a history of taking on players like Danny that are still young and in their prime, and helping them achieve things they want to with a lot of work and commitment. He has been very committed this summer.

“He hasn’t been able to control injuries past two seasons. That happens to players. We welcomed him with open arms. We haven’t forgotten that. We don’t want him to forget that. I’m open minded. He was able to go through entire conditioning. He’s dedicated. I’m not in the mind set of absolutely trying to fast track him.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a lot more Heat, plus Dolphins, Al Golden and more.... Please excuse typos in this quick post. Running upstairs to get players at Heat media day.

09/25/2014

Two Heat newcomers trying to reverse offensive regression; Dolphins, UM chatter

BUZZ COLUMN

Heat training camp opens Saturday, and in constructing a roster in the post-LeBron James era, president Pat Riley has added a skilled defender/scorer in Luol Deng, a past-his-prime scorer in Danny Granger and one of the league’s deft passing power forwards in Josh McRoberts. All have demonstrated three-point range.

But here’s the concern: Deng and Granger have declined significantly in their shot-making in recent years, and with Ray Allen and James Jones gone (as well as James, obviously), there are legitimate questions for the first time in years about whether there’s enough skilled shooting on this roster.

And no, journeyman Shawne Williams (a career 33-percent three-point shooter) isn’t allaying anybody’s worries.

Without James --- who led all small forwards in shooting at 56.7 percent last season --- and without Allen, nobody expects Miami to come close to matching last season’s 50.1 percent shooting, the NBA’s third-best in 17 years.

The good news: In Dwyane Wade, the Heat still has a player who last season shot the highest percentage of any starting two-guard since 1980. In Chris Bosh, Miami has one of the league’s best shooting big men. In Chris Andersen, the Heat has an exceptional finisher who ranked fifth in field-goal percentage (64.8).

The issue is whether Deng and Granger can reverse offensive regression and whether Wade and Bosh can be as efficient without James. In particular, “Deng has got to get back to being an efficient shooter,” ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy told me.

Deng shot 52 percent in 2006-07 and was consistently in the 45 to 48 percent range for the next four years, including 2010-11, when he attempted a career-high 333 threes and still shot a solid 46 percent.

Deng, 29, hasn’t been nearly as reliable since. He took a lot of threes (189 to 233) and his overall percentage plunged to 41.2, 42.6 and 43.1, which ranked below average for starting small forwards.

He shot just 41.7 percent in his 40-game stint for Cleveland to close last season and his overall 30 percent accuracy on threes (57 for 189) was poor, ranking 35th of 37 qualifying small forwards.

A scout who has studied Deng cited three factors for the diminished shooting: injuries (including Achilles’ and back problems that cost him 19 games last season); taking more threes than he probably should have; and not having a healthy Derrick Rose during most of his final two years with Chicago. The scout said Deng would get a lot of open mid-range shots and open threes off Rose penetrations but didn’t get nearly as many open looks without him. 

Playing with Wade and Bosh should produce more open looks for Deng. 

The drop has been ever more precipitous for Granger, 31, who shot 37.8 percent in 41 games last season between Indiana and the Clippers. That ranked 60th of 65 small forwards who played at least half the games.

What’s more, he hasn’t shot better than 43 percent since 2008-09. He can still make threes (45 in 46 games the past two seasons), but the accuracy isn’t good (32.6 percent).

“Not the same player he was, mostly because of injury,” the scout said.

Fortunately, McRoberts’ distance shooting is an asset; his 105 threes (36 percent) were seventh-most among power forwards and help explain why his overall shooting (43.6 percent) ranked only 74th of 100 power forwards.

Meanwhile, Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers will score more without James, but it will be interesting to see how James’ departure affects their efficiency. Consider:

### Chalmers shot 41 percent overall his first two seasons (without James) and 43.4 in the four seasons with James.

### Wade shot 48.2 percent in his career before James arrived, 51.3 percent --- while taking fewer shots --- in the four years with James.

### Bosh shot 49.1 percent in Toronto, 50.9 percent since joining James and Wade in Miami. The scout predicted all their shooting percentages will drop because they will take more shots without as many open looks.

### In a special airing at 10:30 p.m. Friday, LeBron James suggested to CNN that he likely would have stayed with the Heat if Miami had won a third straight title in June… Curious that the Heat passed on giving guaranteed money to a bunch of veteran centers (Andray Blatche, Nazr Muhammad, Greg Stiesma, etc.) and instead opted to complete its camp roster with former LSU 6-11 center Chris Johnson, who has appeared in 71 NBA games for four teams.

CHATTER

### With Reshad Jones suspended for one more game, the Dolphins admit they are displeased with their safety play, primarily missed tackles (Jimmy Wilson has five of those) and communication breakdowns. “We’ve been too generous in giving our opponents too many free plays…. A lot of times that has to do with the safeties,” Joe Philbin said.

Quarterbacks have completed 11 of 16 passes against Dolphins safeties, but Miami --– for now --– has opted not to bring back free agent Chris Clemons or play promising rookie Walt Aikens. Clemons, cut by Houston in preseason after leaving Miami this past spring, was ranked 19th among 86 safeties last season, per Pro Football Focus.

### The good news on Miami’s offensive line: The Dolphins are second in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt, at 5.2.

The bad: Their nine sacks allowed are third-most in the league. “I don’t know what people expect,” left tackle Brandon Albert griped. “It’s not like we’re getting our [butt] whipped. But I would grade myself a C.”

Samson Satele said the Dolphins have not broached the issue of him moving to guard when Mike Pouncey returns, and Satele said it’s not his place to bring it up.

### An NFL personnel man, on the UM coaching staff: “I think Al Golden is a better coach with overachiever kids and a program he’s building from the bottom. You can’t coach [highly-talented] kids the same way as overachievers. I just don’t see enough kids getting significantly better there.”

### NFL Network’s documentary on deceased former UM star Sean Taylor debuts at 9 p.m. Friday.   

### Please see the last post for the scoop on how Philbin privately handled this week's quarterback controversy with his team. And please follow us on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz).

Thursday 1:30 p.m. report: Details on how Philbin addressed Tannehill controversy with Tannehill and team; Heat addition

Joe Philbin mishandled the quarterback situation this week by refusing to acknowledge publicly that Ryan Tannehill is the starter, an approach that led Tannehill to accuse Philbin of creating a distraction.

But since Tannehill made his comments Wednesday afternoon, Philbin has prudently handled the aftermath of the controversy.

During a team meeting with his players on Thursday morning, Philbin took accountability for what he did, said he should have handled it differently, and was remorseful about having created a distraction, according to two people who were inside the meeting. He indicated something like that would not happen again, according to one of the two sources.

And according to a league source, Philbin and Tannehill met in the wake of Tannehill’s comments Wednesday, and Philbin struck a similar contrite tone with his quarterback.

Philbin addressed the issue briefly with reporters Thursday.

Asked whether he wishes he would have handled this differently in retrospect, Philbin told reporters: “All I’ll say is one of the functions of the head coach is to create an atmosphere free from distractions. To the degree that I contributed to any of those distractions, intended or not doesn’t really matter. That falls on me. It’s my responsibility and certainly I expect that responsibility as a head coach. That’s all I have to say on that.”

In case you missed it, Tannehill said Wednesday that Philbin’s refusal to publicly name him the starter --- even though he told Tannehill privately that he would start --- created a stir and a distraction and was not a "good feeling."

Tannehill was in a good mood in the locker-room Thursday and engaged teammates in a game of cornhole, in which players toss a bean bag into a slanted wooden board some distance away.

Tannehill took all the first team snaps this week and will start Sunday’s game against Oakland in London.

Asked how much having to learn a new system has contributed to Tannehill’s struggles, Philbin said: “We’ve been working at this since April. I want to say we had over 1100 competitive snaps in OTAs, over 1600 in training camp, preseason games, three regular season games. I don’t want to minimize it. There are some differences. But at the end of the day, football is football."

Philbin has given neither Tannehill nor Matt Moore any indication of whether Tannehill could be lifted during Sunday’s game if he struggles.

Philbin was asked his general philosophy about lifting a quarterback during a game, and inserting the backup, if a team is struggling.

“I don’t think it’s any different [from] every position," Philbin said. "You have to have a sense for the game, feel for the game, look at it clearly. Everything should be based on what gives your team the best chance to win.”

### Randy Starks (back), Shelley Smith (knee), Koa Misi (ankle) and Cortland Finnegan (neck) missed practice. Finnegan insisted he will play Sunday. Smith isn't expected to play. Misi might have had a setback; he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday but was nowhere to be seen Thursday. Starks' status is very much in question.

Samson Satele again took first-team center snaps, suggesting Mike Pouncey might be given more time before returning to game action.

HEAT NOTE

The Heat will complete its 20-player training camp roster by adding Chris Johnson, a 6-11 center from LSU who has played 71 games (one start) for Portland, Boston, New Orleans and Minnesota over three seasons. He played in China last season.

### Please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for instant links to posts. Also, check out the last post for a lot more Dolphins, Canes and an explanation for Bill Simmons' suspension at ESPN.

Tannehill/Philbin controversy notes, thoughts, fallout; Golden speaks out; More lashing out at UM; Simmons suspended

Some notes and thoughts on today’s unusual turn of events at Dolphins camp (and a few other items):

### Don’t believe I had ever heard a player accuse his coach of creating a distraction until Ryan Tannehill did that today.

Joe Philbin’s refusal to publicly name Tannehill the starter --- despite telling him privately that he will start Sunday against Oakland --- “creates a bunch of stir and a bunch of distraction in the locker-room, mostly from the outside coming in and guys having to deal with the distraction of it,” Tannehill said. “It’s not a good feeling.”

Philbin is a pleasant, decent man, but he does himself no favors with his quirkiness, verging on media paranoia at times. Several players privately are questioning how he has handled this.

But other than Tannehill, the only player willing to express any real opinion about this on the record today was Matt Moore.

Asked if he agreed with Tannehill that this has created a distraction, Moore said: “Maybe a little bit.... Absolutely nothing has changed. I’ve taken zero reps at practice.”

Moore said he also was given no indication that he might be summoned off the bench during Sunday’s game if Tannehill struggles.

But Moore admitted Philbin’s refusal to commit publicly to Tannehill “kind of caught me off guard.”

Moore said the situation is a little bit awkward “considering I’m answering questions like Cam Newton.”

### So why won't Philbin say publicly what he decided two days ago: that Tannehill will start?

According to a league source, Philbin is doing this because he doesn’t want to violate his self-imposed policy of not identifying starters publicly.

But Philbin has made exceptions before, such as noting before the opener that Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith would start at guard. Philbin was not trying to motivate Tannehill, the source said.

### One player said Philbin did not address the quarterback situation with the team but it was obvious to everyone that Tannehill would be the starter because he took all the first-team snaps the past two days.

### Last year, Philbin called Tony Dungy because he was concerned that Dungy, on NBC, was criticizing his handling of the Dolphins’ bullying scandal.

But Philbin on Wednesday voiced no complaints about Dungy’s or Jason Taylor’s criticism of his handling of the quarterback situation. (If you missed it, please see my last post for what Dungy and Taylor said.)

“I think everybody is entitled to their opinion," Philbin said. "They certainly can feel free to express it, and at the end of the day, I have to go to sleep and put my head on the pillow and do what I think is the right thing. I have no issues with any of that.”

### This is the latest example where Philbin’s secrecy does him more harm than good. In the past, Philbin has refused to explain the practice-day absences of players whose wives were giving birth (including John Denney) or who had family illnesses, causing reporters to wonder if the players had done something wrong.

Last August, when Richie Incognito did not retaliate after Houston’s Antonio Smith yanked off his helmet, Philbin was asked by reporters if he was pleased how Incognito handled himself. Philbin said at the time that it’s not for him to judge that, withholding praise of a player who deserved it in that one particular case. But in a meeting with his team, Philbin praised Incognito’s restraint.

Philbin can handle these matters any way he wants --- it’s his team --- but the approach is often counter-productive. Tannehill’s reaction today was the best example of that.

### Tannehill ranks tied for 12th in the league in touchdown passes with four and has thrown just two interceptions. But he ranks 29th in passer rating (74.1), completion percentage (56.5) and last in the league in average yards per completion (five).

He’s 35th in fourth-quarter passing rating, at, 51.6. That ranks ahead of only Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady. He’s 29th in third-down passer rating at 63.7.

### Whereas the Raiders have been in London since Monday --- six days before they play the Dolphins --- the Dolphins will not travel to England until Thursday evening.

Philbin decided his team would be better served by having a normal practice week and flying to London at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The team will have a light practice on Friday in London.

“We are going to jump on the plane and feed them a big meal,” Philbin said. “Hopefully, they’ll sleep, get to London and make it a normal Friday. That was the thought process.”

Philbin sought input from assistant coaches Mark Duffner and Jack Bicknell, who worked for teams (Jacksonville, Pittsburgh) that played in London last season.

“We talked to other teams, and we came to a conclusion that this was the best way for us to prepare for this game,” Philbin said.

### The Dolphins ruled out running back Knowshon Moreno (elbow) for Sunday’s game, and it would be surprising if guard Shelley Smith (knee) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) play Sunday.

Smith, defensive lineman Randy Starks (back) and tight end Charles Clay (knee) missed Wednesday’s practice. Pouncey (hip) was one of 14 players who practiced on a limited basis, with linebacker Koa Misi and Pouncey among the others.

### CBS is sending Dolphins-Raiders to only eight percent of the country: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers/Naples, Tallahassee, Panama City Beach, Dothan, Ala., Albany, Ga., Reno, Nevada; Northern California and a few markets in Oregon. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, CBS' No. 2 team, were assigned to the game because the network isn't going to send a low-tiered announcing team to a game in London.

GOLDEN’S TAKE

Al Golden took accountability for UM’s defensive struggles today, as he often does publicly.

Asked about the run defense, he said: “We have to do a lot of things differently starting with me, the way we're practicing. Whatever changes we have to make schematically, whatever personnel changes, maybe we need to see this player more than another player. We need to tackle better, generate more losses, both sacks and TFL's. And just in general everyone just execute the defense as it's called….

"I think everybody in the building is accountable to it right now starting with me. We need to improve. We certainly need to improve our run fits, our tackling, need to generate more TFL's and negatives and then we can't give up the deep ball. [Duke] really hurt us on the perimeter a year ago.”

Are the players on defense afraid to make mistakes? 

“I don't think,” he said. “We had some guys on defense that told me afterward `I was just trying to make a play.' We need to just do our job We need much better effort this week.”

So were players freelancing, which has been a problem in the past?

“No, no, no,” he said. “I don't want to get into all that. And those guys after Louisville said the same thing [of]` Oh, I was just trying to make a play.' We need to settle in and do our job. Not bigger than that.”

MORE UM REACTION

Several commentators weighed in this week on WQAM (with Adam Kuperstein, Channing Crowder and Orlando Alzugaray). Among the remarks:

ESPN2’s Brock Huard, who called the UM-Nebraska game and also will work Saturday’s UM-Duke game with Joe Tessitore: “They in some ways played to the strength of [Nebraska’s] run game.”

Former UM player Randall Hill: "The players are definitely there [at UM]. The minute they go to the NFL, they’re great. [With the scheme], make a change. Fix it. Stop deceiving yourselves and do something about it."

Yahoo and former ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury: "How can the University of Miami in Coral Gables, where in a stretch of 100 square miles you can find the best running backs, receivers, linebackers on the planet, [be playing like this]?  This isn’t Bowling Green. We’re not talking about Texas State University. This is Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin.

"And you’re telling me with athletes bigger, faster, stronger that Jimbo Fisher is such a better recruiter and such a better coach and hires better coaches that Miami can’t do better? I don’t know if it’s scheme or players.These Canes fans in South Florida deserve better. The Miami Hurricanes can’t tolerate what’s going on campus. They’re getting their butt kicked up and down."

SIMMONS SUSPENDED

ESPN has suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks for repeatedly calling Roger Goodell a liar in a profanity-laced commentary.

"I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it," Simmons said on his B.S. Report podcast. "Goodell, if he didn't know what was on that tape, he's a liar. I'm just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn't know is such [expletive, expletive]. It really is --- it's such [expletive expletive]. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was."

Simmons, the Grantland editor, then challenged his ESPN employers to discipline him for saying that.

"I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I'm in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell, because if one person says that to me, I'm going public," Simmons said. "You leave me alone. The commissioner is a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast."

ESPN accepted Simmons' challenge to suspend him, releasing this statement this evening:

“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”

ESPN suspended him not only because Simmons challenged his employer to do it but also because of the personal nature of his attacks against Goodell.

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