September 08, 2015

Pat Riley says Heat has all the elements of a championship team

Please see the next post (from Tuesday night) to check out Howard Schnellenberger's surprising comments about the upcoming UM-FAU game and his explanation for why UM's program has declined; the Dolphins signing a familiar name tonight; and some news on Dan Jennings' status with the Marlins.

Speaking publicly for the first time since June, Heat president Pat Riley told ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard Show that this revamped Heat team has all the pieces of a champion.

“I think this team has all of the elements of a championship team,” he said. “Whether or not you can ever win a championship will depend on a number of factors. I can list them and you can list them. It’s going to come down to this, health,… performance and this guy and that guy. It’s going to come down to can you make shots?...

“I think this team has the opportunity and the possibilities of being a contender. That’s where you start with a team like this. We have an opportunity to create a new first. That’s how I feel about this team…. I’m excited about this season.”

But he also said, “you’re asking the wrong guy” about whether this team can win a championship. "You know what I’m going to say. I was a coach, and I had five guys off the street, I would say we could win a championship. That’s either my naivety or competitive will.”

### Was he ever real concerned he would lose Dwyane Wade?

“Yeah, I had some concern because we have lost players before,” Riley told Le Batard and Jon Weiner. “…. There was a time I said anything is possible because of what had happened with LeBron. The landscape of the NBA now and player mentalities sometimes get into the way of the priorities that you have to face as a player and as also an organization. It really is more than ever a big --- big, capital letters --- business now.

“The business has grown tentacles so far from the court… that anything is possible. Deep down in my gut, Dwyane is a lifer here and I felt he and Micky [Arison] and Nick [Arison] would work it out. When you deal with a player like Dwyane at this stage in his career, it’s just not eyeball to eyeball with me and Henry Thomas, his agent. It got a lot more personal in a good way because the owner got involved in it because that’s how much we care about Dwyane.”

### Would Riley have thought would still be with the Heat 20 years later?

“I was 20 years in Los Angeles, which covered being a player, then being out a job, then being a broadcaster, then [coach]…. In New York I was there for four years.

"Being here for 20 years. I feel blessed. I really do. I feel blessed to be in one city with great people I’ve been with for a long time, a great owner in Micky, his wife Madeleine. We’ve become more than just boss and employee. We’ve become very good friends.

"It’s like all your firsts go away. Your first love goes away, your first girlfriend, your first baby… And then all of a sudden you have to create new firsts. We’ve had a lot of firsts here and they’re gone and now we have to create new ones…. Our dream, or my dream, of what we put together in 2010 had not shattered but had changed.”

### What keeps Riley going?

“House in Malibu, lived there for 30 years. We bought the house in 1988. That is 28 years, and so I’ve been it in 28 months. The other 11 months it just sits there. I got cameras on it every day and I look at it every day but it still does not want me to leave what I’m doing here, which is my first love, which is basketball. I love to compete and love to be part of it.

"As much as there’s that thought of ultimate freedom and going out there and doing whatever it is you want to do, I don’t know what that it. But I know this --- I’m pretty good at it. I’m excited about this season. I really am that we’re headed in a direction where we have a lot of firsts behind us and we’re going to start a new one…. Basketball is where I ought to be and where I want to be.”

### One more thing from Riley, on the Le Batard Show: "When I became Mr. GQ in 1988 is when things began to change for me with my relationship with the players. You have to watch out for that when you’re a head coach. I went through a period of time from 1987 to 90 where my ego got totally out of control…. But I was young, had a great team. We won all these championships. I was getting all this credit. Armani and I became good friends. I always loved clothes and that moniker sort of stuck.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the next post (from Tuesday night) to check out Howard Schnellenberger's surprising comments about the upcoming UM-FAU game and his explanation for why UM's program has declined; the Dolphins signing a familiar name tonight; and some news on Dan Jennings' status with the Marlins.



September 07, 2015

Twenty Dolphins nuggets on Labor Day: Lazor, Coyle, Rizzi opine; Injuries; The book on Franks

### After the Dolphins decided to keep a rookie punter and a rookie kicker, Miami special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi received a couple of amusing text messages from other special teams coaches in the league.

One said: “If I see you on the top of a tall building, I’ll know why,” Rizzi recalled, smiling, Monday.

But the Dolphins are hardly panicked about keeping NFL neophytes at kicker (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Andrew Franks) and punter (University of Tennessee rookie Matt Darr).

“I’m extremely confident in both guys,” Rizzi said. “Neither has a rookie mentality. Both are more mature than that.

“The one thing you worry about a little bit with Franks is the environment. He hasn’t kicked in that environment. Darr has. He played in the SEC, in bigger stadiums than we’re playing in. Not as worried about him. [For Franks], it’s almost, ‘Thank goodness we played in four big stadiums already.’ I would be a little more concerned if this was his first time.

“I’m not as worried about him because he really has a maturity about him. He’s ahead of his years a little bit. Really smart guy academically but street smart, too. He’s a level headed guy. That will help him a lot.”

Rizzi said the decision to keep Franks over Caleb Sturgis was a “close call. It wasn’t a slam dunk. Caleb has a lot of talent. At the end of the day, we felt we’re better off with Andrew.”

### Among the factors that tilted the competition toward Franks: He generated more touchbacks on kickoffs (“we want to be better than what we were the last couple of years,” Rizzi said), and Franks’ ability to hit long field goals.

Besides making a 51-yarder in a preseason game, Franks nailed a 64-yarder in practice and hit a 56-yarder with “10 to 15” yards to spare, Rizzi said.

Franks made only 37 of 56 field goals at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (16 of 25 last season), but Rizzi said that didn’t especially concern him after examining the circumstances.  Franks for 3 for 3 on field goals in preseason.

“I kind of erased the first two years [at RPI],” Rizzi said. “Freshman and sophomore year he didn’t know what the heck he was doing. I focused more on the last two years.

“And why did he miss? There were some blocks, some protection stuff. There were some 57 yarders in 30 degree weather. There were some factors. I felt there were fixable things with a guy with that kind of leg. We definitely saw a couple of things technique wise on film that were fixable.

“It’s similar to golfing or major league hitting. Sometimes the littlest change can make the biggest difference. There were some things in his approach. He was trying to drive the ball 30 yards past the goal post every time. We are trying to make him more of a refined kicker. I’ve said to him many times, ‘You’re going to get the ball there. We’re not worried if it’s going to reach. We’ve got to make sure your technique is better.’”

### Rizzi said Franks also benefited considerably by spending time with longtime NFL kickers Phil Dawson and John Carney. Franks visited Dawson for three days in Texas this past offseason, and the Dolphins invited Carney to spend three days with the team during training camp.

“Those two experiences helped [Franks] more than anybody,” Rizzi said. “They saw some technique stuff plus the mental approach, the whole approach to the game. That was big with him. He’s not a peak and valley guy. His reaction is the same.”

### As for Darr beating out Brandon Fields, Rizzi liked Darr’s “overall approach and consistency. When he came here, he started hitting the ball well. We thought at some point, this guy was going to tail off and he hasn’t.”

### A smiling Branden Albert, coming off knee surgery, remained non-committal about his availability for Sunday but he again practiced fully and the team remains optimistic he will play. “If coach feels like I’m ready, I’m ready,” he said.

Joe Philbin said Albert “looked good” Monday and “is competing hard, getting his timing and rhythm back.”

### Albert’s presence is even more critical because backup left tackle Jason Fox remained sidelined Monday while he works his way back from a concussion. Albert, incidentally, switched jersey numbers, from 71 to 76, which he wore in Kansas City.

### Receiver DeVante Parker, who played nine snaps in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay, said he expects to play Sunday. But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said his week of practice would determine how much he’s incorporated into the game plan.

"If he can go out and have a 100 percent practice and be full speed, then you can feel pretty good that he’s ready to do the kind of running that an NFL receiver needs to do in a game, but we just have to feel those things out,” Lazor said.

“There’s no one magic test. It’s a matter of putting all of those things together and the great thing will be if it just plays itself out on the practice field. If you walk off the practice field and he looks at us and says, ‘Man I felt great,’ and the coaches say, ‘Yeah, you looked great.’ Well, then that’s a good sign. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

### Cornerback Jamar Taylor, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, returned to practice and has said he will play Sunday at Washington.

### Safety Louis Delmas, out with a torn ACL in his right knee for the second consecutive season, said he definitely will play in 2016. Delmas, on a one-year contract, will spend this season on injured reserve.

### Ndamukong Suh played 81 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps last season --- very high for a defensive tackle – and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle suggested the Dolphins will use him in a comparable way.

“As long as he’s playing at a high level, we’ll pick and choose when we want to give him some breaks,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.

### Quarterback Logan Thomas said he was surprised the Dolphins claimed him off waivers on Sunday. “This system’s pretty much foreign to me,” he said of the Dolphins’ offense.

### The Dolphins filled out their practice squad by signing former University of Tennessee running back Rajion Neal and former Texas A&M receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu.

Neal was on the Packers’ practice squad last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry for Green Bay this preseason. Nwachukwu, who played with Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M, caught 19 touchdowns in college and was on the Texans’ practice squad the past two years.

### The Dolphins had interest in re-signing Mike Gillislee to the practice squad, but he opted to join the Falcons’ practice squad.

### How do the Dolphins allocate snaps to five NFL-caliber receivers?

“There are going to be some weeks where you come out of the game and you say, ‘Gosh, we didn’t get the ball to this guy enough,’ or a guy might feel that,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “It’s just going to happen and we’ve got to try and put each guy in a position to do the things that he does best.

“Sometimes it’s just going to be whose turn is it in the rotation and that’s just how it works out. We’ll spend a lot of time deciding how do we best win this game because really all that matters is winning this game.”

### Lazor, on Kenny Stills, who has been playing behind Rishard Matthews since returning from injury: “With Kenny missing some time, it leaves some question marks, but I thought he really worked his tail off to get back to be in shape. I think we’re seeing everything that we had hoped that we’d see when he came here."

### Coyle has 27 players on defense (a few assuredly will be inactive), and Coyle said he wants to use all of them early in the season:

“I believe you need to utilize the compliment of players that you have in terms of getting guys roles that they can help you win with, but, at the same time, realizing that, even though you’re in shape to start the season, your football shape actually grows throughout the early part of the season because none of these guys have lined up in a game and played 65-70 plays.”

### Coyle said that approach helped in the opener against New England last season:

“They practice every day and I think we do a great job of conditioning with them in practice, but it’s different when you’re going out there playing a game, like was evidenced last year when we opened with New England. I thought our guys were in great shape, we kind of got better as the game went on, but certainly the fact that we had multiple guys playing like Chris McCain in that game helped us come up with some big plays…. We’ve got a number of guys at the linebacker spot and we’re going to play them.”

### The Dolphins don’t want their players underestimating Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will start against Miami on Sunday. He’s 2-7 as a starter.

“You are dealing with a guy that has shown improvement,” Coyle said. “He’s been accurate in preseason. Their offense in preseason has been very effective – second in the league in rushing, second in third down.”

### Can Lazor feel good about his offensive line? “Well, I think there are concerns when you have unknowns. I am hoping that we answered most of those. The best teams I have been on typically have had the same five guys play the majority if not all of the games, maybe not every snap. That’s just a fact in football.”

### Lazor said he’s giving Tannehill “a pretty good amount of input. I thought it grew as the year went on last year. One of the really helpful things for me at the end of every game week is to ask the quarterbacks their favorite plays and I explained to them the very first time that we did it, it doesn’t mean that these will be the first plays called. I think that he would probably tell you that a good portion of them tend to find their way in early.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... If you missed our last post on Labor Day weekend, check it out to see what nine NFL TV analysts told us they expect from the Dolphins.


September 05, 2015

From Simms to Collinsworth to Gruden to JJ, 9 analysts weigh in on Dolphins; Canes, Heat, Marlins chatter




What should we expect from the Dolphins this season? I asked nine network analysts to weigh in:

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “This is the year of the Dolphins, I think, in the AFC East… I like this team a lot because of the development of Ryan Tannehill. He has taken a real positive turn. I like watching him play the position. He takes care of the ball. He’s a threat to run a number of different kinds of plays. He’s not just a bubble screen, read option quarterback. He can drop back to pass. He can function in the pocket. He’s accurate. He’s gotten better throwing the football.

“The arsenal around him has improved. Not a lot of people know that Lamar Miller is a 1000 yard rusher. If Branden Albert can come back and Ja’Wuan James can continue to develop on the other side, with Mike Pouncey in the middle, this is a good offensive team. It’s balanced.

“[Defensively], this front four can rock you, man. These guys are really good rushing the passer. I just watched them against Atlanta and they can create a lot of problems with their schemes, with their energy. It’s going to come down to the secondary; how deep are they? Can they hold up?”

### CBS’ Phil Simms: “It’s hard to determine if they’re great or not. From watching their preseason games, it looks like about everything they’ve done is going to pay off – from [Ndamukong] Suh to the tight end. The draft turned out well. The offensive line looks better. Ryan Tannehill looks sharp. He looks more mature. He truly has gotten better every year. He’s physically throwing the ball better – more power; the accuracy was there.

“I think they’ll be part of this whole thing. I wasn’t sure, but I’ve been watching the preseason. I think the Miami Dolphins have a chance to be a pretty strong team this year.”

### CBS’ Bill Cowher: “For Miami, one of the greatest things is they’ve had a quiet preseason – no controversies whatsoever. DeVante Parker is going to be a very special receiver for them. Lamar Miller gives them some balance. Defensively, they have a chance to be very special. The last two years, December has been [a problem]. They are going to have to prove they can finish the deal.”

### NBC’s Cris Collinsworth: “They better be a fringe playoff team. It's time. They've got experience now with their quarterback position. They've added receivers assuming they're all healthy. I like their style of play. I like their offense. They have a certain bit of that Philadelphia edge to them.

“I can't wait to watch what Cameron Wake does with Ndamukong Suh on the inside and being able to attract blockers as well. DeVante Parker I thought was tremendous coming out. Lamar Miller is a fine player.

“Getting Branden Albert back will make a huge difference. They've got their offensive line back to the way it should be. They've got the players, but you still have to go beat New England. It's a defensive-loaded division. The pressure is on. This is it. No excuses. It's time. Joe Philbin - this is the team he put together. This is his quarterback. They're good enough to win right now.”

### Fox’s Jimmy Johnson: “They’re going to be better, but the Jets and Bills are going to get better, too. The four [AFC East] teams, it’s going to be a dog fight.”

“The thing I like about Tannehill is he’s very intelligent, very athletic and he gets better every year. I’ve always said give me smart players that are athletic, and they can improve. Obviously, people are concerned about the deep ball with him, but that can be worked on [and it has improved]. DeVante Parker is a big-play guy. In the NFL, you need big plays. You can’t dink and dunk. I like Jordan Cameron; health is the concern.

“Suh with Wake and the people they have; they will be disruptive defensively. Suh will make every player around him better. It’s going to be an interesting team.”

### NFL Net analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly: “This is a playoff contender, better than the last two years. They still need Albert to solidify that offensive line; if he’s not healthy, they will struggle.

“The quarterback is in rhythm with what they’re doing offensively. I still don’t see him as a great deep passer. When I watched Tannehill last year, I saw a guy that had to make quicker decisions. They are getting the ball out of his hands quickly and the tempo is up; his decisions and accuracy are better.”

“Parker was a top 10 pick talent-wise; Amari Cooper was the smoothest receiver in the draft but I saw enough tape of Parker and Parker might pass him. This is a potential Pro Bowl guy. Greg Jennings looked fresher and better to me than I remember a year ago. We know what Jarvis Landry can do.

“The defensive line can be really good, but I’m still concerned about corner and safety. You have one real good corner, two good outside rushers and an inside rusher. They’ll be OK at linebacker; I like Koa Misi. I like Lamar Miller, but I don’t know if he can do it by himself.

“They have the ability to beat New England, which a lot of teams can’t say. They’re in that range of the [second] echelon; they have to learn to play consistently at the end of the season.”

### ESPN analyst and former NFL GM Bill Polian: “A wild card is realistic, but I don’t know about challenging New England. They have been a fringe playoff team for three years but they now have the same quarterback in the same system for a second year, and I’ve been a Tannehill fan since day one.

“There’s real talent offensively. I like Jordan Cameron, if healthy, and Landry. Suh is enough to elevate them significantly, and those three rushers are a very good group.”

### CBS’ Steve Beuerlein (who works Miami’s Week 2 game at Jacksonville): “They made the most significant improvement of any team in the offseason, and they’re a legitimate playoff team if they stay healthy and if Tannehill keeps improving. Not saying they’re a Super Bowl team, but they match up with any team in the AFC.”

### NFL Net’s Brian Billick: “They better be a playoff team, and they should be good enough to be one. It seems time for them. Remember, they are in a division with Geno Smith and uncertainty at quarterback in Buffalo. Looking at the way they have progressed, I don’t know how they would think of themselves as anything other than a playoff team.

“Tannehill is better than I thought he would be. It’s time for him to show he can throw a team on his back for the three or four games a year that a team needs its quarterback to do that.”


The good news: The first six quarterbacks the Dolphins will potentially face (Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Brian Hoyer) are a combined 48-79.

The bad news: The last five they face (Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady) are 495-263.

### Privately, several Marlins players have been very vocal --- with friends, teammates and others ---  expressing displeasure with several factors: a belief, as two expressed, that the team still prioritizes saving money over winning (they cite the Marlins leaving Marcell Ozuna in the minors for nearly six weeks); disenchantment with Dan Jennings’ in-game decisions (lots of complaining about this); and trading veterans for Single A prospects (though that's understandable considering the Marlins' record).

One player said it’s time for Jeffrey Loria to sell; another loudly blasted management, using obscenities within earshot of reporters (and yes, management is aware of this). One former player threatened to sound a horn every time someone from Marlins management walked into the clubhouse. The irony is that Loria believed this would be one of the Marlins’ best clubhouses ever. But losing can sour a group.

### One might think that Jennings would be relieved after being told he wouldn’t remain as manager, considering it wasn’t his idea and considering the 40-58 record under his direction. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. He has spoken in recent weeks about how much he loves managing, how several opposing managers --- including the Cubs’ Joe Maddon and the Mets’ Terry Collins --- “shared some things to help me because they understand I’m a rookie.”

### One problem for Jennings in a potential return to GM: He has Loria’s ear less than he used to. According to a Marlins person, Loria is now listening to director of pro scouting Jeff McAvoy and assistant GM Mike Berger among others.

### Couple thoughts from UM's thoroughly predictable, lightning-delayed 45-0 blowout win against Bethune Cookman tonight, which featured 10-minute third and fourth quarters: We mentioned last week that UM planned to spread the field more, to get its weapons open in space, and to do that, the Hurricanes had Brad Kaaya operate out of the shotgun throughout the first half, usually with just one back behind him. Sometimes, UM went with an empty backfield.

UM put Kaaya under center for a couple plays in the second half, with two backs behind him, but it's clear Miami is incorporating more spread elements this season. This is how college football is played today, and credit Canes coaches for adapting... In 2 1/2 quarters, Kaaya closed 16 for 27 for 173 yards and TD throws to Rashawn Scott and Standish Dobard... 

Mark Walton (10 carries, 85 yards so far) was terrific in his Canes debut... Good to see Scott come back strong (six catches, 100 years) after most of two seasons were wiped out by injury and off-field issues... Trayone Gray ran hard (eight carries, 77 yards).

Lots of defensive standouts: Rayshawn Jenkins and Artie Burns had interceptions; Marques Gayot had 1 1/2 sacks; Kendrick Norton and Corn Elder had one sack apiece, while Ufomba Kamalu and Trent Harris (who played very well) and Tyriq McCord each had half a sack. Elder, who said he has ruled out playing basketball at UM, had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and a sack.

### Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, perhaps UM’s most coveted 2016 recruit, said he’s “really solid” to UM and threw up a “U” at a recent high school game. But he adds that he will visit Ohio State, Florida, FSU and Auburn “just to see my options. If anything looks better, than Miami then I’ll have to make a decision.” He also made clear he wants UM to keep Al Golden.

### Barring trades involving Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen, forward James Ennis appears the only incumbent Heat player at risk of being cut, with his $845,059 salary becoming fully guaranteed on Oct. 28. Ennis, who disappointed the Heat in summer league, is fortunate that the Heat hasn’t used its roster spots on an established veteran who wants to be here (such as Rasual Butler, who expressed interest).

The Heat players who have been signed to spots 16 through 19 are viewed as D-League players, though forward Greg Whittington could challenge Ennis. If Ennis struggles in camp, the Heat will consider keeping the 15th roster spot open until something intriguing comes along. Former Georgetown center Joshua Smith, who has lost 20 pounds to get below 345, will audition for Miami this week.

The list of remaining veteran free agents includes Butler, Will Bynum, Carlos Boozer, Ben Gordon, Willie Green, Jordan Hamilton and Luke Ridnour.

### Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Micky Arison and Samuel L. Jackson celebrated Riley’s 20th Heat anniversary over dinner in Italy on Wednesday, and then Johnson declared on social media that the Heat has “put together a championship caliber team.”

### Please join me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz), where we posted all Dolphins cuts today before they were announced.

September 04, 2015

Here's who the Dolphins plan to cut today; Other notable cuts; NFL TV preview

Updated between 1 and 4 p.m.: We've been breaking lots of Dolphins cuts on Twitter today, and here are the Dolphins' expected cuts:

Additional cuts will be necessary if Miami claims a player on waivers. Here are what we are told will be the cuts at each position:

Quarterback: Josh Freeman; McLeod Bethel Thompson 

Running back: Mike Gilislee

Offensive line: Sam Brenner, Michael Leidtke, Donald Hawkins, Aundray Walker

Receiver: Demarr Aultman, Cobi Hamilton, Christion Jones

Tight end: Tim Semisch, Jake Stoneburner

Defensive line: Deandre Coleman, Emmanuel Dieke, Anthony Johnson. 

Linebacker: Mike Hull, Jeff Luc, James Davidson, Jordan Tripp.

Safety: Don Jones (told to expect his release), Cedric Thompson.

Kicker: Caleb Sturgis. (Andrew Franks was told that he has won the job.)

So that's 22 cuts. FYI: Will Davis was among bubble players who made the team, as of today.

The Dolphins plan to keep Jay Ajayi on their 53-man roster instead of short-term IR, even though he could miss a few weeks with a rib injury.

[5 p.m. update: The Dolphins have confirmed each of the aforementioned 22 cuts.]

Other familiar names with local ties (ex-Canes or ex-Dolphins) who were cut today: Shane McDermott (Dallas), Erik Swoope (Colts), Arthur Lynch (Jets), Malcolm Bunche (Eagles), Seth Lobato (Tampa Bay), Reggie Wayne (Patriots), Marcus Forston and Brandon McGee (both Rams).



As Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline approaches, the Dolphins are about halfway through the 22 cuts needed to slice the roster from 75 to 53, according to a Dolphins source.

As of early evening, we’ve confirmed eight cuts: offensive linemen Michael Liedtke and Donald Hawkins, defensive lineman Anthony Johnson, linebackers James Davidson and Jeff Luc, receiver Damarr Aultman, defensive lineman DeAndre Coleman and (this one was first reported by Bleacher Report) --- quarterback Josh Freeman.

We’re told a couple others also were cut but there was no immediate confirmation. In fact, the Dolphins announced nothing today.

Among others who likely will be jettisoned: Cobi Hamilton, Christion Jones, Emmanuel Dieke and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

That would leave 10 more cuts needed beyond those names. Several roster battles weren’t resolved as of 7 p.m. Friday, including the Caleb Sturgis/Andrew Franks competition.

### Other familiar names cut loose today: Former UM quarterback Stephen Morris, by Jacksonville (the Dolphins expressed interest before he signed with the Jaguars); former UM and UCF running back Storm Johnson; quarterback Rex Grossman (by Atlanta); former Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler, by San Francisco; and former FSU standout Darnell Dockett, also by the 49ers.

Chicago cut linebacker Mason Foster, who said he chose the Bears over the Dolphins this past off-season. But the Dolphins like middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and believe they have a promising young middle linebacker in Zach Vigil.


Rounding up network plans for the NFL this season:


### What’s on: Sunday road games of AFC teams; a few crossover NFC games (including Bears-Seahawks in Week 3); Thursday night games during Weeks 2 through 8, plus Packers-Lions on Thursday, Dec. 3 and Panthers-Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

### What’s new: Nothing of significance. All of the announcing teams return intact, with the exception of Jamie Erdahl replacing Jenny Dell as a sideline reporter.

### Announcing teams: Jim Nantz-Phil Simms, Ian Eagle-Dan Fouts, Greg Gumbel-Trent Green, Kevin Harlan-Rich Gannon, Spero Dedes-Solomon Wilcots, Andrew Catalon-Steve Tasker-Steve Beuerlein, Tom McCarthy-Adam Archuleta and Brian Anderson-Chris Simms.

### Extra point: As Dan Marino’s replacement in studio, Tony Gonzalez was polished and likable as a TV rookie last season but never offered anything of great depth, instead speaking mostly in short sound bites and often stating the obvious. Bart Scott, Shannon Sharpe’s replacement last season, isn’t as polished as Gonzalez, but his remarks often were more meaty and substantive. James Brown, Boomer Esiason and Bill Cowher return as the other members of the pre-game cast.



### What’s on: Sunday road games of NFC teams, a few crossover AFC games and Eagles-Lions on Thanksgiving.

### What’s new: Fox has separated the Moose/Goose announcing team, with Tony Siragusa leaving Daryl Johnston and pairing with Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis, who moves over from college games… Fox Sports Net’s 11 a.m. pregame show is shifting to Fox, as lead-in programming for Fox NFL Sunday at noon.

### Announcing teams: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch; Kenny Albert, Johnston; Brennaman, Davis; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber; Dick Stockton, David Diehl; Sam Rosen with alternating analysts (Chris Cooley, Matt Millen, Kirk Morrison, Brady Quinn).

### Extra points: Colin Cowherd, who left ESPN for Fox, will have a role on that new 11 a.m. hour of the pre-game show…. Fox intended to use Donovan McNabb as an game analyst this season before his second DUI arrest.



### What’s on: Sunday night games, the Thursday season opener (Steelers-Patriots Sept. 10) and Bears-Packers at 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

### What’s new: Nothing significant on the over-the-air side. On the cable side, Rodney Harrison agreed to join Paul Burmeister and Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk at 6 p.m. weeknights on NBCSN.

### Announcing team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth.

### Extra point: NBC’s schedule is once again the best of the prime-time packages, highlighted by Giants-Cowboys, Seahawks-Packers and Patriots-Broncos. The Giants, Panthers, Saints and Bears are the only teams scheduled to appear that had losing records in 2014, but Carolina made the playoffs and the others still hold some national appeal.



### What’s on: Monday night games every week (except Week 17), plus a wild-card playoff game.

### What’s new: NFL Countdown has been shortened by an hour and will run 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Look for a faster-paced format and an increased presence from fantasy football expert Matthew Berry…. Replacing the 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. hour of Countdown: a Sunday edition of NFL Insiders, with Trey Wingo, Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen and Louis Riddick.

### Announcing teams: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden for every game except Vikings-49ers, the second game of the Sept. 14 double-header. Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer call that game.

### Extra point: Suzy Kolber becomes the new on-site host and post-game SportsCenter anchor for Monday Night Football. Stuart Scott held that role before his death in January.


NFL Network

### What’s on: Every Thursday night game except Week 1 and Thanksgiving (which NBC gets), plus two Saturday night games: Jets-Cowboys in Week 15, Redskins-Eagles in Week 16.

### What’s new: Warren Sapp was dumped after an alleged assault on a prostitute during Super Bowl weekend. He generally won’t be missed. Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor were hired as analysts on NFL Total Access.

### Announcing team: Nantz, Simms.

### Extra point: NFL Network’s Sunday 11:30 p.m. GameDay Final highlights show --- with Chris Rose, Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders --- delivers the long-form highlights that ESPN perfected when it aired NFL PrimeTime.



### What’s on: Inside The NFL every Wednesday night, with numerous replays.

### What’s new: Ed Reed was dropped after one season because Showtime wanted to reduce the number of analysts. Adam Schein replaces Gumbel as host.

### Studio team: Schein, Esiason, Simms (when schedule permits), Jets receiver Brandon Marshall (when schedule permits). Irvin will fill in several weeks.

### Extra point: Collinsworth was missed last season, but Esiason --- though a bit overexposed --- was a thoughtful, logical replacement. Marshall was reluctant to criticize, which Showtime should have expected considering he’s still an active player.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

September 03, 2015

11 p.m.: UM suspension; Heat roster moves; Le Batard discusses his radio show's move to middays, why he agreed to it; 5 p.m. update, new twist on how The Ticket will replace Le Batard in afternoons; WQAM dumps prominent ex-Cane

11 p.m. update:

### UM has suspended defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad for Saturday's opener against Bethune Cookman for a violation of team rules (not believed to be drug-related). The suspension, which I confirmed and was originally reported by Peter Ariz, will be for only one game unless AQM does something else wrong before the second game, according to a person briefed on the situation.

Muhammad was a four-star recruit and rated the No. 3 defensive end in the 2013 class by But he had only eight tackles as a freshman and was suspended from school in the fall of 2014 after punching a former student in the nose in the Sun Life Stadium parking lot following the team's spring game. Muhammad's gruff personality has rubbed some the wrong way, but UM coaches like him and would like to make it work with him.

Muhammad's failure to win a starting job is unrelated to his suspension, I'm told. Trent Harris simply beat him out in camp.

### The Heat has only one roster opening left after finalizing a training camp deal with undrafted Virginia Commonwealth point guard Briante Weber, as Yahoo! reported.

The Heat has been discussing having former Georgetown center Joshua Smith possibly fill the 20th roster spot, but Miami has other options, too.

Smith, 6-10 and 360 pounds, played for the Heat in Summer League after averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks for Georgetown last season. A former McDonald's All American, Smith began his college career at UCLA.

Webber ranks third all-time in steals in NCAA history and averaged 2.7, 3.5 and 3.9 steals in his three seasons at VCU.

Weber, 6-2, averaged 8.1 points, 4.3 assists and 1.7 turnovers last season. He doesn't shoot a lot of threes, making just 12 of 29 last season. His college career ended when he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in a late-January loss to Richmond.

He would be the 19th Heat player under contract, just one under the maximum permitted for training camp. Teams can carry no more than 15 in the regular season.

Chad Ford rated him the 73rd best player in this past June's draft.



Another crazy day in South Florida sports radio began with The Ticket announcing one lineup, then throwing a curveball six hours later after corporate meetings that focused, among other things, on how to replace ratings giant Dan Le Batard in afternoon drive.

Ethan Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez emerged with that late-afternoon job, at least on a temporary basis, and we'll get to that later in the column.

But the big media story Thursday was ESPN's formal announcement that Le Batard will be replacing Fox-bound Colin Cowherd from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. And so the South Florida radio show that became so popular that ESPN decided to air it nationally now moves six hours earlier in the day beginning Tuesday, quite an adjustment for Le Batard and his loyal listeners.

The first time ESPN pitched Le Batard on the idea of moving to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Le Batard said his reaction was “mixed. Found it interesting but hadn't given it much to any thought because we have been happy with what we've been doing for a long time and I didn't really want to mess with happy."

So two years after ESPN began airing his radio show, why did he agree to the time shift?

“Everyone around me wants it,” Le Batard said. “Not just our team. But ESPN, [790] The Ticket, everyone. I was literally the only one tapping brakes. And it is low risk, high reward. That's an ideal way to make a decision. Huge support, minimal risk and high reward. 

“My tiny reluctance isn't enough to push back against that. It's not a forever contract. If we try it and fail, me and Stugotz [Jon Weiner] and our team will transition into selling arepas on Calle Ocho before Marlins games." 

Le Batard assures that the program --- which will be simulcast live on ESPNU and aired on tape on Fusion at 1 p.m. --- won’t be any different, that he won’t do anything to conform to a “traditional” ESPN show.

"It better not [change],” Le Batard said. “I've been adamant about that. I don't want our fun diluted by degrees. I've gotten every assurance about that. ESPN says it wants our show, this show. That remains to be seen, right? But everyone at ESPN has promised me they won't mess with the format one ounce. 

“ESPN has earned my trust there. ESPN hasn't messed with our show in two years. We have a Miami zoo guy on weekly [Ron Magill], for God's sake. I'm sure that we will be met with great audience hostility the first six months when people used to the polish of broadcast professionals are met with our careening, reckless Miami mess. Only changes I'd predict are the one that comes with growth. And Stugotz somehow reversing evolution and becoming more like an ape."

What makes Le Batard’s show so appealing is that it’s unlike anything on radio --- smart, irreverent, whimsical, self-mocking, unwilling to ask the cliché questions that beget cliché answers.

But Le Batard and Weiner also know that when the program is introduced to a new audience --- as it will be next week, when it airs in morning drive on the West Coast --- that it takes awhile for some listeners to warm up to it.

Though afternoon drive is a more prestigious time slot than middays on local radio, that isn't the case with ESPN's national programming. More affiliates carry ESPN Radio from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST than 4 to 7 p.m.

Le Batard also agreed to do a local hour from 9 to 10 a.m. on The Ticket because "that was one of my few wants here, even though I'm not a morning person and I certainly would prefer just 10-1 as a lifestyle. I wanted to keep giving South Florida four hours of our show, how ever I could, and 9 a.m. was the only possible time it could actually work. 

“We have TV and studio conflicts after the show. Can't claim we aren't changing, that we'll be equally South Florida, and then lose the one hour that is exclusively South Florida.”

The Ticket also will air a fifth hour of Le Batard --- essentially a “best of” show with morning content --- from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays. 

“I never imagined any of this,” Le Batard said. “I just wanted to do a little show for South Florida and my neighbors. Always. So that's the little show we are going to keep doing. And ESPN is betting America will find it interesting and contagious, which is somehow an indictment of both ESPN and America."

Le Batard will continue doing his ESPN TV show, Highly Questionable, at 4 p.m. weekdays.

How The Ticket will replace Le Batard in afternoon drive-time has been a story with lots of twists and turns, and it still hasn't reached conclusion.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, morning co-host Jonathan Zaslow announced on the air that Josh Friedman and Chris Wittyngham will move into the 4 to 7 p.m. slot on The Ticket "for now," beginning Tuesday. Management had made clear that both were candidates for the job permanently.

But after several hours of corporate meetings, management emerged with plans to use Gutierrez and Skolnick in that 4 to 7 p.m. time slot as soon as Gutierrez becomes available Sept. 16. They are poised to keep the job longterm if they fulfill management's expectations.

Station general manager Doug Abernathy explained that "Josh and Chris were killing it at night" in the ratings before moving to 10 a.m. last month, and "we want the least amount of disruption as possible. People expect Josh and Chris in the evening."

As for Skolnick and Gutierrez --- who have built sizable followings in this market --- Abernathy said he's eager to hear how they do in a high-profile time slot. Skolnick has appeared regularly on the 1 to 3 p.m. program the past two years, while Gutierrez appears twice a week on the morning show.

"We've giving [Skolnick and Gutierrez] an opportunity to be the quarterback of an afternoon drive show," Abernathy said. "Here's a real opportunity for them to prove themselves. They've done great shows but doing it in prime time [afternoon drive] is a little different. You've got to be perfect every day. We believe they can do it but they've got to do it." 

### Zaslow’s and Joy Taylor's morning show will start 30 minutes earlier (5:30 a.m.) because they're losing their last hour to Le Batard. Eric Reed and Leroy Hoard remain hosts from 1 to 3 p.m.


### WQAM-560 informed former UM star Randal Hill that he will not be retained as the station’s pregame Hurricanes analyst because he’s running for U.S. Congress.

“The station said they would have to give my opponent equal time,” said Hill, who has announced plans to challenge incumbent Frederica Wilson for a District 24 Congressional seat in an August 2016 Democratic primary.

Hill said that equal-time issue is “crazy” and shouldn’t apply in this case because he will be discussing only UM football, not politics. But WQAM said it believed it needed to cut ties with Hill because of FCC equal time rules.

By the way, Jimmy Johnson has agreed to appear at a fund-raiser for Hill at 5 p.m. Sept. 24 at Fowler/White/Burnett PA on Brickell Avenue.

### Even though he’s now working for Al Golden’s UM football staff, WQAM will keep Josh Darrow as its Hurricanes football sideline reporter --- a role he handled capably in past years.

### Saturday’s UM-Bethune Cookman opener (available only on ESPN broadband service) is expected to be the only Hurricanes football game not on television this season. FYI: All Dolphins, Heat and Panther games are expected to be on TV.

### No joke: Lou Holtz, who parted ways with ESPN in what was announced as a mutual decision, will become a weekly contributor on the Golf Network's studio show, Morning Drive. Holtz, an avid golfer, will discuss both golf and college football.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

September 02, 2015

Le Batard move official, moves to 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. starting Tuesday; Le Batard fallout; Winslow discusses how Heat plans to use him, his on-court improvements and other issues; UM notes

8 a.m. update:

As we first reported a couple weeks ago, ESPN is moving Dan Le Batard's show to Colin Cowherd's previous time slot (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Le Batard and Jon Weiner (Stugotz) also will do a live local hour from 9 to 10 a.m. and 790 The Ticket will air highlights of his morning program --- a "best of" type show --- from 3 to 4 p.m.

    Here's how ESPN plans to announce it, according to source:

"On Tuesday, Sept. 8, The Dan Le Batard Show will move to 10 a.m. ET – its new time on ESPN Radio. The three-hour national show will continue to be co-hosted by Le Batard and Jon “Stugotz” Weiner and will remain based in Miami. The one-hour local show will now be broadcast from 9-10 a.m. in Miami. 
"Le Batard will continue to offer provocative opinion and conversation to ESPN Radio’s national audience through a lineup of well-known guests, humor and reaction to the day’s news. The show will also continue to feature a lineup of regular contributors including John Amaechi, Greg Cote, Amin El Hassan, Sarah Spain and Pablo Torre.
"We continue to be flattered and flabbergasted by the amount of unrelenting support ESPN gives our absurd little circus,” Le Batard said. (My interjection: Dan has a lot more to say to us, which we'll post in our media column later.)
"Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president, production business divisions, added “Dan and Stugotz have cultivated a passionate following who expect cutting-edge and entertaining sports talk radio. They will not be disappointed with the time change and a new audience will now have the opportunity to experience this unique blend of make-you-think commentary and humor.”
"The three-hour national show will be heard on ESPN Radio,, the ESPN app and SiriusXM Channel 80.  ESPNU will simulcast the show.  FUSION will continue to televise the show in its entirety, tape delayed at 1 p.m.
"Le Batard will continue to host ESPN’s Highly Questionable weekday afternoons at 4 p.m., along with his father Gonzalo “Papi” Le Batard and Bomani Jones.
"Stugotz will also co-host Fantasy Focus, debuting Sunday, Sept. 6, at 9 a.m. on ESPN Radio. The weekly four-hour show will be co-hosted by ESPN New York 98.7FM’s Dave Rothenberg and Eric Karabell.  The program will prepare listeners for the day in fantasy football with last-minute lineup suggestions, injury updates and analysis of who is having the best season at each position.
"In 2013, Le Batard brought his local radio show – heard on The Ticket in Miami since 2004 – to ESPN Radio’s national audience from 4 – 7 p.m. Le Batard joined ESPN The Magazine’s staff as a contributor in February 1998.

          "Le Batard continues as a columnist at the Miami Herald, where he has been since 1990. His work also appears regularly on An accomplished writer, he has won several Associated Press Sports Editor (APSE) awards.  Le Batard also has written for numerous national publications, including Maxim andCosmopolitan. A 1990 graduate of the University of Miami, Le Batard received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and politics. 

"Jon “Stugotz” Weiner has served as co-host of The Dan Le Batard Show since 2004. A sports broadcasting veteran of more than 15 years, Stugotz provides his own passionate takes on the sports news of the day, often the opposite of Le Batard’s opinion, and is known for his self-deprecating humor.  Stugotz received his bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Clark University in 1995."
### Josh Friedman and Chris Wittyngham have emerged as strong candidates to fill Le Batard's slot in late afternoons, though others also remain under consideration. [10 a.m. UPDATE: Friedman and Wittyngham will host from 4 to 7 p.m. beginning Tuesday. The station says they will hold that slot "for now," and that it has made no final decision on permanent hosts in afternoon drive].
The station initially expressed strong interest in having Ethan Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez fill that slot but backed off that and decided to consider other options after more people became involved in the decision-making process. Skolnick and Gutierrez haven't been ruled out, however.
### Station GM Doug Abernathy said Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor's morning show will start 30 minutes earlier (5:30 a.m.) because they're losing the last hour of their show to Le Batard.
### Eric Reed and Leroy Hoard remain hosts from 1 to 3 p.m.
Please check back here later today for a lot more on Le Batard's move and more local media news, including a surprising dismissal.

A six-pack of items on a Wednesday:

### After getting a feel for Justise Winslow’s unique skill set during NBA Summer League, the Heat coaching staff is concocting creative ways to use its first-round draft choice.

“It’s going to be good. The way they’re using me I think is going to be really special, really going to help me showcase a lot of my skills,” Winslow said Wednesday at a team event at Carnival Corp. headquarters in Doral.

During Summer League, the 6-6 Winslow displayed defensive acumen, deft ball-handling skills and an ability to beat his man off the dribble. Winslow said he believes coach Erik Spoelstra will entrust him with some ball-handling duties.

“If not playing a lot of point, then playing a lot with the ball in my hands,” he said. “If I’m with the first or second unit, ball screens at the top of the key, a lot what I did in Summer League.”

 His jump shot needed work, and Winslow committed himself to improving it this summer, both inside and outside the three-point line.

He said coaches have tinkered a bit with the technique on his jumper but “there haven’t been any major changes. Just trying to become more consistent with the shot.

“I definitely feel comfortable shooting from three-point range but it’s working on everything – pull-ups, mid-range, posting up, finishing. There has been a huge emphasis on my shooting mechanics, trying to get everything more fluid and more natural so I can become a better three-point shooter. But there hasn’t been an over-emphasis on three-point shooting.”

Winslow shot 48.6 percent overall and 41.8 percent on threes at Duke, but the three-point line is a shorter distance in college.

Those numbers slipped dramatically in a limited sample size in Summer League, with Winslow closing at 34 percent from the field (14 for 41) and 3 for 12 on threes.

In the wake of a strong performance in Orlando (11.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists in 25 minutes per game), a sprained ankle and “general soreness” limited Winslow’s availability during the Las Vegas portion of Summer League. Combined with an excused absence to attend the ESPYs, Winslow logged just 22 minutes in Las Vegas, sitting out three of the Heat's five games there.

But Winslow said he has worked past those physical ailments that hampered him in July.

“I took some time off,” he said. “Really just strengthened my body so I can last a full season. No injuries. Just working on all aspects of my job – take care of myself, eat better, trying to get better as a player.”

Though Winslow can play small forward or shooting guard, and even could be cast as a primary ball-handler at times, the Heat doesn’t want to pigeonhole him into a position.

“The Heat is a pretty positionless organization,” he said. “The offense, all the positions are pretty interchangeable. I’m working on all my skills. Just playing alongside other great players, some of the things will be limited.

"Just trying to find spots where if I’m in a game with [Dwyane] Wade, [Goran] Dragic and [Chris] Bosh, where I can be most efficient. I don’t know what I’ll be playing more of --- [shooting guard, small forward or point guard].”

Winslow, whose summer preparations have included both on-court work and film work, said securing a rotation spot is important to him.

He spent time bonding with Heat veterans in Los Angeles last week, a group that also included Wade, Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Gerald Green, Udonis Haslem, James Ennis and Josh McRoberts.

"It was fun being out there,” Winslow said. “A lot of what we did wasn’t even on the basketball court. But the work on the court was great. Just some basic drills, getting to know the guys.

“Just being around each other was probably the biggest takeaway, not even the on-the-court stuff. Starting to build a chemistry. Just going in every day and seeing some of the guys, I feel like the relationship is growing.”

At 220 pounds, Winslow said he doesn’t want “to put on too much weight on so I can still move. It’s not necessarily about building a lot of muscle, bulking up, but just getting stronger. A lot of times, I can be getting stronger but not necessarily bigger. For me, it’s trying to become the best player.”

The Heat turned down an offer of six draft picks from Boston to draft Winslow, but Winslow said that doesn’t create any more pressure.

“There were nine teams that passed on me,” he said. “You use that as motivation.  It’s no pressure. I’m sure teams were offering a lot of picks for the first pick in the draft. I’m here now. All that is behind me. I’m just here trying to learn the culture, be a good citizen in Miami, but ultimately become the best basketball player for the Heat.”

Winslow said he doesn’t “go down to South Beach too much. I spend most of my time in the arena, looking for apartments. Right now, my main priority is Triple A, going to the arena every day.”

### Wednesday marked team president Pat Riley’s 20th anniversary with the Heat, and his friend, owner Micky Arison, marked the occasion with a playful post on Instagram.

A picture of Riley, Arison and their wives was accompanied by this light-hearted remark from Arison: “Can you believe that I put up with him for the last 20 years?” followed by emojis of a smiling face and a basketball on a rim, and then the words “#3Rings” and #MoretoCome.”

Arison said, on Instagram, that he and Riley celebrated Riley's 20th Heat anniversary by dining with Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson in Italy.


### The most obscure name on the UM football depth chart: 6-0, 235-pound starting fullback Gage Batten, a walk-on.

James Coley said Batten "came in and immediately was competing for the 1 job [with Walter Tucker]. And it just so happened we have to give Walter some reps at running back [because of Gus Edwards' season-ending injury]. He's kind of won the fullback spot. Walter is now in transition with doing both."

### Quarterback Malik Rosier has said UM has a special package for him. But Coley was non-committal about whether the Hurricanes will use it every game.

"We'll see," Coley said. "He definitely has the ability to come in and give us something within the game. But we'll see how that plays out."

### Tight end Standish Dobard, a skilled blocker with a penchant for drops, insists he’s much improved as a receiver after an exhaustive summer of pass-catching repetition with Brad Kaaya and a Jugs machine and repeatedly telling himself to look the ball in before running. He gets daily advice/encouragement from the man he’s replacing, Oakland tight end Clive Walford.

### Golden said contrary to the depth chart, Joe Yearby is the starter at running back. Yearby and Mark Walton had been listed as co-starters.

"Joe Yearby and Mark Walton are one and two right now, and (Trayone) Gray is three," Golden said. "All of them are getting reps with the ones."

### Two of the most intriguing variables, according to UM people: tight ends David Njoku (UM calls him a key to creating mismatches) and Jerome Washington (raw but has made some great plays in practice).

Please see the last post for a lot of Dolphins, Canes and Marlins.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz          

September 01, 2015

Analyzing Dolphins' toughest roster decisions; UM football buzz; Marlins


Chatter on the Dolphins’ most difficult decisions in slicing their roster from 75 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday:

1. Defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips. Many teams prefer to keep four, leaving a tricky choice among C.J. Mosley (the veteran has alternated between the second and third teams over the past month and has been OK but not extraordinary), A.J. Francis (rose to second team, alongside Phillips, last week; has a sack and has come on strong, Dolphins people say) and Anthony Johnson, who missed Tuesday’s practice with a foot injury but wasn’t wearing a cast.

Johnson had a sack Saturday but also has four neutral zone infractions in preseason. The Dolphins could be tempted to keep five tackles. Mosley, incidentally, would earn $970,000 if he makes the team, nearly twice as much as the $510,000 due Francis or Johnson.

2. Which linebackers to keep behind the three starters, Chris McCain and rookie Zach Vigil (who seems close to a lock, with owner Stephen Ross noting coaching have "high hopes" for him).

That leaves Spencer Paysinger, Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt and Jordan Tripp in the mix for one or two jobs. 

Paysinger, who has worked on the first-team coverage units all camp, has strong support internally because he was one of the Giants’ top special teams players the past four years, and Miami told him it needs him to replace Jason Trusnik on coverage units. But Hull and Hewitt are pushing. Tripp’s ankle injury hurts his chances.

One possibility: Keeping Paysinger on the 53 and stashing Hull and Hewitt on the practice squad. The Dolphins like Hewitt's athleticism but he needs to improve his grasp of the defense.

3. The cornerback conundrum. It’s unusual for a team to keep seven, but that’s a possibility because of Jamar Taylor’s quad injury (he expects to be back for the opener) and overall depth at the position.

Brent Grimes, Taylor, Brice McCain and Bobby McCain are locks, and the front office told the coaching staff this offseason that it wants to keep Tony Lippett on the 53-man roster.

Though Bowman has been on the bubble, he also has been solid in preseason and has starting experience and special teams value. So there's incentive to keep him.

Meanwhile, Will Davis said Tuesday he is only 90 percent after last November’s knee surgery and Joe Philbin said that will be factored into a decision about him.

Davis has allowed 10 of 15 passes to be completed against him in preseason, for 107 yards, with an interference penalty.

What about placing Davis on short-term injured reserve, which would sideline him for six weeks?

An NFL spokesman couldn't rule that out as an option, because he said players who pass physicals at the start of camp are eligible for short-term IR. But he also said players are eligible for short-term IR if they sustained “a major football related injury… after reporting to training camp.” Davis, obviously, did not sustain an injury after camp started. Davis said nobody has mentioned short-term IR to him.

Teams can use short-term IR on only one player.

4. Whether to keep Matt Hazel as a sixth receiver, which seems unnecessary and is dependent partly on DeVante Parker’s progress after foot injury.

Only Jarvis Landry has more catches in preseason than Hazel (7 for 108) and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said: “You watch [Hazel] make those plays and you say, ‘OK, I can picture him helping us.’”

5. Other stuff: If the Dolphins keep nine linemen, they figure to retain two among Sam Brenner, Jeff Linkenbach and Jacques McClendon. Brenner and McClendon are competing at backup center…. LaMike James, who gives Miami a decent second option on returns, said he expects to be on the team…

Caleb Sturgis remains the favorite over Andrew Franks, but there's no final decision and the Dolphins have given thought to stashing Franks on the practice squad. Unlike the Brandon Fields/Matt Darr situation --- Fields was cut today, as many of you know --- replacing Sturgis with Franks wouldn't save a lot of money. Sturgis is due $585,000 if he makes it, Franks $435,000...

There’s internal support to keep Don Jones as the fourth safety because of special teams ability, but rookie fifth-rounder Cedric Thompson played well in Week 3 after struggling before that. Not certain the Dolphins could stash Thompson on the practice squad without him being claimed.

### Please see the last post for Tuesday Dolphins notes, plus a Heat signing.


### Why did Al Golden say UM won’t “miss a beat” without Gus Edwards?

UM people say Joe Yearby has improved in fighting through contact (coaches want him to break more tackles); Trayone Gray is less fumble-prone and running less upright and appears well-equipped for short-yardage situations; and Mark Walton already has shown he’s an “elite” talent, running backs coach Tim Harris said.

### UM intends to get receiver Stacy Coley the ball a lot and people inside the program strongly believe he will revert to his freshman form (eight touchdowns) before last year’s sophomore slump (no touchdowns).

“The one thing that changed Stacy’s game is he’s gotten better at running routes; that makes his speed so much more deadly,” backup quarterback Malik Rosier said. “He’s going to have a huge run this year.”

### Some of UM’s taller receivers in recent years have disappointed, but Rosier said 6-4 freshman Lawrence Cager, who has cracked the top six at receiver and figures to play in some red zone situations: “is really agile. We’ve had big guys that are really stiff.” And, as Corn Elder said, Cager “goes up and gets the ball.” And as Golden said, he’s fluid and has a large catch radius.

Cager grew up admiring Andre Johnson and was thrilled to meet him in the UM weight-room this offseason. UM's history of producing NFL receivers appealed to Cager.

### UM coaches fully expect defensive linemen Kendrick Norton and Richard McIntosh to make an impact as freshmen. We hear Norton has generated good push against the center throughout camp and McIntosh has shown a knack for making impactful plays.

### One UM reality about these UM coaches that was reinforced this week: It makes no difference to them how ballyhooed a prospect you were out of high school.

Curiously, in five of the most competitive position battles, two- and three-star players (Ufomba Kamalu, Trent Harris, Sunny Odogwu, Courtel Jenkins and Darrion Owens) beat out higher-rated players who were rated by among the top 12 at their position out of high school: five-star Chad Thomas and four-star Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kc McDermott, Anthony Moten and Tyriq McCord, all of whom will play this season but none of whom did enough to win starting jobs.

Golden says one reason Harris won a job (ahead of Muhammad) is “he doesn’t make any mental errors” and is "exact" in every play. That's more important to these coaches than a player's ceiling.

### An NFC scout said cornerback Artie Burns is UM’s best draft-eligible prospect (potentially a second-rounder) and “I’m eager to watch [linebacker] Raphael Kirby. He’s a third-day guy if he plays well. He doesn’t have measurables like [NFL] people want but he’s a good, productive player.”

### We hear the Marlins would have interest in talking to Don Mattingly about their soon-to-be-open managerial job if the Dodgers fire him. Fox reported tonight what I reported weeks ago --- that the Marlins intend to make a managerial change.

### As our Clark Spencer writes, the Marlins will have meetings on Thursday and organizational changes are expected beyond the impending managerial change. Changes in the team's scouting department are expected, and Jennings could have front-office job options elsewhere if he chooses to pursue them instead of returning to the Marlins' front office, which will be an option available to him. Jennings is one of numerous candidates linked to the Mariners' GM job.

Jennings has told people the Marlins are close to contending if they can make a couple of key pickups this winter, though some assuredly would disagree.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz    

Douglas on promotion to starting RG job with Dolphins; Punter change reaction; Fins' injury updates; Heat signs forward

Over the past five years, rookie Jamil Douglas’ game experience at right guard consists of half of one preseason game. But he’s poised to be the Dolphins’ opening-day starter at that position if he doesn’t stumble before then.

Douglas lined up with the first team at right guard on Tuesday, replacing Billy Turner, who started each of the first three preseason games. Douglas said coaches told him he’s the new starter at that position, as of now, but wasn’t given any long-term promises.

“I was honored they feel that way about me,” Douglas said.  “I know I’ve got to keep coming out every week and proving myself. If you look at the tape, I’ve been able to get better every week. That’s the main thing I want to show the coaches, that I can keep getting better each week.”

Douglas, a fourth-round pick, played exclusively on the left side, both at tackle and guard, at Arizona State but has taken snaps at both left and right guard in practice for the past month. He played right guard in the second half of the second preseason game against Carolina.

Douglas said he already feels comfortable at right guard --- “it’s a position I like” --- and coach Joe Philbin said “he looks good in a right-handed stance; he looks comfortable. He’s able to step in either direction, which is important. There’s some adjustment [going from left to right], but it has gone well.

“He played well the other night [at left guard]. He made some plays in space. He played pretty decisively as a young guy. Seems to have picked up the system well.”

The Dolphins decided to move Douglas to right guard because Dallas Thomas has settled in as the starter at left guard.

Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has played alongside Douglas in practice but not yet in a game, called Douglas “officially the starting right” and said “he has impressed me just how he’s carried himself. You wouldn’t think he’s a rookie. He’s been on top of everything, searching for help, not one of those quiet guys scared to ask questions. He’s ahead of the curve.”

Turner, selected in the third round out of North DakotaState in 2014, was disappointed when informed of the news on Monday, according to team sources.

“I’ve got a lot of things to work on,” he said. “No one is perfect at the game. I did some things well. I did some things poorly.”

Philbin, who said he’s not ready to name starting guards, said “we’ve seen a lot of great things from Billy” but he wants more consistency.

Meanwhile, left tackle Branden Albert, back from major knee surgery, participated in team drills without any problems for the second day in a row and the team remains hopeful he will be ready for the opener.

James, smiling, said Albert “has been very persistent, came to me today [and said], ‘I’m out of shape. I’ve got to get back in shape. I need you to coach me now. I was coaching you last year.’ We’re happy to see him out there.”

### One Dolphins veteran player said even though nobody was shocked by Brandon Fields' release, some players were caught off guard.

Adam Beasley will have a story on the home page on new punter Matt Darr, who was middle of the pack statistically in punting average among college football punters at Tennessee but has been very impressive here.

“The stuff he has put on tape has been impressive,” assistant coach Darren Rizzi said last Thursday about Darr. “He's got an NFL type leg. With any rookie, the natural questions pop up. You have a proven guy there and another guy with an NFL leg.”

Cutting Fields saves $500,000 in cap space this year, a lot more next year, and $2 million in salary this year.

### The Dolphins got down to 75 players by today's deadline by cutting Fields and running back Demetrius Bronson.

### Left tackle Jason Fox, who practiced Monday, sat out Tuesday because he is still going through concussion protocol testing.

Running back Mike Gillislee, a long shot, missed practice with a quad injury. Anthony Johnson, facing an uphill climb for a job at defensive tackle, sat out with a foot injury but wasn’t wearing a boot.

Safety Don Jones (illness) also didn’t work Tuesday, and Philbin said the Dolphins will need to take into account their “history with him” in determining his roster chances. And Jamar Taylor remained out with a quadriceps injury.

Receiver DeVante Parker has been working in 7-on-7 drills and has felt no discomfort in his surgically-repaired foot.


The Heat agreed to terms with Georgetown forward Greg Whittington on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, as first reported by

Whittington, 6-8, averaged 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks for the Heat in Summer League, playing 24.5 minutes per game, on average.

He averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds for Georgetown during the 2012-13 season before sustaining a torn ACL. He was later dismissed from the team in November 2013 for academic reasons, and a transfer to Rutgers fell through.

He traveled with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Westchester County last season but did not play because he re-aggravated the knee injury. He went undrafted in June but impressed the Heat this summer.

"He's been great for us," Dan Craig, the Heat’s Summer League coach, said in July. "He's an athletic player. He can mix in rolling and flaring. He's been great at getting us into second situations and then defensively, you can do a lot with him. You can switch him on the perimeters, he can rebound, protect the rim for you, and he can bust out and create breaks so he adds a nice dimension.”

With Whittington, the Heat has 18 players under contract --- including four with non-guaranteed deals: James Ennis, Keith Benson, Corey Hawkins and Whittington --- the last three of which could end up on the Heat's D-League team in South Dakota.

Teams can keep up to 20 players in training camp but no more than 15 during the regular season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 31, 2015

8 p.m. Monday UM update; 6 p.m. Monday surprising Dolphins news; Vets deal with uncertainty; Matthews rises; Pouncey's prediction; ongoing battles; Fins catch break

For some UM football notes posted at 8 p.m., please scroll to the bottom.

6 p.m. Dolphins update:

Rookie Jamil Douglas has pulled ahead of Billy Turner in the competition for the right guard job, according to two people briefed on the situation. Turner was informed of that on Monday and was naturally disappointed.

The Dolphins still have time to settle on a starter before the Sept. 13 opener at Washington.

Though Turner --- a third-round pick in 2014 --- has shown flashes, his inconsistency concerns coaches. Douglas, meanwhile, has made a strong impression on the coaching staff.

Douglas, the rookie fourth-rounder from Arizona State, has gotten work at both left guard and right guard over the past month. He started at left guard on Saturday against Atlanta, with Turner at right guard. Douglas played left guard and left tackle with the Sun Devils, so playing on the right side would be something of an adjustment.

“Very pleased with Jamil, particularly for a rookie,” offensive line coach John Benton said a few weeks ago. “Handles himself like a pro. What he’s doing well [is] he’s playing under control, has a good demeanor. He’s physical and handling the assignments very well." 

Dallas Thomas is the likely starter at left guard.

Mike Pouncey predicted today that the Dolphins' young guards “are going to shock a lot of people. If you watch them on film, they are playing really physical, finishing blocks. They have really surprised me. I have seen the strides from last year to this year and it’s amazing to see how far all those guys have come.”


Some Dolphins notes on a day Branden Albert got some work with the first team in practice and DeVante Parker participated in individual drills in practice. (Both remain hopeful, but not certain, that they’ll be ready for the opener):

### Whereas many Dolphins veterans will get Thursday off, about a dozen others will be fighting simply to make the roster when Miami plays its preseason finale against Tampa Bay at Sun Life Stadium.

For Matt Hazel, the issue comes down to whether Miami feels a need to keep six receivers as DeVante Parker works his way back from foot surgery.  That decision hasn’t been made.

“He’s clearly better” than last season, coach Joe Philbin said.

There’s substantial sentiment internally to keep linebacker Spencer Paysinger because of his special teams acumen, but he’s battling Jordan Tripp and others for one or two open backup jobs.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful,” Paysinger said. “I have had starting experience, have done good stuff on special teams in my career. My grades have been solid in preseason. [But] all our young linebackers have done great stuff.”

For Jake Stoneburner, he’s not only competing against underdog prospect Tim Semisch for the No. 3 tight end job, but he’s also essentially competing against every other NFL tight end who’s cut this weekend.

“I am underestimated in the blocking area,” Stoneburner said, offering up a scouting report. “I’m tough. I’m not going to back down. I can make plays as well.”

Some players on the bubble are more confident about their chances than others. “I think I’ll be here,” said LaMike James, who has impressed as a runner and a kick returner in preseason.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who remains the front-runner in his competition with Andrew Franks, said he “definitely” did not do enough “early” in camp to secure the job, “but I've been hitting the ball better lately.” The Dolphins will give thought to keeping Franks on the practice squad.


Rishard Matthews, who wasn’t even assured a roster spot a month ago, not only appears a lock to stick but also could end up starting. He started ahead of Kenny Stills on Saturday, alongside Jarvis Landry and Greg Jennings.

After requesting a trade this past spring, Matthews said Monday he is “glad I’m here for another year.” He said all he wanted was a fair competition and it “definitely has been fair” and he has tried to “show that I need to be on the field more offensively.”

Said Ryan Tannehill: “He has had a heck of a camp. We came in together, so I’ve spent a lot of time with him and seen him grow over the past four years. I would say that over the last six months I have seen the most growth from him. He is growing as a man, growing as a player, and developing his game in all aspects. His consistency is at an all-time high.” 

### Cornerback Jamar Taylor (quadriceps) was the only player who missed Monday’s practice but said he expects to be ready for the regular-season opener. But running back Mike Gillislee left practice and was working on the side during a short session open to reporters.

### Tripp returned to practice after missing two weeks with an ankle injury. Offensive tackle Jason Fox returned after missing a week with a concussion.

### Whereas a lot of starters are expected to sit out Thursday, Philbin said that won’t be the case for all 22. “We have to take each individual and look at it separately,” he said.

### Though Jordan Cameron is the starting tight end, Philbin said he also views Dion Sims as a starter. “He can do a lot of different jobs; is coming along nicely,” Philbin said.

### A day after JD Walton was released, Philbin said the backup center job remains an ongoing competition between Sam Brenner and Jacques McClendon.

### With Kirk Cousins named the starting quarterback in Washington and Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo, that means the Dolphins will open the season potentially facing these six quarterbacks: Cousins, Blake Bortles, Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Brian Hoyer. What's the opposite of a murderer's row?


A few notable comments from Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio from tonight's Hurricane Hotline on WQAM with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr.:

### Golden: "We are too inconsistent to be a really good team" yet.

### Golden said receiver Stacy Coley is stronger, having bulked up from 175 to 192 pounds, and that Herb Waters "has been really consistent."

### Golden said "we missed [receiver] Rashawn Scott sorely last year."

### Among the appealing qualities of freshman receiver Lawrence Cager: "He's fluid, very smooth in ... his cuts," Golden said. "His catch radius is so good. He can absorb the ball five feet in any direction."

### D'Onofrio said among freshmen on his side of the ball, cornerback Sheldrick Redwine and safety Jaquan Johnson "have stood out"; defensive tackle Kendrick Norton has "flashed" and defensive end Richard McIntosh "is going to have a great career here."

### D'Onofrio said linebacker/end Darrion Owens "has been awesome. He's exactly what you want --- smart, tough, athletic. Can play SAM, ... rush end and mike."

### He said starting defensive end Ufomba Kamalu agreed to gain weight after fighting it in past years and is now 295, up from 270. "He bought in on that; he can play end, tackle, nose on third down."

### Dallas Crawford, the only player who was named as an unopposed first-teamer at the position, "has really settled in," D'Onofrio said. "He has done everything he has needed to do since January."

### Jamal Carter, battling Deon Bush to start at the other safety spot, "had a great camp," D'Onofrio said.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

August 29, 2015

UM adds wrinkles to offense, says some things will be "shocking"; Dolphins-Falcons postscripts; Heat nuggets; Marlins


UM players say the Hurricanes are going to unveil some snazzy, creative offensive wrinkles in September, some of which backup quarterback Malik Rosier predicts will be “shocking” to people.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more quick reads, quick throws and more spreading of the field to get players open in space. Hurricanes players say they have watched how Tom Brady does it in New England; the Patriots often use one running back or go empty in the backfield, with a bunch of receivers running patterns and flummoxing defenses.

Though UM’s Al Golden said this offseason he has no interest in going exclusively to a traditional spread, it has been and will certainly continue to be an important part of UM’s attack, along with the pro style sets that the Hurricanes have used as their base offense for many years.

The offense “will be something different that people will say, ‘What set is this?’ For defenses, it will be shocking,” Rosier said.

“We’ll still have some of the same plays from last year. We’ll run some base plays we ran last year and say, ‘We’re great at running this, stop us if you can.’ But there will also be times where we get a little exotic and do some different stuff and try to catch people off guard.”

Regardless of the formation, UM’s offense must improve, and credit offensive coordinator James Coley for incorporating some of what the Dallas Cowboys do (especially on third-down packages and multiple tight-end sets) and adding some elements that have players excited.

Despite having NFL draft picks and elite talent at running back (Duke Johnson), receiver (Phillip Dorsett), left tackle (Ereck Flowers) and tight end (Clive Walford), and a quarterback with a better passer rating than FSU’s Jameis Winston, UM still finished just 62nd in points per game (29.2) in 2014. Now that offense has a more mature Brad Kaaya but also lost its best player at every other position.

For perspective, UM hasn’t finished in the top 30 in scoring in any of the past 10 years and on average has ranked 60th in scoring (of 128 FBS schools) during that period. Under Golden, UM has finished 63rd, 49th, 34th and 62nd in points per game, not good enough to overcome a less than dominant defense.

Only twice over the past 10 years have the Hurricanes even finished in the top 40 in scoring, something FSU has done seven years in a row. The biggest difference is that Florida State has had substantially better quarterback play than UM for most of that period, though not last season.

Miami’s playmaking talent over those 10 years obviously hasn’t measured up to the great UM teams, but UM has still had a bunch of NFL players during that time: Lamar Miller, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Sinorice Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Travis Benjamin and others.

Here’s a story: In 2013, TCU coach Gary Patterson had his first losing season in nine years (4-8), then overhauled his offensive coaching staff and went to a spread offense in 2014. TCU immediately improved from 89th to second in the nation in scoring last season (46.5) and went 12-1.

In fact, the top five point-producers in college football in 2014 all ran some version of a spread: Baylor, TCU, Marshall, Oregon and Ohio State (the later two of which played in the national title game). Their combined record: 62-7.

So should Golden take the bold step --- like Patterson --- of going to a pure spread and simply trying to outscore people?

Golden said that idea doesn’t appeal to him but pointed out “there are a lot of those concepts we use in our passing game. No one looks at New England as a spread offense, but there are a lot of elements of it and that’s the way the game is now.

“We have a quarterback that can sit back there and do a lot of drop back and three-step drops. We would be foolish not to incorporate some of that.”

But some alums wonder what UM could achieve with a philosophical change.  

Former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gino Torretta put it this way: “Offensively, when you are able to spread the field with one back, like we did with Dennis Erickson, you dictate to the defense what they can and can’t do. I would like to see more four wide receiver sets.” (UM finished in the top 15 in scoring in five of Erickson’s six seasons.)

“Offensively, a high-octane spread would be enticing,” said former Canes quarterback Steve Walsh, who is now director of football for IMG Academy in Bradenton. Walsh did not endorse a move to a spread offense but merely said it has some appealing features.

Recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said UM’s pro-style offense leaves players “more prepared for the NFL. That’s one of the big selling points for Miami. But a lot of kids want to play spread and go up tempo. People thought Dennis Erickson’s system wouldn’t work here and it did. I think James Coley would like to play more of it.”

In fact, one of UM’s top remaining uncommitted 2016 recruiting targets, Coconut Creek four-star receiver Binjimen Victor (rated 69th among all players by, said Ohio State “fits me best [better than Miami] because they use a lot of spread offense.”

But UM players suggest the Hurricanes will spread the field enough this year to make a difference.

“I’m pretty sure when you spread the defense out like that, it will be very difficult to stop,” safety Dallas Crawford said. “When you spread the defense out and have Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards and Mark Walton and [Trayone Gray] hitting the holes that the defense leaves, it’s going to be tough to stop.”

Golden, incidentally, said he doesn’t want to go to a full-time hurry-up. He’s convinced the offense, with its new wrinkles, will be better if UM curtails turnovers and becomes far better on third downs and in the red zone.

The Canes have ranked in the 90s in third-down conversions the past two seasons, foiling too many drives.

The Hurricanes’ touchdown rate in the red zone ranked 105th in the country and Kaaya's 46.8 completion percentage in the red zone (29 for 62, three picks) contributed to that.


A dozen thoughts and nuggets after Miami's 13-9 victory against Atlanta in the third preseason game:

### All of the unresolved issues about Miami's starting lineup appeared to gain clarity. Kelvin Sheppard appears set as the starting middle linebacker, not because Sheppard has been extraordinary but because Chris McCain continued an underwhelming preseason on Saturday. McCain was on the field late in the game but made little impact.

Billy Turner played competently at right guard on Saturday, and it would be very surprising if he's not the starter to open the season, unless a high-caliber veteran becomes available.

Walt Aikens appears likely to be the starting safety opposite Reshad Jones.

### Fill-in left tackle Dallas Thomas, expected to be the starting left guard once the season starts, had a couple of breakdowns in run blocking but was decent in pass protection and made a good block on a screen. "Thought he did OK; he did some really nice things," Joe Philbin said.

Jason Fox (out with a concussion) figures to start at left tackle against Washington if Branden Albert isn't ready to go. Though ESPN said Albert won't be ready until week 3, our Armando Salguero said he remains on track to play in the opener --- and GM Dennis Hickey said this summer that he expects that.

### The Dolphins scored only seven points on Ryan Tannehill's six series, but Tannehill continued putting up solid numbers, finishing 15 for 19 for 145 yards, one touchdown (a 2-yarder to Rishard Matthews) and a 116 rating.  

"It has to be better," Philbin said of the first-team offense. "We didn't have a lot of success on third down. We had some penalties that weren't very good. Didn't make enough plays. We have to do better."

Said Tannehill: “I was frustrated and I thought we didn’t play clean. We moved the ball I felt like when we didn’t kick ourselves in the foot. We had penalties, we had negative plays. I expect better out of our offense.”

### Even on a week Seattle’s Michael Bennett called him mediocre and overpaid, Tannehill got plenty of love: Pro Football Focus curiously ranking him 10th among all quarterbacks, ahead of Andrew Luck, and NFL Net’s respected Daniel Jeremiah declared that “he’s got Pro Bowl ability.It’s tough to find a guy as athletic as Tannehill and has that poise and can slow things down. He’s able to slow things down. Quick release. Ability to extend plays with his legs. He looks sharp. And this is without DeVante Parker.”

### Matt Moore again struggled (5 for 10, 68 yards, 32.5 rating), throwing an interception on a deflected pass. He has a 50.1 passer rating in preseason.

### This Ndamukong Suh-led defensive line should be the Dolphins' best in years. The Falcons had no yards rushing on seven first half carries and finished with 50 on 24 attempts. Earl Mitchell and Cam Wake each had sacks and Mitchell also had two tackles for loss. 

What's more, Derrick Shelby was outstanding. A.J. Francis, trying to win the last d-tackle job, had a sack, and second-rounder Jordan Phillips looked good. Anthony Johnson had a sack but committed his fourth neutral zone infraction of the preseason.

### Two players very much on the bubble left with injuries: LaMike James (chest) and Zack Bowman (thigh). James averaged just 6.2 yards on four punt returns but 30 yards on two kickoff returns.... Starting center Mike Pouncey told reporters afterward that he will get an MRI on his knee but isn't concerned about it and doesn't expect to miss any games.

### Three of the four undrafted linebackers made their presence felt. Zach Vigil again had some good moments ("coaches have high hopes for Zach Vigil; I know that," Stephen Ross said on CBS-4); Mike Hull's sack ended a Falcons drive near the Dolphins goal-line; and Neville Hewitt forced a late fumble. Jordan Tripp's ankle injury couldn't have come at a more inauspicous time.

### Jay Ajayi made his preseason debut with 25 yards rushing on 7 carries. Damien Williams ran 6 times for 19 yards and James didn't have a rushing attempt before leaving with an injury. Starter Lamar Miller had 22 yards on six carries and caught five passes for 31 yards.

### The Dolphins' rookie punter and rookie kicker each made strong statements in their bid for jobs. Andrew Franks, who entered in an uphill climb against Caleb Sturgis, nailed a 51-yard field goal late in the game. Punter Matt Darr averaged 56.5 yards on two punts; Brandon Fields averaged 50 yards on three punts, though he placed two inside the 20.

### A few other notable remarks from owner Ross during his appearance on the CBS-4 broadcast: "Our receiver room has never been better since I've been here. They get along.... I haven't liked our second-stringers so far this year... Joe [Philbin] is coming into his own. The players feel good about him."

### With $13 million in cap space and question marks at guard, why didn’t Miami make a big offer for Denver-bound Evan Mathis? Among the reasons: Not only has Thomas impressed the Dolphins in camp, but they weren’t convinced that Mathis, at 33, would be better than Thomas and Turner by the end of the season.


### We hear one reason the Marlins released Jeff Baker was because they felt he was spreading negativity in the clubhouse, was a bad influence on a couple of young players and was conveying an anti-front office message. Baker was well liked by teammates and the media, however.

### Chris Bosh, working his way back from blood clots on his lungs, looked great –-- consistently nailing his jump shots --- and appeared physically strong in workouts near his Southern California home this past week with Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Mario Chalmers and other Heat teammates, according to someone in attendance. Erik Spoelstra flew in to watch those California workouts.

### Also partaking in those workouts: Josh McRoberts, back from knee surgery. “Medically I’m in a good spot and I’m especially excited with our new additions,” he said.

And with Tyler Johnson also cleared to return from his broken jaw sustained in Summer League (he has been working out in Delray Beach), the Heat is back to full strength a month before training camp.

The Heat, incidentally, wants to take a long look at Johnson and Josh Richardson in training camp before deciding whether to make a renewed attempt to trade Chalmers.

### South Florida-based Bommarito Performance Systems, which has done good work helping Jarvis Landry improve his speed and Lamar Miller bolster his strength and power while helping train a lot of other NFL players, has branched out into basketball and has been training Udonis Haslem, with Joe Ferrer working closely with the longtime Heat forward.

By the way, Haslem continues to work on his three-point game, having gotten the message from Spoelstra last October that he needs to hit from beyond the arc to get minutes at power forward. Haslem enters the season potentially sixth in the power rotation hierarchy, unless Chris Andersen is dealt.

### Spoelstra, by the way, joined Wade, Haslem and Chalmers in walking the 168-step Santa Monica stairs near Pacific Palisades. The players ended up doing it more than once and walked about 400 steps, Ferrer said.

### No, Goran Dragic isn’t upset about the Heat trading brother Zoran. In fact, Zoran’s representation said the Heat and Zoran mutually agreed a trade would be beneficial so that he could play more. Zoran was dealt to Boston and ended up signing in Russia.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz