July 23, 2016

Medication key issue for Bosh; Exploring with doctors whether he should play; More Arian Foster; Marlins, UM news; Luke suit dropped




With the Heat remaining non-committal about whether Chris Bosh will be cleared to play, one issue that has been discussed is whether Bosh should come off blood thinners or continue taking them, according to a person briefed on the matter.

If Bosh comes off the medication this summer, there’s no reason why he couldn’t play.

But even if he stays on the thinners, Bosh has tried to convince the Heat to allow him to play while taking a new medication that would be out of his system in 8 to 12 hours, or by game-time, thus lessening or eliminating the inherent risks of playing a contact sport while on thinners. As we reported last month, the Heat rejected that idea late this past season, angering Bosh. And it’s unclear if Miami would be receptive to that now.

An NBA-employed friend says Bosh very much wants to play and believes he should be cleared. If the Heat fights him on this, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bosh takes this issue to the players union, unless Bosh again relents as he did during last year’s playoffs. Pat Riley said the Heat won’t make a decision on Bosh’s status until August or September.

With Bosh having two blood clot episodes in consecutive Februaries (one in his leg that traveled to his lungs, another in his calf), we asked two doctors not involved in his treatment whether they would clear him to play.

One doctor, UHealth’s Robert Myerburg, said Bosh wouldn’t be at serious risk playing if he’s off the blood thinners, but he has been skeptical of Bosh's idea of playing while taking thinners that would be out of his system in 8 to 12 hours.

“Someone who has had a second clot is more likely to have another, but the specific circumstances of an athlete might be different,” said Myerburg, considered an expert on athletes’ medical conditions and cardiology.

“If you take the total population of people who have had this thing, once you had a second, you're at risk for a third. But that doesn't get into the issue of how a subgroup [such as pro athletes] may behave because of things that make them more prone for blood clots.”

Bosh told reporters last September that he does not have the gene that makes him predisposed to keep getting clots.

That’s key, Myerburg said, because it means he doesn’t absolutely need to take blood-thinners the rest of his life.

“Once you’re off the thinners and the clot is gone, there is no negative for him to play," Myerburg said. "If he develop symptoms in the future and gets on blood thinner therapy quickly, I wouldn't call that life threatening because he will be ahead of the game.

"[But] the debate in the medical community is because he's on, should he be on permanent [blood thinners]? That's a tough call. The data just isn't there to say he absolutely should or shouldn't. It becomes a judgment issue. So if there is no predisposing factors other than trauma induced, that's a judgment issue about whether to play.”

Because of that, Myerburg – while emphasizing his knowledge of Bosh’s case is limited to media reports -- said it would be “a tough call whether” Bosh should “resume his career” even though he believes playing (while off thinners) wouldn’t put him in serious jeopardy.

One possible solution, Myerburg said, is to take Bosh off thinners and clear Bosh to play but “if he has trauma to his leg” during a game or practice, “just take him out of action for a while, put him on anticoagulants, but not the full three to six months” typical for blood thinners.

Clearwater-based doctor Brett Levine said “without blood thinners, yes I think he could play next season. They already did the work up after his first bout of blood clots to make sure he wasn't one of those individuals who has a disorder that makes him prone to making clots, which from media reports was negative.

“So in my opinion you just hope this was an unlucky coincidence and you take precautionary, non-invasive measures to make it less likely for him to get a clot again. These include simple things like walking during long flights and perhaps at night have him wear a sequential compression device, a device they use in hospitals to prevent blood clots by applying intermittent pressure to the legs. Perhaps even do periodic Ultasounds to scan for clots which is also not invasive.”

Some in the Bosh camp remain angry and suspicious of the Heat’s intentions, wondering if Miami was motivated by clearing cap space. A Heat source insists this is not the case, that Miami wants him to play if doctors are comfortable with it.

If Bosh doesn’t play a single game this upcoming season, his $25.2 million salary for 2017-18 and $26.8 million for 2018-19 would be cleared this summer from Miami’s cap only if “a doctor that is jointly selected by the league and players association agree his condition is career-ending, or severe enough to put him at risk if he continues playing.”

But if Bosh pursues a grievance through the players union, the matter would become much more complicated.

Remember: A team cannot apply to remove a player from its cap until a year after his last appearance in a game. If Bosh doesn’t play again, that date would be Feb. 9, 2017. But if Bosh plays even in one game next season, that would re-set the clock for a full year. Cap expert Larry Coon said that player could never again rejoin the team that cut him under those cap-clearing circumstances.

Gerald Green signed with the Celtics on Saturday, after the Heat expressed no interest in bringing him back.


• Among the things the Dolphins like about Arian Foster: his ability to break tackles. In 2014, he averaged a very strong 2.8 yards after contact; only Marshawn Lynch (3.0) was better, according to Pro Football Focus.

• Though ousted Andreu Swasey was popular, UM’s new strength staff, led by Gus Felder, is getting rave reviews from players.

“It’s a blessing,” defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr. said, making a point to praise Swasey as well as Felder. “There’s more emphasis on explosion, quickness, speed [under Felder]. We try to work on the whole body. It's a great training program that definitely will help us be more dominant in the fourth quarter and also with the running game.”

• Nearly five years ago, now Miami Jackson High defensive coordinator and ex-rapper Luther Campbell sued convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro for defamation, seeking $15,000, after Shapiro said Campbell was "the first uncle who took care of players" and that Shapiro provided similar benefits when Campbell no longer could. The lawsuit says Shapiro's comments falsely accused Campbell of engaging in "illegal and immoral behaviors relative to college-age athletes."

Last week, Campbell quietly dropped the suit. His attorney declined to comment, but a source said it was clear that Shapiro was in no position to compensate Campbell if Shapiro lost in court. Shapiro, imprisoned since 2010, is serving a 20-year term; he’s now in a New Jersey facility and continuing to seek his freedom.

• At the MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos, UM is 75 to 1 to win the national title (30th best) with a wins over/under of seven (most have bet over).

• Look for ESPN to announce that it’s hiring former UM linebacker Jonathan Vilma as a college football studio analyst. He will debut on College Football Live at 1:30 Monday, with a more expanded role to be announced closer to the season.

• As Andy Slater reported late tonight, Wei Yin Chen will miss Monday's start for the Marlins for an undisclosed reason, and as Jon Heyman reported, Jarred Cosart will take his place.

• With the trade deadline looming July 31 and the Marlins aggressively pursuing starting pitcher, they don’t have many high-end prospects to use as carrots. Well-regarded Marc Delpiano, hired last winter to help revive the Marlins’ minor-league system, said: “We’ve got some arms. We are going to have to homegrow our rotation. It’s a necessity in the game.”

Who are the Marlins’ best starting pitching prospects, aside from No. 1 pick Braxton Garrett? Delpiano cites Justin Nicolino (4-4, 3.10) at Triple A New Orleans; Jacob Esch (10-6, 3.72) in Double A Jacksonville (“has a chance to pitch in a major league rotation”), and Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.30) and Dillon Peters (8-6, 2.87) in high-level Single A Jupiter.

Delpiano says these are Miami’s top position prospects: four in low-level Class A Greensboro -- first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9, 51), catcher Roy Morales (.301) and outfielders Anfernee Seymour (.254, 33 steals) and Isael Soto (.244, 7, 27); plus three Double A prospects --- second baseman Brian Anderson (.209 in Double A in 40-plus game; .302 before that in Jupiter), left fielder Austin Dean (.247, 9, 52) and third baseman JT Riddle (.268).

Delpiano said owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson “have emptied the purse strings” to beef up the minor league system, including more money to sign six-year minor-league free agents.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 22, 2016

Friday night: Former NFL evaluators offer mixed assessment of Dolphins' moves; Marlins nuggets


We asked an NBA scout to assess the Heat’s free agent pickups earlier this week and you can read that here if you missed it.

Now, with training camp a week away, we do the same with the Dolphins, with analysis solicited from two former team evaluators who are now working for ESPN: former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik and ex-Browns scout Matt Williamson (who has been prescient in past evaluations for us).

Some of their feedback in separate conversations:

• The Dolphins believe Mario Williams and Jay Ajayi will be far better values, and at least as good on the field, if not better, than Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller.

Dominik isn’t so sure, asserting these were “not fundamentally sound [decisions]. You cannot keep them all, but you can keep the young ones. Sometimes, when 70,000 people think you are wrong, you might be wrong. The hard part for me is they let two young, really talented players out of an organization. That [is something] you usually don't see.  Miller was a victim of under-utilization.”

What’s more, Dominik envisions no great revival from Williams because of “the age [31], the injury history and what he put on tape. And the tape is the truth. Last year, he didn't play very well whether he liked the system or not. It's one thing to say [he’s hungry] in the spring. But when it comes to training camp, is he going to be a leader and can he work with [Ndamukong] Suh?”

Williamson, on Williams: “I always thought he was slightly overrated. He’s lost a little of what he had, though this scheme fit will help him. It’s a downgrade from Vernon. But Williams will have 12 plays where if you put a highlight tape on, you would think ‘Wow!’ Traditionally he’s pretty good against the run.”

But Williamson likes the Arian Foster pickup: “Certainly makes sense. [They] need a veteran badly. Zone runner, good receiver. Hard to guess what he has left.”

• On the trade for Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, which didn’t end up costing Miami much in the draft (8 to 13, with Laremy Tunsil dropping to 13):

Dominik said “Maxwell is a good No. 2 corner. To say he's going to be a No. 1 shutdown corner” is a stretch…. "Kiko Alonso is a good player, but the question is, ‘Can you keep him on the field?’”

Williamson says it’s less than ideal to have Maxwell as your No. 1 corner. “He’s somewhere between a No. 1 and a No. 2. It will help him to be in that scheme where he can press. My guess is the Dolphins have much higher hope for him than I do. Is he an upgrade over Brent Grimes? I don’t know that.”

Williamson said Alonso is “really good against the pass and fits today’s linebacker prototype. But if he can’t run off the knee injuries, he’s not going to beat you with physicality.”

• Williamson, on safety Isa Abdul-Quddus: “Ideally if he is your worst player of your starting 11, you are in really good shape. I don’t think he hurts you. But an average to below average NFL starter.” (He must beat out Michael Thomas.)

• On the defensive line overall (Suh, Earl Mitchell, Jordan Phillips, Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, Chris Jones, Jason Jones, Williams, etc): Dominik: “It's a really strong line. Very powerful. They have a blueprint of what they want to be in terms of big and powerful and strong. By letting Vernon go, they said we want bigger bodies; we want to be more physical and imposing.”

Williamson: “They have to find a younger guy as an edge pass rusher” to develop with Wake aging. Branch is not quite strong enough, not explosive enough to be [a high impact] guy. Not a great technician. You try to upgrade over him. Chris Jones is a useful rotational player.”

• On long-time tackle Jermon Bushrod, who will compete to start at right guard: Dominik: “They’re telling me they have a blueprint of bigger is better on their line. [Panthers general manager] Dave Gettleman's mindset was like that with the Giants and he took it to Carolina and it worked. Bigger makes sense as long as they have gas in the tank and can stay healthy.” That’s the question with Bushrod.

Williamson: “My only complaint is they have a bunch of tackles and no [clearly above average natural] guards, though that’s better than the other way around. You would think this offensive line would be quite good. But I would do the opposite of what they’re doing: I would put Branden Albert at guard and Laremy Tunsil at tackle since Albert was a guard in college.

“Can they find a quality right guard out of those five [Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas]? I think they will. Bushrod is the better player than Urbik, who’s more of a masher.”

• Williamson, on Griff Whalen: “There are a lot of quality receivers ahead of him. Jarvis Landry and Leonte Carroo are physical possession receivers. Not sure a wanna-be Wes Welker will help them much.”

• Williamson, overall: “The defense in general worries me, especially the further away they get away from the line. I really like the offense, though. They are a better team if the offense takes two steps forward. They’ve really done a good job of helping Ryan Tannehill this offseason. They’ve invested in the offensive line and a quarterback-friendly coach.”



Miami's 5-3 loss tonight to the Mets dropped the Marlins back to eight games over .500 and drew New York to within a half game of Miami.... Christian Yelich hit his 10th homer, establishing a new career high. "Him and Martin Prado have been the two guys who keep getting their hits, keep driving in runs; just steady," Don Mattingly said after the game. "If [the power] continues, he turns into a really scary guy.".. Adam Conley again pitched well, allowing two runs in six innings and departing with the game tied at 2. But the bullpen allowed three runs over the final two three innings.

• Dee Gordon is eligible to return next Friday, and Don Mattingly indicates he's comfortable playing Derek Dietrich at first (where he has played only four games in his major-league career) if Justin Bour isn't back by then. But Mattingly said he expects Bour to be back in the lineup within a week.

• Jose Fernandez said he tell Ichiro Suzuki: "You're the best player in the world." To which Ichiro says: "You are."

• It would be a huge help if Jarred Cosart could pitch the way he did when the Marlins acquired him from Houston. He has made four starts for Triple A New Orleans since coming back from injury and has been OK, nothing great, nothing awful.

He allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings and three runs in six innings in his last two starts.

The Marlins continue their efforts to trade for a veteran starter.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 21, 2016

Thursday night UM six-pack: Richt on what he will and won't do with Kaaya, strong words on his coaching staff and other issues

A six-pack of fresh nuggets from Mark Richt's session from ACC media day earlier Thursday:

• What's the next step for Brad Kaaya?

“He’s really good. He’s a really good player," Richt said. "Like he was saying, get comfortable in our system and be able to execute at a high level on a consistent basis. I wouldn’t even dream about touching his throwing motion. He’s so efficient and so accurate, I wouldn’t even think about that.

"His footwork has to fit the route system and the play actions and the run game. The feet of the QB with me is non negotiable. Everybody has to do it a certain way. The ball-handling is non-negotiable. The reads and the progressions, those things are non negotiable. But when it comes to his ability to hit his target and see the defense, he’s really, really good.”

• Some draftniks rate Kaaya as a first-round pick next spring if he decides to turn pro after his junior season. And though Richt didn't discuss Kaaya specifically, he said he doesn't try to cajole players to come back for their senior years if their draft stock won't be helped by a senior year.

Here's Richt's philosophy on this: “I try to be as honest as possible, try to get them the best information. If your information goes through a lot of the media sites and gurus, if you take all the names of possible projected first-round picks, you may have a list of 60 guys that are first-round draft picks. Then you flip the card over, because that’s offense. There are 60 guys on defense.... You try to give them the best information as possible through the NFL system and through knowing scouts and knowing head coaches and knowing GMs who might say this is where we see him and let him make the best decision for him.

“I tell them: If you love Miami or if you love Georgia or you love wherever you’re at, and you want to lead this team and want to get your degree before you leave and have a chance to win a national award, then do it. The league is still going to be there a year from now. From a business point of view, I couldn’t tell AJ Green you’re going to improve your draft status [by staying]. I couldn’t tell Todd Gurley or Matthew Stafford, I didn’t give them a bunch of junk, and try to feed them something. The chance of you improving your draft status between now and next year, Knowshon Moreno the same way, it’s probably not got to happen. If you are going to stay, it’s because you want to be here, because you love it here, you want to win a national championship, you want to help your team be great."

• On why Kaaya is among the players working out at 6 a.m. most days: "They’ve got to do it sometime. Here’s the thing with our strength and conditioning right now: We go in smaller groups. I want a coach player ratio to be 3 and 4 [to 1] at the most. One coach to three players, maybe four. Because of that, we have to go at a different time of the day…. If you are doing it all throughout the day, there has to be somebody that comes in at 6. Gus Felder, our strength coach, kind of gave these guys a lot of them the option to see where it landed. Some had class. A lot of those guys chose to be with that 6 a.m. group; he was one of them.”

• On defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, Richt was impressed "coaching with him, coaching against him, watching him create all kinds of issues for offensive teams, including Georgia when we played them. Some guys blitz because they blitz. Some guys run a certain system because that’s what they do. Some guys do it because they understand protection, they understand run game, they understand what the offensive guy is trying to accomplish.

"They put in a certain blitz or twist that will hurt something they would like to do. It’s more well thought out in my opinion than some guys... It’s not like that with Manny. If Manny is bringing some kind of pressure, he’s doing it for a reason. I think he’s smart. He’s really good fundamental coach. I like a four-down front. I like letting the d-line penetrate."

• On how the rest of the defensive staff came together beyond Diaz: “Manny knew Ephraim Banda, the safety’s coach. Banda has been with him in a lot of different places, Louisiana Tech, Texas, Mississippi State I think. He knew Banda knew the back end of his defense front and back.….

"Craig Kuligowski, I hired Kuligowski before I hired my defensive coordinator. Usually, I would wait for the coordinator to get the guy. But my feeling was if the d-coordinator I’m interviewing doesn’t like Kuligowski, that’s probably the wrong guy because there’s no better in America, in my opinion, than Kuligowski. I knew him competing against him at Missouri, seeing the things they did, especially that front four.

"Mike Rumph, I met him fairly early on when I got on campus. He was coaching at American Heritage High School. Miami alum. First round draft pick. Played in the NFL. Very outstanding person. Head coach of a high school. Knows how to run a program, knows how to deal with young people. I really was intrigued by him. I wanted Manny to meet him and spend time with him. After we were done spending time with him, it was like slam dunk. Let’s get him.”

• Richt cautioned that UM's Sept. 17 game at Appalachian State isn't going to be easy.

"Great program. A team that’s used to winning. It’s going to be a battle royale I can promise going into their house. No matter where you play, it’s a great team. Well coached. I have seen their tape. I’ve looked at the first three, first four opponents. It’s going to be a battle.”

Appalachian State has beaten bigger schools over the years, including Michigan. UM agreed to a home-and-home because it needed to find another 2016 non-conference game on short notice.

Susan Miller Degnan will have a lot more from ACC media day on the home page shortly.... Incidentally, Richt declined to address the status of Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace beyond saying both are on the team and practicing. UM has investigated both regarding their involvement with a Miami Beach luxury car dealer. The investigation centers on whether the car dealer rented cars to players at drastically reduced rates in exchange for a stake in their professional futures.

Please click here for a lot more from Richt from earlier today, including specific things he knows he needs to change from the Al Golden regime.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Thursday afternoon: Richt addresses bunch of issues, including things that must be corrected from past regime, personnel and recruiting

Our Susan Miller Degnan is at ACC media day in Charlotte and will have reports later in the day. In the meantime, some highlights of what Mark Richt had to say today:

• ESPN asked a great question: What’s the first step in making Miami great again? And Richt had a good answer.

“Just doing things right. If Miami doesn’t shoot itself in the foot, either off the field or [then he pauses]. Miami’s one of the most penalized teams in America last year. Struggled in the red zone. If we just do things right and don’t do things to hurt ourselves, there’s a great chance to have success. And then, once we get the ball rolling a little bit, I think people will say, ‘Miami’s back.’ I don’t think people will say, ‘Miami’s having a good year.’ They will say, ‘Miami’s back.’ You can say you’re back when you have the tradition of five national championships in the last 30 years.”

• To ESPN, on expectations this year: “There are some depth issues in some spots we’ve got to clean up. If everyone stays healthy, if we don’t have a lot of attrition for whatever reason, we’ll have a chance to compete well, I think.”

• On Brad Kaaya: “Just a great guy. He reminds me a lot of David Greene, the guy I had at Georgia. When I first went to Georgia, I inherited David Greene. Even keeled, accurate, smart, a leader, a guy that has charisma. Everyone wants to play [with] this guy. It’s fun to coach him, I can tell you that.”

• On his staff: “I got to cherry-pick guys that I know were not only great coaches and great people, but guys that would really buy into how I like to do things. It’s been a good fit….

“I told the coaches this. I said, I am coaching QBs again, I'm calling plays, I'm getting in the middle of this offense again. I don't have time to baby-sit anybody. I tell them if I have to motivate you, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ If I’ve got to motivate a staff member to do his job, I’m probably going to get another staff member. Now I will find out what’s going on sooner or later and if there’s issues with guys not getting their jobs done, they’ve got to find another place….

"I think I've done a really good job of hiring guys that are that type of people [that are workers]. That’s the beauty of being able to hire the right people. These guys are busting their tails. I’ve got full faith and confidence in them. It’s been a lot of fun.”

• Miami was last in the ACC in rushing last season, while his teams at Georgia were effective running the ball. What has to be done to change that?

“You have to have a certain type of personnel to get the job done. First of all, I think it does start up front. You got to have guys that know what they're doing, that will stick their hat on somebody and get after it, just fight.

“[Offensive line coach Stacy] Searels, our offensive line coach is a guy I have all the faith and confidence in, from a scheme point of view, fundamentals point of view, get after them point of view. I think we're in good shape there.

“You got to have everybody else blocking. You need a fullback that can block in the system that I'm going to want to run. We'll do a lot of on-back runs, but there will be two-back runs as well. You have to develop a fullback or two. Tight end has to block, wide receiver has to block. You have practice in such a way to develop a physical attitude.

“That's what we do. Brad had mentioned we have some combos and things of that nature, we might have two plays at the line of scrimmage, he'll choose the one that gives us the best chance, we think will give us the best chance. When you do that, you don't call a run and run it against every defense. Against this defense you might run this play, against this defense you might run that one. That's all you have to practice. It helps you when it comes to reps.

“Obviously you have to have backs that can do it. I say backs in plural because I think if you have one guy, you try to hammer one guy, it's going to be tough on him. It's not healthy for him. We like to have two and maybe three guys that can carry the load, which I think we do at this point.

“It's a mentality. It's a scheme. It's ability. A lot of it is the ability of your quarterback to get us in the best play possible.

“Last thing on that. A lot of teams will call the cadence and the quarterback will look to the sideline, the coach will kind of tell him what he wants him to do. I like to teach the quarterbacks to know what to do. Brad will be orchestrating what's going on up front the entire ballgame.”

• Is he feeling less pressure than he did at Georgia?

“I mean, to me, there's pressure and there's stress. There's pressure in this job of head coach. I mean, there's certain deadlines you have to meet, certain things you're responsible for. A lot of things have to happen. There's pressure to get the job done, so to speak.

“I think whether you stress out about it is up to you. I've tried not to stress out about not much of anything. I have a solid faith that the Lord is going to take care of me. All I can really control is what I can control. That's how hard we work, how do we prepare, how do we treat our players, how do we go about our business in recruiting, are we doing the things in the right way. I focus more on the process of doing things right. I feel like the results will come.”

• What would it mean to beat FSU?

“Anytime you beat Florida State it's a good day, if you're a Miami fan, no doubt about that. I don't even know who are the rival teams that have been developed over time in the league, over the last 10 years. I really don't know how our players feel about all the teams that we play.

“I know that's the one, if you said to our fans, which game would you want the most, asked our players, coaches, whatever, most of them would probably say that game.

“The reality is our goal is to win the coastal division. You can win that game and lose the coastal, you can lose that game and win the coastal. Our job is to win that game and get back to the ACC championship game.”

• How much is he using his religion to build unity on this team?

“Yeah, well, everybody has a belief system. Everybody looks at life through a certain filter. I happen to be a Christian. That's just what I am. I'm not using it. I think we need to be true to who we are, what we believe.

“I'm not trying to make anybody believe anything I believe. I just want to do things in a way that I think God would be pleased with me. That's my goal on a daily basis.

“In doing that, I know if I do that, I'm blessing the players I'm in charge of. We'll be doing things right in recruiting. We'll be working our tails off.

“So I don't think much about it. I'm not trying to use anything. I'm just trying to be who I am.

• On his assistant coaching staff: “It's exciting. Thomas Brown, our offensive coordinator, running backs coach, I recruited him out of high school at Georgia, coached him. He coached with me at Georgia. Todd Hartley coached with me at Georgia for some time. Stacey Searels coached with me at Georgia. My son John, I've been sort of coaching his whole life to some degree. Ron Dugans, I recruited him while I was at Florida State and coached him while I was a coordinator at Florida State.

“I know Ronnie really understood what we're going to do, how we're going to do it. He actually lived it out. He played the position that he's coaching. Thomas Brown did, as well.

“They know me, too. They know what they're getting into. They know how I like to do things. They believe in that.”

• Has his recruiting strategy changed? “Not a lot. I mean, obviously you want to watch the tape, you want to find the best players possible.

“I think typically the closer they are, the better chance you have of getting them overall. There are guys that want to leave the area.

“But if you take the tri-county area, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade County, there's 150 Division I scholarship players coming out every year. If I average 20 a year, if I got all 20 out of that area, there's another hundred going all over America. There's a lot of good ones, too. You can't get them all.

“The other thing, too, a lot of guys, they develop in different stages. A guy might be the skinny kid at age 17, at age 20, he's a beast. You may not see that. You got to try to predict that and project it some.

“But I think the big thing is to make sure that the coaches, the high school coaches, know that they're welcome in our place, that we want to recruit their guys, we want the local guys to stay home, and we want to be honest with everybody and do our recruiting in a way that everybody appreciates it.”

Please click here for UM recruiting news from last night and Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers news.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 20, 2016

Wednesday night six-pack: Cam Wake, Dolphins secondary, UM football/baseball buzz, big Marlins decision; Panthers

A six-pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

• Cameron Wake, coming back from an Achilles’ tear, is fully aware the Dolphins would like to extend his career by transitioning him into a designated pass rusher role if they can, with Jason Jones or Andre Branch replacing him on early downs on some defensive series. The Dolphins were very upfront about that with other free agent defensive ends, and Wake has no issue with that, according to a friend.

But I would expect Wake to continue to be a starter out of respect to him, and because he’s still a very good player. And the expectation is that he will continue to play on some first and second downs.

Branch had some good moments in the offseason program, and the Jones signing after the draft was important, because it covers the Dolphins if there’s an injury to Wake or Williams. Dion Jordan would provide additional depth if he’s reinstated in the next 10 days, as his agent expects.

• Pro Football Focus has rated every Dolphins position in the bottom half of the league, and that continued – but understandably so – in its rankings of defensive backs this week.

PFF says the Dolphins have the 18th best group of defensive backs. That group includes cornerbacks Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett, Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain (among others) and safeties Reshad Jones, Michael Thomas, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Walt Aikens.

PFF served up this interesting stat: Bobby McCain allowed just 0.27 yards per coverage snap when in the slot last season, by far the lowest average in the league.

PFF’s overview: “Maxwell’s time with the Eagles did not go well, allowing a career-high 100.7 passer rating into his coverage last season. He will again need to prove that he can perform outside of the Seattle system. Rookie Xavien Howard (Baylor) has plenty of upside, and should push Lippett for the starting corner position opposite Maxwell. Jones is one of the best run-stopping and pass-rushing safeties, and generally is reliable in coverage as well.”

Here is the link to the full Pro Football Focus ranking of safeties.

And here is the link to my piece highlighting where PFF ranked other Dolphins positions.

• The Dolphins don’t read anything into Arian Foster’s 2.6 yards per carry average last season because he played just four games.

Pro Football Focus says this about the move: “Assuming Foster gets back to form not from 2015, he should be a solid fit in that scheme as well, but Jay Ajayi’s numbers suggest he might be an even better fit, and shouldn’t automatically get dropped down the depth chart to accommodate Foster.

“In Chicago, Adam Gase ran primarily inside zone as the primary run concept. 48.9 percent of the team’s rushes last season were inside zone runs, and the team was pretty successful running them, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Foster was bad across the board last year even before injury shut him down, but what is interesting is that Ajayi outperformed not just Foster, but also the Bears as a team when running inside zone. Ajayi gained half a yard more per carry than the Bears and 1.6 yards per carry more than Foster running inside zone plays, and was markedly more productive on those runs than other concepts in 2015.”

• The Marlins haven’t approached impending free agent Martin Prado about a new contract and could delay that decision until the offseason, knowing they have three legitimate starters to play second and third (Dee Gordon, Derek Dietrich, Prado).

If Prado is re-signed (and I would expect the Marlins to make an attempt to keep him), Gordon or Dietrich could be dealt for pitching this winter.

• With its weekend oral commitments from four-star safety Brian Edwards and three-star receiver Evidence Njoku, UM has moved up to 11th in rivals.com’s recruiting rankings.

That’s tops in the ACC and one spot ahead of FSU. But Southridge three-star running back Bentavious Thompson decommitted from Miami tonight.

Kevin Beard, now quality control coach at Georgia, said Art Kehoe and Mark D’Onofrio were the only Al Golden 2015 assistants who haven’t found college or NFL jobs. As our Canes/recruiting contributor Peter Ariz noted, D’Onofrio is coaching at the Kendall Boys and Girls Club. A friend of Kehoe spoke of how terribly upset he was about not being retained by his former UM teammate, Mark Richt….

UM baseball lost juniors Zack Collins, Willie Abreu, Bryan Garcia, Danny Garcia and Jacob Heyward to the pros, but they were able to keep senior-to-be Johnny Ruiz, the infielder who was drafted in the 28th round by Houston but opted to return to school, according to UM.

Among high-school signees, UM held on to right-hander pitcher Mason Studstill (drafted in the 22nd round by Cleveland) and Michael Amditis, a former Under Armour All-American catcher from Boca Raton....

Click here for lots of UM hoops nuggets.

• The Panthers say they’re in extension talks with 2017 restricted free agent Jonathan Huberdeau, their biggest remaining young piece not signed long term, and they are hopeful…. The Panthers are about $3 million below the $73 million cap, giving them a bit of flexibility if they want to acquire a player before the trade deadline.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 19, 2016

Scout analyzes Heat's pickups; More Arian Foster chatter; UM basketball buzz; Marlins trade deadline talk; Radio note




So what is the Heat getting exactly with its new players?

We asked a veteran NBA scout (for another team) who has evaluated each of them. Some feedback, with the scout noting that “all these guys are journeymen”:

• Forward Derrick Williams: “When he was at Arizona, he got to the line a lot [8.2 free throw attempts per game]. He was a post up 3 [small forward], got to the basket and got fouled. But that hasn’t translated to the NBA. [He has averaged 3.1 free throw attempts per game as a pro].

“He doesn’t have a great feel; that’s part of it. He started off in a bad situation in Minnesota. Not that smart a player and not a good shooter. He’s a super athlete, but you can neutralize that if you don’t have something beyond athleticism at this level. He can run and post up some, and he played a little better for the Knicks last year. But he didn’t turn the corner. He’s a tweener, more a 4 [power forward] than a 3.”

• Forward James Johnson: “That was a strange [signing]. Super athletic, not a good shooter, questionable decision maker. Didn’t play much for Toronto in the playoffs [12 total minutes in the seven-game Heat series]. You can throw alley oops to him. He can offensive rebound and he’s explosive. You are not going to rely on his jump shot. He’s a tweener; not skilled enough as a 3. His game is around the basket. With Williams and Johnson, Miami has athletes who are physical defensively and theoretically can match up with LeBron [James] and Carmelo Anthony.”

• Guard Wayne Ellington: “I’ve always liked him. Can make shots. Average defender but will try to guard. He is a good locker-room guy. But he’s limited. The more you play him, the less you get out of him. He’s bounced around.”

• Forward Luke Babbitt: “He’s a shooter; that’s it. Every other aspect of his game is questionable. But he can make shots and has proven that. He’s a 4. He can’t guard 3s well. Defensive liability. He’s a specialist.”

• Center Willie Reed: “He’s got a little jump hook; pretty athletic. He’s serviceable as a third-string 5 [center]. If he’s playing a lot, I can’t imagine that will help you.”

• Guard Rodney McGruder: “He can guard, can make a three, plays with good intensity, plays hard. I saw him in Orlando [summer league], and he competes. He helped them win the D-league championship. He might get into a game, but I don’t think he’s a rotation guy on a good team.”

• On point guard Briante Weber: who signed with the Heat during the last week of the regular season: “I watched him [in summer league] and he held his own. He’s very quick; he can penetrate and dish; is good defensively. His shooting is questionable. Potentially Patrick Beverley without the three-point game.”

• The scout said while he understands why the Heat didn’t want to lose an asset in Tyler Johnson, they could regret matching the four-year, $50 million Nets offer: “He would really have to emerge to justify that. He will play some backup 1 and 2 [both guard spots]. Shoots it pretty well. His decision-making is OK. A little undersized. He’s not special. You don’t pay $19 million [in year three] for that. That was a case of market desperation.”

Please click here for our post from earlier today about Johnson discussing his desire to validate that contract.


• Since we’re hoops-heavy today, some buzz we’re hearing on the UM basketball team, off a Sweet 16 appearance but with significant roster changes:

Among the four players in UM’s best freshman class ever, shooting guard Bruce Brown internally is considered the most ready to contribute; he can shoot, penetrate and he’s already physically strong. Some believe he could be a college version of Russell Westbrook….

But forward Dewan Huell, guard Dejan Vasiljevic and perhaps center Rodney Miller also should play as freshmen… A natural two-guard, Vasilijevic has reinforced in offseason workouts that he’s a great shooter, with some toughness and polish and ability to play some point guard…

Sophomore center Ebuka Izundu has gained more than 15 pounds (essential for him to be able to move people in the post), has a nice jump shot and is ahead of where departed Tonye Jekiri was at a similar point in their careers. Izundu and Kamari Murphy will compete to start at center; Huell can play center or power forward and will obviously grow into a starter eventually…

Ja’Quan Newton, who replaces Angel Rodriguez at point guard, has spent a lot of time refining his jump shot…

UM has one more scholarship and would love to add another ballhandler. Miami is among the schools on the radar for Buffalo sophomore transfer Lamonte Bearden but is not a favorite for him.... Davon Reed, UM’s most accomplished returnee, could play small forward if San Jose State transfer Rashad Muhammad seizes the starting shooting guard job.

“He's a very different athlete from [now Washington Wizards guard] Sheldon McClellan,” Jim Larranaga said. “Rashad is a shooter/scorer. Can really shoot the three. Has very clever moves going to the basket. His area of emphasis is to get better defensively, become a rebounder and get stronger.”...

UM is one of five finalists (with Oregon, Pittsburgh, Butler and Creighton) for four-star Vermont Academy shooting guard Christian David (a top 100 player) and one of four finalists for four-star Norcross, Ga.-based 6-9 power forward Lance Thomas (with UF, USC and Louisville). Rivals.com ranks Thomas as the 111th best player in the 2017 class.

• Angel Rodriguez, who helped lead UM to the Sweet 16 last season but played just 13 minutes in Summer League for the San Antonio Spurs, signed with a team in the top pro league in France, his Miami-based agent Pedro Power told me Tuesday.

• Fox's Ken Rosenthal reports the Marlins are willing to trade shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (hitting .243) for a quality starting pitcher (preferably Tampa’s Chris Archer, Matt Moore or Jake Odorozzi) and hand the shortstop job to ace defender Miguel Rojas, who’s hitting .259.

That's not surprising because of this: Hechavarria is eligible for free agency after 2018 and we're told the Marlins were surprised by what he asked for in extension talks last winter; the sides were far apart and broke off negotiations. So if the Marlins are going to lose him in a couple years, trading him at some point before that would make sense.

Eager for a fifth starter, Miami also is interested in Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson and San Diego’s Andrew Cashner, as Fox reported.

The hope is that a team will take a decent prospect or two in return, but Miami has considerable competition and there aren't a lot of quality starters who are impending free agents/short-term rentals.

• Besides Arian Foster’s talents as a runner (his 31 100-yard rushing games are the most in the NFL since 2010), the Dolphins also place high value on his receiving skills.

Consider: Foster, Le'Veon Bell and Shane Vereen have a 9.1 career average per catch, and only three active backs are higher than 9.1: Joique Bell, Danny Woodhead and D’Angelo Williams.

“Catching the ball out of the backfield might be where he has the biggest impact [in Miami],” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. 

Former Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley, now on NFL Net, said: “Me being a linebacker covering Arian Foster one on one out of the backfield, I know how tough that can be. I know the quarterback is going to be looking down saying we can beat this guy one on one.”

And more from Jeremiah: "This is a good fit for him because they have some bodies in place there. I really like Jay Ajayi as a young developing player. [Foster] is going to have a good offensive line in place.... That's a good group for him to run behind and also be able to catch the ball out the backfield."

• Whereas the Dolphins switched radio partners (from WINZ to WQAM), the Heat and Panthers are staying put. The Heat struck a new deal with 790 The Ticket, and the Panthers are expected to announce this week that they're staying with WQAM-560.

• Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 18, 2016

Tuesday afternoon: Tyler Johnson on his new Heat contract; Arian Foster joining the Dolphins - the fallout; Pro Football Focus analyzes, ranks several Dolphins positions: some perspective and thoughts

Tyler Johnson's splendid evolution from undrafted rookie to NBA rotation player to $50 million man came with its share of anxiety this summer, with Johnson initially unsure if the Heat would match the Nets' enormous contract offer.

But while Johnson would have been fine with joining Brooklyn, he's happy he gets to stay with the Heat, who matched the four-year, $50 million offer because owner Micky Arison did not want another team to pluck one of his emerging young players.

"This is where I’m most comfortable," Johnson told Heat.com's Couper Moorhead. "This is where I’ve found my way in the league. This is where my friends are at. These are the people that I’ve gone through battles with. At the end of the day I was still hoping I could figure out a way to come back and be in a Heat uniform.”

Johnson met with Houston and Chicago and Brooklyn in the early days of free agency. “You go through that similar in college but this is a whole ‘nother level of it,” Johnson said.

“I was trying to do what was best for my family, but at the same time you have to consider the relationships that you’ve built, what it’s taken for me to get here, and people I’ve gotten here with. So it was a lot of mixed emotions.”

Johnson, who was sidelined for three months after shoulder surgery last season, also told Heat.com: “I’m going to go in and do the same thing, and I’m going to be healthy. I remember how I was playing at the beginning of the season last year. I’m excited to be able to get back to that and show people that not only do I deserve it but in a couple of years they’re going to say they got me for a steal.”

Click here for Moorhead's Heat.com piece on Johnson. 


6:45 p.m. Monday update: What Arian Foster had to say moments ago after signing with the Dolphins:

• What does he have left? "I still feel like I'm a Pro Bowl caliber player and I intend to show that."

• He said he's fully healthy after last year's ruptured Achilles.

• Does he expect to start? "I don't have any expectations. Just coming here to compete and help the squad out however I can."

• He said he told his agent he preferred to sign with Miami, though he had a visit scheduled with Detroit later this week. "After my visit with Miami, I kind of already made my mind up that's where I wanted to be. I see a lot of promise to this team. I feel I can add value and get the team to where they want to be."

• Foster, on coach Adam Gase: "Adam knows how to use a running back out of the backfield, which is my best quality, route-running, catching the ball out of the backfield. He knows how to steer the ship, man. I'm happy to have a seat on the boat."

• On if there was reluctance around the league to sign him: "I know this league knows when I'm on the field, I'm one of the most productive doing it. If there was any reluctance it was on their end. All I can control is how hard I work and what I put into this game."

• On his thoughts on the Dolphins: "A young team. Hungry team. Lot of talent on both sides of the ball. I think they have the right head coach, the right people in the front office. They're all committed to winning. I believe they are headed in the right direction. I feel we can do some good things this year if everyone is moving in the right direction."

• Asked about essentially switching spots with Lamar Miller, who's now with Houston: "Nothing to prove to anybody, man. The time I spent in Houston was an amazing time. I have nothing but love for the people and fans in Houston. This is just a new chapter in my life. I'm sure Lamar Miller feels the same way."


Some quick thoughts on Foster:

• The Dolphins believe they are getting the player far closer to the one who averaged 4.8 yards and ran for 1246 yards in 2014 than the one limited to 2.6 per carry in four games last season before a ruptured Achilles.

Foster, who ranks 10th among active backs in career rushing yards, is only 29. But durability has been an issue in recent years. He missed 23 of a possible 48 games, due largely to a 2013 back injury and last year's Achilles' injury, which was sustained in late October against Miami.

But Foster impressed the Dolphins in a workout today -- "looked good," one source said -- and the Dolphins wanted to move quickly before he had a chance to board a flight and work out for Detroit.

• Foster will compete with Jay Ajayi for the starting job. But regardless of who starts, both should get plenty of carries, presuming Foster stays healthy. Remember, Adam Gase has raved about Ajayi throughout the offseason program, though he has dropped a few passes.

• Particularly affected by this are Damien Williams (who goes from being the No. 2 or No. 3 back to potentially not making the team at all unless Miami keeps four backs), Kenyan Drake (will be on team but figures to be No. 3 on the depth chart or even No. 4 if Williams is kept), and Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead (roster long shots whose odds grew longer).

Drake had some moments in the offseason program but not enough to suggest he was ready to be a reliable No. 2 back. And his hamstring injury late in minicamp was his eighth injury in four-plus years.

• Gase wants a back capable of playing all three downs, because he prefers to substitute backs for an entire series, instead of during a series.

Foster is certainly capable of that. Besides his running prowess (4.5 career average in seven games), he also has a 9.1 average on 249 career receptions, and 14 touchdowns.

• Foster has 16 fumbles in seven seasons and has lost 11 of them. He had two in just four games last year, but just two in 13 games the year before.

• Foster is getting $1.5 million, with $2 million more potentially in incentives, according to a source. But Pro Football Talk says only $400,000 of the $1.5 M is guaranteed. He won't get the other $1.1 million if he's cut before week 1.

• So Foster and Lamar Miller essentially traded teams, with Miller now in Houston. Foster's contract is a one-year deal with Miami.

• If the Dolphins get the 2010 Houston Texans versions of Foster and Mario Williams, they'll be in great shape!



The good folks at Pro Football Focus, who evaluate tape of every play of every game, have been ranking teams, by position, over the past two weeks, and they apparently do not hold several key Dolphins units in particularly high regard, at least compared with the rest of the league.

Here’s where they rated individual Dolphins units in five categories and my thoughts on each:



• Where PFF ranked Miami: 21st of 32 teams

• Players at the position: Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty, Zac Dysert

• PFF’s “Key stat”: Tannehill completed 61.9 percent of his passes in 2015, down 4.5 percent from the season before.

• PFF’s comment: “At one point, it looked like Ryan Tannehill could rival any QB from his draft class—a class that included Andrew Luck—but he has regressed since then, and last season was distinctly mediocre (at best). He had one excellent game against the Titans, but outside of that, he was more consistently bad than good, and was particularly inefficient underneath, despite having a weapon in Jarvis Landry that excels in that area. Tannehill has shown the ability to be far better than this, but right now, his play is heading in the wrong direction. Matt Moore was once one of the league’s best backup QBs, but he hasn’t played meaningful snaps since Tannehill was drafted, so it’s impossible to stay if he is still at that level.”

• My comment: For now, 21st seems about right, but Tannehill must rise to the 10 to 16 range to justify the financial allocation than kicks in for 2017 through 2020: a four-year extension with $77 million in new money.

For perspective, the teams rated 16th through 20th by PFF were Minnesota (Teddy Bridgewater), Washington (Kirk Cousins), Jacksonville (Blake Bortles), Kansas City (Alex Smith) and the Giants (Eli Manning).

PFF identified these teams as having a worse QB situation than Miami: Chicago (Jay Cutler), Detroit (Matthew Stafford), Philadelphia (Sam Bradford), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Tennessee (Marcus Mariota), Los Angeles (Jared Goff), Houston (Brock Osweiler), Denver (Mark Sanchez), Cleveland (Robert Griffin III), San Francisco (Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick) and the Jets (Geno Smith, Bryce Petty; still unsigned is free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick).



• Where PFF ranked Miami: 25th of 32 teams

• Key players: WR DeVante Parker, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jordan Cameron, TE Dion Sims, WR Leonte Carroo, WR Jakeem Grant

• PFF’s “key stat”: Carroo dropped just two of the 96 catchable passes thrown his way over the past two seasons at Rutgers.

• PFF’s comment: “The Dolphins’ wide receiver and tight end group has a lot of potential… [but] outside of Jarvis Landry, we’ve yet to see it fulfilled. Landry is one of the NFL’s top receivers in space, forcing 28 missed tackles on 110 receptions a year ago. DeVante Parker is a player we were very high on coming into the draft last year, and we saw flashes of how good he can be in the final five weeks of the season after injury slowed him down earlier in the year.

"Showing he can be very dangerous with the ball in his hands, Parker forced seven missed tackles on just 26 receptions. Tight end Jordan Cameron was a disappointment in his first season in Miami, but is two seasons removed from an 80-catch campaign in Cleveland. If Cameron can replicate his impressive 2013 season, and Parker can continue the momentum of his strong 2015 finish, this is a unit much better than their current 25th ranking.”

• My comment: 25th seems too low, based on Landry’s impressive body of work in his first two seasons, the potential that Parker flashed late last season, Stills’ performance in New Orleans in 2013 and 2014 (led the league in yards per catch one year) and Cameron’s high production in Cleveland (among league leaders in tight end passing yardage one year, yards per catch another). Of course, Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen must maximize the talents of Stills and Cameron far more than the previous staff could, and Tannehill’s performance will directly impact that….

A case could be made that Miami’s group should be ranked higher than several teams rated ahead of the Dolphins by PFF, including No. 21 New Orleans (Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Coby Fleener) and No. 23 Detroit (Brandon Tate, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Eric Ebron).



• Where PFF ranked Miami: 30th of 32

• Key players: 30. Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake. (Foster is also on the roster but wasn't signed when PFF did this analysis.)

• PFF’s “key stat:” The three backs listed above have played a combined 484 pro snaps.

• PFF’s comment: “This is little more than a situation of lack of information. Jay Ajayi could be a great starting running back; it’s just impossible to tell after 49 carries as a rookie. Those 49 carries, though, were fairly impressive. On them, he broke 12 tackles and averaged 3.3 yards after contact per attempt, even though he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry—a ludicrous ratio. Kenyan Drake (Alabama) should step right in and be a competent third-down back, as well, and I would be very surprised if the Dolphins aren’t higher in the end-of-year RB rankings.”

• My comment: Foster will help, but again, he wasn't on the team when PFF did its rankings. Though Ajayi and Drake have considerable potential, it’s difficult to rank Miami much higher than 30th because of their limited body of work. The only teams ranked lower than Miami are Philadelphia (Ryan Matthews) and Washington (Matt Jones). 



• Where PFF ranked Miami: 19th of 32

• PFF’s projected starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, C Mike Pouncey, RG Billy Turner, RT Ja’Wuan James

• PFF’s “key stat”: Last year, the Miami offensive line recorded a pass-blocking efficiency of 73.9, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

• PFF’s comment: "The Dolphins’ offensive line was among the NFL’s worst last year, but there is reason to expect improvement in 2016. For starters, they should be going into the season healthy; Dallas Thomas is the only current Miami linemen that played over 900 snaps last season. If Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) can get used to the guard position during training camp, he should provide an immediate upgraded there.

"There should be plenty of competition for the other guard spot, with Kraig Urbik (Bills) and Jermon Bushrod (Bears) coming to Miami via free agency. While this unit should be capable of producing adequate protection in 2016, thinks could very easily go downhill given the current roster, and the Dolphins may find themselves near the bottom of the O-line rankings once more."

• My comment: Considering the money and high draft picks invested in this group, this better be a top 12 unit by the end of the year. Anything in the bottom half would be unacceptable.



• Where PFF ranked Miami: 22nd of 32

• Projected starters: DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Earl Mitchell; DE Mario Williams, DE Cameron Wake; LB Koa Misi, MLB Kiko Alonso, LB Jelani Jenkins

• Key reserves: DT Jordan Phillips (could end up beating out Mitchell; battle is very close); DE Jason Jones, DE Andre Branch, DE Dion Jordan; LB Neville Hewitt, LB Zach Vigil, LB Spencer Paysinger

• PFF’s “key stat:” The Dolphins allowed 4.03 yards per carry in base defense last season, the 22nd-best mark in the NFL.

• PFF’s comment: “While it perhaps didn’t live up to $100 million in value, Ndamukong Suh’s first season in Miami was far from a disappointment. The pressure will be on him in 2016 to lead the D-line and add to his production in the passing game, with those around him looking to bounce back. A healthy Cameron Wake answers many questions off the edge, but will there be support from Mario Williams shaking off a sluggish 2015 in Buffalo? Will Dion Jordan be reinstated to add a wildcard to this mix? Wild would be an apt, if not terribly flattering, description for the Dolphins’ linebackers, too; if Kiko Alonso can recover his knack for finding the ball that he showed as a rookie in Buffalo, it would bring a massive boost to this defensive front.”

• My comment: With former All-Pros in Suh and Wake and Mario Williams and a former Defensive Rookie of the Year in Alonso, this unit has the potential to be far better than 22nd and it clearly needs to be. But Wake is coming off an Achilles’ injury, Williams is coming off a very disappointing year and the run defense was atrocious last season (28th in yards permitted). I’m not worried about the pass rush, but I need to be convinced the run defense will be substantially better.



One final PFF category offered encouraging news for the Dolphins: Jarvis Landry was rated by PFF as the NFL’s 10th best gamebreaker, behind Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham, Doug Baldwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson, Doug Martin, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins.

• PFF’s comment: “The Dolphins’ commitment to feeding their top playmaker produced big results in 2015. Landry produced as a receiver, runner, and returner last season. He ranked second amongst receivers with 28 broken tackles, adding a further 12 from just 18 attempts on the ground.

“Landry also averaged an impressive 5.2 yards after the catch per reception. He contributed on special teams, too, recording the top grade of returners last season. Landry averaged 10.9 yards per punt return, adding a touchdown in the process. One gets the impression new head coach Adam Gase will get the best out of his versatile, talented weapon.”

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 17, 2016

Arian Foster visiting Dolphins on Monday; Dolphins with plenty of prime time coverage tonight

Free agent running back Arian Foster will work out for the Dolphins on Monday, nine months after a ruptured Achilles prematurely ended his season with Houston.[Monday afternoon update: Foster is signing with the Dolphins, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.}

A source confirmed to me the workout, which was reported by Adam Schefter earlier this evening.

Foster, who averaged just 2.6 yards on 63 carries last season, visited the Dolphins earlier this offseason, but that visit was more exploratory in the sense that the Dolphins wanted to check on his progress from surgery.

At that time, they had no intention of signing him. This time around, the interest is more serious.

Foster also plans to work out for the Lions this week.

If Foster impresses Dolphins officials on Monday, they are expected to make an offer.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said repeatedly during the offseason program how impressed he was with projected starter Jay Ajayi.

"He's done everything right," Gase said earlier this offseason. "You can tell he's looking to improve. He doesn't say much, just keeps working.... He's a shiftier guy than I ever thought he was."

But nobody has yet necessarily emerged for the No. 2 job.

Rookie Kenyan Drake sustained a hamstring injury on the next-to-last-day of mandatory minicamp but told me he will be fine for camp.

The coaching staff likes Damien Williams, who's competing with Drake for the No. 2 job.

Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead also had some moments in the offseason program.

Foster is only 29 but has been limited to a total of 25 games over the past three seasons because of injuries.

He played in just four games last season because of the Achilles', sustained in a loss to the Dolphins. He missed substantial time in 2013 with a back injury.

But he was great in 2014, rushing for 1246 yards and 4.8 per carry in 13 games.

Foster stands 10th in rushing yards among active players, with 6472. Frank Gore tops that list at 12,040.

The Dolphins, incidentally, have $17 million in cap space, according to the players union.

• Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, Jason Taylor, Larry Csonka and Dwight Stephenson all made cameos tonight on Episode 1 of Season 2 of HBO's Ballers, the Miami-based series starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a sports agent. The series airs at 10 p.m. Sundays.

Twitter: Check back Monday afternoon for more Dolphins news. 

July 16, 2016

Saturday 4 p.m.: Even more from Riley and everything he said; Riley addresses Wade and his regrets on the situation; non-committal on Bosh; and talks about team's new players and much more


Highlights from Heat president Pat Riley’s Saturday news conference on the state of the franchise (we've added a few things since the initial posting and encourage you re-read the whole thing if you have the time or interest):

• Opening statement: "Obviously, from my standpoint and the team’s standpoint, we’ve had a tough summer. Period. In this league, you don’t have an opportunity at times for do-overs. When you get a chance to win, as we have had in the past, in 2006 and 2011 and 12, when you get a chance to win, you've got to win. When you get an opportunity this summer to do something that you could have done and you didn’t do it, you didn’t do it.

"1995, 96, I was put in charge of basketball operations and I have always taken the approach that there were about five things that I really valued and they’re not my words. They’re somebody else’s words because you get educated by other people. It is to be impeccable with your word, to never take anything personal, don’t make any assumptions, always do your best, be skeptical but learn to listen.

"This summer at least three of those things didn’t come to fruition.

"What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat. You are what you think. It’s my responsibility to sort of make that happen. I didn’t make it happen.

"Dwyane left and the buck really stops here. I’m not trying to fall on the sword for anybody. I have great regret I didn’t put myself in the middle of it and immerse myself in the middle of it and get in a canoe and paddle to the Mediterrean if I had to, be in New York when he arrived on the 6th and greet him at the airport. I didn't do that. I wasn’t there in the middle of that negotiation and that’s my job. It’s not going to be the same without him. But we will forge ahead.

"I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique. There will always be a key under the mat. I just hope it doesn’t get too rusty."

• On Wade’s departure: "The conditions, over the last year or two [from Wade] have always sort of pointed in the direction that we, as an organization, didn’t do enough for Dwyane. I was always reaching, reaching, reaching to get him another guy especially after LJ left. And try to get another guy to not only help win but in a way he would be very proud when he moved on out and retired. It wasn't just getting another guy for him; it was to maximize our ability to win. The only way we can do that is to have cooperation, the same kind of collaborative cooperation they had in 2010, and how that whole thing came together.

"What my thoughts were always to try to make the team better and to to make sure that Dwyane, over the three, four, five years left in his career, was going to get his money. But not at the expense of paralyzing our ability to win, which would have hurt him. If there is anything I could have done better, I would have done it. But there's no do-overs. I wish him the best.

"It’s a sad week for [wife] Chris and I. We love his dearly. I've always said one of the only things you can count on in life is change. When change ranges its beautiful or ugly face, you have to deal with it and adapt and move on. We’ve been here before. I wish him nothing but the best and nothing but great health. 

"I haven’t spoken to Dwyane yet [since he left]. I have been crafting a very long email to him. I am going to send it when it's finished. It's not finished. If I saw him right now, I believe it would be a warm embrace. I don’t have any negative feelings for him at all. I know he was caught in a quandary with his thinking and thought processes at the time and what he felt was going on. And I was locked into mine at that time.

"I was so impressed when he talked to you guys [reporters last weekend] and I believe he was sincere in the things he said. At that particular time, he was raw. I feel the same way about him. Everybody in the organization will feel that way about him forever.  

“You get to a point as a man in your life where you thinking or thought process change. This was not about money [with Wade]. This was about something else. I more than he, because he's the asset, he's the star, he's the face of the franchise, I should have tried to do everything I could have verbally in trying to change his mindset to mine or big picture or better picture or one I thought would help him end his career and also get him financially the money he needed and wanted."

Riley said the negotiations "were difficult from a logistical standpoint. Dwyane left at the end of June and was gone for a couple weeks in Europe. To be able to get an audience with him was hard. Everything was done through a myriad of agents and other voice pieces and stuff. It still doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have gotten in a canoe and gone over there and made more of an effort to contact him. But there were people that were in touch with him that were close to him.”

• On Chris Bosh, Riley was non-committal. I suggested asking Riley specifically whether Bosh would be cleared to play if he doesn’t get another blood clot. The question was asked to Riley, and Riley was non-committal, which seemed telling:

“It’s always fluid. It always has been since there was a diagnosis and a decision for him not to play the rest of the season. It’s a positive environment right now with Chris and his doctors. Our doctors are constantly communicating, more so now than ever. I know Chris wants to play. Obviously, we would be open to that but this is still a very fluid situation. On this day, there is not an answer. I wish I could give you one.

“I can’t speak medically about this thing. I can only speak from a basketball standpoint. He’s been working out and will probably continue to work out. From a basketball standpoint, is it complicated? It’s only complicated based on the information we would get back from our doctors if there's ever a moment of truth, whether it's yes or no.

"From the standpoint of today, it’s moving forward of down that road of him playing. He wants to play. We’re open to helping him get there. That’s all I can say. It’s a sensitive, complicated situation that I can't speak to medically. From a basketball standpoint, I’ve been told we've been put on hold. Losing him after the All-Star break, both years in a row, you never know what you have or what you could have done. That's what kills me. We put together a good team right when LJ left. We never had an opportunity to see it at its full.

"We should just wait until August or September [for clarity on Bosh]. I think we'll have a lot more information then. Chris is an X factor here."

What about reducing Bosh's travel or workload? “All those things will come into play and there will be discussion. There are many players in different sports that play with that condition in on and off programs with blood thinners and stuff. When it comes down to a final protocol for it gets to a formula of how this has to be done, that’s what we will deal with.”

Was not having a firm idea about Bosh an impediment in free agency? “No, it wasn’t an impediment. It’s just something that has to run its course. We went through it with Alonzo Mourning.... Because it's an unknown to some extent, it will work itself out. It does right now stymie us from doing certain things instead of knowing wholeheartedly he's going to be at the four spot next year.”

Remember, if Bosh plays one game next season, his $26 million salary will be on the cap next summer, period. I expect Bosh will fight this if the Heat doesn’t allow him to play. The Heat privately refutes any perception that it's trying to keep Bosh off the court for cap-clearing reasons.

• On what the team is losing in Luol Deng and Joe Johnson: “Lu wanted to stay here. He understood our dilemma, that he didn’t have Bird Rights. There wasn’t going to be enough for anybody. He was in until his agent called and told us $72 million. [That's] a lot. There is no way when Lu told us that he got $72 million, that train just left the station. I’m happy for him. He’s going to a great franchise [the Lakers].

"When Joe Johnson got $22 million, that train left the station. Joe was a long shot for us always. When we got Joe, we were very fortunate to get him because he wanted to come to Miami. He did have an opportunity to get to two seven games. We lost Lu and we lost Joe. I think the person that's going to benefit the most from this, and it's time to step up, is Justise Winslow. He’s capable of starting in this league and that is right now who we have slotted in there and that is who I feel very comfortable with.”

• On why he expended the effort and time on a bid for Kevin Durant: I thought it was a longshot for us [with Durant], especially after CB went out. It's almost a fiduciary responsibility on my part to keep us in the game of being able to have an audience with a Kevin Durant. I will never ever not take an audience with a free agent who calls and says we would like to talk to you or vice versa. That didn't slow us down. I feel good about what happened in the aftermath of Dwyane leaving." 

• On Hassan Whiteside: “This summer was an absolute explosion of dollars... and the cap going from $70 million to $94 million. I’ve never seen more teams with more maximum room than I've seen this year.... A priority, not the priority, was Hassan Whiteside and there was no doubt I was going to meet and talk with him early and get him signed. We were very fortunate to get him. 

 "We ended getting him here and we saw enough in the last two years to say this is a very unique talent, a very unique talent. At the dollars he’s going to be getting over the four years, we felt it was worth the investment. He can absolutely dominate a game on the defensive end. Blocking shots, rebounding, lobs, dunks, all those things.

Don’t warn him, please, you shouldn't do this just because the guy got a max contract. Don't warn him that you better play well or we are going to tell everyone you’re not deserving of the money. If you look at some of the contracts that went out the first two days. On Dec. 15 [when free agents can be traded], Andy [Elisburg] and I are going to be getting a lot of calls from teams about how to get rid of those deals.

"We believe he’s an essential part of this team. Anchors our defense. Will improve offensively and gain more confidence. We agreed as an organization we were willing to make that investment in. I don't think he's a neophyte. Neophytes don't get 20 rebounds and get 20 points and block 12 shots. He is a little bit young and raw to a leadership role and a responsible every single night role. You've got to produce these numbers. That’s what our obligation is as coaches to make sure he's productive. But the money doesn't have anything to do with it.

“The fact Hassan and Josh and Justise and Tyler are all in that young group of guys. Give me four guys their age in the league and play a four-on-four game in the league and I think we would have a competitive four whether they’re lottery picks or not [playing against those four]. We have a good base of young players. The next step is to see what they can do to augment this team and go from here. We are definitely going to be young. We are going to be playing a different pace next year. What player emerges as the guy, only time will tell. We have a couple guys ready for that."

• On Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow: “Goran is going to have a different kind of season, a different kind of responsibility. Justise, we’ve looked at him as 'it’s time.' I remember when James Worthy came to the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes was the incumbent. There came that time where it was just a matter of time where James Worthy would take his position.

Are we ready for Justise Winslow to start at the 3? I am. I’m not just throwing him out there. This guy has been thrown out there last year and played significant minutes and significant times. I trust him. You guys put too much emphasis on things he can’t do vs. what he can. And those things he can't do, he's going to be able to do better with more minutes.”

• Why did you give Tyler Johnson four years but not offer more than two for Wade?

“If you’re rolling over year to year and looking at the free agent class, having your best and most important player at a time in his career. He's 35 years old and having him on a 2 yr deal, 1 and 1. If he does opt out, the next year, if there are people in the market, that could come in under, you could come in under, you have that flexibility, as opposed to being in a three-year deal where you don't.

"If you miss on somebody, Bird rights is the golden pass for any veteran player. You don't have to give them $20, $20, $20. You can give them, $20 million, 8, 37, 25. What difference does it make? We never talked about that [with Wade]. That was the partnership the players had with the Big 3. It was a very cooperative, collaborative, what was it going to take to get players in to help us. That’s where I kept reaching and where I missed the point with him. If I had a chance to really sit down and rethink my thoughts patiently, maybe I could have made a difference and explaining the big picture as opposed to the now picture.”

• And what about Johnson’s contract, the four-year, $50 million with cap hits of $19 million and $20 million years three and four?

“It’s a distorted contract. He's on low numbers the next two years and then we’ll have to deal with what's in years three and four. When you have a restricted free agent, under the Gilbert Arenas rules, that makes it very difficult for you, and makes it easy for somebody like Brooklyn, who tried to get a lot of young guys, balloon them up and tell us we're going to poach one of your guys. Micky [Arison] said, 'You’re not poaching any of my guys.' Micky made the decision. He loves Tyler. He’s a young piece. He’s part of our future. We will deal with years 3 and 4. Years 1 and 2, we got him as a bargain."

After Wade left, the Heat wanted to do a contract with Johnson with less onerous cap hits, but Johnson wasn't receptive because he had made an oral commitment to Brooklyn to sign the offer sheet.

"Tyler is a good kid. They refused. He said he wanted to keep his word with Brooklyn and I honored that. I get it. He wasn’t going to agree to something and then come back to us and do something and say it's off. The kid is a great kid and has great moral values. And sometimes in this sport, somebody kept his word. And we matched it."

• On the roster post-Wade: “I feel good about the aftermath of Dwyane leaving. We always liked Luke Babbitt from years past. We just didn't think he was sort of in the right situation. Last year, he played extremely well in New Orleans.

"Willie Reed we knew. We had him [in Summer League last year]. He had a good year last year with Brooklyn. Filling positions in with new players, and Wayne Ellington; personally, we know he can shoot the ball. We felt good about being able to go after these players, especially getting them on one-year contracts and having a young athletic team and still being in the game next summer.

"James Johnson is a defender, 6-9, very athletic, very long. I’ve seen him have great games, truly great games. He started for Toronto a number of games before he rolled his ankle over and then the young kid from UCLA [Norman Powell] came in and took a lot of his minutes. I think with consistent minutes, and with a specific role as sort of a Swiss Army knife type of guy, he can guard guys. He can really defend, if you are looking to beat anybody in the East, you have to look at how you are defending certain players that can make a difference.

"Derrick Williams is an elite athlete, above and beyond from an athletic standpoint. We think we can raise his 30 percent three-point shooting to maybe 37 or 38. We feel like we can improve that with James [also].

"Luke already has that ability to make threes. Ellington has that ability. Willie is an athletic young guy inside who can score. And we needed to have a backup center. It was a good opportunity for us. All of them we feel will fit in, especially the way coach wants to play."

• Overall: "I don’t think there’s any doubt we can compete for a playoff spot. You have to see who in the East really has what it makes to be competitive. It takes 20 to 30 games and then you get an idea who you are. Our plan is to always compete for a playoff spot and I don't think there's any doubt we can do that.

Cleveland is obviously the class of the conference. When you look around the Eastern Conference and looked at who helped themselves and who didn’t help themselves, Horford going from Atlanta to Boston, that helps them. I don’t know about Derrick Rose going to New York, but Joakim Noah is a great move for them, having those two players with Carmelo and Porzingis. That could be a team that could be different… I don’t know how Atlanta is going to be with Dwight Howard. He's a different kind of center than Horford."

• On 2017, when the Heat will have about $17 million in space if the cap is $102 million (with the ability to trade away players to create more): “There’s no guarantee whatever money you can create next summer in the free agent market is going to bring in somebody. Kevin Durant is a pretty good example of a man who had an opportunity to make a choice and was true to what his criteria were. His main criteria were if I go, I want to go to a team that can win immediately and he lived up to that.

"You will see more superstars that might be with franchises for years, four or five years, and they are banging their head against a wall, and they get an opportunity to go somewhere where they think they can win now, I think you will see that happen more often. As far as we're concerned, I'm always looking for that opportunity. And that's what we'll do again next year. But there's no guarantee.

"You sit down and talk to them and they will take a look at your roster and take a look at everything and talk to you about your future and draft picks and everything.... You better have all the space and the players or they're [the star players] are not coming. I don't think many free agents are going to leave good situations to go a team that has been gutted because you need to get rid of players to get them."

• On Erik Spoelsta's expected contract extension: “We’re working toward an extension I do believe will come to fruition, not only with him but his assistant coaches. I believe Danny [Craig], Juwan [Howard] and Chris [Quinn] will all be part of the bench staff. Erik has been through this before because his first two years after I retired. He had playoff teams but obviously they weren't championship teams. I thought he did a hell of a job at that time of starting his coaching career with teams that were competitive and also playoff teams.

Then he had the four years where I think he really earned his stripes as head coach with four finals and two world championships. The past couple years, there's been a rebuilding, a retooling to where we are today. He’s got his work cut out for him. Welcome to being an NBA coach. It's not always going to be easy. Sometimes there are going to be other challenges.

I know one thing about him. He’s competitive, he's excited and knows what the challenge is. He loves the guys he's already developed. He's not a developmental coach. We have a developmental program. His philosophy as a coach to me is bring 'em to me and I'll coach 'em. That's the way it has to be right now. He's very involved in the process all the time. Every single player we talk about or sign, he gives the nod because I don't want to send him anybody that he doesn't want."

• Riley said he won’t use his $2.9 million room exception this summer but has it in his back pocket to use next season if needed:

“We have 17 players on our roster. Three or four of them are what we could call development players. They have conditionally guaranteed contracts, with hopes we can continue to hold on to a player if they go to the D-League and don't make it [with the Heat] and play in Sioux Falls. As far as the $2.9 room exception, we are going to hold onto that. It’s a little jewel. I don’t think we are going to use it rest of this summer. There isn't anybody out there right now I want to give it out. It's something you can use somewhere in February or somewhere around March.”

• Riley said the Heat didn't target Al Horford, only because he came to a quick agreement with Whiteside. "We liked Al, Joakim Noah" as options if he didn't get Whiteside (as we reported in June).

• Riley said the Big Three originally was comfortable with five-year contracts in 2010, but then asked for six at the last minute, which cost the Heat four draft picks. All ended up opted out after four years anyway.

• Riley said teams should be allowed to sign one franchise player to any amount with a franchise tag, without it counting against the team's cap.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 15, 2016

Friday night UM football items and Media notes: Several notable network announcer moves this week; Interesting Ricky Williams story

Catching up on a few media notes this week:

• In a move that surprised no one, Max Kellerman will replace Fox-bound Skip Bayless as Stephen A Smith’s new sparring partner and co-host on First Take, the weekday morning debate show on ESPN2.

Kellerman already has significant name recognition with ESPN viewers, as a boxing analyst, the original host of Around The Horn and a SportsCenter contributor. He will relinquish his current gigs as co-host of ESPN2’s Sports Nation and a radio host on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Los Angeles.

“Max is smart, quick on his feet and is never -- ever -- afraid to go at anyone,” Smith said. “Just the kind of partner I wanted.”

ESPN wanted to keep Bayless, but he accepted a more lucrative offer from Fox Sports 1, which reportedly will pay him $5.5 million annually for four years, plus a $4 million signing bonus.

South Florida native Jorge Sedano, who hosts an evening ESPN Radio show with another familiar name to South Floridians (Israel Gutierrez), had been a finalist for The First Take co-host job.

• Mike Tirico will make his NBC debut as host of the network’s British Open coverage this weekend. Tirico left ESPN last month for an NBC job that also includes calling the network’s Thursday night NFL games in November and December, alongside Cris Collinsworth.

NBC will produce nine of those Thursday games, with five airing on NBC and NFL Net and four others airing on NFL Network.

Al Michaels will continue to call NBC’s Sunday night games with Collinsworth.

Other personnel moves:

• Heather Cox left ESPN, where she was a sideline reporter on the NBA and college football, to become NBC’s sideline reporter on the new Thursday night NFL package. She also will handle golf and Olympic assignments.

• Former Alabama, Jets and Bengals quarterback Greg McElroy will shift from a studio job at SEC Network to an ABC/ESPN game analyst role, with Dave Pasch.

• Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward left NBC Sports Network to become a sports correspondent for CNN.

• Couple other quick things: Pat Riley's Heat news conference at 1 p.m. Saturday will be streamed live on heat.com. We'll have the transcript here upon conclusion... Tirico, Al Michaels and Dan Patrick will share daytime NBC host duties during the Olympics, with Bob Costas naturally handling prime time... The 6.4 rating for the All-Star game was the lowest ever...

WQAM, which landed Dolphins rights, is still mulling who to use on pregame and postgame programming. Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Bob Griese return in the booth.... This will be a surprise for fans who like to watch Texas-Oklahoma every year in October: After 18 years in a row on ABC, Fox Sports 1 gets the game this year.



Remember when Ricky Williams shocked the Dolphins by retiring before training camp in July 2004, two months after receiving a four-game suspension for marijuana use?

Williams, appearing Friday with Donovan McNabb on Sirius XM’s The Source, said McNabb was the reason that he retired from football in 2004.

Williams cited a 34-27 Monday Night Football loss to the Eagles in Game 14 of the 2003 season and said “I was so devastated that night that even though I was in the NFL’s drug program I smoked that night. And the next morning is when I failed the test that actually got me into trouble. So thank you, Donovan.”



Lots of Canes news today, including Lawrence Cager's season-ending knee injury and UM touring the Orlando stadium as a potential site for its home opener. Click here for that.

Two other UM notes:

Four days after lifting Mark Walton’s suspension, Richt strongly suggested that Walton will not miss any games as the result of a legal issue that ended with charges against him being dropped.

“Game one is 49 days away!” Richt said, via Twitter, on Friday. “Looking forward to Mark Walton joining his team mates versus Florida A&M on September 3! Be there! U Family!”

On Monday, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the two charges against Walton: driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a suspended license.

• UM is in the midst of a two-day “Paradise” football camp for 9th through 12th grade prospects, with guest instructors including former UM standouts Antrel Rolle, Jeremy Shockey, Brett Romberg and Phillip Buchanon.

One highlight today was Marc Richt jumping off a diving board. (Check out my twitter account, @flasportsbuzz, for video of that.)

And UM picked up a big oral commitment from Miramar High's Brian Edwards, a four-star prospect rated the 17th best safety (by Rivals) in the 2017 class. He had offers from Florida, Syracuse, Mississippi State and several others.

UM now has 16 oral commitments for 2017.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz