January 01, 2016

Where the Dolphins' rookie draft picks stand heading into the final game; College Football Playoff ratings disaster

The Dolphins enter the 2016 offseason with some reasons for encouragement about their 2015 draft class, but also more questions than answers.

Among them:

Will DeVante Parker be the elite receiver the Dolphins thought they were getting with the 14th pick, or simply a pretty good one?

Are Jordan Phillips and Jay Ajayi good enough to be longterm starters? (That won’t be necessary in Ajayi’s case if Lamar Miller re-signs.)

Will Bobby McCain or Tony Lippett become top-three caliber cornerbacks?

And is Jamil Douglas anything more than an NFL backup?

The Dolphins cannot answer any of those questions definitively, but they can take solace in this: Parker and Ajayi, in particular, have flashed over the past month.

“There have been some ups and downs, bumps in the road, but I feel like all of those guys have progressed,” interim coach Dan Campbell said of a rookie class that also includes undrafted punter Matt Darr, kicker Andrew Franks and linebackers Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt. “You go down the list and start looking at them; those guys, they improved. I feel like it's a good class. It's one of the best ones that I've been around as a whole."

Rounding up the Dolphins’ draft class and where they stand after nearly one full season:

### Parker: The Dolphins might ultimately regret not taking cornerback Marcus Peters, who has eight interceptions and made the Pro Bowl for Kansas City, instead of Parker. But the decision was a no-brainer for the Dolphins at the time, and few teams likely would have selected Peters ahead of Parker.

Parker’s stats (21, 388, two touchdowns) are modest, and the Dolphins want to see improvement, especially with route-running, something ESPN’s Jon Gruden criticized about Parker during the Giants game.

“You got to be consistent with your route running and you’ve got to be dependable for the quarterback,” de facto offensive coordinator Zac Taylor said. “So we’ll continue to stay on him; attention to detail and being crisp with his routes. 

“What he’s fortunate to have and why he’s been so successful is because he’s a big body. He can go up and highpoint a ball. He’s got strong hands. His catch radius is outstanding.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill put it this way: “He started off making a play here and making a play there and now he’s making several plays a game. I know if he continues on this track he’s going to be a dominant player in this league.”

### Second-round pick Phillips: He has 17 tackles, two sacks and at least five pass deflections, but Campbell’s comments Thursday suggest the Dolphins don’t believe he’s ready to become a starter next season.

“He has improved and I think he has a bright future, but he has to work on being more consistent,” Campbell said. “I feel like over the last week, that improvement, we're not getting the gains that we had hoped for. He's got to be more consistent. He's kind of flashing right now and you don't want a flash player. You want somebody that's always up there and producing."

### Fourth-round pick Douglas: He surprisingly won a starting job over Billy Turner in training camp, then was benched after allowing the most quarterback hurries of any NFL guard over the first four weeks. He subsequently has struggled during a few fill-in appearances at center, including a critical error that doomed Miami’s comeback attempt against Indianapolis.

But Taylor said: “He’s a player that’s got a bright future here. It’s not easy. He did not play center at Arizona State. The one thing that happens when you go into the NFL and you play guard is that you need to be able to snap the ball.

“So Jamil is a guy that’s versatile. He could play multiple positions so he’s going to be a productive player here in the future."

### Fifth-round pick Ajayi: Though the body of work is limited (42 carries since the early-season cracked ribs), his 4.4 per carry average is excellent. His role in 2016 will depend largely on whether Miller re-signs.

“I think has gotten better every single week,” Taylor said. “He really runs hard.”

### Fifth-round pick Bobby McCain: He struggled when given a bigger role against the Giants and Chargers, then didn’t get any defensive snaps against Indianapolis. This Dolphins staff has concluded he’s better equipped to play in the slot than on the boundary, but they trust veteran Brice McCain more in the slot.

### Fifth-round pick Lippett: The Dolphins like his size (6-3) and how he attacks the ball but want to see better technique in his transition from receiver to cornerback.

“He brings a unique skillset to us in that he’s long in both height and arm length,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “He led the Big Ten in receptions last year, [so] he obviously has good hands and he can play the ball when it’s in the air. There are some things that he's going to have to still figure out.”

Dan Campbell likes how he played against the Colts:   “He reads route combinations pretty dang good. You love his size. I think he has a bright future.” 

### Fifth-round pick Cedric Thompson: The former Minnesota safety, who whiffed on several key tackles in preseason, hasn’t been promoted from the practice squad because he hasn’t excelled on special teams, Campbell said.

Darr, meanwhile, has been the best of the undrafted rookies. The Tennessee product ranks third in the league with a 47.6 yard average on punts.

### The Dolphins listed center Mike Pouncey (foot) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (ankle) as doubtful for Sunday's regular-season finale against New England.

Five Dolphins players are listed as questionable: right tackle Ja'Wuan James (toe), guard/center Jamil Douglas (ankle), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf), receiver Kenny Stills (thigh) and receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs). The Dolphins need Douglas to fill in for Pouncey at center.

Matthews said he does not expect to play Sunday.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RATINGS PLUNGE

Ratings for the semifinal games in the College Football Playoffs plunged, not surprising considering the games were played on New Year’s Eve (traditionally a poor TV night) and had lopsided scores in the fourth quarter.

The Clemson-Oklahoma semifinal at the Orange Bowl produced a 9.7 overnight rating, equal to 9.7 percent of homes in 56 of the nation’s largest TV markets. The Alabama-Michigan State semifinal at the Cotton Bowl produced a 9.9 major-market rating.

Those ratings are down substantially from the 15.5 and 15.3 major-market ratings for last season’s two semifinal games, which were played on Jan. 1.

The ratings for Thursday’s game were even worse in South Florida. Both games produced a 6.1 local rating, which ranked Miami-Fort Lauderdale 50th among the 56 metered markets for the Orange Bowl and 51st for the Cotton Bowl. That 6.1 rating equals 6.1 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets.

ESPN had implored College Football Playoff officials to move this season’s semifinals from Dec. 31 to Saturday, Jan. 2, but the CFP refused.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock had said college football planned to “change the paradigm” of how Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve. But that attempt was largely unsuccessful.

Ten years remain in the CFP’s deal with ESPN, and of those 10 years, the semifinals are scheduled for New Year’s Eve seven times and on Jan. 1 on three occasions. As of now, the semifinals will be on Jan. 1 only when they are played in New Orleans and Pasadena, Cal.

### New UM coach Mark Richt is not retaining assistant Andreu Swasey, according to footballscoop.com and Fox Sports. Swasey had been in charge of the football team's strength and conditioning program since 2001.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

December 31, 2015

Lots of New Year's Eve Dolphins notes: Coordinators reflect, address issues; Criticism of 2nd-rounder; '72 toast and more nuggets

Lou Anarumo and Zac Taylor walked to the podium inside the Dolphins media room on Thursday, neither having any idea if this was the last time in their lives that they will hold mandatory news conferences as coordinators (or in Taylor’s case, de facto coordinator) of an NFL defense and offense.

If they hold those positions again after Sunday, it likely will be elsewhere.

Both men had a chance to impress Dolphins management as in-season replacements, hand-picked by interim coach Dan Campbell.

And though players shoulder much of the blame for the 5-10 record, the Dolphins statistically displayed little or no improvement on either side of the ball after changing coordinators.

The Dolphins allowed 25.2 points per game under Kevin Coyle through four games. They have relinquished 25.3 per game in 11 games with Anarumo as coordinator.

Offensively, the Dolphins generally have regressed, at least statistically, since Bill Lazor was replaced by Taylor, who doesn’t have the coordinator title but calls the plays.

The Dolphins averaged 20.4 points per game under Lazor, ranking in the bottom third of the league. They’re averaged 16.2 in four games under Taylor.

“Nothing is the way we want it or we wouldn’t be sitting where we’re at [but] I can’t say I regret those moves,” Campbell said of his coordinator decisions. “Lou has done a hell of a job. Statistically, it’s not good enough. [But]… schematically, I don’t regret that.

“Zac – what I’m pleased is he’s committed to the run game. I feel like he’s trying … to run it more to the way I think we should play the game. It protects our offensive line, helps the quarterback with the play action pass.”

Days after he was named interim coach, Campbell promoted Anarumo to replace Coyle, even though he had been a defensive coordinator only once before, with the U.S. Merchant Marines from 1992 to 1994.

Anarumo made subtle changes, including simplifying the defense and moving Ndamukong Suh around more.

But the Dolphins’ rush defense remained among the worst in the league (opponents are averaged 130 yards per game on the ground against Miami, which ranks 30th) and the pass defense is allowing a 98.8 opponent passer rating, which is 25th.  

So how could a defense add Suh and be statistically worse in run defense?

“You can’t be 30 out of 35 [plays],” Anarumo said. “You have to be 35 out of 35. That has been our Achilles’ heel this year. You stop them for 30 plays and three of them get out for big runs. That’s the run defense this year. You can’t do that. That’s my fault. I haven’t done a good enough job to get them to eliminate those long runs.”

Offensively, Lazor was fired partly because Campbell wanted to run the ball more. The Dolphins have averaged 23 rushing attempts per game under Taylor, compared with 19.8 under Lazor.

But the Dolphins have scored only seven touchdowns in four games under Taylor, who had never called plays before.

So is there anything the two replacement coordinators would have done differently?

Taylor indicated he regretted not getting the ball to Jarvis Landry more in the first three quarters against Indianapolis.

Anarumo said he wouldn’t have done anything differently with player usage because “we played kind of the hand the way it was dealt.”

As for strategy, “there might be certain things we might have done differently in certain games,” Anarumo said. “But for the most part, we put the guys in good positions to make plays. There are certain things I certainly could have done better.”

What pleased the coordinators most during their stewardship of the offense and defense?

“Reshad Jones’ play, how productive he’s been,” Anarumo said. “I’m most pleased because I’ve seen him through it the whole way. And the way the guys have responded to us as coaches. You’re happy with effort they’re giving.”

Taylor cited “our receivers had a good year. Overall, the young players on this offense all have a bright future. The future is bright for this offense.”

Nobody has worked more closely with Ryan Tannehill over the past four years than Taylor. So what does he need to do to progress from a pretty good quarterback to something much better?

Taylor pointed to developing more of a chemistry with receivers and “being 100 percent on the same [page].” And “he can continue to improve his decision-making.”

Overall, Anarumo is pleased with the job he has done for this reason: “I would like to think if you talked to the players on defense, I would think they would agree that we gave them the best chance to put themselves in position to make plays. That’s all you can ask for.  Even before [Coyle] was let go, there was a trend of simplifying things. We kind of built on that.”

Taylor said this brief experience has reinforced in his mind that he has what it takes to be a coordinator.

“Maybe to a fault, but I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I always dreamed about being a coordinator. We haven’t had as much success as I would have hoped.... [But] I have enjoyed every day stepping into this building.”

MVPS NAMED

The Dolphins named receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones as co-winners of the Dan Marino MVP award, as decided by team officials (not players) and reporters that cover the team.

In the only award determined by players, center Mike Pouncey was named winner of the Don Shula Leadership Award.

Left tackle Branden Albert won the Ed Block Courage Award and safety Michael Thomas won the Nat Moore service award for his community work.

Pouncey (foot), and Jelani Jenkins (ankle) missed practice; Campbell said there’s only a “slight” chance either will play.

Landry, Matthews, Earl Mitchell, Jamil Douglas and Kenny Stills were limited; Matthews (ribs) said he will not play Sunday.

Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has missed eight games with a toe injury, practiced Thursday, but Campbell said he wasn’t sure if James will play Sunday.

### The Dolphins’ 2016 opponents are set. Besides AFC East teams, Miami will play at home against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco and Tennessee, and will play on the road against Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Seattle and San Diego.

### Though Don Shula indicated he was rooting for Carolina to go unbeaten because son Mike is his offensive coordinator there, 1972 Dolphins star Dick Anderson said he will get together with Nick Buoniconti for a toast when Buoniconti returns from vacation.

“It puts a big smile on our face,” Anderson said. “One team doing it in 95 years is a pretty good accomplishment.”

### Curiously, Dolphins players have not risen to Ryan Tannehill’s defense amid the Miko Grimes controversy. Perhaps they don't want to leave themselves open to cyber-bullying from Miko Grimes.

“I don't really want to be part of that topic,” Landry said when pressed by Boston media on a conference call.

A friend of Tannehill on the team also said he didn't want to touch the topic. 

### Dan Campbell made clear he’s not satisfied with second-round defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. “Up and down. He has to work on being more consistent. We’re not getting the gains we had hoped for.”

### Campbell believes rookie cornerback Tony Lippett can be an NFL starter: “For a rookie, he’s an aware player. He reads route combinations pretty dang good. He practices and plays hard. He’s got a bright future.”

### Cornerback Bobby McCain did not play at all on defense last Sunday, with snaps instead given to Tyler Patmon and Tony Lippett (along with Brent Grimes and Brice McCain, of course).

But Campbell said rookie Bobby McCain “has a bright future. He is best suited to be in the slot.”

### Anarumo confirmed the Dolphins want another look Sunday at cornerbacks Lippett and Patmon, who was signed recently.

Patmon “played a lot of snaps at Dallas at a high level," Anarumo said. "Inside as slot defender; he gives you some depth outside. We’re happy to have him.”

Patmon played 11 games for Dallas in 2014 and another 11 this season before being cut. He has one career interception.

### Safety Cedric Thompson, a fifth-round pick, was the only one of the Dolphins’ seven rookie draft picks not to be on the 53-man roster this season.

Campbell said he wasn’t promoted from the practice squad because bottom-of-the-roster players need to play special teams and “that’s something he hasn’t excelled at.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a look at Miami's first-round draft options.

December 30, 2015

Buzz on Dolphins' first-round draft options; UM; Heat, Panthers, Marlins, local radio chatter

BUZZ COLUMN

With the Dolphins having identified defensive end, cornerback and linebacker as their three biggest needs, the good news is that about half of the players currently projected for the top 12 of the NFL Draft play those positions.

An early look at Miami’s options, with the Dolphins holding the sixth spot in the draft at the moment and having the potential to fall anywhere between third and 10th pending Sunday's results:

### Defensive end: Ohio State’s Joey Bosa is the best player in the draft according to ESPN's Mel Kiper, and Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche and Oregon’s DeForest Buckner are considered top 10 material.

Kiper, on Bosa, on ESPN.com: “The guy just dominates on an almost play-to-play basis, with great instincts against the run and the ability to create pressure on the quarterback in a variety of ways. If you try to take away the outside edge, he can just drive a tackle right into the QB.

“He didn't start the season playing quite this well, but he keeps getting better. Explosive pass-rusher and is consistently disruptive against the run. Bosa has size -- he's 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, and could play bigger --- and versatility that will fit any scheme.”

Bosa can't be ruled out as a possibility for Miami if the two high-end quarterbacks (Memphis' Paxton Lynch and Cal's Jared Goff) jump him in the draft and if Miami ends up with a top five pick. Tennessee, which has the top pick heading into the final weekend (Cleveland also is in contention), doesn't need a quarterback but could consider Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley.

As for Nkemdiche, he's ninth on Kiper’s Big Board and “can be dominant… when he's 100 percent,” Kiper said. “He explodes off the snap like a guy 40 or 50 pounds lighter. And Nkemdiche isn't just quick; he also has strength at the point and doesn't get eaten up by double-teams.”

But there’s a red flag; Nkemdiche was suspended for this week’s Sugar Bowl after an arrest for possession of marijuana.

“I and many around the league ask about where he's at with off-field questions,” Kiper said. “He's a talent, but you need the reliability.’’

ESPN’s Todd McShay said the 296-pound Nkemdiche (who had 29 tackles and three sacks this season) can play tackle or defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, like Miami’s. But some believe he is better suited to tackle in a 4-3 and end in a 3-4. Of course, the Dolphins won't know what defensive scheme they're running until they hire a coaching staff.

Buckner, 6-7 and 300 pounds, has an impressive motor and the ability to play in any system, according to Kiper, who ranks Buckner fourth overall. He had 9.5 sacks this season. 

McShay ranks Buckner 10th and says he “uses his explosive upper-body power to jar blockers and push the pocket, while his height (6-7) and length come in handy when trying to bat down passes. When he plays with leverage, he's tough to stop.”

After those three, Kiper’s next highest-rated defensive ends are Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (11th) and Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah (19th). Lawson will be on display in the national semifinal at the Orange Bowl on Thursday.

Kiper said Lawson has “quickness, spin moves, a special knack for finding the ball early."

Lawson had 9.5 sacks this season, Ogbah 13.

Both have very good quickness for their size (275 pounds).

McShay has Lawson 13th, Ogbah not in his top 25.

### Cornerbacks: FSU’s Jalen Ramsey and UF’s Vernon Hargreaves will be serious considerations for Miami if available. Kiper has Ramsey third overall and Hargreaves eighth. Either might end up being the safest pick for Miami, filling a high-need position.

Ramsey, a converted safety, “has the length, range and exceptional instincts to make plays all over the field,” Kiper said. “A truly gifted athlete.”

Ramsey, McShay said, “can do it all in the secondary: match up in the slot, play center field and stuff the run.”

Hargreaves “is the best pure cover corner in the draft class” with great instincts, Kiper said. “At 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, he's not small; he just lacks a margin for error compared to some.”

There’s a dropoff at corner after Ramsey and Hargreaves. Kiper has Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller 18th and LSU’s Tre’Davious White 20th.

### Linebackers: Kiper and McShay have only one in their top 10 lists: Notre Dame outside linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Kiper very recently raised him to second overall, behind only Bosa.

“A rare player at his position who could be drafted this high,” Kiper said. “It's really hard to pick out serious flaws, aside from a missed tackle here and there and occasional over-pursuit. He can be moved around, has good length and can flat-out fly for a linebacker, with sub-4.5 speed.”

Among other linebackers, Kiper has UCLA’s Myles Jack 14th and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland 24th.

Jack, recovering from a torn ACL, is “a linebacker with quickness you would get from a smaller safety, and that extends to his ability to cover, as well,” Kiper said. It's possible he could rise to Miami's range if the Dolphins end up in the 9th/10th slot, but most have him rated lower.

Besides Jack, McShay also has Ohio State’s Darron Lee as a mid-teens linebacker prospect.

### For those wondering about quarterback: The Dolphins remain committed to Ryan Tannehill and prioritize defensive needs over everything else. It would be very surprising, at this point, if Miami invests a top 10 pick in a QB.

But keep in mind that two quarterbacks are projected top 10 picks: Memphis’ Paxton Lynch (the Dolphins like him, as Armando Salguero has noted) and California’s Jared Goff.

Lynch had 28 touchdowns and three interceptions this season and Kiper said his “talent for the position is so clear, and the decision-making has been very good.”

Kiper has Lynch sixth and Goff 10th among all draft-eligible players. It wouldn't be surprising if either rises into the top three.

But a new coach probably would have to be given some personnel authority, and have serious doubts about Tannehill, for a QB to become a serious consideration, considering the Dolphins have been so transparent about their commitment to Tannehill (at least for next year).

CHATTER

While most of the UM assistants on the former staff are aware they’re not being retained, decisions were still pending on at least two: interim coach/tight ends coach Larry Scott (a possibility to stay, but nothing decided as of Tuesday) and receivers coach Kevin Beard (scheduled to interview with Mark Richt)….

At least four new assistant coaches will be announced imminently, a group expected to include former Georgia assistants Todd Hartley and Thomas Brown and former Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who is especially well-regarded. The man Kuligowski replaces, Randy Melvin, is taking a job at Purdue.

Update: Those three have been announced, along with the addition of Richt's son, Jon, as an offensive assistant. Brown will be co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach and Hartley special teams coordinator.]

### Though Artie Burns is turning pro, cornerback Corn Elder announced on Twitter he’s returning for his senior season. Stacy Coley hasn't informed the school what he's doing; UM staffers feel strongly that he needs another year here.

### Ron Rothstein noted on the Heat radiocast last night that this team can't seem to win when Gerald Green isn't scoring. Miami is 6-2 when he scores 15 or more, but the bench is too limited to play at anything but a deficit when he's off his game.

Despite Green's shooting struggles the past two nights, this is a testament to Pat Riley and the Heat’s front office: The only two free agents signed to minimum deals last summer who began the week averaging double figures in points are Green and Houston’s Marcus Thornton, who would have been signed if Green hadn’t.

"I look at all the guys who got paid," said Green, a good value at $1.4 million. "You’re like, ‘Wow!’ But I’m happy. I still have the best job in the world. I’ve gotten paid way less in the D-League.”

### Josh Richardson today was dispatched to the Heat's D-League team in South Dakota.

### Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has done good work crafting this Panthers roster, and a little luck helped, too. Here’s how: Last June, the Rangers rejected Tallon’s offer - which reportedly included Jimmy Hayes - for goalie Cam Talbot. That allowed Tallon to use Hayes in a trade for Boston’s Reilly Smith.

Fast forward: Smith is tied for the team lead in goals with 11 (Hayes has five for Boston); and Al Montoya has been a much more consistent backup goalie than Talbot, who has been erratic for Edmonton. Montoya is fourth in goals-against average, Talbot 60th.

Incidentally, the Panthers' 22 points this month were the most in franchise history.

### The Marlins had interest in closer Aroldis Chapman before the Reds traded him to the Yankees this week, and Miami had given thought to making Chapman the No. 2 starter in its rotation…

The Marlins, still hoping to find a pitching bargain, have been discussing several names, including Doug Fister (5-7 in 2015), Edwin Jackson (4-3) and Cliff Lee (missed 2015 with an arm injury).

### Morning host Sid Rosenberg, who was fired this week by WMEN-640 (as WINZ's Andy Slater reported while I was away), told me that the station indicated it was because of budget cuts.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 15, 2015

Buzz will return later in December

 

A quick note to readers who are looking for my regular daily posts:

My blog is operational 46 of the 52 weeks per year.

The following two weeks are two of the six weeks that the blog will be dormant in 2015.

Regular posts will resume after that point.

Thanks to all of you who have accounted for the high readership of this blog and happy holidays to all.

Thoughts, reaction, tidbits and more national and local analyst criticism of Dolphins after another disappointing night

Postscripts and reaction after Miami's 31-24 loss to the Giants that mathematically eliminated the Dolphins from playoff contention:

### This is all about personnel evaluations now, and tonight confirmed what most of us already suspected: The Dolphins need at least two cornerbacks, including a legit No. 1 corner --- a job that a declining Brent Grimes is no longer equipped to handle.

Look, Odell Beckham torments most corners, as he did to Grimes and Jamar Taylor tonight.

But Grimes “has really struggled defending the deep ball,” for weeks, as Jon Gruden noted on ESPN. Remember, Brandon Marshall and Sammy Watkins caught 17 of 20 passes thrown against Grimes in the most recent Jets and Bills games.

It’s difficult to envision Grimes returning without a restructuring (translation: pay cut) on a contract that would pay him $7.97 million next season, with a $9.5 million cap hit. He has a $3 million cap hit if Miami releases him.

### Jamar Taylor, benched two weeks ago, got yet another chance when Bobby McCain was injured on the first play of the second half.

But Taylor lost Beckham on the 84-yard TD pass, and Reshad Jones provided no assistance. Taylor said it was his own fault.

### The Dolphins’ secondary received no help from the front seven, which failed to produce a sack. The Giants entered having allowed only 21 sacks, fourth fewest in the league.

### In a season full of embarrassments, add this to the list: Eli Manning had as many touchdown passes (four) as incomplete passes (four) in 31 attempts. He finished with 337 yards passing and a 151.5 rating, just short of the perfect 158.8 that Geno Smith hung on the Dolphins in Miami’s home finale last year.

“Their defense is just too vanilla,” ESPN’s Ray Lewis said. “When you put the two safeties 25 yards deep, Eli knows what he has.”

Said Steve Young: “It’s like the Hall of Fame game. That defense is not threatening at all.”

As Keith Sims said on the Finsiders’ post-game show: “It seems like teams figure us out and we don’t make those adjustments.”

### Aside from NFL Network’s Heath Evans, nobody has been more critical of Ndamukong Suh than ESPN analysts were tonight.

Ray Lewis suggested he seems disinterested on some plays. Tom Jackson said “he’s got to do more.”

Gruden criticized Suh for leaving the game briefly on the Giants’ final drive. “Suh needs to get back in this game. That’s why you are here. Highest paid player in the NFL. You need to find something in the tank!”

### The Dolphins always seem to do something head scratching. Tonight’s installment:

Why did Lamar Miller get only five carries over the final 40 minutes of the game, after his electrifying 34-yard touchdown run, at which point he was averaging 9.9 per carry?

He gained 20 yards on those five carries, finishing with 12 for 89 (a 7.4 average) and two TDs.

Campbell wasn’t asked to explain that afterward, and I wasn’t there for the Campbell session, but Miller said he was healthy and doesn’t know why he didn’t get more carries.

“I hope Dan Campbell is as irate tonight as when he fired Bill Lazor,” Sims said, noting Miller’s lack of touches in the second-half.

### When Dan Campbell interviews for the head coaching job, he will have a hard time explaining why his team is so undisciplined.

The Jarvis Landry penalty tonight, throwing aside a Giants defender in frustration on a critical late Dolphins possession, was inexcusable and marked the third “behavior” related penalty for Landry this season.

“There’s no excuse for those,” Campbell said. “Those are totally inexcusable and they killed us.”

The Dolphins had 12 penalties for 123 yards. Sims said Don Shula never would have put up with that. The Giants had only three penalties for 25 yards.

### Considering he doesn’t stretch the field like his buddy Beckham can, Landry received entirely too many targets (18).

Yes, Landry is a terrific player. But 18 “is way too much,” Stradford said on the Dolphins’ post-game show. Landry finished with 11 catches for 99 yards.

### Campbell’s take afterward:  “We were inefficient on first down. That really killed us. Get a one-yard gain or a no-yard gain. You look at it: We ran the ball pretty good. But if you don’t run it good on first or second down, it puts you in a bad situation. Ryan threw the ball pretty well. There were some critical drops in this game that killed us.”

### Tannehill had his moments but again failed to win a game in the fourth quarter, overthrowing Landry on what ended up being Miami’s final offensive play.

"I overthrew him," Tannehill said. "I had time to make a good throw."

"That's when your franchise quarterback has to put your team on your shoulders and make a play," Sims said.

His final numbers: 25 for 41, 236 yards, and an 85 rating, slightly below his average this season. He was victimized by several drops.

“It’s time for Tannehill to turn his play up,” Gruden said.

Trent Dilfer insisted on ESPN’s pre-game show that Tannehill is one of the five most talented quarterbacks in the league but “needs to do all the stuff that matters in winning…. Substantive, intangible stuff.”

ESPN’s Young wondered whether he has the “grit” to be a high-end quarterback.

### Tannehill’s take afterward: “They played good defense and we just didn’t make the plays. When it came down to it in the fourth quarter, we didn’t get it done. That’s when the good players, good teams, step up…. This is not where we want to be. You’ll see what guys are made of.”

### So make it seven years in a row without a winning record or a playoff berth. At 5-8, the Dolphins remain on the road to nowhere, but also on track to have a draft pick in the 7 to 15 range. They’re eighth at the moment.

### Mike Tannenbaum continues to take low-risk chances on other teams’ discards. The latest: defensive end Damontre Moore, who was cut by the Giants for attitude reasons.

Moore had 5.5 sacks last season and 3.0 this season, all coming as a backup, but fought with teammates continuously since training camp, according to Jay Glazer.

“Moore can catch some of these scrambling quarterbacks,” Gruden said.

### Tannehill audibled into some good plays but failed to adjust on at least two Giants blitzes. (It’s unclear whether Tannehill had the authority to audible out of those plays.)

“He has to [audible] to become a great quarterback and take his game to another level,” Gruden said.

### Another disappointing night for Dallas Thomas, who committed two false start penalties and was beaten by Cullen Jenkins on a play that could have left Tannehill beheaded.

“Neither guard has played well enough” this season, Gruden said.

### Kenny Stills, with the 47-yard TD catch, is now averaging 17.8 yards on 22 catches --- among the highest for a Dolphins receiver in the past 25 years. During that quarter century, Randal Hill has the highest single-season average (18.4) for receivers with at least 20 catches.

### Earl Mitchell missed the second half with a calf injury.

### With the Giants winning, the NFL announced that the Dec. 27 Colts-at-Dolphins game will be cross-flexed from CBS to Fox (it will remain a 1 p.m. start), and that Vikings-Giants will replace Steelers-Ravens as the NBC Sunday night game.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 12, 2015

Marino, Mourning trying to make a difference behind the scenes; Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

While one former star player, Barry Bonds, recently joined the Marlins’ staff as hitting coach, two others -- the Dolphins’ Dan Marino and Heat’s Alonzo Mourning -- quietly try to make a difference behind the scenes.

With neither expressing any interest in coaching, what exactly do they do? Here's a look:

### Marino has become more visible and involved in his second season with the Dolphins, backup quarterback Matt Moore said.

“He’s around a lot,” Moore said. “[Offensive coordinator] Zac Taylor will ask what he thinks; he gives his opinion. He definitely has got input.”

And even when coaches aren’t in the room, “Dan likes to watch tape with us [the quarterbacks] on our own,” Moore said. “It’s great for us. Dan has fit in perfectly in our family. He’s one of the guys. He’s always asking us when we’re doing something, when we’re watching tape.”

Practice squad quarterback Logan Thomas said “we pick his brain because he passed for a million yards. He will notice stuff an opponent is doing and tell us.”

When Thomas first met him, Marino said, “I’m Dan Marino.”

Thomas' response? “Yeah, I know.”

Marino, who has the title of special advisor, also watches tape of pro and college players with Dolphins executive vice president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum and with coaches, and also bounces into team meetings.

“Being around the players; it’s been a lot of fun,” Marino told the team’s web site. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

So with coordinator Bill Lazor fired, why not put Marino on the field – as an assistant coach – for the final few games and see if he can help get Ryan Tannehill back on track? That wasn’t discussed because Marino has expressed no interest in doing that and both sides are comfortable with his role.

### Mourning, who (like Marino) isn’t made available for interviews, has forged a key mentoring role with the Heat’s young players as vice president/player programs.

Hassan Whiteside said they speak about once a week. Zo texts him “after games, motivational things” and Mourning is available to meet “any time I need to talk. We can go out for lunch or dinner. I go to his house. We talk about life, about being a professional, about basketball. We talk about a lot of things.”

Before the season, Mourning made clear to Whiteside his expectation: to be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, an award Mourning won twice. Even though Whiteside might benefit from working on moves and technique with Mourning, Whiteside said they do no on-court work together.

But Mourning watches Whiteside closely in games and practices and “tells me different things he sees… I can have a couple blocks and he's like, 'You could have done more.' He's always like, 'You can do more. Never get satisfied with what you did.’

“He's tough [on me]. He always wants the best for me. He tells me all the time he wants me to break all his records and do more than what he's done. He said he believes I can do that.”

Rookie Josh Richardson said when he arrived in town, Zo “drove me around the city, showed me places. He talked about not getting distracted, to be careful with our interactions with people.”

For Whiteside, there couldn’t be a better role model. “He had a great career,” Whiteside said. “I want that.”

But neither Marino nor Zo seems interested in the coaching role than Bonds will now undertake.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins are disinclined to get an early jump with their free agents. They will examine the full body of work and make decisions after the season.

### It wouldn’t be surprising if the Dolphins move on from Jamar Taylor, and his struggles especially frustrate this regime because they strongly believe he has every physical element needed to be a quality cornerback, and “he works as hard as anybody I’ve been around,” coordinator Lou Anarumo said.

Here’s the grim big picture story: If Taylor doesn't improve, that means only two of the Dolphins’ nine-second round picks from 2008 through 2014 (Jarvis Landry, Koa Misi) became or are likely to become longterm starters here. That’s dismal.

The other seven: Phillip Merling, Chad Henne, Pat White, Sean Smith (left in free agency; now a solid starter for Kansas City), Daniel Thomas, Jonathan Martin and Taylor.

Taylor, incidentally, likely will be active against the Giants after being on the inactive list last week, Dan Campbell said.

### The Dolphins are intrigued by what they’ve seen in practice from Tony Lippett, who rose to the No. 4 cornerback job for the Ravens game.

Lippett, a converted receiver who spends a lot of his off time studying video tape of big corners (Sean Smith, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner), said: “I’m not going to say it’s second nature yet, but I’m getting close to it.”

Campbell likes him: “He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s got really good ball skills. Obviously he played receiver at Michigan State. His development has got to come on some of the transition routes, things of that nature downfield. But as far as getting in somebody’s grill and playing them man-to-man and going down field competing for the ball, he is as good as anybody.”

### With the Giants visiting Monday night, it’s difficult to understate how tepid Miami’s offense has been at home (aside from the Houston game).

The Dolphins had 17 first downs in their last two home games combined. Only two teams (49ers, Rams) average that few for one game, let alone two. As perspective, Arizona averages 24 per game.

### Though rookie Jordan Phillips has displayed a knack for knocking down passes, and though he played well in Earl Mitchell's absence against the Ravens, the Dolphins indicated last week that they're likely to reinsert Mitchell as the starter. Campbell said Mitchell will be available against the Giants.

### Howard Schnellenberger, who coached Mark Richt at UM, called him last weekend and “I told him, ‘This is a wedding that can only happen in heaven.’ He's a devout Christian.

“I also said to him, 'By signing that contract, you have done something that nobody else could do. You have unified the fans, not so much the student body because they probably don't know that much about you, but any of the patriarchs are thrilled with it.’

“He thanked me for those thoughts. We’re great friends now. He said he's delighted to come back home and go about the business of rejuvenating the grand old team that has slid off the mark.”

When Richt was a backup quarterback here, Schnellenberger suspended him when he failed to show up to a 5:30 a.m. meeting.

“He looked at that as a moment in time that put him back on the right path of being a grown man and getting into coaching and having the good fortune to go to the best possible place he could go --- Florida State,” Schnellenberger said. “Those 10 years with Bobby Bowden were a Godsend. He was a good student, never in any trouble but that one time.

“He's a great coach. He has the capacity to take this program back to the glory years and to that level.

“Hell, he's a young man. He's 55. That's a child in coaching.

“Can you imagine being at Georgia for 15 years and never got one mark against him by the NCAA? The best thing about Mark Richt is he is not going to ruin his career by letting anyone screw it up with violations of rules. That's the biggest problem the university has had.”

### At least one UM staffer (who might not stick around on Richt’s staff) intends to advise cornerback Artie Burns to turn pro – one NFL scout said he has first-round talent – but UM coaches do not believe Al-Quadin Muhammad or Corn Elder are ready to turn pro.

But ESPN's Mel Kiper does not rate Burns or any draft-eligible Cane in his top 10 at any position.

### Three-star tight end Evan Hinson de-committed from UM today, leaving the Hurricanes with 17 oral commitments for the Class of 2016.

### One NBA scout says he remains worried about Heat forward Justise Winslow’s shooting: “His follow through is very inconsistent; his wrist is all over the place.”

## Mario Chalmers returns to Miami for the Grizzlies game on Sunday, and that trade continues to look questionable from a Heat standpoint. One snippet from my story on the home page:

Asked what Miami misses without Chalmers, Chris Bosh reeled off a long list: “His length. His defensive capability. His offensive capability. His outside shooting. Being able to spread the floor. His knack for passing and getting guys involved in offense. Getting easy baskets. He’s a very talented player.

“When you miss those things, you notice. He created so many turnovers for this team. He had a knack for getting his hand on the ball, which was great for this team.”

 ### Marlins president David Samson said he “got a call from an executive from another team asking about our advice on hiring a manager. I commented, ‘We’re good at it. We do it every year.’”   
     

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 11, 2015

Details, reaction from Heat's 3rd straight loss; Heat shorthanded tonight; Comparing Winslow's rookie season with the two rookies who surprisingly went ahead of him; One Dolphins & UM note

INDIANAPOLIS ---

The effort? Certainly grittier than the debacle two nights earlier in Charlotte.

The energy? Much more respectable.

The result? That, alas, was no different that most previous Heat regular-season visits to Indianapolis.

And the second-half execution wasn’t any better, either.

Undone by turnovers, tepid second-half shooting and a late third-quarter Pacers blitz, the Heat fell, 96-83, on Friday at BankersLife Fieldhouse, losing its third consecutive game overall and its ninth in a row in Indianapolis.

"We played a good first half,” Dwyane Wade said. But “we played a stinker of a third quarter.”

This one was eminently winnable, with the Heat leading 48-47 at the half and 62-60 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.

But the Pacers closed the third on a 17-6 run, most of it achieved with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench.

The Pacers shot 14 for 26 in a 30-point third quarter after making just 14 of 43 shots in the first half.

“We did a good job in the half-court defense,” Wade said. “In transition, we didn’t do a good job.”

On the other end, the Heat scored just 35 points after halftime, making only 13 of 37 shots.

Just as hurtful as the poor shooting, if not more so, were the 19 turnovers, leading to 24 Pacers points.

Goran Dragic committed five of them, Justise Winslow and Bosh four apiece.

Wade said the Heat’s turnovers are especially problematic because Miami doesn’t have a high volume of possessions to begin with, because “we play a slower pace than what the league is going… This is what we have. No one is coming out of the stands to help us. We can’t change that. That’s our roster. We have to figure out how to make it work.”

Bosh seemed especially bothered by “the unforced errors, attacking when nothing’s there. On the road, 19 turnovers isn’t going to get it done. We have to bring that down 30, 40 percent at least.”

Wade and Bosh were aggressive and efficient early, each scoring 14 in the first half.

“Chris, some games he decides to come out passive and some… aggressive,” Wade said. “It was good to see him aggressive tonight.”

But Bosh shot only 2 for 7 in the second half, closing with 23 points and 10 boards. Wade scored only six in the second half on 3 for 11 shooting, finishing with 20 points.

Gerald Green (13 points) was Miami’s only other player in double figures.

“They forced us into a lot of shots outside the paint,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to get to the line.”

To wit: The Heat shot 8 for 13 on free throws, while Indiana was 18 for 20.

Indiana’s Paul George --- the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 27.9 per game --- missed 10 of 17 shots but hit all eight of his free throws on a 23-point night.  

The Heat also couldn’t slow guard Monta Ellis (24 points) or center Ian Mahinmi, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

As for Hassan Whiteside, he managed just five first-half minutes before picking up three fouls, and finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes. Whiteside has blocked at least two shots in all 21 games --- the third-longest streak to start a season over the past 30 years, two behind Shaquille O’Neal and three behind Mark Eaton.

But for the third consecutive game, Whiteside did not play at all in the fourth quarter, though Wednesday’s Charlotte game was extended garbage time in a blowout.

Whiteside said his ankle, which kept him out of practice on Thursday, felt better during the game and wasn’t a factor.

Playing without guard Tyler Johnson (shoulder) and forward Josh McRoberts (knee maintenance), Spoelstra shuffled his rotation, inserting Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh Richardson and Beno Udrih and returning Luol Deng to the starting lineup after using him off the bench in his first game back from a hamstring injury. That allowed Green to resume coming off the bench.

But the point guard play was subpar, Dragic finishing with as many turnovers as points (five) and Udrih committing two turnovers in 14 minutes.

After an encouraging 12-6 start, the Heat has now dropped three in a row, all against Eastern Conference opponents: Washington, Charlotte and Indiana.

“Everybody goes through slumps,” Bosh said. “It’s part of a group that has not played a lot together. We have to stop it, figure it out together. We have to keep our spirits high.”

The Heat has now lost 43 of 52 regular-season games all time in Indianapolis.

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

Some notes from Indianapolis (where the Heat is playing) and a couple of Dolphins and Canes items:

### Hassan Whiteside said he will play tonight in Indiana (where Miami has lost eight straight) despite ankle discomfort, but Erik Spoelstra said the Heat definitely will be without two rotation players: backup point guard Tyler Johnson and backup forward Josh McRoberts.

Johnson is out with a left shoulder injury sustained in practice. "Can't remember what happened," Johnson said. "It's a little sore. I don't want to re-aggravate it. I'm trying to be cautious with it."

McRoberts is being held out for maintenance reasons on his knee, which was surgically repaired last December.

"We want to make sure he's progressing at a healthy level," Spoelstra said.

Whiteside said his ankle is "a little" sore but "my team needs me so I will be there."

### Rookies Justise Winslow, Frank Kaminsky and Stanley Johnson will be inexorably linked, and their careers compared, because the Pistons and Hornets bypassed Winslow in June’s draft, Detroit opting to take Johnson eighth and Charlotte choosing Kaminsky ninth, thus dropping Winslow to the elated Heat at No. 10.

So how do their rookie seasons compare so far?

### Of that trio, Winslow has the highest shooting percentage (42.7), the highest rebounding and assist averages (5.3, 1.5) and the best plus/minus (plus 64, which ranks 54th in the league and tops among rookies).

He also has the best defensive metrics: Players guarded by Winslow are shooting just 39.1 percent, compared with 49.7 against Johnson and 44.0 versus Kaminsky.

Winslow also has played the most minutes (571), compared with Johnson’s 492 and Kaminsky’s 330.

### Johnson --- who Winslow calls “a best friend” --- has scored the most points (185, to Winslow’s 127 and Kaminsky’s 99).

### Kaminsky shoots the best from three-point range (39.4 percent), compared with Johnson’s 29.5 and Winslow’s 22.9 (8 for 35).

Therein lies the one shortcoming with Winslow’s game: perimeter shooting. Winslow, averaging 6.4 points to Johnson's 8.0, entered Friday having made 11 of his last 33 shots, and 2 of his last 12 threes, over his past eight games.

Opponents have begun sagging off him.

“I think a lot of times more attention is on me when I'm in a ball screen or coming off a handoff action," he said.

"But there's less attention off the ball. So I'm trying to keep improving my outside shot to make the defense respect it more. As that becomes more consistent, then it'll just make us a much tougher team."

So does coach Erik Spoelstra want Winslow shooting when he’s open?

“Yeah, the right ones,” Spoelstra said Friday. “He tends to make the shot at the right time, but the corner three is something we encourage him to take.”

Several people, including ESPN’s Dick Vitale and two general managers who requested anonymity, have said Winslow projects as the best pro among those players selected eighth through 10th.

But one scout said this week that Johnson might become the best of the group because of his superior scoring ability, which would vindicate Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy’s decision to select him.

Van Gundy, asked months ago about passing on Winslow, said: “The main reason people ask that question is that he's from Duke and he won the national championship.”

Asked Wednesday why the Hornets took Kaminsky over Winslow, coach Steve Clifford said: “It was difficult, because Justise is a good player. But so much of it is need. Justise’s position, that versatile three/four, is what we have in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But we were really high on Frank anyway.”

Winslow said he isn’t motivated playing against teams that bypassed him and that any disappointment of falling to 10th has dissipated.

“I kind of used it as motivation early,” he said. “But there have been plenty of players picked 10th: Paul George, Joe Johnson. Guys picked in the second round have become All Stars.”

Winslow --- who ranks third among rookies in minutes, sixth in rebounds and 10th in scoring --- said the key, regardless of “how many points I score,” is to “find a way to affect the game.”

###  Chris Bosh said one of the Heat’s challenges in facing smaller lineups is that Miami has limited opportunities to practice against that.

“While I do try to look to get practice time on that, it’s really in the game, you have to pick everything up quickly,” Bosh said, noting that he and Udonis Haslem often guard each other in practice.

Said Dwyane Wade: “The game is different. It’s taken a while for teams to catch on. Early in the season, a lot of people are being caught off guard. … Some teams ain’t going to find their way. Some teams will.”

 

COUPLE OTHER NOTES

### On his new weekly segment on the ESPN Radio affiliate in West Palm Beach, Dolphins vice president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum reiterated his faith in Ryan Tannehill.

"We're committed to him. We can't continue to throw for 86 yards... Last week was an unusual game. There's a lot to like about Ryan, his toughness, resiliency, his work ethic, his arm talent. I'm glad he's with us and I expect him to play better the last four weeks. One thing I like about Ryan is no one is tougher on him than himself. I love his character. I think his future is bright."

### Five-star tight end Isaac Nautau's unofficial visit to UM went well today.

Nauta told Canesport's Matt Shodell that when we came down to Miami, he wasn't seriously considering Miami. "But I went down and I liked it. It's really a great place. I ended up liking it a lot. I'd say they're close to the top now."

So UM is now in a top six with Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Mississippi.

"It's a final six now," he said. "I've always liked coach Richt a lot. I just like the plans he has for the future."

 

Please check out the last post for the weekly media column, if you missed it.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 10, 2015

Media column: Foolish decision by College Football Playoff; Radio news; UM bias; Dolphins ratings tumble; Concussion movie exposes NFL

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Asking and answering media queries from the couch:

### Why should we be angry with the people who run the College Football Playoff?

Because they’ve disrupted New Year’s Eve for millions who prefer to be at a restaurant or a party or on Lincoln Road or South Beach or Las Olas, or anywhere without TVs in close proximity.

And it’s not just sports fans affected; it also impacts those who love sports fans, those whose plans are foiled because their sports fan spouses/relatives/significant others/friends insist on watching two semifinal games instead of doing something more inclusive.

And all of this was avoidable.

Citing its tradition, the CFP rejected ESPN’s request to move the two semifinal games from New Year’s Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2, when there are no NFL games and nothing especially significant on the schedule.

Memo to the CFP: You have no tradition. You’re in your second season!

Under the plan originally devised, and the one the CFP refuses to change, the national semifinals will be on Dec. 31 when they’re played in the Orange and Cotton (as is the case this year) and in the Chick-Fil-A and the Fiesta (which will be the case next year).

The semifinals will be on Jan. 1 when they’re in the Rose and Sugar.

So that means college football fans will spend four of the next five New Year’s Eves watching semifinal games, held hostage by their televisions. For some, this will be a perfectly enjoyable way to spend the evening. But for millions, it’s less than ideal.

"The fact is that we have started a new tradition of back-to-back tripleheaders on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day," College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. "We're not interested in changing for one year, then returning for the next 10."

The semifinal in the Orange Bowl (Clemson-Oklahoma) was given the 4 p.m. slot, because the Cotton matchup (Alabama-Michigan State) was deemed more appealing for prime time (8).

ESPN officials privately cannot understand the CFP’s lack of flexibility and common sense on the issue. But for a change, TV does not get its way, and that’s regrettable in this case.

### What’s going on with 790 The Ticket?

The station is trying to both finalize a deal with The Herald's Ethan J. Skolnick to co-host the 4 to 7 p.m. show and determine whether to use two people on the program or three people (Skolnick, a co-host and a rotating guest host).

With Israel Gutierrez leaving because he couldn’t come to terms on a contract, The Ticket this week used a combination of Chris Wittyngham, ESPN’s Mike Wallace and Fox’s Alex Marvez alongside Skolnick. The station also is looking at candidates outside the market.

### Who will replace Tommy Hutton as the Marlins’ TV analyst?

It’s too early to tell because a national search is in the very early stages. The Marlins likely will hire from outside the market; Jeff Conine isn't interested in the job.

### What’s the view on the Panthers' new radio voice?

Very favorable. Doug Plagens, who had been working American Hockey League and Arena League Football games in Ohio, is polished, sharp and diligent in his call.

Randy Moller worked to become a competent play-by-play man, but he’s better suited as a contributing analyst on TV, with Steve Goldstein and Denis Potvin. The Panthers now have their best TV/radio crews in a decade, since Jeff Rimer’s departure.

### How many viewers are the Dolphins losing with their decade-long malaise?

A lot. The Jets game two weeks ago produced a season-low 14.9 rating, equaling 14.9 percent of Dade/Broward TV households. Last Sunday’s Ravens game did even worse, a 14.4, which is pretty dismal for a home team’s NFL game.

That’s below last season’s 16.9 average Dolphins rating, which was worst among markets with one NFL team. One local ratings point equals 16,562 homes.

### Any more evidence of anti-UM bias at ESPN?

Found this interesting: As many of you know, five ESPN commentators (David Pollack, Scott Van Pelt, Robert Smith, Michael Wilbon and Mike Greenberg) said the ACC should declare Duke the winner in the Miami-Duke game. And so after the NFL recently said a key officiating error in the final second was directly responsible for Jacksonville’s win over Baltimore, I asked all five if they would publicly call for the Jaguars' win to be overturned.

Only Wilbon said he would: “Tony [Kornheiser] and I both said definitively that the NFL should declare the Ravens the winner and cited Miami vs. Duke in the argument," Wilbon texted. "I get why Miami folks don’t want to hear [people calling for the ACC to overturn the win], though I hardly give a [bleep]. LOL.”

Most of the others declined to comment.

### Is NBC’s Tony Dungy still advising Dolphins owner Stephen Ross?

“We have talked about who would be good people for his organization,” Dungy told me. “We talked when he was in the search for Joe Philbin, but I have not talked to him this season. Hopefully, he finds the right guy and develops that talent. I think they’re going to be OK.”

### Any more Sunday night NFL games being flexed?

At least one. The NFL this week said that Arizona-Philadelphia will replace San Francisco-Cincinnati as NBC's prime time game on Dec. 20. And the Dec. 27 Steelers-Ravens game is also in jeopardy.

### Who’s the latest person to leave ESPN and return?

Rachel Nichols, who departed in January 2013 to work for CNN and Turner Sports. But CNN canceled her talk show, and ESPN has re-hired her to anchor her own program and work as a reporter, beginning next year.

### How unhappy will the NFL be with the movie Concussion, which is set for release in theaters on Christmas?

They won’t be pleased. Listen to some critics who have reviewed the film:

The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber writes the NFL "can't be happy about a high-profile movie bringing the issues into the limelight….  [Although the film is] imperfect, it has unmistakable urgency.”

The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato said actor Will Smith and producer Sony "came out hard against" the NFL, "painting a damning picture of a sport too big to admit it's been killing its own players."

Yamato wrote the film offers an "incriminating indictment of the NFL's failure to address an increasingly unavoidable spate of mental health issues among its players."

Variety’s Kristopher Tapley wrote the film "depicts not only [Dr. Bennet Omalu’s] attempts to hold the NFL's feet to the fire for turning a blind eye to the subject, but also shows the league's efforts to distort and discredit his findings."

### What’s the biggest threat to media breaking stories?

The players doing it themselves. Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz and Steve Nash have all announced their retirement on the web site The Players Tribune. Bryant’s recent announcement drew one million clicks in the first two hours, even with the site crashing.

Derek Jeter, the brainchild behind the web site, told The New York Times this week: "If anyone thinks that the relationship between athletes and media isn’t fractured a little bit, then I think they’re lying to you. I know, speaking with athletes, not only in baseball, but in other sports, a lot of the times they are -- I don’t want to say afraid -- but they’re a little hesitant to speak their minds and be open and honest, because they’re afraid of how things are going to be twisted.

"My idea was to give them a place and the tools to be able to speak and communicate exactly how they wanted to do it, to really initiate conversation. We’re not trying to eliminate the media, we’re just trying to complement the media." 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 09, 2015

Bosh, Wade express frustration with Heat freelancing after Wednesday blowout; More Whiteside fallout of Monday's game and the Heat's reaction to it; Dolphins notes; Richt selling tickets

A recap and reaction from a dismal Heat night in North Carolina:

CHARLOTTE --- No team has played as few road games as the Heat, which hosted 14 of its first 19 to start the season.

The schedule isn’t nearly as forgiving in the next seven weeks --- Miami plays 12 of 13 on the road in one grueling January stretch --- and far more will be required than the dreadful effort the Heat served up here on Wednesday night.

Turnover-prone on offense and sluggish and slow-reacting on defense, the Heat was trampled early, falling into a 20-point halftime hole, trailing by 26 after three and losing 99-81 to the Hornets.

“Big old fashioned butt whooping,” Chris Bosh said. “Everything was off. We messed up in every facet. By now, we should know our game. We talk about things, but we don’t do it. We’ve had enough conversations, but there are so many you have in the beginning of the year. I don’t know how many speeches [Udonis Haslem] has to give. We have to be professional and come to play.”

Dwyane Wade put it this way: “We just didn’t play hard enough. That's what I’ve been cautioning everybody about in the beginning of the season is we’re just not there yet and it’s going to take a while.”

What specifically irked Wade and Bosh were the Heat’s freelancing tendencies on offense.

“You can’t freelance on the road,” said Wade, who scored 11 points in 25 minutes. “It goes back to the Detroit game. C.B. has to touch the ball in spots where he’s comfortable. I have to touch the ball in spots where I’m comfortable and then we play from there. When we get into this freelance basketball on the road, it's just not the game that's successful for us at this point.

"You can get away with that at home. On the road, you have to be specific where you need to go, especially when a team is coming out and they're hot early.”

Bosh, who had just seven points and two rebounds in 21 minutes, seemed somewhat exasperated, saying he’s “reliant” on getting the ball in the right spot. “In this system, I have to have trust in it and it is a necessity the ball moves. If the ball doesn’t move, I don't move. Nothing moves for me. It's going to be zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. I don't want to just go get the ball, clear out and shoot bad shots. I want to be able to play team ball.

“We need to put the ball in certain places, know where the ball is going. We have to relay the calls and today, we didn't, on top of not playing good defense. Day to day, we don’t know where the ball is going… We get to the game and everything stops.”

So why is this happening?

“Everyone means well,” Wade said. “You can’t spar on the road. You have to get to your game right away.”

The Heat committed 18 turnovers (including six by Hassan Whiteside) and shot 38.7 percent. Goran Dragic scored just five (2 for 7 shooting) after three consecutive sharp games. Whiteside scored just six and struggled when given the chance to post up.

Defensively, Miami was too slow in rotating to three-point shooters, with Charlotte opening 7 for 12 from beyond the arc and finishing 11 for 27 (41 percent).

The Heat, which ranked in the top three in field-goal percentage against for much of the season, has now had back-to-back defensive stinkers. On Monday, Miami allowed 114 points and 50 percent shooting, including 9 for 18 on threes, in an 11-point loss to Washington.

On Wednesday, Charlotte shot 49 percent, with too many attempts going unchallenged. “It’s the game everyone is playing,” Wade said of teams spreading the floor. “You have to make faster adjustments on the fly.”

Charlotte's Nic Batum had his fifth career triple double (10 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists). Marvin Williams and Kemba Walker each scored 18, with Walker hitting four threes.

“There were a lot of threes in the first half that were open," Wade said. "It's the game everyone is playing. Right now, everyone is trying to figure out how to play against the small ball, the small fours and the small fives that can shoot the ball. We've got to make adjustments faster and it's all about communicating to each other. We talk about it often. Now we have [to be able] to make those adjustments on the fly. If we can't do that, there's going to be more losses like this. If we do it, we'll be fine."

The Heat’s 36 points in the first half were its second-fewest in 20 games this season and its 20-point halftime deficit was its largest.

Miami, led in scoring by Tyler Johnson’s 20, never drew closer than 15 in the second half.

“Offensively, a very sloppy game,” Spoelstra said. And defensively, “we got torched. It just seemed like we were late on everything. We tried everybody. Our players were trying to step up in huddles, coaches. We just didn't get it done. We have to get back to work.”

Last word from Wade: "We have to decide how we want this season to go. If we want it to go in a positive way, then we'll figure out how to get it together. We'll figure out how to be on the same page together, communicate together and get the job done and give ourselves a chance to win on the road."

The Heat (12-8) plays Friday at Indiana.

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Some Wednesday Dolphins, Canes and Heat notes from Charlotte, where Miami plays the Hornets tonight:

### Luol Deng returns tonight after missing six games with a hamstring injury. But Erik Spoelstra said he will start Gerald Green instead so that he can monitor Deng's minutes.

### The Heat spent practice time this week working on defending five-guard lineups, and Hassan Whiteside said he’s “excited” to prove he can be an asset defensively in those lineups after not getting the opportunity on Monday against Washington.

With the Wizards playing five guards, Whiteside sat the entire fourth quarter of Washington’s win. That led to a discussion with coach Erik Spoelstra on Tuesday.

“We worked some things out,” Whiteside said Wednesday. “Everything is going to be all right.”

Whiteside said he spent the aftermath brushing up on the team’s defensive rotations against such small lineups “and rotating out on guards” so that he’s prepared if Spoelstra uses him against lineups with five shooters.

“I'm excited about it,” Whiteside said. “I can't come into the game trying to be one of the best defenders in the NBA and not be able to guard a guard. That's something I can do.”

Whiteside, who entered Wednesday’s game against Charlotte ranked eighth in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.5) and first in blocks (4.5), said he’ll well equipped to defend perimeter players because “that's all I play against when I'm not playing an NBA game. There aren't a lot of 7-footers around.

“I play [backcourt teammates] Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson all the time one-on-one. Ask them how I do. Normally I win, but I don't want to give myself a pat on the back.

“I feel like I'm a mobile big. I feel like I can do a lot of things other 7 footers can't do. I never felt I was one of those 7 footers where I get on the perimeter and I just fall over. I feel like I can stay in front of a lot of guys.”

Celtics center Jared Sulinger said recently that Whiteside doesn’t leave the paint much defensively even when he’s defending a jump-shooting center. Is that Whiteside’s decision or the team’s?

“It's more my decision, but it's something I'm going to have to adapt with,” he said. “I consider myself one of the elite defenders in the NBA. That's just something I've got to change.”

Chris Bosh, whose skills are well suited to defending centers on the perimeter, said Whiteside is “going to make mistakes” defending guard-heavy lineups. “We have to know that off of mental conditioning. It took me a long time to get used to it.”

Spoelstra said Whiteside “has shown times he can cover the court. We’ll adapt."

Spoelstra said facing such a small lineup Monday “forced us to address it, which we needed to…. We worked on it the last two days, of five shooters on the floor.”

### In the wake of the NBA admitting that it bungled a call against the Heat late in the Wizards game, Spoelstra said: “OK, thank you. What can you say? I appreciate them for over-communicating, but that doesn't change how we feel about the emotion of the call when it happened.”

The league, in its daily officiating report, said Wizards guard Bradley Beal traveled with 1:07 left against the Heat. The violation was not called, and Beal passed to Gary Neal for a three-pointer that pushed Washington’s lead to five.

Bosh, whose vociferous objection about the non-call led to his ejection, said he was still thinking about whether to appeal the $6000 fine, which includes two technical fouls and an ejection.

DOLPHINS NOTES

Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell said it appears that right tackle Ja'Wuan James will remain sidelined Monday against the Giants and Rishard Matthews "probably" will, too. "At this time, I don't feel great about either one of them playing."

### Campbell, asked by Giants writers what has contributed to the criticism of Ndamukong Suh: "I guess that criticism came early right, in the first three or four weeks because I don't know any criticism that would come out about him now about the way he plays. If you turn on the tape, nobody is playing better than he is at defensive tackle in the NFL right now. His game is a high, high level right now. He is a productive player, he's disruptive and I'm glad we've got him."

### Campbell, asked by Giants writers to assess Ryan Tannehill's season: "I feel like he's played solid football for us and I feel like with where we're trying to go now is to give him the best opportunity to have success. I think that there's a certain way to use Ryan Tannehill and that's what we're trying to do with him and set him up to give him the best chance of success possible. I'm glad he's our quarterback right now."

### Campbell told Giants writers he believes he will be a head coach in the NFL for a long time: "I'm not the one who makes those decisions, but yes, I do feel like I know it's in my blood and I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to be doing. Certainly this is a win business, you've got to win games, but this definitely does not feel like it's too big for me or it's over my head, I've gotten more comfortable every week. I'm doing everything that I can to win games here."

CANES NOTE

UM's hiring of Mark Richt is fueling strong ticket sales. Since Friday's announcement of his hiring, UM has sold 1,025 new season tickets (excludes renewals).

According to UM sales reps, the volume of calls and demand have been the highest since the response after UM beat Nebraska in the January 2002 Rose Bowl to win the national title.

UM sent renewals out Tuesday, and prices have mostly stayed the same. Ticket prices have been reduced in a couple of seating areas.

 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

December 08, 2015

Criticism of Tannehill grows; Dolphins committed to him but have an out; Whiteside fallout; UM notes

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

When the Dolphins and Eagles met recently, the starting quarterbacks shared an unfortunate distinction. Of the QBs with the NFL’s 20 biggest contracts, Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford are the only ones who have had neither a winning season nor led his team to the playoffs. And Bradford, whose Eagles are tied for first place in the NFC East, is closer to changing that than Tannehill is.

That factoid wouldn't be quite as disconcerting if Tannehill’s play was consistently good. But it hasn’t been. And some pundits are starting to go on the attack.

“Tannehill is going to get more people fired,” former CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe said. “He’s not done.”

“With Billy Lazor gone, I assume Tannehill will stop telegraphing every pass, show pocket awareness and play with anticipation and accuracy,” ESPN analyst and former personnel executive Louis Riddick said sarcastically.

This much is clear: The Dolphins need a head coach and/or coordinator who can reverse this regression. If not, it will force a decision in spring 2017, just before the big base salaries on his $96 million contract start to kick in.

Despite his uneven play this season, the Dolphins remain committed to him, though they might draft a quarterback as protection behind him. They won't find anyone better in free agency this offseason, and they know that.

Keep in mind the $21.5 million in guaranteed money in Tannehill’s deal includes the signing bonus and his 2015 and 2016 base salaries, but nothing beyond, allowing Miami a clean break if he underperforms in 2016.

He's due between $17.9 million and $19.5 million every season from 2017 through 2020, after making $9.3 million in 2016.

One caveat: $3.5 million of his non-guaranteed $17.9 million base salary in 2017 becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2016 league year, 17 months before that season.

“They need [a head coach] with a proven record to clean things up and somebody who can put together a staff to resurrect the quarterback’s career, somebody that can really get this guy playing with confidence and changing a little bit of his demeanor with his teammates,” CBS analyst and former NFL MVP Rich Gannon said by phone. “This isn’t like JP Losman or Colin Kaepernick. He throws the ball well enough.

“He has made steady progress in terms of completion percentage, decision making, touchdown to interception ratio. The guy is tough and durable. What’s troubling is the most important stat of all, which is wins and losses. That’s ultimately how you’re judged in our business.”

Tannehill is 28-32 as a starter.

Of the quarterbacks with the 20 richest contracts, Tannehill (21 TDs, 11 picks) has the fifth-worst passer rating (88.3) and the fifth-worst completion percentage (61.4) this season.

And among every quarterback in the league, Tannehill is third-worst in percentage of third-down throws (28.3) that are completed for first downs; only Bradford and Nick Foles are worse.

Former Falcons and Packers executive Ken Herock, who now prepares prospects for the NFL Draft, told me two years ago that Tannehill will always be a 7-9 or 8-8 quarterback and he still feels that way. Why so?

“I never thought he had the consistency to be accurate enough or make enough big plays,” Herock said recently. “I can see him maybe slipping into the top 15 among quarterbacks some season but not consistently staying there. He can be a starter on a 9- or maybe a 10-win team if he had a better supporting cast. But he can’t take a team over the hump.

“But where do you find someone better? It would not be in free agency. It would have to be in the draft. I would try to go another route, bring in somebody to compete with him.”

Others view him more favorably.

CBS’ Phil Simms said he is going to be the starter here for a long time.

“He’s a really solid NFL quarterback,” Simms said. "[Longterm], we’ll judge him on the won/loss record.”

Gannon said Tannehill “reminds me of [Cincinnati’s] Andy Dalton but hasn’t shown the consistency [that Dalton has this season]. Dalton worked with [QB guru and former MLB pitching coach] Tom House. There is some merit to working with someone. Ryan has thrown the deep ball so much better and has to continue to work on it. I’m a prime example: It’s an area you can get better.

“Everything around Ryan is impacting his production or lack of production. I look at changes with the coordinator, with the head coaches, the front office and philosophical changes. Being sacked [so many] times. All these things impact growth and development at that position.”

Gannon said Tannehill “has to be more demonstrative. I would like to see him show some emotion at some point. If it’s me, I’m marching to New York to [owner] Stephen Ross’ office [this offseason] and say, ‘I’m pissed off and I want to see change. I’m not going to tolerate this anymore!’ Unless he’s OK with how things are. Some guys are OK with that.”

Gannon said he told his Raiders teammates in 1999, “If this [expletive] doesn’t change, I will sell life insurance.” Gannon wants to see that fire from Tannehill.

CHATTER

### Yes, Erik Spoelstra simply must find a way to play Hassan Whiteside more against small lineups with five shooters; with Whiteside on the bench the entire fourth quarter, Washington outscored the Heat 27-19 in Monday’s 114-103 Wizards win. But in Spoelstra’s defense, consider:

1) The Heat has outscored teams this season by 24 points in 49 minutes with a lineup featuring Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and two wing players or a wing and Josh McRoberts.

2) Though the Heat holds teams to 33.7 percent shooting from 15 feet and beyond (third best in the league), that opponent percentage rises by a few points with Whiteside in the game. As Boston’s Jarred Sullinger told us, Whiteside never leaves the paint to defend jump shooters, leaving Miami vulnerable when Whiteside is assigned to defend a skilled perimeter shooter.

And as Spoelstra noted today, leaving Whiteside in the game against a team playing five guards would also be problematic in transition. That said, the Heat cannot allow other teams to dictate when they use Whiteside. There must be some happy medium here.

### The Heat is now 3-1 when Whiteside plays less than half the game this season (as he did last night) and 7-7 in those games since he became a starter last season.

### Wizards coach Randy Wittman said the Heat doesn’t want to post up Whiteside much; as Whiteside noted last week, Miami runs no plays for him.

He's 35th of 36th centers in post-up efficiency, because of turnovers, as ESPN's Tom Haberstroh noted.

But he can score on more than just dunks. For example, he’s shooting 48.5 percent on hook shots (16 for 33) and 47.3 percent (26 for 55) from 3 to 10 feet.

### The Washington-based coach of Georgia oral commitment Jacob Eason, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect, told Canesport that UM is not in his top two or three.

UM will be content with Jack Allison (the No. 6 quarterback) as the only QB in this class. Some UM people have compared Allison to former UM star Vinny Testaverde.

### A few prominent UM players privately were expressing pessimism today about the chances of offensive coordinator James Coley returning next season. We'll see. Coley has drawn interest from Arizona State, gridironnow.com first reported. Neither Coley nor Mark Richt has addressed Coley's status publicly.

### Coconut Creek three-star safety Malek Young, a Georgia oral commitment, will visit UM, but he still has Georgia No. 1 and Auburn and Ohio State tied for second.

### In UM's 66-55 win over the Gators tonight, the Hurricanes gave us another reminder how dangerous they are when their starting backcourt is playing at its best.

Sheldon McClellan shot 7 for 12 on a 24-point night, while Angel Rodriguez had 17, shooting 5 for 8. Throw in 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks from Tonye Jekiri, and that was enough to dispatch the Gators.

UM (8-1) shot just 39 percent, and its bench delivered just three points on 0 for 12 shooting. But UM outrebounded the Gators, 42-31, and held them to 39 percent shooting, including 1 for 12 on threes.

### Several people have asked us on Twitter whether cornerback Cary Williams, cut by Seattle on Monday, is a possibility for the Dolphins.

Though Williams would instantly be Miami's second-best corner, the Dolphins didn't claim him off waivers (nobody did) and hadn't called to offer a free agent contract as of 6:30 tonight. We'll see if that changes.

Williams started every game for the Ravens in 2011 and '12 and for the Eagles in 2013 and '14 and had 10 starts for the Seahawks this season. He has nine career interceptions.

### Mercury Morris, to TMZ, on the possibility of the Carolina Panthers finishing unbeaten: “No one cares about the second to do anything. Do you know about the second biggest canyon in the U.S.? No, because everyone only knows about the Grand Canyon."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz