August 03, 2016

Noon: Clarity offered on why Tunsil isn't opening with starters; Exclusive: Wade's return to Miami tentatively set for Nov. 10; Examining the most competitive UM football battles on the eve of the start of practice Thursday

Please scroll down for a noon update on Laremy Tunsil and the Dolphins' offensive line situation:

9 a.m. report: Dwyane Wade's first game back in Miami as a member of the Chicago Bulls has been scheduled for Nov. 10, a Thursday, according to a tentative, confidential schedule that has been circulated to NBA teams and TV partners.

The game will be televised nationally on TNT, according to a league source.

There had been some thought that the first Bulls-at-Heat game could be scheduled for Christmas, but the NBA instead opted for an early season date, the third Thursday of the season.

One caveat: The NBA occasionally makes changes to the schedule after distributing it to teams, so the Nov. 10 date is not set in stone. That said, we're told this Bulls-Heat game has been in place for quite some time. 

The NBA is expected to release the regular-season schedule as early as next week.

The sports competition for Bulls-Heat that night would be a Cleveland-Baltimore NFL game, plus North Carolina-Duke and Utah-Arizona State college football games.

Wade, as you know, spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Heat before signing with the Bulls in July.

DOLPHINS NOON UPDATE

One of the more interesting questions of Dolphins camp, so far, is this: Why aren't the Dolphins giving the majority of first-team left guard reps to Laremy Tunsil, considering he's the team's ballyhooed pick, and considering the career struggles of Dallas Thomas?

Through six days of camp, Thomas has opened with the starters consistently at left guard, with Tunsil getting some first team work at left guard and some first-team work at left tackle when Branden Albert is resting.

I would be surprised if Tunsil isn't starting in the opener Sept. 11 at Seattle. Others, including Mel Kiper, said they also would be shocked.

So could a case be made for giving Tunsil most of the first-team snaps immediately to get him ready for the opener?

I asked offensive line coach Chris Foerster what the thinking is in this. His answer:

"The depth chart hasn’t been set yet. So guys that have been here, guys that are doing better in drill work, guys that understand the offense better. Obviously, there’s a learning curve for everybody. At this point, we are letting Dallas roll, although Tunsil is taking some. A lot of it has to do with how we’re trying to get Laremy reps in other positions. It doesn’t always work out that he can go first, second. If it’s a day we’re trying to get Billy Turner reps at right guard, that affects everybody else in the rotation.

"If it’s a day we’re trying to get Tunsil more at left tackle, that affects everybody in the rotation. So it’s really all about how the rotation is going during the day, not so much, a little bit is, Dallas has been here and understands it a little better. But not that much better."

So how is Tunsil doing, overall and in his move to guard? 

"Every player has something to work on, he’s not alone," Foerster said. "He’s really doing a great job. Having him in two positions, he’s studying having to learn 2 spots technique wise. He has done a really, really fine job. Couldn’t be happier with his progress.

"Everything happens quicker at guard – the guys are lined up closer to you. You don’t have to deal with space as much. They’re a different type of player. You look at the difference between how Mario Williams looks compared to Suh. Body types inside are usually stockier, shorter, you have to bend and get underneath. It’s a whole different game underneath. Things happen quicker…. Laremy has done a great job. Just the adjustment of space from tackle to guard.”

And what about Thomas, who has been beleaguered for much of his career? 

"He needs to work on everything," Foerster said. "It’s a different style of offense now. He needs to work on being strong and clean in the pocket. That’s a big part of his game. He’s a very athletic guy. He did a really nice job of that all offseason and has done a good job again. Just playing fast. Our offense is about tempo, being on the line of scrimmage, with no hesitated. I’ve started coaching him from scratch."

Check back for more later.

 

UM BUZZ

With UM’s first training camp under Mark Richt set to begin Thursday, buzz on 11 intriguing position battles:

• Starting running back: This is Mark Walton’s job to lose. Joe Yearby had a significantly better yards per carry average last season than Walton (4.9 to 3.5), but Walton impressed the coaching staff the most this spring, both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, and exited the spring as the front-runner to start, according to a UM official.

That UM official rated Gus Edwards and Yearby about equal in performance in the spring. The new staff likes Edwards, who averaged 5.4 yards on 127 career carries before missing all of last season with a foot injury. He’s fast for a player his size (6-2, 237) but UM wants him to be a bruising back and also take advantage of his physicality.

Running back “will definitely be by committee,” Richt said. “I don't know there will be four guys getting carries in a game. Probably two and three most of the time.”

• Starting weakside linebacker. One UM official called it a tossup between Darrion Owens --- who had 27 tackles in 10 games over two seasons before sustaining a serious knee injury in the second game --- and incoming freshman Mike Pinckney, who impressed in the spring.

The UM official said Owens’ experience shouldn’t be overstated because Pinckney has more experience in Manny Diaz’s system because Owens was sidelined for spring ball.

Shaquille Quarterman is the clear favorite at middle linebacker, and Jermaine Grace is the clear-cut starter at strongside linebacker, unless he’s suspended when UM concludes its luxury car rental investigation. (Richt hasn't ruled that out.)

• Starting receiver job alongside Stacy Coley. Braxton Berrios figures to start in the slot when UM opens with three receivers and also has gotten a lot of work on the boundary as well.

In three-receiver sets, a receiver with size (6-4 Darrell Langham, 6-3 Dayall Harris) would be the ideal complement to Coley and Berrios on the boundary, though Richt said tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon can serve as receivers in three-receiver sets.

Don’t discount 5-10 Malcolm Lewis, who had a solid spring. And the freshmen receivers --- Ahmmon Richards, Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins (if he qualifies academically) – will be factors. Mullins won’t be on campus Thursday.

• Starting defensive tackles. Richard McIntosh, who has made a smooth transition from end, had a strong spring and is the front-runner for one job.

Kendrick Norton might have a slight edge for the other job, but it’s close among Norton, Courtel Jenkins, Anthony Moten and Gerald Willis, the UF transfer who flashed this spring. All five will play, with a UM official citing McIntosh, Norton and perhaps Willis as having the most upside of the group.

• No. 2 and 3 cornerback jobs. Sheldrick Redwine was solid all spring opposite Corn Elder but Texas transfer Adrian Colbert, a former safety, has made clear he wants to start. At the very least, Redwine should be one of Miami’s top three corners even if he is beaten out by Colbert.

That leaves Ryan Mayes, Michael Jackson and Terrance Henley competing for the No. 4 corner job. None seized the job in the spring. And don’t discount freshman Malek Young; cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph loves him.

• Fullback. Richt wants to use one at times, and his top options are Gage Batten (coming off injury; should be ready early in the season) and Mars Hill transfer Marquez Williams, with four other walk-ons competing. Williams is the front-runner.

• Tight end. Standish Dobard started seven games and David Njoku four last season, but Njoku and Chris Herndon surpassed Dobard this spring. Dobard came on strong this summer, Richt said, and is now back in the mix.

Njoku averaged a team-high 17.2 yards on 21 receptions last season and UM wants to maximize his unique skills. UM also wants Herndon (13.1 yards per catch) to play a lot. Dobard has been exceptional in the weight room (says strength coach Gus Felder) but a UM official said he needs to be a dominating blocker, the one area where he should be the best of the three.

• Defensive end rotation. Chad Thomas said he and Al-Quadin Muhammad got much of the first-team snaps this offseason, and based on talent, they are the favorites to start unless AQM is suspended for his role in a luxury car rental scandal, something that remains a possibility.

But don’t discount Trent Harris (49 tackles, 3.5 sacks in 10 starts last season) and he likely would start if AQM is suspended. Demetrius Jackson, who impressed the staff with his pass-rush skills this spring, also will play a lot. Scott Patchan is working his way back from a torn ACL and might not return until several games into the season, creating an opportunity for freshmen Pat Bethel and Joseph Jackson.

• Safety. Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins enter as the clear favorites, but don’t discount impressive sophomore Jaquan Johnson, who is UM’s best option on slot receivers. Johnson could see his playing time increase if Carter or Jenkins struggles.

UM wasn’t pleased with the tackling by its safeties this spring; they want them to stop tackling high and wrap up players on their lower body.

But coaches like Jenkins’ knowledge of the system and Carter’s and Jenkins’ range and believe there’s more to be extracted from both Carter and Jenkins. Robert Knowles came on strong late in spring and will be a factor.

• Backup quarterback: Richt has declined to say how he’s leaning, but Evan Shirreffs will have the edge if he follows a solid spring with a strong August. Incumbent Malik Rosier struggled this spring, and Shirreffs fits the Richt mold better, in terms of size (6-5 to Rosier’s 6-1) and having the mentality of looking to throw first instead of running.

UM would prefer to redshirt Jack Allison unless he’s clearly the best No. 2 quarterback in August. Vinny Testavarde Jr. is a long shot for the No. 2 job.

• Right tackle. An open competition between Sunny Odogwu, who started nine games last season, and Tyree St. Louis, who made an impression this spring when Odogwu was limited by injury. St. Louis said he fully expects to challenge for the job.

Whenever Stacy Searels was asked about the quality of the backup offensive linemen in the spring, he deferred, saying he’s happy with the starters.

That group of spring starters included Alex Gall, who now becomes Nick Linder’s backup at center. So that means Danny Isidora (UM’s best lineman this spring) and Kc McDermott at the two guard spots and Trevor Darling at left tackle.

But a UM official said Gall impressed and will challenge for time. That official also said the staff likes Tyler Gauthier.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check in Thursday for reports from both Dolphins and UM practice. (I expect to be the only writer covering both.)  

August 02, 2016

11 p.m. Heat, Marlins, UM football news; Dolphins confident in run defense, amid skepticism; Lots of personnel news, changes at Dolphins' Tuesday night practice

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Note: If you have already read the top item, we've added a ton more Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and UM news throughout the evening Tuesday. Please scroll down for all of that.

• Biggest concern about this Dolphins’ roster? The lack of proven players at cornerback beyond Byron Maxwell.

Second-biggest concern? There’s still reason to be worried about the run defense unless this roster proves otherwise.

The Dolphins spent most of last season ranked in the bottom two in run defense before finishing 28th, allowing an unacceptable 126.2 yards per game.

By comparison, among AFC East rivals, the Jets relinquished 83.4 yards per game on the ground, New England 98.8 and Buffalo 108.1. One caveat here: Because teams often held the lead against Miami, those Dolphins numbers are skewed a bit.

But keep in mind that nine of the 10 teams who finished in the top-10 in run defense went to the playoffs, the Jets being the only exception.

And here’s the concern: Every single front seven addition rated lower against the run (often much lower) than the player he replaced, according to Pro Football Focus.

But the Dolphins believe they will be more effective against the run, because they believe: 1) they have upgraded their defensive line; 2) that Kiko Alonso will be an enormous upgrade at middle linebacker over Kelvin Sheppard; and 3) that their new wide nine defense will pay dividends.

"Me, personally, I’ve had a lot of success in it,” Ndamukong Suh said of the wide nine. “We have the best coach in understanding how the defense is run in [Jim Washburn].”

Coach Adam Gase said “it’s a very difficult scheme to run against. That front seven is going to do a great job being able to stop the run this year.”    

The wide line spreads out the linemen more across the line of scrimmage, trying to set the edge.

“It does have its advantages in the run game,” defensive end Jason Jones said.

Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell explains the wide-nine this way: “It gives us the opportunity to attack upfield. It turns everything back (inside), especially in the run game. It takes that read away from the inside guys too.

“You don’t have to read down the line of scrimmage. You can just attack and not necessarily worry about losing your contain on the outside because when you have guys on the outside, it turns everything back inside. It makes it easier for you to attack and not worry about if anything’s going to get on the outside.”

And linebacker Jelani Jenkins said: “I think with the Wide 9, it kind of keeps everything in the box and inside. So it doesn’t put too much pressure on us.”

But a change in strategy isn’t a cure-all. Jenkins said last season, teammates were “playing things a little differently and I think that caused gaps in the scheme. In the past years, I think if everybody was on the same page and we’re all playing stuff the same exact way, it probably would have been a little better. That’s what I saw.”

The folks who grade players at Pro Football Focus aren’t optimistic we will see much improvement.

PFF ranked the defensive ends that Miami lost -- Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby ---  12th and 19th against the run among 166 edge defenders last season. Conversely, it rated Dolphins newcomers Mario Williams 46th, Jones 68th and Andre Branch 158th among those 166. Cam Wake, coming off an Achilles’ injury, was 145th against the run.

Though PFF reviews tape of every play, it certainly cannot be regarded as gospel, though a bunch of teams pay for their metrics.

For example, Alfi Crow, who runs the Jaguars’ web site used by SB Nation, says Branch was “very good holding up against the run” in Jacksonville, and the Dolphins would be more inclined to agree with his assessment than PFF’s.

Branch has been solid throughout the offseason program and early in camp, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt unless we see evidence to believe PFF's low regard for him.

The Dolphins also assuredly disagree with PFF about Jordan Phillips and Earl Mitchell, who were rated 122nd and 123rd against the run among 123 defensive tackles.

The Dolphins quickly decided this offseason that Phillips and Mitchell generally weren’t the problem with the run defense, though the former coaching staff believed Phillips (who has reduced his body fat) needs to be much more consistent. Mitchell has consistently run with the starters during camp.

The Dolphins instead blamed some of their run defense deficiencies on Sheppard, whom PFF rated 148th of 176 linebackers against the run. But Alonso was rated 171st. (The Dolphins believe in this system, the instinctive Alonso will be much better than that.)

In PFF’s evaluation, Miami’s only two high-end run-stoppers in its front seven are Ndamukong Suh (rated 16th last year against the run among 123 defensive tackles) and Koa Misi (15th among linebackers). Jenkins rated 84.

DOLPHINS PRACTICE NEWS

Even with rookie second-rounder Xavien Howard recovering from knee surgery, Tony Lippett isn’t simply being handed the starting cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell.

On the fifth day of camp on Tuesday, the Dolphins gave substantial first-team work to veteran cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who hasn’t played in the league since 2014.

Chekwa said he received a few first-team snaps over the first four days of camp but was told before Tuesday evening’s practice that he would get a lot of work with the starters.

“He’s a guy who does a good job in press,” coach Adam Gase said. “He has had good ball disruption, as far as what we’ve seen. We’re just going to keep giving him a shot.”

A former fourth-round pick of the Raiders out of Ohio State, Chekwa has appeared in 32 regular-season games, all for Oakland, and started four of them.  He spent two months with New England in the spring of 2015 before being released. Oakland released him off injured reserve last September, and did not return to the league until Miami signed him this spring.

The six-foot Chekwa, 28, said he has been held back by two knee injuries and a hamstring injury over the past couple of years.

His strength? “Breaking on the ball,” he said. “I get out of my breaks fast. I can go up and jam, play man.”

Lippett has been up and down in camp. During one sequence Tuesday, he allowed far too big a cushion to Kenny Stills, who caught a pass along the sideline for a first down. But a few minutes later, he knocked away a pass to Leonte Carroo.

• Running back Damien Williams practiced for the first time in training camp, and it was eventful. After linebacker James Burgess administered a particularly physical hit against Williams, Williams then leveled defensive end Farrington Huguenin on a pass block.

“At the time, I’m thinking, I’m just making a block and getting out,” Williams said. “I wasn’t thinking of anything else but making my block and doing my assignment.”

Huguenin was carted off -- he was actually injured initially on a play before that -- but Gase said he "will be fine." A few minutes later, Ndamukong Suh appeared to scold Williams in an animated conversation.

Was Suh angry with him?

“No, he was just like, ‘I like how you came back,’ that kind of thing, ‘but we don’t want to hurt anybody,’” Williams said. “You don’t want to see a guy go down because once somebody else goes down that’s like a domino effect. Everybody starts falling and you don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

Of Williams’ big hit, Gase said: “You don’t want somebody to do something that will injure your teammate. He was a little upset what happened on the play before. It’s not something we’re looking for in practice.”

But Gase was pleased to see Williams return from practice after dealing after a hamstring injury and working his way back into shape.

“I am excited to see what he can do,” Gase said. “I love his energy. I love his physicality. I love his route running ability.”

• Receiver DeVante Parker missed practice with a hamstring injury, but the Dolphins do not believe it is serious, Armando reports.

“He felt something yesterday,” Gase said. “I wasn’t very smart. Should have put him out in two minutes. He’s a little bit dehydrated. We felt if we gave him today off, with tomorrow, we should get him back soon.”

Running backs Jay Ajayi (knee) and Isaiah Pead (hamstring) also sat out, as did receiver Tyler Murphy (hamstring).

• Gase is pleased with Billy Turner, who continues to get the majority of the first-team snaps at right guard and also received some second-team work at right tackle.

“Billy has done a great job,” Gase said. “I love what I’ve seen out of him. I love the way he works. I love his intelligence. He has done a great job picking up what we’re doing and trying to play as physical as he can.”

Jermon Bushrod also is getting some first team work at right guard, and Gase reminded that Bushrod “has never played guard before. He’s never played on the right side before. It’s a whole new world for him. I never realized moving from left guard to right guard was such a big deal until Chris Cooper told me when we were in Denver. It’s a big difference. Bushrod is trying to catch up as fast as he can, use his athletic ability to catch up.”

• Former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers attended practice and worked with the receivers, at the Dolphins’ invitation…. Dallas Thomas opened with the starters at left guard but Laremy Tunsil also got some first team work…. Jason Jones got a lot of first-team work at defensive end, opposite Mario Williams

Andrew Franks hit from 51 and 50 yards on field goals but missed from 44.... Jakeem Grant dropped a punt; he continues to get much of the punt return work… Carroo got work with the starters in Parker’s absence…. Former UM offensive line coach Art Kehoe attended practice.

CHATTER

• Though Fox said Adeiny Hechavarria was available before the trade deadline, other teams did not ask for him in the Marlins’ trade discussions for starting pitching, according to a team source. And the Marlins preferred to hold onto him until at least this offseason.

He’s under team control for two years and the sides were far apart on extension discussions last winter. The Marlins might need to trade an infielder (potentially Hechavarria or Derek Dietrich) for a starting pitcher this winter, because the free agent pitching market is awful.

• Though the Marlins ranked San Diego-bound Josh Naylor ahead of Luis Castillo among prospects, they were very happy to get Castillo back from Padres after Colin Rea’s elbow injury, and some in baseball believe Castillo will be the better player (over Naylor).

One Marlins official said Tuesday he believes Castillo can be a 20-game winner because of “good velocity, mound presence. Has three quality pitches, doesn’t pitch scared.” He has a 2.25 ERA in Jupiter, with 84 strikeouts in 100 innings.

• Point guard Beno Udrih is considering a standing offer from the Heat, mulling his options and plans to make a decision in mid-to-late August when he returns from vacation. He likes Miami but also is aware the Heat’s backcourt is crowded.

• As we've reported, UM coach Mark Richt has said he fully expects everyone in this incoming recruiting class to make it into school, and that includes receiver Dionte Mullins and safety Cedric Wright. That hasn't changed.

But UM doesn't expect either player to be on campus and enrolled for the start of practice on Thursday, and until either has enrolled, nobody can be 100 percent certain.

• While Canesport.com reports tonight that Alabama cornerback/potential grad transfer Maurice Smith will enroll at UM at some point in August, longtime Georgia writer Seth Emerson of Dawgnation.com tonight quotes Smith's mother as saying her son wants to transfer to Georgia but Alabama coach Nick Saban is blocking it.

Smith played mostly special teams for Alabama last season but was working with the starters at nickel corner during the spring. He would be eligible immediately if he transfers. UM would certainly welcome him if he's blocked from going to Georgia.

• One thing that bothered UM players under Al Golden, according to one of them, is how some players who didn’t practice much during the week played in games, contrary to what was preached about the importance of excelling in practice. They’re hopeful that will change. Another player spoke of how more faith the players have in this staff finally putting them in the right position.

• Media notes: Marlins ratings in July were their highest for a month since July 2012… Per sources, ESPN is hiring the winner of The Bachelorette, Jordan Rodgers (a Dolphin for a month in 2014), as an SEC Network studio analyst.

Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

August 01, 2016

7 p.m. local media news; 20 Dolphins nuggets, personnel, injury notes and observations from Day 4 of camp; Details on Peyton Manning's speech to the entire Dolphins roster and his meeting with the quarterbacks

Two quick local radio notes tonight:

• Entercom-owned 790 The Ticket is keeping the Miami Heat; the station signed a new five-year contract today, extending an association that began in 2010. Mike Inglis and John Crotty will continue to call the games.

• CBS-owned WQAM-560, which grabbed Dolphins radio rights away from iHeart Radio this offseason (WINZ), has firmed up its pre- and postgame talent.

Pre-game: Curtis Stevenson and Channing Crowder

Halftime: Kevin Rogers

Postgame: Orlando Alzugaray and Troy Stradford

Alzugaray's inclusion is notable. The Dolphins have made no attempt to silence or limit the involvement of Alzugaray, a self-professed Dolphins fan who has been highly critical of the team (Ryan Tannehill and others) and Dolphins management.

As we've reported, Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Bob Griese will call regular-season games on WQAM.

Jason Taylor will replace Griese on four preseason games on WQAM because Griese will be working on the TV preseason package, as usual.

The Dolphins and CBS-4 retained Dick Stockton, Griese and Nat Moore to call three of the four preseason games. 

NBC has the Aug. 25 Dolphins-Falcons preseason game in Orlando. That will be the first NBC NFL assignment for Mike Tirico, who left ESPN (where he called Monday Night Football and the NBA, among other things) for a package of assignments at NBC, including Thursday night NFL, golf and Olympics.

Cris Collinsworth is expected to work every NBC NFL telecast (preseason and Thursdays with Tirico, Sundays with Al Michaels).

• Couple other items on Dolphins coverage: Kim Bokamper will handle sideline coverage for WFOR-4 in preseason and for WQAM during the regular season... WQAM will simulcast Dolphins games on WKIS-99.9 FM and the Dolphins have assembled a 12-station radio network stretching as far north as Orlando... WNMA 1210 will carry the games in Spanish.

 

A BUFFET OF DOLPHINS NEWS

Twenty news nuggets from Day 4 of Dolphins camp:

• What’s the next best thing to Peyton Manning playing for the Dolphins? Imparting his wealth of knowledge on Dolphins players.

Manning, the future Hall of Fame quarterback who retired this offseason, has visited Dolphins camp multiple times in recent months, largely because of his friendship with coach Adam Gase.

And Manning took his involvement to another level over the past two days: He addressed the entire team for seven minutes on Sunday night, then spent 40 minutes meeting with the quarterbacks and then attended practice on Monday.

“It was good; I had seen him a couple weeks ago at his retirement party,” said Gase, who coached Manning in Denver. “For him to swing by was great, and for him come by and talk to the team for about seven minutes last night, he always has a good message to deliver to the guys.”

During the Sunday address to the entire team, Manning emphasized “to stay in your playbook, the importance of studying and not taking things for granted, putting your phone away at night and getting into the playbook, even if it’s 30 minutes, an hour,” quarterback Brandon Doughty said.

When he met with the quarterbacks separately on Sunday, “He was in our mind about protections and stuff and how we do things," Doughty said, "how we’re going to change this and change that. It was cool.”

Doughty said the quarterbacks asked Manning “a lot of questions. Ryan [Tannehill] picked his mind. It was kind of more talking to Ryan than he was with me, but it was cool just hearing the questions and me kind of just writing things down and jotting things and just kind of observing this whole thing.”

Manning’s advice to the quarterbacks? “Trying to working on our hot [reads], understanding what everyone is doing and just taking it one play at a time,” Doughty said.

Doughty was impressed.

"Peyton Manning, holy cow, I mean, this is like a star-studded performance here," Doughty said. "It’s pretty cool. Getting to pick his mind on these protections, he walked through some of the stuff that they did. It’s very similar to what we’re doing, so being able to pick at that guy’s mind, it’s unbelievable. He’s a future Hall of Famer.”

Tannehill didn’t speak to reporters Monday, but in May he shared his thoughts on the topic in this post of mine after Manning’s first visit to camp.

Manning’s presence also carries weight with defensive players.

“When he came in the offseason and worked out in the back of our weight room, running on our treadmill, I would go back there and say he’s my favorite player,” Chris McCain said. “Every time I talk to him, he talks to me like he’s known me for years. I’m honored to shake his hand and be around him.”

MORE DOLPHINS TALK

• Everyone worried when we learned Jay Ajayi would miss practice with a knee injury Monday.

Turned it, it was only a bone bruise to his left knee, which was sustained when he collided with linebacker Jelani Jenkins during Sunday’s practice. But he said he expects to return in a couple of days.

Ajayi had chronic knee issues in college, with a lack of cartilage in the joint of his right knee. The latest issue was to his left knee.

“I think he was worried it was more than what it was, which [is natural] when you’ve had a previous injury before,” Gase said. “Thankfully it was on the other leg and we had him checked out and it turns out he’s going to be day to day and we’ll see when we can get him back.”

• Running back Isaiah Pead opened with the starters in team drills on Monday but left with an unspecified leg issue. Before departing, he made a bunch of nice plays, including several catches out of the backfield.

“Pead did a good a job,” Gase said. “I’m not really sure what happened to him. What he has done from the time he’s been here in the spring, lot of improvement. He’s done everything we asked him to do.”

• Running back Arian Foster also got some first team work and “he is going to be working with the ones the whole training camp,” Gase said. “His resume speaks for itself. I don’t think there’s any question why we brought him in here. He’s playing this year. Whether he’s the guy that will be the first snap of the game, time will tell. He is going to be rolling with the ones.”

• As for Damien Williams, Gase expects the running back to come off the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday.

• Cornerback Xavien Howard, recovering from knee surgery, said he’s running and hopes to be back for some preseason games. “I feel good,” he said. “I’m waiting for coaches to clear me.”

Howard said he never had knee problems before and was injured when he was undercut on the final day of minicamp.

• Linebacker Zach Vigil remains out with a back problem.  “We’re trying to figure out what the best plan is for him right now,” Gase said.

• Without Vigil, the second-team linebackers are Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull and Spencer Paysinger.

• Chris McCain has been disruptive through the first four days of camp – he had two sacks today – and he will be on the team if this continues.

“I see a guy getting off the ball with great speed,” Gase said. “He’s turning the edge quickly. Every time we seem to be in any kind of drill, whether 3rd down or 2 minute situation, he’s around the quarterback a lot. The more we can get him to do [the better]. He’s a guy that keeps putting that positive foot forward. The more chaos you cause on defense, the more interesting you are to us.”

One option: keeping McCain as a fifth defensive end and placing Dion Jordan on the NFI list, which would sideline him the first six games.

McCain is thrilled to be back at defensive end after a year at linebacker.

"I’m clear in my head, not thinking about too much,” he said. “I’m just going. Before we snap the ball on first and second down, you can basically do whatever you want to do. Coach says corners hang on three or four seconds and let us do what we do. Vance [Joseph] is a really good coach. We love him to death. They see that’s my strong suit, pass rush.”

• Keep hearing a lot of praise for longtime NFL assistant Jim Washburn, who is helping the linemen on pass rush moves, among other things.

“Washburn ain’t no joke,” McCain said. “He don’t put up with nothing. He respects us of course, cares about us. He coaches us a lot. You kind of have no choice but to do right with him in the room.”

• Quarterback Matt Moore was given a pre-planned day off to rest his arm, but Gase said he won’t do that with Tannehill.

Moore “was kind of irritated we did it,” Gase said. “I am not taking a chance of we’re two weeks into camp and all of a sudden my arm hurts. This will be the only day he misses practice. It should help the younger guys.” 

• Michael Thomas worked ahead of Bobby McCain as the first team nickel back, with Isa Abdul-Quddus joining the starters at safety opposite Reshad Jones.

But Thomas, nor anybody else, could slow rookie receiver Jakeem Grant, who had several catches.

• Gase, on Grant: “I see a guy who has the skill set for a slot player we love. We love the quickness. We love the speed.

“Obviously has unique speed. We have to keep growing his route tree; he has to understand when we can go inside, when he can outside versus a guy’s leverage. He’s headed in the right direction. We’ve got to slow him down a little bit.”

• This was not a good day for the cornerbacks. Rookie seventh-rounder Jordan Lucas was beaten by DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry.

Even when the corners had a chance to make a play, they didn’t, with McCain dropping a pick that Tannehill threw right at him.

“Defense got their hands on some balls today; this is where it gets weird for me,” Gase said. “It’s like you’re split down the middle of you are glad the defense is getting hands on the ball. I start getting a little irritated the offense is throwing some balls that bothered me a little bit. Anytime the defense is touching the ball, it’s a good thing.”

• Laremy Tunsil did not open with the starters today but eventually got first-team work at left tackle and left guard. Dallas Thomas continues to start team drills as the first-team left guard.

Biggest adjustment moving from guard to tackle? “A lot of things are much faster at the guard position,” Tunsil said. “You've got your hand down and they (the defense) are close to you. I'm going to get into the meeting room and I'm going to rep it every day so it'll be fine."

• Undrafted kicker Marshall Koehn made 2 of 6 field goals, missing twice from the 35-yard range, and is clearly trailing in the kicking competition against incumbent Andrew Franks, who has been very consistent.

• Doughty got a ton of work Monday and had a nice throw to Leonte Carroo. Brandon Harris tipped another of his passes.

“I’d give my performance probably about a C,” Doughty said of camp. “I’ve got to get better. I gotta be quicker, I gotta be faster with my reads, faster with my feet, faster in everything I do.”

• After the Dolphins gave Jordan Phillips a long look with the starters in May/June practices, Earl Mitchell has consistently opened with the first team in training camp.

• Couple other highlights: Mario Williams destroyed Ja’Wuan James on one play… Spencer Paysinger deflected a pass… Andre Branch had a sack.. Terrence Fede destroyed Thomas Duarte for a sack…. Jason Jones had a sack.

• Tuesday will be Miami’s first night practice (6 p.m.) and also the first that will be open only to season-ticket holders.

Quick Marlins note: Because Colin Rea (acquired from the Padres) has an elbow issue, the Marlins were angry and traded him back to San Diego for the pitching prospect that they relinquished in last week's Andrew Cashner trade (Luis Castillo). The rest of the trade stands.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 31, 2016

7 p.m. Sunday UM news; Steve Ross on the Dolphins' search for a new stadium name; Sunday 1 p.m. Brandon Harris story; Sunday morning Gase and Fins news; More buzz on Marlins' trade and Heat's Waiters pickup; Fins, UM football chatter

Two quick 7 p.m. Sunday UM notes: 1) Nebraska grad transfer Andrew White will visit UM on Monday, CBS first reported. White, a 6-7 wing player, averaged 16.6 points and shot 41 percent on threes last season. White, who's also considering Syracuse, would be potentially a big addition for UM, which has one scholarship left.

2) Linebacker Raphael Kirby, who did not sign with a team following the NFL draft because he was still recovering from last year's knee injury, announced on Twitter that he's joining the Detroit Lions.

After posting this column, I added more Dolphins chatter at the bottom (in italics), including a look at former UM standout cornerback Brandon Harris, who was signed by the Dolphins today. 

 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Several Sunday morning Dolphins notes in addition to the 15 we posted here earlier on Saturday:

• The Dolphins are hoping to finalize a deal for stadium naming rights in the next few weeks, and Hard Rock International remains a top contender.

Asked if he expects Hard Rock to be part of the stadium’s name, owner Stephen Ross said: “I hope.”

So will it definitely be Hard Rock? “We have a lot of other different opportunities, but I like the [brand] name.”

Sun Life's naming rights deal with the Dolphins ended early this year.

Adam Gase, on Dion Jordan, who is sidelined for a few weeks after knee surgery and was placed on the non-football injury list: "He has a fresh start with me. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant. His job is do everything he has been told to do right. That check list is fairly long. This is good fresh start for him, a chance to start his career over."

Gase said Jordan's timetable is similar to Xavien Howard's. He could be out two to three weeks.

Gase said the knee surgery was "news to us."

Jordan said: "I'm a good person... I've made mistakes." He's now at 275 pounds, meaning he likely will stay at defensive end.

• Gase said Arian Foster "was really ready to go" after last October's Achilles tear. He said Foster "annihilated" his conditioning test. "We've got to be smart; he's coming off a major injury. When I watch him run routes, he's so smooth. Looks effortless."

• The Dolphins signed former UM cornerback Brandon Harris, who sat out last season with a torn ACL. (More on him later today.) Gase said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who coached Harris in Houston, was a fan of his.

• Haven’t heard a single player say a negative thing about Gase or his staff, which is very unusual in these parts over the past 15 years.

Asked how practice is different from last year’s camp under Joe Philbin, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said: “Definitely different. I felt like we got a lot of work done [Friday]. It was a lot better practice.”

Center Mike Pouncey said it’s different because Gase “brings energy every day. We enjoy going to meetings because we know it’s going to be exciting. He has a young mindset dealing with the players. It’s easy to have a conversation with him. Very outgoing personality. It’s a different feeling. First time in a long time we’ve had that feeling around here.”

And there’s this from linebacker Koa Misi: “We've got to trust in the calls [coaches] are making and work together as a team. Sometimes in the past, that [was] the reason why we weren't winning games.”

• Pro athletes often shrug off whether starting is important to them, but that’s not the case with Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips, who are competing to start at defensive tackle. “We’re not out here to be second; I want to start,” Phillips said, adding he’s quicker after dropping from 325 pounds to 316.

Mitchell so far has had the majority of first-team snaps.

• Though the Dolphins haven’t ruled out extending or restructuring safety Reshad Jones’ deal after he ended his offseason protest, Jones said that hasn’t happened yet and he’s no longer concerned. “Just worried about helping my team win.”

• Please click here for a lot more Dolphins personnel notes from today, including Dion Jordan, starting lineup battles and a cornerback they auditioned.

CHATTER

• Beyond the fact they really like Andrew Cashner, another reason the Marlins were comfortable making the Padres trade is that Colin Rea is under team control for six seasons and Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said the Marlins believe Rea “has the potential to be a solid No. 3” starter.

If you missed it, Rea left his Marlins debut with elbow pain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain; Nefi Ogando was recalled. Rea reportedly will undergo an MRI on Monday.

• Hill said there have been no discussions about a new deal with Cashner, an impending free agent: “We haven’t yet given that thought.”

• Hill said it was “extremely difficult” to trade injured Carter Capps but the Marlins were comfortable with their bullpen depth led by AJ Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, Fernando Rodney, plus prospects Brian Ellington, Nefi Ogando and Austin Bryce, among other.

• Hill said the Marlins wanted minor-league right hander Tayron Guerrero, the third pitcher obtained in the deal, because “we love the arm. Throws 100 mph. We felt he could be an impactful third piece. Very intriguing.” Guerrero, 6-8, has been pitching in relief but the Marlins might make him a starter, Hill said.

• Another Marlins official said other teams repeatedly asked for JT Realmuto, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and the Marlins would not consider dealing any of them.

• ESPN analyst and former Nationals GM Jim Bowden, by phone: “The price was exorbitant [for the Marlins], but sometimes you have to… overpay. I don’t think the Marlins make the playoffs without making this move. I credit Jeffrey Loria for going for it. When good, Cashner is a third starter. You look at the stuff and think he could be more. His breaking ball is an issue. Rea is a back of the rotation guy.”

Bowden said the Marlins are plus 14 in infield runs saved, and the Padres minus 18, and Cashner “will benefit from the Marlins’ infield defense.”

• Some nuggets on Heat addition Dion Waiters: The Heat is looking at him as a potential starter at shooting guard and his numbers are similar in 179 career games as a backup and 110 as a starter. But last season, he was far better as a backup, especially on threes (38.5 percent on threes as a backup, to 27.6 percent on threes as a starter)….

Opposing players shot slightly worse when they were defended by Waiters last season (43.1 percent) than they did overall (43.6). For perspective, players guarded by Dwyane Wade shot 42.7, Josh Richardson 44.9, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan 47.3….

Erik Spoelstra might look at how OKC coach Billy Donovan used Waiters, which Waiters appreciated. Donovan put the ball in Waiters’ hands more when Russell Westbrook was on the bench --- “Dion just loves to have the ball in his hands,” Kevin Durant said --- and unlike past coaches, allowed Waiters to roam without the ball instead of sticking him in the corner.

“There are a lot of things that Dion does that do not show up in the stat sheets,” Donovan said earlier this year. “He's a really, really good defensive player. He can put the ball on the floor. He can generate shots for others. He's a smart player, got a good feel for the game.

“Listen, there's been some times where he's not played great and I've had to take him off the floor and put him back in later on, but overall I trust Dion in terms of even when he's not playing well he can kind of refocus himself and get back to where he needs to get back.”…

Waiters struggled in the clutch (7 for 23) and his 17 points per 48 minutes ranked 37th among 54 shooting guards… He struggles finishing in the basket area; he shot just 49 percent within five feet, in the bottom quarter of shooting guards – Wade was at 63 percent – and missing two of 19 dunks.

• During his spring booster tour, UM coach Mark Richt said he asked all his players two questions after spring ball ended: What can your teammates count on you for? And who do you think is a leader?

This staff quietly has worked to create a bond among players and coaches. “We’re spending quality family time inside and outside of the facility,” Kc McDermott said. “We've had the occasional meal over at coach [Stacy] Searel's house.”

Richt also has players at each unit working out together in the weight room, which players say is new.

“It’s going to be interesting,” ex-Canes great Reggie Wayne said. “One thing that has been lacking in the program is the fellowship, getting to play for each other, letting your teammate know, ‘I got you.’ It seemed like a bunch of individuals [the past few years]. Our teams did everything together.”

MORE SUNDAY FINS NEWS JUST ADDED

When Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon left in free agency this past offseason, the Dolphins lost their only two players who grew up in South Florida and attended the University of Miami.

They now have another who fits that unique criteria: Brandon Harris, who on Sunday joined a crowded competition for the Dolphins’ final cornerback job.

The former Hurricanes and Booker T. Washington standout hopes to revive a career sidetracked 14 month ago by a torn ACL in his left knee.

“It is so special to be at home, going back to the same stadium where that allowed me this opportunity to be in the NFL, where I made my name on a national stage,” said Harris, who joins former Melbourne Central High alum Rashawn Scott as the only former Hurricanes on the Dolphins’ roster. “I am excited to play in front of my family and friends every day in training camp.”

After tearing the ACL in his left knee at a Tennessee Titans minicamp practice in June 2015, Harris sat out last season, then visited the Dolphins for a medical checkup in May.

The Dolphins called him last week and asked him to audition on Saturday, along with two other corners: former Ravens and Patriots corner Rashaan Melvin and ex-Chicago Bear Albert Louis-Jean. Melvin was signed after the workout, but Harris left without an offer.

“Figured I would get ready for my next move, and then I get a call early [Sunday] morning [from the Dolphins] saying come on back,” he said.

Harris said his knee simply wasn’t ready earlier this offseason. Now, “the knee feels great. First time I’ve been in pads since the last regular season game of 2014.”

Harris posted on Instagram that it has “been a long year of recovery after tearing my ACL. I cried so many nights fearing I'll never play again, that all changed this morning. Miami I'm Home.”

Harris has played in 42 NFL games but has started none of them and has no interceptions.

Drafted in the second round (60th overall) by Houston in 2011, he appeared in 31 games over three seasons for the Texans, who cut him before the start of the 2014 season.  He played 11 games for the Titans in 2014.

Coach Adam Gase said Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes Harris, whom he coached in Houston.

“I would have liked to have had more of a household name at this point,” Harris said. “I take pride in playing physical. Playing with a lot of energy is my biggest strength.”

Harris, 5-10, said he has played most of his NFL snaps in the slot. “That’s where I am most comfortable [but] I am excited to go outside a little bit, too,” he said.

After cutting Tyler Patmon on Sunday, the Dolphins now have several defensive backs competing in the slot: Bobby McCain, safety Michael Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Harris and Jordan Lucas.

With Xavien Howard recovering from knee surgery, the 6-2 Melvin gives Miami another option on the boundary, with projected starters Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett, plus Chimdi Chekwa. Olomu and Lucas also can play outside.

Melvin, cut by the Patriots in May, said his strength is “putting my hands on guys and being a physical corner, using my size to my advantage.”

On adding two corners and cutting one this weekend, Gase said: “We want competition. If we feel like it’s time to move on from somebody, we’re going to do it and try to bring somebody else in.”

• Sunday notables: Ryan Tannehill completed a perfect 40-yard sideline pass to DeVante Parker, who extended over Lippett… Andrew Franks kicked a 59-yard field goal and continues his very good summer, dating back to May practices… With Branden Albert given the day off, Laremy Tunsil opened with the starters at left tackle…Sam Young and Chris McCain got into a brief shoving match after a drill... Dolphins quarterbacks haven’t thrown an interception in three days of camp.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 30, 2016

3 p.m.: Dolphins sign corner; 15 notes, quotes, nuggets and thoughts from Dolphins' Day 2 training camp practice on Saturday, including Jordan update; CB audition; personnel moves and more

Lots of stuff from Day 2 of Fins camp:

• Miami signed 6-2 cornerback Rashaan Melvin after a Saturday workout, according to agent Mike McCartney

The Dolphins made room on the roster by cutting tight end Jake Stoneburner.

Originally signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois in 2013, Melvin has played in 12 NFL games, all over the past two seasons --- four for Baltimore and eight for New England after the Patriots claimed him off waivers last October.

Melvin was briefly on the Dolphins' practice squad in 2014 before the Ravens plucked him.

Melvin has played well at times in the regular season but as a member of the Ravens, he allowed 12 catches for 224 yards against New England in a January 2015 playoff game. But the Patriots claimed him when Baltimore released him last October. 

The Dolphins also worked out former Bears cornerback Al-Louis Jean Jr. today. 

• Dion Jordan, conditionally reinstated from NFL suspension, was back at Dolphins headquarters on Saturday. But coach Adam Gase said he has no idea when he will be back on the field.

In its announcement Friday, the NFL said Jordan may “participate in meetings, conditioning work and similar activities.” But the league said he could not begin practicing or play in preseason games until “arrangements have been confirmed regarding Jordan’s clinical resources in Miami.”

Gase said: “We’re taking everything very slowly. We’re trying to make sure we do everything by the book, exactly the way the league wants us to do it. He’s trying to do a good job of doing exactly what he’s told to do. You talk about step 1 of like 500. It’s going to take some time for us to make sure we do every little thing right for this thing to turn out the right way.”

• Dallas Thomas again lined up with the starters at left guard in the first 11-on-11 team drills, with Billy Turner at right guard.

But rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil later got some first- team work at left guard in 11-on-11 drills, and Jermod Bushrod received some first-team snaps at right guard. And during one sequence, Tunsil was with the starters at left guard and Thomas at right guard.

Asked about Tunsil’s progress, Gase said: “Once we get in pads, we’ll figure out more. Right now, we’ve been nothing but jerseys and cleats and helmets.”

• Good to see left tackle Branden Albert mentoring Tunsil.

“He is the future left tackle of this team,” Albert said. “When my time is done, he’s going to step in [and] I’m going to make sure [he’s prepared]. That’s how you leave your legacy.

“You teach a young guy and sit at home retired and see that young guy flourish [and know] I helped him on his way and have the potential to make a lot of money and change the future of his family generation after generation… They learn something from me and can say, ‘Branden Albert was a great mentor.”

Albert said former NFL guard Brian Waters mentored him.

Albert said Tunsil “has the potential to play next to me and Mike [Pouncey]. He’ll learn. He’s going to have his bumps and bruises. But for the most part, he will flourish. It’s a grown man business. He has the physical capabilities to do it. As long as he learns the plays, I think he’s good.”

• As for other starting battles, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell again opened with the starters, ahead of Jordan Phillips.

“Jordan has done a good job; Earl has done a good job,” Gase said. And “you are seeing [Ndamukong] Suh causing havoc on most plays.”

• Isa Abdul Quddus opened with the starters at safety, opposite Reshad Jones, after Michael Thomas got the nod on Friday. But Thomas remained the first team slot corner in the absence of Bobby McCain.

• McCain said he was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Friday because he cramped up late in the team’s conditioning test on Thursday. He was taken off PUP late Saturday afternoon.

 Going on PUP “was precautionary to let me get adjusted,” McCain said. “Now I’m fine and will be back [Sunday].”

Kenyan Drake, who played with both the fourth team and first team, fumbled on a poor exchange with Matt Moore but also had a nice run. Arian Foster remains on PUP.

The coaching staff likes Jay Ajayi, and it’s clear the Foster signing was more a reflection of the Dolphins believing they need a second back who can be relied on. (Damien Williams is on PUP because he’s out of shape.)

• Byron Maxwell broke up a touchdown pass, intended for Kenny Stills, that was thrown by a non-quarterback (we’re not allowed to fully describe the trick play or say who threw it, per Dolphins policy). “Anytime Maxwell is covering a guy, he’s so long and has great speed to recover,” Gase said.

Safety Reshad Jones also had a nifty breakup on a Ryan Tannehill pass. Cornerback Chidmi Chekwa broke up a pass to Leonte Carroo.

 

• Chris McCain, who said he’s very happy to be back at defensive end after being moved to linebacker last year, made two notable plays, including what would have been a strip sack of Brandon Doughty, but faces an uphill climb to make the 53. He still has practice squad eligibility.

• Veteran Jason Jones did a good job rushing the passer. That was a smart post-draft signing. And Andre Branch, another solid signing, continues to work with the first team at defensive end, ahead of Cameron Wake.

• Kicker Marshall Koehn, who was less consistent than Andrew Franks during May/June practices, missed from 33 but made his other field goals, including from 46. Franks was perfect on Friday.

• Gase is non-committal about whether he wants to keep a third quarterback on the 53. (Gase did not say this, but it’s clear it will depend largely on how good Brandon Doughty is over the next six weeks.)

“If you want to keep three, you figure out a way to make it happen,” Gase said, then adding that two is a good option, too.

Gase said Doughty “does a great job as far as finding completions. I made the comment to him one time, ‘Well your progressions are usually wrong, but somehow you find a completion.’ He’s like, ‘That’s what I do.’”

• Still cannot understand why the Dolphins cut Brice McCain and his cap friendly contract. I hear that one Dolphins coach was unhappy after watching 2015 tape of McCain, specifically one play in which he missed a tackle. McCain now plays for the Titans. But McCain does fine in the slot, and the Dolphins could have used the depth there.

• With Bob Griese working the team’s three preseason telecasts on CBS-4, former Dolphins great Jason Taylor will replace him in the booth for preseason games, alongside Jimmy Cefalo and Joe Rose on new rights-holder WQAM (560).

•  More than two years after being dismissed as the Dolphins’ offensive line coach in the wake of the team’s bullying scandal, Jim Turner is in trouble again.

This time, Turner was suspended by Texas A&M for injecting sexually suggestive slides into a football clinic for women.

Texas A&M suspended Turner, who is the Aggies’ offensive line coach, and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks for two weeks without pay after they included derogatory sexual humor during the Wednesday evening clinic.

Turner and Banks offered coaching tips with several sexually suggestive terms, such as “keep your hips down.” The comments became known on Thursday after a woman, Tonia Dousay, expressed her displeasure on Facebook. It was unclear if she attended the event.

“There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone, regardless of intent,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said Friday.  “While I was in attendance at the Chalk Talk event this week, I was engaged in meeting participants, taking photographs and signing autographs and I was unaware of the contents of Jim and Jeff’s presentations until this morning.

“Upon learning of the details, I immediately consulted with Director of Athletics Scott Woodward, and made the decision that both Jim and Jeff will be suspended without pay for two weeks effective immediately and will serve 20 hours of community service. I have addressed the issue with both of them and have their commitment to be better representatives of our program.”

In a statement, Turner and Banks said "we want to sincerely apologize to the passionate Aggie fans and to women everywhere for our failed attempt at humor during this week's Aggie Football Chalk Talk and fundraiser. We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program or our Department. We must do better, and we will."

The Dolphins fired Turner in February 2014 after NFL-appointed attorney Ted Wells mentioned Turner several times in his report on the Dolphins’ bullying scandal.

Wells said Turner participated in a running joke in which players questioned the sexuality of one of the team’s offensive linemen.

Around Christmas of 2012, Turner gave that player a male blow-up doll, while giving his other offensive linemen a gift  bag including inflatable female dolls.

Wells’ report said Jonathan Martin and another Dolphins player were surprised Turner did this, but Turner told Wells he could not remember if he did that.

Turner later filed a lawsuit against Wells and his law firm, alleging defamation. That lawsuit was dismissed by a Miami federal court on Friday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 29, 2016

Wade meets Chicago media, calls playing for Bulls "dream come true" and speaks candidly on Heat; Dolphins notes, nuggets from Day 1 of camp; UM football chatter; Marlins trade

Dwyane Wade had his Bulls introductory press conference today. Some highlights:

• "This is one of those moments for me that is a dream come true. I'm a Chicago guy. I grew up here. When I can sit Indian style and watch the Chicago Bulls win their third championship, I remember looking at this little bitty TV and saying that's what I want to be. I want to be a champion. My dream of becoming an NBA player, here in my home town. This is a place I really wanted to be, a place my heart pulled me towards.

"I know it took a long time to get here. But I am here and I am excited to be here. I can't tell you guys in words what this moment means for me, what this organization, since the day I said I'm coming, the support they've shown, the excitement the city has shown, I can't tell you guys what that means to me. I'm just thankful.

"I came out of the draft in 2003. Had a lot of workouts. Had two workouts with one team - the Chicago Bulls. I was thinking I would be playing for my hometown team. I felt I would be drafted by my hometown team. I had no idea what Miami had up their sleeve."

• "I have no rift with Pat Riley. I have nothing but respect for what he's done in this game. For me, as a player, when you get opportunities to be a free agent, you have to sit and look and see what is the best situation for you. 2010, the best situation for me was to play with Chris and LeBron because I wanted to be able to compete for a championship.

"Last year, I wanted more money. Let's be real. I got more money. This year, the direction and focus for that organization, which I have nothing but respect and love for, was a little different than it has been in the past. My focus and direction was a little different than it had been in years past.

"I told them I wanted to see what the market was for me. At the end of the day, I made the decision. I had a contract offer in Miami I could have took. I decided not to take it. It was my decision to be selfish and to live out a dream of mine. I've brought a lot of excitement to Chicago. It will always be my home. I want to bring some to Chicago while I have a little bit left.

"This was not a money deal for me. At the end of the day, this was the place I wanted to be. This is a decision solely for me and it was nothing to do with Pat Riley. It has nothing to do with Pat Riley and Micky Arison. They wanted me back in Miami. But my heart was telling me to go back home."

• He said when he was a free agent in 2010, "I was 28, in the prime of my career. My first meeting was here back home. I met with a few teams. Once again, I met with the Chicago Bulls twice. There's a notion out there that somehow, someway I used the Bulls for some sort of leverage [back then]. I don't know how a 28 year old in his prime, that can be maxed out anywhere, can use a place for leverage. It was a place I really wanted to be, but I had the opportunity of a lifetime to play with two great players, LeBron and Chris. As hard as Chicago tried, they couldn't put all three of us together.... There were times I envisioned being here."

"I dealt with Micky Arison, Nick Arison when it came to my contracts the last two years. That's what he means when he said he wasn't involved, meaning he didn't sit at the table. He didn't call or email or text or nothing like that to try to sway me or try to get me back. I guess that's what he meant.

"I dealt with two people I respect in the organization. And like I said, at the end of the day it wasn't about Pat Riley, it wasn't about Micky, it wasn't about Nick. It was about me. I told that to the Arison family in our meeting. They asked me, 'What else? Is there anything else we can do? I said, 'This is a decision I'm going to have to make. And I made that decision.'

"I wasn't looking for Pat to reach out to me. That wasn't the focus of mine. My focus was making the best decision for my family. He has to make the best decision for the organization, which he has done an amazing job over his tenure there. And we all benefited from it.

"But, this decision was basically mine and I couldn't concern myself or worry about someone reaching out to me or not reaching out to me. That's [wasn't] why I made the decision. It wasn't because he didn't reach out to me. How petty is that? I sat down with the guys who pay the bills. I knew they wanted me to still be there, but ultimately I wanted to be here. And I ultimately made that decision."

• "I respect the Miami community. It will always be a part of me."

• Wade said of wife Gabrielle Union: "She just built her dream home, or what we thought in Miami" and Wade told her they need to move. "She supports me." His sons "heard winter and got scared. They're Chicago tough."

• Wade was non-committal when asked if this would be the final stop of his career. He signed a two-year with a second year player option.

• "I remember when Shaquille O'Neal came to Miami, we had no championships at the time. I remember his press conference. I was playing in the Olympics at the time. I remember Shaq said "we're not going to go through this all long. This is Dwyane Wade's team.' This is Jimmy Butler's team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes to this team and this city. We are going to depend on him a lot.

"This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler called me and told me he wanted me here. At the time, I didn't know.... We all have one common goal, and that's to win. Jimmy Butler will be a better player because of what Rondo brings and because of what I bring."

• "I am a better three-point shooter than my numbers. I showed it in the playoffs."

 

DOLPHINS DAY 1 NOTES     

The Dolphins placed Arian Foster and four others on the physically unable to perform list on Friday, even though Foster had said he is fully healthy after sustaining a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in a game against the Dolphins last October.

Also placed on PUP: cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain, running back Damien Williams and linebacker Zach Vigil. Players can be removed off PUP at any point before the regular season.

Foster did not have a setback and the Dolphins expect him back at some point this preseason. “We thought this was a smart decision to make,” coach Adam Gase said. “This is part of the process we’re going through.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of Foster: “He’s a veteran guy that has had a lot of success. He’s one of the league leaders in drafted guys as far as yards. To have that veteran presence in our backfield is huge. He’s great running the zone read game, which we run here. As a receiver out of the backfield or split out wide, he has a great knack for getting open and having great hands on the outside.”

Howard had knee surgery but is expected back by the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Seattle. McCain’s issue is nothing serious and he’s expected back in a day or two.

Williams’ conditioning is not where Gase and team officials want it to be. He will be activated when he gets in better shape.

Vigil had back tightness during the latter stages of the offseason program and the Dolphins want to make sure he’s completely fine. He might miss a few days.

Except for Howard, Gase said all of the players on PUP are “day to day” and said it was too early to tell if any of the four would miss any preseason games, with Miami scheduled to open Aug. 12 at the New York Giants.

• In McCain’s absence, Michael Thomas lined up in the slot when the Dolphins went to a nickel package on Friday. When the Dolphins were in base defense, Thomas joined Reshad Jones as the first-team safeties, ahead of Isa Abdul-Quddus.

• Dallas Thomas (left) and Billy Turner (right) were the first-team guards, with first-round pick Laremy Tunsil taking second-team snaps at guard and tackle.

• Earl Mitchell was the first-team tackle opposite Ndamukong SuhAndre Branch got some first-team work at defensive end, because the Dolphins are somewhat limiting the practice snaps of Cameron Wake coming off a torn Achilles’.

“We just have to be smart with him,” Gase said. “We want him to be able to get through the duration of the season."

• Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and Michigan assistant coach and former University of Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch were among those who attended practice.

• Tannehill said Gase “is an expert at pushing guys to reach their potential, and I’m excited to have him…. It’s such a relief to have his confidence and him giving me the freedom to change plays and get us into a good play, that latitude, is only going to help us score more points. He’s a great offensive mind. He’s able to relate to players and motivate players and that’s something we’re excited about having.”

Tannehill said “every day,” Gase “gives me a couple things he wants to work on and think about. Constantly trying to push my buttons, put me in difficult situations. It’s going to pay off.”

• Tannehill, whose wife gave birth to a boy (their first child) last week, called it “such a blessing to see the birth of your child, the love you feel immediately. Really exciting thing to be a dad.”

But amid the responsibilities of being a father for the first time, Tannehill said he “tried to spend a couple hours every day going over the installs [during the past month], spent time with receivers, quizzing them.”

• Per NFL rules, Dolphins players can wear shoulder pads on Sunday and full pads beginning Monday.

Please follow me on Twitter for the latest on the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Canes. And please click here for all the details on the Marlins' trade today, plus a ton of UM football notes.

July 28, 2016

11 a.m. Friday Dolphins notes; Marlins acquire two starting pitchers; Steve Ross speaks; Examining UM's incoming class and who's best positioned to help right away; Dolphins, Marlins trade news, Shula update

Couple quick Dolphins notes following the Dolphins' first preseason practice:

• Except for Xavien Howard (off knee surgery), Adam Gase said the four other players on PUP are all day to day (nothing terribly serious): Bobby McCain, Arian Foster, Damien Williams, Zach Vigil.

Will they miss any preseason games? "Can't answer now," he said.

McCain is expected to miss only a couple days. "We'll get him back out there soon," Gase said.

• Gase said he hasn't met Dion Jordan and wasn't in position to comment about him after his conditional reinstatement today. Jordan can play in preseason and will be cleared for the regular season if his meeting with the NFL in early September goes well and if he has no missteps.

• Did everyone pass the conditioning test? Gase wouldn't say. But he said he was pleased how the team looked, from a conditioning standpoint.

• Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner were the first team guards, with Laremy Tunsil playing backup guard and tackle... Michael Thomas was ahead of Isa Abdul Quddus at safety. When the Dolphins went to nickel, Thomas moved to first team slot corner (with McCain sidelined).

Check back for a lot more Dolphins later.

 

MARLINS TRADE

8 a.m. Friday: Per sources, the Marlins have reached an agreement to acquire two starting pitchers from San Diego: right-handers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. But they had to pay a big price to get them.

The Marlins are giving up two top prospects (first baseman Josh Naylor and pitcher Luis Castillo), right-hander Jarred Cosart and Carter Capps, the hard-throwing reliever who had Tommy John surgery this year.

The Marlins also are getting Tayron Guerrero, a right-hander who is 13-21 with a 4.09 ERA in seven minor league seasons, including 0-3 with a 4.94 ERA for San Antonio this season. He has made one appearance for the Padres, with a 4.50 ERA in two innings.

Cashner (4-7, 4.76 ERA) and Rea (5-5, 4.98) fill the Marlins' desire to add two starting pitchers.

Cashner will join Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler and Adam Conley in the rotation, and the expectation is that Rea will, too, though that's not confirmed.

The Marlins believe left-hander Wei Yin Chen will be out several weeks with a strained elbow and nobody can be 100 percent certain that he will return this season.

In Chen's absence, the Marlins have been going with Jarred Cosart as their fifth starter. Jose Urena had pitched well in two recent starts as the No. 4 starter, but the Marlins wanted a veteran addition to stabilize their staff.

Cashner, who was being pursued by several teams, is an impending free agent, while Rea is under team control through 2022.

Cashner has allowed 80 hits and 30 walks in 79 innings, with 67 strikeouts. He has a 30-49 career record, with a 3.73 ERA, in seven seasons, including two with the Cubs and the past five with the Padres.

After allowing 8 runs in 2 2/3 innings July 8 against the Dodgers, Cashner has pitched well recently, allowing one, one and three runs in his last three starts, though he hasn't gone more than six innings in any of them. 

Rea has allowed 101 hits and walked 44 in 99 innings, with 76 strikeouts. He was 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA as a rookie last season.

Rea has allowed 3, 1, 4, 4, and 3 earned runs in his past five starts, not going more than six innings in any of them.

The Marlins also had been pursuing Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson, the Yankees' Michael Pineda and others in recent days.

 

STEVE ROSS

Dolphins owner Steve Ross said: "This year, I am as excited as I can be. I have great expectations."

• On Adam Gase: "When we selected him, I was very excited, and just as excited if not more so today."

• He said he is not making playoff predictions but expects to make the playoffs.

• He said he gets a phone call every day at 4:30 about the stadium and it will be ready by Sept. 1. "There is no backup plan," he said.

• On Tannehill: "I'm not going to say it's do or die for Ryan. Everyone is very good about Ryan. Adam Gase will bring out the best of those capabilities."

 

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

With the start of fall practice a week away, UM coach Mark Richt, knowing his depth is shaky, will need to rely immediately on transfers and several members of his first Hurricanes 18-player recruiting class (16 are enrolled).

Examining who is ready to help immediately, by position:

• Linebacker: Shaquille Quarterman – having bulked up after a fabulous spring --- is the clear front-runner to start at middle linebacker, and freshman Mike Pinckney will compete with junior Darrion Owens at weakside. One UM official called that Pinckney/Owens battle a tossup.

“They have certainly made a mark,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of linebackers Quarterman, Pinckney and Zach McCloud. “What all three kids did was not easy to do… Shaq possesses tremendous instincts and vision. He seems to feel right at home in the middle of the defense. Mike made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage [in high school]. Zach plays with a very high motor, has tremendous range.”

Yes, growing pains are inevitable in a night road game in the ACC, when opponents are trying to fool wide-eyed freshmen. But a bunch of players are convinced Quarterman is going to be an impact player immediately.

“Shaq is going to be a great leader and he’s going to be a great player,” defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr. said. “The way he plays, it's unbelievable, to be an incoming freshman and [do this]. He has a high motor. And he knows his stuff. He doesn’t complain about anything. We can expect big things from those linebackers this year.”

• Defensive line: With Al-Quadin Muhammad at risk of discipline because of an ongoing luxury car rental investigation, and with Scott Patchan recovering from a torn ACL, there’s an opportunity for freshmen ends Pat Bethel and Joseph Jackson and end/tackle Tyreic Martin. UM would need a No. 4 defensive end to start the season if AQM (Miami's top defensive end) isn’t available.

Among ESPN’s top 300 prospects in the 2016 class, Bethel was No. 111 and Jackson No. 182. Jackson had six sacks and four forced fumbles at Gulliver Prep last season and “should be a dominant player” at UM, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said, citing his “relentless” pass rusher motor and “great speed to get around the edge.”

Kuligowski believes Bethel, who had some good moments this spring, “should be great at stopping the run and rushing the passer.”

Martin, who projects as a tackle if he puts on more weight, “has a huge ceiling,” Kuligowski said. “When you find one of those [end/tackles] that can run, that’s a neat thing.”

• Defensive backs: Adrian Colbert, the senior safety transfer from Texas, is playing cornerback for the first time since high school but predicted to Canesport: "I feel I'm going to come and be a starter this year. I came in with a whole different mentality. I refuse to do anything but start.… It's a different thing in Texas. We take pride
in being able to cover fast receivers….

“I love the position. I'm doing really well, transitioning well and I've already got the playbook down to a T. It's the same as some of the stuff we had run at Texas, just some minor tweaks to it."

Four-star former Coconut Creek alum Malek Young has an immediate chance to compete for a top five-cornerback job, because none of the young corners behind Corn Elder and Sheldrick Redwine did enough in the spring to remove doubts. Young, at 5-9, also can play in the slot and had seven returns for touchdowns in high school, including four kickoffs.

“I got emotional when Malek committed to us,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “I know what it’s like to be committed to a team going through so much turmoil. Very natural, really good ball skills. Amazing kid, a thinker, very articulate.”

The other freshmen --- Cedric Wright (not yet cleared to enroll while awaiting high-school credits to clear),  Romeo Finley, and Jeff James --- are safeties, though Diaz said James can play some corner.

“What I love about Romeo is his physicality,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said. “What we put a premium on here is safeties who are physical in the middle of the field….The thing that jumps out with Ced is his ability to pass rush and blitz. We blitz our safeties all the time. [And] Jeff has a natural ability to go get the ball in the air.”

• Quarterback: Jack Allison impressed everyone this spring, and Richt said he’s not reluctant to burn his redshirt if he’s the best of the four options for the backup QB job. But UM would prefer if Evan Shirreffs or Malik Rosier wins the No. 2 job and Allison’s redshirt can be maintained.

QB coach Jon Richt likes a lot about the 6-5 Allison: “Big, tall, athletic, moves very well, great arm, great accuracy.” But a UM official said he needs to get stronger and bigger in the weight room.

• Running back: It’s difficult to see Travis Homer having a significant role this season behind Mark Walton, Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and Trayone Gray (who Richt made a point to praise after the spring game).

But UM coaches, eager to add more speed on offense, love that element of Homer’s game.

“He’s a home-running hitting tailback,” running backs coach Thomas Brown said. 

Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, Homer ran for 3200 yards at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach.

• Receiver: Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards are going to play as freshmen (though Bruce faces a potential suspension) and Dionte Mullins might, too, if he qualifies academically in August.

Special teams/tight ends coach coach Todd Hartley said he wants to give all three freshmen a look on returns.

Bruce, at 5-8, figures to get some time in the slot, because polished, productive slot receiver Braxton Berrios is also now able to play outside more.

“I can’t wait to see the Samburgini in front of me,” receivers coach Ron Dugans said of Bruce. “I hope he’s Samburgini at the U. He’s a dynamic player. He will be a good return man for us as well. I want to put the ball in his hands. I don’t think he’ll be as nervous; he’s been in the dog fight before against a lot of good players at St. Thomas. He’s not afraid of anything.”

Dugans calls Mullins “a playmaker with really good speed” and predicts Richards “is going to be a red zone threat.”

Mississippi transfer Dayall Harris also will get snaps; the former four-star Mississippi signee, who will be a sophomore, never played in a game there, but “he’s a little further along than a true freshman would be. He’ll definitely be able to help,” Richt said. “Smooth, fluid athlete.” 

• Offensive line: Tre Johnson, a three-star lineman out of Orlando, “has the size to be an elite offensive tackle,” offensive line coach Stacy Searels said. “He’s a basketball player so he can move his feet. I really like this kid a lot.”

UM doesn't necessarily need him this season, but he will have an opportunity compete, because UM wasn't thrilled with its backup offensive linemen in the spring.

• Tight ends: Michael Irvin Jr. and Jovani Haskins will compete for any remaining time behind David Njoku, Chris Herndon and Standish Dobard. (One of the two freshmen could redshirt.)

Roger Harriott, Irvin’s coach at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, says it’s uncanny how much Irvin resembles his Hall of Fame father in how he catches the ball.

Hartley calls Irvin “mature beyond his years, a very gifted pass catcher.”

Haskins, a three-star recruit from New Jersey, played quarterback in high school.

But UM sees him as a tight end because, at 6-4, “he has the ability to make people miss, run over people and is extremely athletic,” Hartley said. “We think he is going to be a very special player.”

• Fullback: Four arrivals, including one on scholarship (Marquez Williams from Division 2 Mars Hill) and three walk-ons: Dewayne Washington, Zachary Lawler and UM shot-putter Gian Piero Roagnesi. They’ll compete with Gage Batten and Corey Giordano.

UM wants to use a fullback at times.

• FYI: Jack Spicer, a former UF walk-on, is walking on at UM and could succeed preseason All-ACC senior Justin Vogel as UM’s punter in 2018.

CHATTER

• With training camp beginning Friday morning, the Dolphins will demand a lot more consistency and production from a bunch of their players, and tight ends Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are high on that list.

Adam Gase has said Sims must turn potential into results. And the front office expects Cameron to do a better job fighting for balls in the air.

There will be an overhaul at the position next spring if both don’t improve... We'll have training camp updates all day Friday and for the next several weeks.

• There has been a significant development in Don Shula's health. Please click here for that, from earlier this evening.

• The Marlins are determined to add at least one starting pitcher, and two ideally, before Monday’s trade deadline, and we hear these are three new names in whom they’ve expressed interest: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.56 ERA, $10 million mutual option this winter), the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17, under team control through 2020), and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71, due $6.3, $8 million, $11 million through 2019).

They’re also still in the mix for the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.65), San Diego’s Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.76), the Angels’ Hector Santiago (9-4, 4.28) and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (7-5, 4.65) and Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00), plus Seattle's Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23), among others.

Hellickson, Cashner and Nova are impending free agents.

• Teams keep asking the Marlins about Class A Greensboro first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9, 53) and Class A Jupiter right-hander Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.75). The Marlins would at least consider trading any prospect.

• Don Mattingly said the Marlins have discussed making David Phelps a starter again, with a decision pending the trade deadline. Phelps said he would talk to the Marlins about it "if it came to that."

Such a move, seen as a last resort, would require stretching him out back to starter's innings.

Phelps is 16-19 with a 4.36 ERA as a starter (mostly with the Yankees) and 7-8 with a 3.56 ERA as a reliever.

•Reliever Bryan Morris, off back surgery, said he should be ready to return to the majors by early-to-mid September.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

New names surface in Marlins' search for a starting pitcher; Don Shula health update

Quick Thursday evening update:

The Marlins are determined to add at least one starting pitcher, and two ideally, before Monday’s trade deadline, and we're told these are three new names in whom they’ve expressed interest: Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.56 ERA, has a $10 million mutual option next season), the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (5-11, 4.17, under team control through 2020), and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71, due $6.3, $8 million, $11 million through 2019).

Shoemaker hasn't quite been the same since going 16-4 and finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2014. But he still has upside and the Angels are said to be listening to offers. He generally has pitched well since May, though he allowed five runs in his last start.

MLB.com reported that it's unlikely the Braves will trade Teheran because he's signed to a longterm affordable contract.

The Marlins also remain in the mix for several names that have been mentioned previously: the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.65), San Diego’s Andrew Cashner (4-7, 4.76), the Angels’ Hector Santiago (9-4, 4.28) and the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (7-5, 4.65) and Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00), among others.

Hellickson, Cashner and Nova are impending free agents.

The Marlins are open to adding short-term rentals such as Hellickson or pitchers who will be under team control for several years (such as Shoemaker).

Jeffrey Loria views this as a real chance to end baseball's second-longest postseason drought and is committed to improving the rotation.

• Teams keep asking the Marlins about Class A Greensboro first baseman Josh Naylor (.265, 9 home runs, 53 RBI) and Class A Jupiter right-hander Luis Castillo (7-3, 2.75).

The Marlins would consider trading any prospect, depending on the quality of the pitcher they're getting in return.

• Don Mattingly said the Marlins have discussed the possibility of making David Phelps a starter again and said it's certainly not out of the question, with a decision to be made after the trade deadline.

Phelps said he would talk to the Marlins about it "if it came to that." Such a move, seen as a last resort, would require stretching him out back to starter's innings.

Phelps is 16-19 with a 4.36 ERA as a starter (mostly with the Yankees) and 7-8 with a 3.56 ERA as a reliever.

• Reliever Bryan Morris, off back surgery, said today he should be ready to return to the majors by early-to-mid September. Morris began throwing this week - a few days sooner than projected - and said this is the first time in a year-and-a-half that he hasn't felt back pain while throwing.

For an update tonight on Don Shula's health, plus news that could change your holiday season plans and Dolphins chatter, please click here. And check back in a little while for lots of UM football.

July 27, 2016

6 p.m. Don Shula update; Major change for Orange Bowl; Some perspective on Dolphins contracts - the good and worrisome; More media football announcing changes

For those who have asked me how legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula is doing after being hospitalized earlier this offseason, some good news:

Shula’s wife, Mary Anne, told me that her husband getting a pacemaker three months ago “has made a tremendous difference in how he feels. He looks fantastic and is moving in the right direction. The doctor told him he can travel.”

Shula, 86, and Mary Anne will spend some time in Pebble Beach, Cal., this summer before returning in time for Miami's Sept. 25 home opener against Cleveland.

Shula was hospitalized in May because of fluid retention and sleep apnea. 

Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history (with 347 regular-season and playoff victories) and a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He is also the owner of a successful chain of steakhouses throughout the country.

Don and Mary Anne Shula live in Indian Creek Island.

 

OB NEWS

Noon update: Good news -- The College Football Playoff has relented and has moved two future Orange Bowl games off New Year's Eve.

The 2018 game has been shifted from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29.

The 2024 game has been moved from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.

The 2021 playoff semifinal game will remain on Dec. 31, a Friday, because that day is recognized as a national holiday.

Here was the letter sent to OB committee members today, as obtained by the Herald:

Dear Fellow Member,

I trust that this email correspondence finds you well and enjoying the summer!

Earlier this year, we announced a date change to the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl to Friday, Dec. 30 in primetime.  Consistent with this schedule revision, we have continued discussions with our partners to explore optimal dates/times for future bowl games.

In recent weeks, the OBC was presented with a unique opportunity by the College Football Playoff (CFP) and ESPN to move two of our three remaining Playoff Semifinal games off of New Year’s Eve.  After discussions with OBC leadership and our key stakeholders, I am pleased to announce changes to College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Capital One Orange Bowlin 2018 and 2024.

Specifically, these changes involve moving the 2018 CFP Semifinal game from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29 and the 2024 CFP Playoff Semifinal from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.  The Playoff Semifinal in 2021 will remain on Friday, Dec. 31, as that is the nationally recognized holiday for New Year’s Day.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the number of parties involved, we were respectfully asked to keep the feasibility discussions confidential among our leadership and key stakeholders, including Capital One and the Miami Dolphins. Once it was determined to be viable, we immediately brought the opportunity to our Board of Directors who voted unanimously to support the move. 

The official announcement is attached. We are excited about the moves and anticipate they will be beneficial both in attendance and television viewership.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself or Eric Poms at any time.

 

DOLPHINS NEWS

 

Some notes with just two shopping days left before the start of Dolphins training camp:

• Pro Football Focus rated the best and worst contracts for this season, and the Dolphins were prominently mentioned.

On the positive side:

Koa Misi’s contract (two years left, with an average cap hit of $4.2 million per) was rated the fifth-best among all NFL linebackers. Here’s why:

“Year after year,” PFF says, “Koa Misi plays between 400 and 800 snaps and grades out favorably, even though he doesn’t always post high tackle numbers. In 2015, Misi posted career-highs in snaps and stops. His 85.7 run-defense grade was 13th best among linebackers. He was able to get pressure on over 20 percent of his pass rushes, which was fourth-best for 4-3 outside linebackers with at least 50 pass rushes.

“The combination of his consistency and decent play means that Misi should be getting paid like a top-20 linebacker, while in reality he’s only getting paid like a top-30 linebacker. That isn’t a huge difference, which just speaks to the fact that there aren’t many veteran linebackers who are getting paid less money than they deserve.”

• On the negative side, PFF rated Mario Williams’ contract the worst in football among edge defenders. PFF consistently has criticized Williams in recent months because of his subpar performance (playing out of position) with the Bills last season.

Williams’ two-year deal has a cap hit of $8.5 million per season. Here’s why PFF said it ranks his contract worst in the NFL at his position:

“The Dolphins could have retained Olivier Vernon on the franchise tag for only a little more than they gave Mario Williams over two years. Williams suffered a dreadful season in Buffalo, recording the worst pass-rush grade of all edge defenders. He managed only 37 combined pressures in 507 rushes, ranking fourth from bottom in pass-rushing productivity. Williams’ 42.5 pass-rush grade helped him to 93rd in our overall edge defender rankings.

“The Bills wisely noticed the decline in Williams’ performance, cutting ties with him at the right time. The fact Miami decided to hand him $17 million over two years is baffling. Their bookend pass-rushers consist of a 34-year-old coming off an ACL surgery [Cam Wake] and a 31-year-old coming off the worst season of his career. In the likely case of another disappointing season, Williams will cost $2 million in dead money to cut. It would be a surprise if he played well enough to make the $10.5 million he’s set to earn.”

• What’s more, PFF says Jordan Cameron’s deal (one year with an $8 million cap hit) is the third-worst among all tight ends, even though he took a pay cut.

PFF’s explanation: “After two solid years as a receiving tight end in Cleveland, the Dolphins signed Cameron to a two-year contract, and the first season of that deal was a flop. Last year, his 0.97 yards per route run mark was the lowest for tight ends with at least 300 routes run. In fact, in each of the last two games of the season, fellow Miami tight end Dion Sims played more snaps than Cameron. Even at his best in 2013, Cameron recorded the second-most receiving yards for tight ends, but part of that was simply volume of targets—his receiving grade was only 15th among his positional peers that season. It doesn’t help his case that he’s graded out as a below-average run-blocker each of the last four seasons.

“After his poor performance, he took a pay cut (which saved him from getting released), but his cap hit is still the fourth-highest for tight ends in 2016. If we were just looking at worst contracts in 2016, Cameron would have topped the list, but since the Dolphins are free from his contract after the year, that dropped him to No. 3 on this list.”

• And finally, PFF ranks Earl Mitchell’s contract fifth-worst among interior defenders, even though his cap hit averages just $4 million the next two seasons. Here is PFF’s justification:

“Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh in 2015, Mitchell struggled mightily, finishing 97th among interior defensive linemen with a 64.1 overall grade. He was especially weak against the run, finishing 60th among defensive tackles with a 4.2 run-stop percentage (for an overall run-defense grade of 34.2). He didn’t grade positively after Week 8 of 2015, accumulating just three stops and four pressures during that stretch.

“Mitchell’s contract is not an onerous one for the Dolphins, as he is due—at most—$1 million in dead money were he to be cut at any point over the next two seasons. That said, Mitchell has never finished higher than 30th in overall grading among defensive tackles during any point in his career, and yet his salary is currently 16th among 4-3 defensive tackles on a per-year basis. With the Dolphins allocating significant resources to Suh for the foreseeable future, it’s probably not the best use of resources to pay Mitchell like an above-average interior defender, especially given that they’re making a similarly questionable move by paying Mario Williams $17 million over two years to replace Olivier Vernon.”

 

MEDIA PERSONNEL NOTES

Tom Jackson is leaving ESPN by his choice, meaning the network will have an entirely new cast of analysts alongside Chris Berman on Sunday Countdown. Gone: Jackson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson. New: Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Trent Dilfer (already an ESPN employee) and Charles Woodson.

And Berman reportedly will leave ESPN's NFL host job after this season.

• Fox hired former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman to replace ESPN-bound Moss on its 11 a.m.-noon NFL pregame show that most Fox affiliates carried last season, before the main pre-game show at noon. Tillman joins Charissa Thompson, Colin Cowherd and Dave Wannstedt on that prelude to Fox's main pregame.

• ESPN assigned Dave Flemming and Jesse Palmer to Thursday night college games, a change from last year’s team of Joe Tessitore (who was promoted to Saturday nights to replace Brad Nessler), Palmer and David Pollack (will now work exclusively as a studio analyst)...

• One other note: Despite winning their division, the Panthers are getting just one appearance in a combined 106 NHL telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Net next season. And the one appearance is in the lowest-profile of time slots: a late Wednesday night February game in San Jose, on NBC Sports Net.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 26, 2016

Examining Dolphins' roster battles, by position, with camp looming; Scout assesses Dion Waiters; Marlins nuggets

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Dolphins training camp starts Friday with five legitimate starting battles: Laremy Tunsil vs. Dallas Thomas at left guard (I expect Tunsil to emerge as the starter); Arian Foster vs. Jay Ajayi at running back (Adam Gase loves Ajayi, but Foster is obviously far more accomplished); Billy Turner against a cast of thousands at right guard; Isa Abdul-Quddus vs. Michael Thomas at safety and Earl Mitchell vs. Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle.

The Tony Lippett vs. Xavien Howard cornerback battle isn’t much of one now, with Howard out potentially a few weeks after knee surgery, but expected back by the Sept. 11 opener at Seattle.

But there are also many unresolved questions about who makes the 53-man roster. Keep in mind that Adam Gase contractually has control over who makes the 53.

Where things stand:

• Defensive line: Cam Wake, Mario Williams, Jason Jones and Andre Branch will share time at end, and Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips are set at tackle. So that's seven.

That leaves potentially two jobs open among Dion Jordan if he's reinstated, Chris Jones (a former Patriots starter who was deemed expendable after missing last season with an injury), Chris McCain and Terrence Fede (both have practice squad eligibility but need a strong camp to stick on the 53), plus long shots DeAndre Coleman and Cleyon Laing, among others.

The Dolphins have a plan for Jordan if he's reinstated, and agent Doug Hendrickson has told me that the Dolphins have indicated he's in their plans. I would make Chris Jones the slight front-runner for the other job, but that job is very much open.  

If McCain and Fede outplay Chris Jones, then Jason Jones could fill the role of Miami’s fourth defensive tackle.

• Linebacker: Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are set as starters, and the Dolphins want to develop Neville Hewitt and Zach Vigil, though neither is assured of anything.

Miami values Spencer Paysinger for his special teams work. They might only keep six, if Gase opts for more players on offense than defense, which isn’t uncommon.

James Michael-Johnson, who appeared in three games for Miami last season, Mike Hull and undrafted rookies James Burgess, Tyler Gray and Akil Blount would need to unset Hewitt, Vigil or Paysinger and none of the three undrafted rookies made the type of offseason splash that Vigil did last year.

• Cornerback: Bryon Maxwell, Lippett, Howard and Bobby McCain are automatic.

That leaves Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, former Cowboys backup Tyler Patmon, and seventh-rounder Jordan Lucas competing for one job (backup slot, behind McCain). It’s a toss-up among those three, with Lucas a practice squad possibility if he’s cut. Unless Ekpre-Olomu regains his pre-knee injury form, Miami might find a better option on waivers on Labor Day weekend.

Howard’s injury will give more reps to Chimdi Chekwa and creates the potential need to keep a sixth corner to start the season.

Chekwa is essentially competing with every cornerback cut in the next seven weeks. Miami isn’t believed to be pursuing Antonio Cromartie, the biggest name among unsigned cornerbacks.

• Safety: Reshad Jones is automatic, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Michael Thomas presumably will stick and Walt Aikens is the clear front-runner for the No. 4 job (ahead of Shamiel Gary and AJ Hendy), because the Dolphins consider him one of their best special teams players, and because Vance Joseph says he sees Aikens developing into a good safety.

The question is whether Thomas holds onto a starting job ahead of Abdul-Quddus, who thrived as a late-season starter in Detroit.

• Running back: Gase likes Damien Williams --- and Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead had some moments this summer and the Dolphins aren’t opposed to keeping a fourth back behind Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake. Because the Dolphins don't have a fullback, they believe that gives them the luxury to keep an extra tailback or tight end.

• Receiver: DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo are automatic and 5-7 Jakeem Grant almost assuredly will be Miami’s fifth receiver because of his return ability. What's more, the team believes he can contribute as a rookie receiver, too.

“The skills are there” for Grant to be a dangerous slot receiver, backup QB Matt Moore said. “He’s as fast as lightning. He’s getting a grasp of the offense. He’s understanding leverage on the field. Absolutely, he can be a player. There’s a future there, I think.”

If Miami keeps a sixth receiver, a case could be made for Griff Whalen, a competent possession receiver who worked well with Ryan Tannehill this offseason. This could be the last chance for Matt Hazel, entering his third year.

• Tight end: Because of his lack of in-line blocking experience, the odds are against seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte can beat out Jake Stoneburner, Dominique Jones (12 NFL games for three different teams) or a player who will become available later for the No. 3 job behind Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims.

But the Dolphins really like Duarte's pass-catching ability and he will get a long look, with the practice squad a strong possibility if he doesn't make the 53.

Undrafted Gabe Hughes has strong receiving skills and, like Duarte, is a candidate for the practice squad.

• Quarterback: Gase indicated he hasn’t decided whether to keep a third quarterback behind Tannehill and Matt Moore. But Brandon Doughty will have every chance to make his case if he impresses a lot in preseason, and if the Dolphins fear that he would be signed elsewhere if they try to move him to the practice squad. Zac Dysert is a camp arm, essentially.

• Offensive line: Stiffest competition on the team. Four jobs are automatic, with Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey, Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James.

Billy Turner has a good chance to stick – if not as the fifth starter, then as the backup, because there’s still upside there. Dallas Thomas, the first team left guard through minicamp, isn’t automatic but has a good chance to stick as a backup swing tackle/guard. That’s six. Then it gets interesting.

Jermon Bushrod has value as a potential starter at guard and backup at tackle and should make it unless he bombs. That’s seven. Jamil Douglas has value as a backup center and backup guard and should stick, though it's not a complete slam dunk if he’s beaten out by Kraig Urbik or Jacques McClendon for the backup center job.

I would make Bushrod, Douglas and Urbik the favorites if Miami keeps nine, with McClendon and Sam Young also in the mix. The Dolphins originally signed Young as Jason Fox's replacement as the No. 3 tackle, and he will get a look, but the subsequent additions of Bushrod and Tunsil make Young potentially expendable.

And Thomas can’t be awful in preseason, or he would be at risk.

CHATTER

• A veteran scout, on what the Heat is getting in guard Dion Waiters: “The reigning perception is he's a knucklehead, but I have heard otherwise from one of Oklahoma City’s scouts who said he wasn’t. He's a streak shooter, can get to the basket, can get his own shot. He is not bad defensively. He can get into guys. I’ve always liked his passing. He can make plays. He's got a pretty good feel.

“The reservations about him are he was such an erratic player. He had a terrific playoff [this past season] at different points. He's a good backup on a very good team. If he's starting, his warts are going to come to the forefront more.

“He’s a talent, better than Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington,  different than Josh Richardson. Richardson is the better defender. Waiters has got a got a game off the dribble. Ellington has no game off the dribble; he’s a spot up guy, end of story.”

Please see the last post here for what Pat Riley and Waiters had to say about their marriage.

• Coincidental timing: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and CEO Nick Arison got married the same day on opposite coasts on Saturday, Spoelstra at Vizcaya Village, Arison in Santa Barbara, Cal.

Congrats to both. Pat Riley attended Spoelstra’s. GM Andy Elisburg attended Arison's.

• Though Derek Dietrich has played well in his absence, the Marlins indicate Dee Gordon (ineligible for postseason) will play immediately when he comes off suspension Thursday and will play a lot.

“Dee is getting back at the perfect time,” Don Mattingly said today.

Dietrich entered tonight on an 0 for 14 skid.

• The Marlins, continuing to search for pitching in a trade, were buoyed by Jarred Cosart’s strong start Monday.

Before Monday's game, owner Jeffrey Loria told him: “When you walk in those doors, I want you to be the guy you were mentally in 2014.”

Loria and Cosart believed that would translate to on-field performance.

Cosart said "hearing that from the owner was encouraging; I owe a lot to him and this front office for getting me over in Houston."

Cosart said when he was demoted this year, “I was in a rut longer than anyone would like.”

He tinkered with his delivery at Triple A New Orleans and the change appears to have helped.

Giancarlo Stanton now has 18 RBI in his last 16 games, including a two-run triple in a 5-0 win against the Phillies tonight. Miami broke it open with four in the eighth.

• For tons of UM notes today, including Mark Richt addressing his receiver situation, recruiting, Michael Irvin Jr., and more; plus Pat Riley's comments about Dion Waiters, please click here.

Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz