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30 posts from July 2013

July 31, 2013

Injuries mounting for Dolphins; News, views from Wednesday's practice

Sixteen Dolphins notes, quotes, news items and observations from Wednesday at training camp:

### An upgraded Dolphins wide receiver unit continues to be beset by injuries, which has forced management to sign three players in the past four days.

At least four receivers have suffered injuries in camp, and Mike Wallace also stood on the sideline for all of team drills during Wednesday night’s practice, for reasons the team would not explain.

Wallace participated in individual drills and appeared to be moving normally. He did not need to do any rehab work during the scrimmage. So if there's an injury here -- and that's the sense we get -- it doesn't appear terribly serious. Coach Joe Philbin -- as is his policy --refused to discuss Wallace’s status or why he did not play in Monday’s scrimmage.

What’s more, Brian Hartline did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and appears to be nursing an injury to his lower leg, in the calf area. Hartline declined to discuss his injury, saying his absence from Monday’s scrimmage “was coach’s decision – nothing to do with me.” He missed all of preseason last year with a calf injury. The good news: This injury is not believed to be very serious.

While his teammates practiced Wednesday, Hartline did light running and leg exercises. With Hartline and Wallace out, Brandon Gibson and Marvin McNutt were the first-team receivers, and McNutt again was very good (more on him later).

### Meanwhile, Armon Binns – who entered camp as the likely No. 4 receiver -- was released by the Dolphins on Wednesday after suffering a season-ending knee injury during Sunday’s practice. Undrafted rookie Jasper Collins also was released after trying to play through a hamstring injury for a week.

And Rishard Matthews remains out with a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for a few weeks.

After signing undrafted former Louisville receiver Andrell Smith on Sunday, the Dolphins added two others on Wednesday: former Dolphin Julius Pruitt and Keenan Davis, who went undrafted out of Iowa. All three have good size; Smith and Davis are 6-3, Pruitt 6-2. Pruitt was terrific Wednesday night, catching a deep ball and a couple of other passes.

The Dolphins chose Pruitt and Davis over three others who auditioned: veteran receivers Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie and undrafted Oregon rookie Lavaiser Tuinei.

“We have a history with Julius – we’re glad to have him back,” Philbin said. “He’s a good player.”

Pruitt had three previous stints with the Dolphins and appeared in nine regular season games in 2011 but did not catch a pass. He was released before last season, which he called “heartbreaking.”

Pruitt, who had several catches in Wednesday’s practice, spent the 2012 regular season out of football, caring for his three-month old daughter, and no NFL team asked him to audition before the Dolphins called him this week. He said was “pretty nervous” before Tuesday’s workout.

“I had jitters,” he said. “Being out of football for a year, you don’t want to lose it again. I’m hungrier.”

Pruitt said “everything is familiar to me” about the team’s offensive system and “special teams is where I plan to make my mark.”

As for Davis, he caught 111 passes for 1459 yards and seven touchdowns at Iowa and signed with Cleveland after the draft but was released last week.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” he said. “You have to start rethinking your approach in Cleveland.”

### Others in the mix for those final two receiver jobs, besides Davis and Pruitt: McNutt (who was very good in Wednesday’s practice --- including a one-handed catch in 7 on 7 work), Matthews, Smith, Chad Bumphis, Jeff Fuller (several catches but also a fumble forced by Dimitri Patterson), Brian Tyms (caught two deep balls Wednesday and had his best practice of camp) and Kenny Stafford. McNutt has emerged as a favorite of sorts for one of the last two spots.

And don't forget return specialist Marcus Thigpen, who had played mostly running back early in camp, but is now getting more work at receiver.

“I like everything he’s doing,” Philbin said. “I’m delighted with him. He has good hands, finds a way to get open.”

That praise was the curse of death --- Thigpen dropped an easy catch early in Wednesday's session. But he rebounded and had a decent practice.

### Philbin said he has an idea how much Dolphins starters will play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame game against Dallas in Canton, Oh., but declined to say.

Meanwhile, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett suggested he will primarily play Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney, who are battling for the No. 3 quarterback job, instead of starter Tony Romo and primary backup Kyle Orton. Garrett publicly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Romo playing one series.

NBC assuredly will be thrilled having large doses of Nick Stephens vs. Pat Devlin.

### The Dolphins continued to mix and match on the offensive line during Wednesday’s practice, and the unit continued to struggle at times in pass protection and on some running plays, as well.

Nate Garner, Lance Louis and Josh Samuda all shared time with the first team at right guard. It was Louis’ first appearance with the first team since returning from last November’s knee injury as a member of the Chicago Bears, and he appeared rusty.

Meanwhile, Dallas Thomas – who had been playing guard – got work at both left and right tackle. Guard John Jerry remains out and isn't attending practice; a source said Jerry was on crutches recently, and he reportedly had arthroscopic knee surgery that will sideline him for a few weeks. And rookie guard Brian Thomas limped off with an injury Wednesday.

### For the second practice in a row, Matt Moore had an interception returned for a touchdown. This time, it was Philip Wheeler who got the pick, off a tip from Brent Grimes. Wheeler has been very good in pass coverage.

### Defensive tackle Paul Soliai tackled Lamar Miller for a safety on a drill from the Dolphins’ one-yard line. On the first team, Soliai was paired with Randy Starks, who continues to alternate with Jared Odrick.

### After beating Will Yeatman for a sack in Monday’s scrimmage, rookie Dion Jordan beat starting left tackle Jonathan Martin for two sacks in Wednesday’s practice.

Jordan said he played about 10 plays in Monday’s scrimmage: “I did alright. There’s a lot I need to improve on.”

Coach Joe Philbin said Jordan “has very good quickness off the ball. He’s playing a new position. It’s a brave new world for him.”

### Tannehill was so irritated by the protection (or lack thereof) that he threw the ball down after two sacks. Jordan, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe all had sacks in a four play sequence. 

### Caleb Sturgis, out the previous four days with a groin injury, returned and kicked well, hitting several from 47 yards and then a 42-yarder to end the scrimmage. But he hit the upright from 43 yards. Dan Carpenter didn't attempt a field goal.

### Cornerback Jamar Taylor, out the past week with soreness from a sports hernia, returned to practice but was limited. Will Davis, who had picks in the previous two packages, was beaten on several passes across the middle tonight. Carroll was beaten deep, and Richard Marshall has had a very average camp. Bottom line: Patterson is latching onto the starting job opposite Grimes.

### Philbin said he told the team Wednesday that the tempo of the offense isn’t quite where he wants it: “I want to see our guys play fast and decisive.” Tempo was better Wednesday, but pass protection was not.

### Though an extra preseason game and the accompanying extra week of practice increase the risk of injuries, Tannehill said “it’s a good thing for this team to get an extra week of work. Get a lot of guys some reps.”

### Dion Sims joined Dustin Keller in two tight end sets with the starters. Michael Egnew appeared to be demoted to the group featuring mostly third and fourth teamers.

### Other highlights tonight: Les Robinson tackling Miller for a four-yard loss... Josh Kaddu had a sack... Daniel Thomas ran well.

### Tannehill has now gone six consecutive practices without an interception. “I definitely think I’m improving.  Have we made some mistakes? Yes. Have we made some bad throws? Yes. But we’re improving.” If only his receiving group was healthy....

July 30, 2013

UM battles looming; Dolphins, UM/NCAA and Oden updates; Tino/Marlins fallout


UM football camp opens Saturday, with several battles percolating. Here are seven worth tracking:

### Cornerback: Ladarius Gunter (UM’s most consistent cornerback, according to defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio) and Antonio Crawford (UM’s fastest corner) enter camp as favorites to start, though Tracy Howard has a shot to overtake Crawford.

UM believes Howard began playing better last season when he became more receptive to coaching and playing the defensive technique he was taught. He’s fast, but not quite as fast as some fans expected…. Improved Nate Dortch is the favorite for the No. 4 job, but expect impressive newcomer Artie Burns to seriously challenge him.

### Middle linebacker: Jimmy Gaines versus Raphael Kirby looms as one of camp’s best battles.

D’Onofrio said Gaines led at the close of spring and “Gaines’ importance can’t be underestimated as far as how smart he is to get us lined up."

But Kirby was more heavily recruited and has a higher ceiling athletically. Both should play a lot, especially if Miami plays a 3-4 defense at times, which some players expect. (Using more 3-4 has been discussed, and we'll see if coaches go ahead and do that. Everyone expects to continue to see a lot of 4-3 defense, too)….

Denzel Perryman (UM wants more consistency) and impressive newcomer Alex Figueroa are heavy favorites to start at outside linebacker. And when/if UM shifts from a 4-3 to a 3-4, Tyriq McCord should play as an outside edge rusher. Backup defensive end Kelvin Cain also could play outside linebacker when UM uses a 3-4.

### Receiver: Allen Hurns and Herb Waters ended spring as the starters, but Rashawn Scott, Phillip Dorsett and Malcolm Lewis will push them, and all will play.

“We knew Waters would be a big wide-out,” coach Al Golden said. “But we’re learning he has lateral quickness and can make people miss.”

UM people rave about freshman Stacy Coley and the improvement of Jontavious Carter, but cracking the top five will be very difficult for either barring injuries.

### Tight end: Like last year, Asante Cleveland entered the summer first on the depth chart, ahead of Clive Walford, with newcomer Beau Sandland third. UM is hopeful Walford (biceps) will be ready to start the season, and he remains the favorite if he's healthy.

But offensive coordinator James Coley appears to have a higher regard for Cleveland than predecessor Jedd Fisch did. So if Walford is healthy, this might evolve into a battle between Cleveland and Sandland  -- who's a skilled receiver -- for the No. 2 job, with Jake O’Donnell and Standish Dobard behind them. Sandland has excellent receiving skills, but the transition from junior college was bumpy at times this spring.

"The transition of speed and size is still an adjustment for him," tight ends coach Larry Scott said earlier this offseason. "You've got to handle being moved around."

### Offensive line: UM believes it has at least seven players capable of starting. Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder are presumed starters on the right side. Shane McDermott is the front-runner at center.

On the left side, UM figures to use some combination of Ereck Flowers, Malcolm Bunche and Jon Feliciano, with two of them starting. UM is open to playing Bunche at guard and tackle. And tackle Taylor Gadbois and guard Danny Isidora have impressed coaches enough to become factors.

### Safety: UM ideally would like Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins to seize starting jobs and expects them to reach heights, over the next three seasons, that Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque never could. Bush, off a hernia operation six weeks ago, hopes to be ready for the start of the season.

But Bush and Jenkins still make young player mistakes at times; Bush had D’Onofrio exasperated during the first scrimmage in March before closing strong. If either has serious missteps, UM would be open to starting heady A.J. Highsmith or Kacy Rodgers.

### Defensive tackle: D'Onofrio said Olsen Pierre, Curtis Porter and Luther Robinson ended spring far ahead of any of the other tackles, including Earl Moore and Corey King. Ufomba Kamalu will help immediately… Robinson, much improved in the past year, will be given every chance to push front-runners Pierre and Porter for a starting job.

### Elsewhere: Dallas Crawford, among UM’s most improved players, has a leg up for the backup running back job behind Duke Johnson, but UM expects newcomer Gus Edwards to help in short yardage, with Maurice Hagens also factoring in there. Eduardo Clements (neck) received medical clearance on Tuesday, according to caneinsight.com, but a UM spokesperson said he had no confirmation of that… Ryan Williams enters camp clearly ahead of Gray Crow for the backup job behind Stephen Morris

When UM plays a 4-3, Shayon Green -- despite his lack of pass-rush skills -- again figures to play a lot opposite Anthony Chickillo because UM loves his toughness and the fact that he’s difficult to displace on running plays. The depth will be better here, with elite pass-rushing freshman Alquadin Mohammad and former Wisconsin starter David Gilbert (UM expects him in August) joining Cain, improved Dwayne Hoilett and Jelani Hamilton as top reserves. Dyron Dye remains out with an injury, and the NCAA hasn't told him if he will be eligible, anyway....

Cincinnati transfer Pat O’Donnell will be the punter, and Matt Goudis likely the kicker. UM lists Dorsett as the primary punt returner –- ahead of Johnson –- and Dorsett or Lewis as the first-team kick returners. Coley and Corn Elder could factor in with returns.


The NCAA quietly has sent out word to some involved parties that it would like to announce UM’s sanctions around Aug. 8 but made no guarantees…. Elite defensive end Mohammad has qualified academically for UM, his high school coach, Don Bosco's Greg Toal, said Tuesday. UM expects Mohammaed -- rated by rivals.com as the 49th incoming recruit in the country -- will contribute on defense this season. But UM is pessimistic about ace pass-rusher Devante Bond’s chances of qualifying.

### Before signing Julius Pruitt after a workout on Tuesday, the Dolphins auditioned not only established veterans Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie, but also former college standouts Keenan Davis (Iowa) and Lavaiser Tuinei (Oregon/briefly with the Cowboys). (UPDATE: The Dolphins on Wednesday signed Davis as well, while waiving Jasper Collins and the injured Armon Binns.) The Dolphins like and wanted to work out former Arizona Cardinals receiver Early Doucet, but he already had a Seattle tryout booked.

The Dolphins were intrigued with Robinson and put him through a physical (unlike Collie). But there have been concerns about Robinson’s health after a concussion with Jacksonville last season. Robinson wasn't told if his health factored into the Dolphins' decision. 

### The problem with receiver Rishard Matthews’ knee injury -– expected to keep him out several weeks –- is that it happened during training camp, which means the Dolphins cannot stash him on the PUP list for the first six games of the season. So if he’s not healed by the opener, Miami must decide whether it's worth keeping him on the roster or whether to cut him and potentially re-sign him when he's healthy. Matthews impressed the team during the offseason program.

### We hear a few Marlins players are annoyed that Derek Dietrich and his agent waited more than two months to go to management to accuse since-ousted hitting coach Tino Martinez of physically confronting Dietrich.

“Derek didn’t want to ruffle feathers, but he ruffled feathers anyway,” infielder Greg Dobbs said. “You don’t sweep it under the rug and rehash it two months later. You deal with it then and there. I hope it’s a learning experience for him and his agent.” Another Marlin also expressed disappointment in Dietrich....

One Marlins person said Martinez wouldn’t have tried his abusive tactics with accomplished players such as Giancarlo Stanton. (See Clark Spencer's Marlins blog for more Martinez fallout today.)

### Center Greg Oden probably won’t decide among the Heat and five other teams until this weekend, agent Mike Conley Sr. said Tuesday, adding that formal offers haven’t been made yet. He said the Heat has seen “all it needs to see” from a medical standpoint and that Oden won’t necessarily take the highest offer. But asked if a Heat offer at the $1 million minimum would be good enough, Conley said he was not sure.

July 29, 2013

Tuesday 5 p.m. update: Fins signing Pruitt; News, views from Monday night's Dolphins scrimmage

5 p.m. update: As we first reported on Twitter earlier today (@flasportsbuzz), a source said the Dolphins are signing receiver Julius Pruitt, who appeared in nine games for them in 2011 and was cut by Miami in training camp last season.

Pruitt worked out for them today, along with Laurent Robinson, Austin Collie and two others who haven't played in an NFL game. Pat Devlin threw them passes. 

The Dolphins like Pruitt's speed and he's very good on special teams, which is critical in light of several special teams breakdowns in Monday's scrimmage.

He has not caught a pass in an NFL regular season game but caught seven passes for 61 yards in last year's preseason. The Dolphins always have been intrigued by his skill set, but he has never managed to stick. 

The Dolphins lost Armon Binns to a season-ending ACL injury over the weekend, and Rishard Matthews (knee) is expected to be out at least a few more weeks.


Quick hits from Monday night’s Dolphins scrimmage:

### Despite playing without three of his top four receivers (Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and out-for-the-year Armon Binns, Ryan Tannehill had a solid night: 9 for 13, 75 yards, 3 touchdowns. He has now gone five practices-or-scrimmages in a row without an interception. Very encouraging.

The touchdowns covered 24 yards to Charles Clay (a crossing pattern against Jason Trusnik in which Clay eluded Jimmy Wilson), a 14-yarder to Dustin Keller (Keller dived into the end zone) and a nine-yarder to Daniel Thomas.

### Dion Jordan got extensive work in the second half and generated pressure on at least two passing plays, including a sack when he badly beat Will Yeatman. But Jonathan Martin stymied Jordan on several other plays, with Jordan unable to turn the corner against the second-year tackle.

### Matt Moore’s night? Pretty pedestrian. He finished 5 for 10 for 46 yards an interception, which was returned 50 yards by Kelcie McCray for a touchdown. McCray, who missed all of last season with an injury, has a firm grasp on the No. 4 safety job.

Meantime, Pat Devlin finished 10 for 19 for 85 yards and an interception.

### Dimitri Patterson opened as the first-team corner opposite Brent Grimes – a position Patterson has fully earned with an excellent camp -- with Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll holding down the second-team corner duties. But Marshall continues to get a lot of first team work. And Carroll made a splendid play breaking up a pass from Tannehill to Brandon Gibson.

Meanwhile, rookie corner Will Davis continued his knack for making plays, including an interception of Devlin in the end zone on the final play of the scrimmage. That was the second day in a row with an interception for the Utah State alum. And Davis has at least five pass breakups in camp.

### Josh Samuda opened with the first team at left guard, with Richie Incognito at right guard. But if John Jerry needs a few weeks to recover from his knee injury, I would still make Lance Louis the favorite to win the open guard job – IF he fully recovers from last November’s knee injury. That’s a big IF.

Louis, at his best, is one of the top five linemen on this team. But at less than 100 percent, he’s not. He has practiced sparingly in camp.

### Kevin Coyle had to have been thrilled by this play: Olivier Vernon sacked and stripped Matt Moore, and Jared Odrick recovered. Odrick had another good night, generating heat on Tannehill on another play.

### Mike Gillislee scampered 17 yards with a screen pass and displayed good burst on several runs, closing with 21 yards on six carries. But a fumble tarnished his night.

### The running game, overall, wasn’t spectacular – largely a tribute to Miami’s stout defensive front. Lamar Miller had 12 yards on five carries and Daniel Thomas 15 yards on four attempts. Jonas Gray ran four times for 13 yards.

### Keep an eye on former CFL linebacker Les Robinson. He continues to flash, including a terrific stop on Gillislee.

### The Dolphins defense is still flummoxing the offense with safety blitzes. Reshad Jones and Keelan Johnson each had sacks.

### Other defensive notables: Philip Wheeler dropped a potential interception but had a solid night in pass coverage…. Koa Misi had a sack.

### Dan Carpenter, competing with injured Caleb Sturgis for the kicker’s job, had mixed results. He hit field goals from 32, 44 and 50 yards but also missed two from 49 yards and had a PAT blocked by Kheeston Randall.

Carpenter entered the scrimmage 16 for 20 on field goals during training camp.

### Besides Carpenter’s misses, a Brandon Fields punt likely would have been blocked up the middle had the play continued. And there were several breakdowns in special teams coverage that resulted in two long returns, by Thipgen and De’Andre Presley. What’s more, Thigpen fumbled another punt, which the defense recovered. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi can’t be pleased.

### Several young defensive linemen continued to make a pitch for roster spots. Randall, as we noted, blocked an extra point. A.J. Francis, an undrafted rookie from Maryland, had a sack and deflected a pass.

Chris Burnette, an undrafted rookie from Old Dominion, recovered a Gillislee fumble that was forced by defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo, an undrafted rookie from Fresno State.

### Of the young receivers bidding for roster spots, Chad Bumphis (2 for 41) and Marvin McNutt (3 for 23) had the best nights. McNutt held onto a pass over the middle despite being leveled by Wheeler. Brian Tyms had two catches for 12 yards but also a drop. Kenny Stafford caught one pass for seven yards and Jeff Fuller was shut out, with Moore overthrowing him on one play.

### As for the tight ends, Dustin Keller had two catches for 18 yards (including the touchdown), Dion Sims 1 for 6 and Michael Egnew 1 for 11. But Egnew couldn’t haul in what would have been a difficult touchdown catch. Tight end/H-back Charles Clay had the one reception that went for a touchdown.

### Hartline was in pads before the game, seemingly prepared to play, but tweaked something and removed his pads. The Dolphins wouldn’t comment on his status. Nor would they explain Wallace's absence.

### The crowd of 22,876 was the largest for a Dolphins scrimmage in many years and easily topped the audience of 7000 for last year’s scrimmage, which was held on a Saturday morning.


Monday Dolphins chatter: Coyle address defense; audition booked; Philbin's thoughts

With their depth depleted by injuries to arguably their fourth and fifth best receivers, the Dolphins on Tuesday will audition former Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson and potentially others.

The Dolphins pursued Robinson in March 2012 after a breakout season for the Cowboys in which he caught 54 passes, including 11 touchdowns. But the 6-2 Robinson suffered a concussion last season and was limited to seven games and 24 receptions. Teams want to make sure he’s healthy.

Robinson, 28, worked out for the Jets, Patriots and Lions in the past few weeks. He lives in Miami and would love to join the Dolphins, a source said.

Austin Collie also is believed to be on Miami's radar. Collie suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game last year and has had three concussions in his career.

Other free agent receivers still available include Randy Moss (highly unlikely), Chad Johnson (even more unlikely), Brandon Lloyd, Early Doucett, Donald Jones, Donald Driver, Brandon Stokley, Deion Branch and Ruvel Martin. Former Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo also is looking for work.

"We’re always looking to improve, whether from within or without,” coach Joe Philbin said when asked about receiver. “We’re not afraid to do whatever we have to do to improve at any position.”

The Dolphins are looking for receiver help after losing Armon Binns for the season because of a knee injury and Rishard Matthews for at least several weeks because of an injury. Before their injuries, Binns and Matthews had been the favorites for the fourth and fifth receiver jobs behind Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson.

Meanwhile, Philbin said Monday he wants to take a longer look at the young receivers competing for spots, including Marvin McNutt, Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller. “Those three guys  -- we like the size of those guys,” Philbin said. “They have good length and speed and playmaking ability.

Philbin said undrafted rookie Chad Bumphis “has really come along a little bit. He’s a crafty receiver. Has found a way to get open. Has caught the ball better. Junior Collins has similar skills – is quick, goods hands. It’s a good crop of young guys we have to get further evaluation on.”


Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, permitted to speak to reporters on Monday for the first time during training camp, said he is emphasizing creating more turnovers “as hard as I’ve ever done in all my years of coaching.”

Coyle has been showed his players tapes of the fumbles forced last season by the Patriots, Bears and Bengals -- three of the best in the league at that. He also said players are encouraged to strip and punch footballs hanging from the walls in their defensive meeting rooms.

“Hopefully it will start to translate to our play,” Coyle said.

Coyle addressed other issues:

### He said Dion Jordan is working exclusively at defensive end “in the early stages of camp.” But the Dolphins see the possibility of using him some at linebacker eventually.

“He has a lot of position versatility,” Coyle said. “I see him a lot like Olivier Vernon in the sense there will be times we can use him in a lot of different spots. He’s very athletic, can cover, can certainly rush the passer, which is his strength. We’ve got to get him stronger and his shoulder comes back around from the injury.”

### Coyle said Vernon “has improved tremendously” and is “playing very consistently. We feel he is going to make a much stronger contribution to the defense.”

### On the decision to replace linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler: “We’ll determine if we were right as we go down the road. But what we’ve seen in practice is two guys that are very explosive, play physical, play an aggressive style of game.  

“They’re both very good blitzers, which is something we felt going into the offseason we had to improve, to get our linebackers more productive in the blitz, because we do utilize them quite a bit.”

But Coyle said Ellerbe and Wheeler “are going to be difference makers for us. [But] there’s a level of consistency in both of their play we’re not at yet.”

### He said a big emphasis has been “to eliminate the deep balls, the plus 20 yard passes” and defensive players are making far fewer mental errors than a year ago at this time.


### Philbin, on why he likes Lamar Miller: “He has good instincts as a runner. Has very, very good athletic ability. Has good speed. He can pass protect. It took him a little while to get the responsibilities down, the blitz adjustments down. At the end of the year, he was very sound in his pass protection. He has good hands, can catch the football.”

### Philbin said: “If you asked me, Joe, why were 7-9 last year? I would say minus 10.” That was the team’s turnover differential.


### Dan Carpenter enters Monday’s scrimmage 16 of 20 in field goals during training camp. “I’ve seen the same guy he’s been,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said.  “His approach has been outstanding.”

Meanwhile, rookie Caleb Sturgis, Carpenter’s competition, remains sidelined with a groin injury after making three of his first six field goals. Asked about Sturgis’ performance, Rizzi said: “Caleb has a very strong leg. Every kicker has got to continue to be accurate… It’s a matter of performing in the games.”

Rizzi said he will “give my honest opinion” when Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland ask his opinion on the kicker battle.

### Rizzi said the Dolphins are still evaluating whether to have Marcus Thigpen handle all punt returns or have him again share those responsibilities. Last season, Davone Bess – who was traded to Cleveland – handled punts close to Miami’s end zone.

Rizzi mentioned Brian Hartline, Brent Grimes and Brandon Gibson among players who could share punt return duties with Thigpen. But using Grimes in that role would seem risky.

Rizzi said Thigpen, who handles nearly all of the kickoffs, “had a great year” but left some plays “on the field” and can still improve in decision making.

By the way, Rizzi loves how Dion Jordan has embraced his role on special teams and hopes he can emerge as a force blocking field goals.

### Quotable: “I want to thank everyone for all the prayers and support. I’ll bounce back from this stronger than before! God bless.” --- Receiver Armon Binns on Monday, a day after he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee, which will sideline him for the season.

### Please check my blog and Armando's Dolphins blog later for some thoughts from tonight's 7 p.m. scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium. And follow us all on Twitter -- @flasportsbuzz, @ArmandoSalguero and @AdamHBeasley. 





July 27, 2013

Fins lose player for year; Jordan makes big jump; Dolphins chatter; Canes, Heat, Marlins personnel issues

Sunday night update: The Dolphins have lost receiver Armon Binns for the season after he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in practice Sunday. Binns, who impressed the team throughout the offseason program, likely would have been Miami's No. 4 receiver and was getting some snaps with the first team throughout camp.

The Dolphins very much liked the idea of playing the 6-3 Binns in the slot at times.

Meanwhile, Rishard Matthews -- the front-runner for the Dolphins' No. 5 receiver job -- will be out several weeks with an undisclosed injury.

That leaves -- for now -- Marvin McNutt, Jeff Fuller, Brian Tyms, Chad Bumphis, Kenny Stafford, Jasper Collins and newcomer Andrell Smith competing for the No. 4 and 5 receiving jobs. McNutt has had the best camp of that group. Another receiver might be signed.

Matthews could end up as Miami's fourth receiver unless he needs to begin the season on the PUP list.

Also, return specialist Marcus Thigpen has taken some snaps at receiver in camp and could play there, though the Dolphins have been using him primarily as a tailback.

The Dolphins picked up Binns off waivers from Cincinnati last season. 



A six-pack of Dolphins notes:

### You know those concerns raised on draft night about whether Dion Jordan would be big enough to play defensive end, especially against the run? The draft’s third overall pick is trying to make that a non-issue.

After finishing his senior season at Oregon at 245 pounds, Jordan said he has bulked up to 260 thanks to “a lot of eating -- four meals a day, plus snacks.” But he insists it hasn’t affected his quickness.

For perspective, Cameron Wake is listed at 258 and Olivier Vernon at 268.

The weight gain should lessen concerns raised by analysts; NFL Network’s Heath Evans predicted in May that Jordan would be a “liability any time he’s in the game [at] 240 pounds” and vulnerable against the run.

But Nick Aliotti, Jordan’s defensive coordinator at Oregon, said: “He was very good for us against the run” and is stronger than most people believe.

As a pass rusher – where the Dolphins believe Jordan will make the most impact initially – he is “very good” but “close to his ceiling,” Aliotti said.

Fox’s Jay Glazer, who trained Jordan in January and February at Glazer’s MMAthletics in Los Angeles, said off the air Jordan “looks like an avatar. We have a Greco Roman wrestling we do that teaches guys leverage. This guy is [6-6]. I’m 5-7, and that dude was actually able to get under me. We did really violent hand-fighting stuff. Dion would do it with one arm [before his shoulder surgery].

“There are so many things you can do with him. They’re trying to figure out how to use him. He’s a great kid, such a polite, nice person. No thug in him. But when it’s time for battle, the [expletive] comes out.”

The Dolphins put Jordan’s locker next to Wake’s and Richie Incognito's so he can soak up their knowledge.

### Several Dolphins – including Mike Pouncey – mentioned last week how much faster new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler are than Karlos Dansby (now with Arizona) and Kevin Burnett (Oakland).

But quarterback Matt Moore -- while praising all four players -- also raised a good point, noting that “Karlos was a little longer and taller. So throwing those balls in the seams” was challenging.

Whether Miami upgraded at those two positions is debatable. Dolphins players say Ellerbe and Wheeler are better blitzers than Dansby and Burnett.

But against the run last year, Burnett (6th) and Dansby (11th) graded out higher in Pro Football Focus’ linebacker rankings than Ellerbe (13) and Wheeler (25).

The Dolphins believe the new duo will be better in coverage --- Ellerbe and Wheeler allowed 9.7 and 9.6 yards per reception last season, respectively, compared with 11.8 and 11.4 for Dansby and Burnett.

But Dansby allowed a lower percentage of passes to be completed against him than Ellerbe (68.5 to 71.7), and Burnett less than Wheeler (77.6 to 83.6).

“Wheeler is a journeyman,” former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.

### The early play at cornerback has been largely encouraging, aside from Jamar Taylor being sidelined with soreness after his sports hernia sugery. Brent Grimes has continued his excellent work from OTAs, and Dimitri Patterson --- who got reps opposite Grimes on Saturday --- has been better so far than Richard Marshall.

And promising third-round rookie cornerback Will Davis has at least five pass deflections in camp. That's not surprising, considering he had 17 breakups as a senior at Utah State.

“That’s one of the reasons Miami wanted me,” he said. Davis, 5-11, didn’t play football until his senior year of high school because “I thought I was way too small.” Then he missed a year in college when Western Washington dropped football. 

Davis has an ideal skill set to line up against a slot receiver, but he also can play outside. [SUNDAY UPDATE: Davis intercepted a Pat Devlin pass Sunday morning and returned it for a touchdown.]

If Grimes, Patterson and Marshall are the top three corners, then Davis is essentially battling Nolan Carroll and Taylor for the fourth spot in a four-man corner rotation.

Grimes, Marshall, Taylor and Davis will make the team, and Patterson seems likely to stick presuming he doesn't bomb in games. Carroll, who has special teams value, would be the favorite for the sixth job, but hardly a cinch.

### Dolphins players have been buzzing about rookie tight end Dion Sims, who is getting work with starter Dustin Keller in two tight end sets. “He’s definitely opened my eyes,” Moore said. “Good blocker, great size, good hands. Really good job creating space for himself.”

Meanwhile, a veteran defensive player said Michael Egnew's blocking remains a shortcoming.

### Dan Carpenter, leading the kicker competition against injured Caleb Sturgis, was led to believe money won’t be an issue --- he would make $2.7 million, Sturgis $405,000 -- though that often is a factor.

“I was told it would be a fair competition and they will keep who’s best,” Carpenter said.

Sturgis hopes to return in the next several days, but groin injuries are tough to predict. Carpenter, by the way, is 13 of 17 on field goals in camp, with all the misses from long range.

### Among national analysts passing through Dolphins camp last week, ESPN’s Cris Carter said offensive line is Miami’s “only real question mark” and predicted “Ryan Tannehill is going to be a special player. He has the ‘it’ factor. He throws the ball exceptional on the move.”

Carter expects Mike Wallace “to run a lot more shorter routes” than in Pittsburgh. Wallace said Saturday that catching a short pattern -- such as a screen -- and going the distance is more fun for him than catching a deep ball.

Warren Sapp, also at camp, cannot seem to get his story straight. He ripped the Dolphins for signing Ellerbe on NFL Network –- “Are you kidding me?” –- but off air listed him as a reason their defense will be stout. Say what?

Then Sapp bemoaned that “this town is fickle about anything but the Canes. If you are anything but a winner, they will let you know with empty seats. The Dolphins haven’t won since I was a baby… UM was a great place [years ago]. I don’t know what happened.”

### Late update: Former Miami Palmetto High receiver Andrell Smith announced on Twitter late Saturday night that he has signed with the Dolphins. He caught 34 passes for 536 yards for Louisville in 2012 and went undrafted.... Please check the last post for a lot more Dolphins news from Saturday.


David Gilbert, honorable mention Big 10 last season, would become one of the top two defensive ends on UM’s roster (with Anthony Chickillo) if he enrolls, as UM expects.

So what’s the holdup? Wisconsin said contrary to reports, he has not graduated, which is necessary for Gilbert to be eligible to play at UM this season. But Gilbert hopes to graduate in August and has a UM financial package in place.

### Most improved UM players? Receiver Allen Hurns said it’s running back Dallas Crawford on offense and cornerback Antonio Crawford on defense: “Antonio is the fastest corner we have, and he’s breaking on the ball better. He could be as good as [graduated] Brandon McGee.”

### The Marlins aren’t initiating calls but are open to considering trade offers for Justin Ruggiano, Greg Dobbs, Chad Qualls, Juan Pierre and (somewhat less so) Placido Polanco and Ryan Webb.

### After an initial call, the Heat opted not to make an offer to center Marcus Camby, who reportedly met with the Bulls and Rockets last week.

Meanwhile, Miami awaits a decision from Greg Oden, which his agent said could come as early as Monday. Though it wouldn’t be surprising if Miami is outbid, his agent said he likes that the Heat could afford to bring him along slowly.

### One NBA scout said he would be shocked if any of the Heat’s summer leaguers become NBA rotation players. The Heat’s best summer leaguer, guard Ian Clark, signed with Utah; his camp said Miami did not make an offer.

James Ennis is a borderline NBA player, probably a D-Leaguer,” the scout said. “His handle is suspect and he’s not a great shooter. Jarvis Varnado’s body has gotten better, and he’s got a little right-handed jump hook, but that’s the end of story for his offense. He could be a third-string center at best. Of all the wings, Scottie Hopson is the most talented. [Point guard] Myck Kabongo was terrible.” 

### Twitter: @flasportbuzz

Notes, quotes, news, views from Saturday's Dolphins practice

Notes, quotes, musings from Saturday’s Dolphins practice:

### Good to see Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace finally connect on a deep ball for a touchdown today, albeit in 1 on 1 drills matching up Wallace and Brent Grimes. That individual battle between two of the Dolphins' best players has been among the highlights of camp, and Wallace got the better of it on this play, catching a bomb down the sideline for a 65 yard scoring play.

The crowd, predictably, erupted.

“I’m excited how things are going with Mike,” Tannehill said.

But if Wallace’s deep ball was the highlight Saturday, Grimes’ incredibly athletic play on another Tannehill pass to Wallace wasn’t far off. Grimes lunged to poke the ball away at the last second. Wallace said he’s enjoying the battle with Grimes and has ultimate respect for him. Wallace said receivers talk in their meetings about what a good player Grimes is.

### We saw the best and worst of Daniel Thomas in a 20-minute stretch. The best: Several hard runs in which Thomas chugged for yards after initial contact. Joe Philbin praised him for being “decisive” and for keeping his pad level low.

On the flip side, Thomas had a fumble, which he said was forced by Reshad Jones. Thomas was shaking his head about that miscue, noting it was his first one of training camp. Thomas also credited Reggie Bush, now with Detroit, for having “laid the foundation for us.”

### Thomas isn’t conceding anything, but Lamar Miller has done nothing to lose his firm grasp on the starter’s job. He had two impressive runs of 20-plus yards on Saturday – including one where he turned the corner – and also caught a wheel route from Tannehill for a 15-yard gain.

### Also good to see Mike Gillislee with a couple of good runs. Philbin likes that he “hasn’t been tentative.” The offensive line blocking on run plays was the best in camp to date, Philbin noted.

### Was told that John Jerry – who was not on the field or sidelines the past two days – was spotted on crutches in the last couple of days. Jerry had his knee wrapped, but the covering was more like a bandage than a brace.

The timetable for his return remains uncertain, but the Dolphins continued to experiment Saturday – again using Dallas Thomas at left guard and Richie Incognito at right guard – and then doing something that raised eyebrows: Moving center Mike Pouncey to right guard and using Josh Samuda at center.

Pouncey said those were his first practice reps at guard since before the 2009 Sugar Bowl. He conceded it felt “weird” but will do whatever he’s asked.

Thomas, by the way, had a couple of good blocks on running plays.

### Kicker Caleb Sturgis remained sidelined by a groin injury but hopes to return in several days, depending on how quickly it heals. Dan Carpenter didn’t attempt a field goal during Saturday’s practice, either.

### Jared Odrick continues his exceptional work at defensive tackle. No need to move him back to end if Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan play up to the staff’s expectations. Jordan, by the way, participated in individual drills but not in 11 on 11 team drills as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery.

### Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was rewarded for his outstanding camp but getting some reps with the first team, opposite Brent Grimes. Philbin raved about Patterson afterward: “He’s playing fast. He has cat like quickness.”

Richard Marshall, who entered camp as the starter opposite Grimes, played over the slot receiver in nickel situations for portions of Saturday’s practice. Marshall has been OK in camp, nothing spectacular.

### Marvin McNutt made a couple of nice catches – including a long TD pass from Tannehill in 1-on-1 drills against Julian Posey. He has emerged as the biggest threat to Rishard Matthews for the No. 5 receiver job. Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller haven’t seized the opportunity; both had drops Saturday.

### Tannehill threw a beautiful sideline pattern for Binns for 30 yards. He had another pass knocked away by Philip Wheeler, who couldn’t corral what would have been an exceptional interception.

### Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller continue to do damage catching passes in the middle of the field.

### Tannehill began 11 on 11 drills with a pass to Dustin Keller, something we’ve seen several times previously. I won’t be surprised to see some games open with that connection. Keller beat Dannell Ellerbe in coverage on at least one reception Saturday.

### Fullback Evan Rodriguez, trying to unseat Jorvorskie Lane, got more work Saturday and looked decent. It’s questionable whether a fullback even makes the team.

### Please check back later for the Sunday buzz, including a lot more Dolphins, plus Heat, Canes and Marlins. And I'm on Twitter at @flasportsbuzz.

July 25, 2013

Personnel evaluators, ex-quarterbacks assess Tannehill; Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter


Ryan Tannehill’s first four days of camp have looked much like his first season – some good (including a few throws that were perfectly lofted over defenders) and some not-so-good (not seeing some open receivers, an interception that Chris Clemons returned for a touchdown).

But none of this should be overstated, and the people who have seen Tannehill all offseason – including Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman – insist he’s a better player, especially in deciphering defenses.

So what will Tannehill ultimately become? This offseason, we asked a panel of longtime personnel executives and respected quarterbacks-turned-analysts. Their reaction varied widely, from very good, to solid, to not a long-term solution.

### Among the most effusive: longtime general managers Bill Polian and Charley Casserly.

“He’s going to be a very good quarterback,” Polian said. “You don’t just want a game manager. He’s not. He can win for you. And as he gets better people around him, all his numbers will go up.” He has gotten those better people now, starting with Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller.

Said Casserly: “I would feel really encouraged if I were Miami. If he was coming out in this year’s draft, you would have been talking about Tannehill with Kansas City with the No. 1 pick. I saw a lot of positives: athleticism, the ability to read a defense. At times, he can be inaccurate, but he’s not an inaccurate passer.”

### With Wallace on board, Joe Theismann says he could see him becoming something similar to Andy Dalton. That wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the Dolphins. Dalton was 13th in passer rating to Tannehill’s 27th.

### On his ongoing ESPN series, Ron Jaworski ranked Tannehill 24th among all starters. “I expect to see significant improvement with a better supporting cast in 2013,” Jaws said. “For a rookie, Tannehill was very good throwing with bodies around him in what I call a muddied pocket.

“The area [where] Tannehill and the entire Dolphins offense must improve is third down. He had the worst rating among all starting quarterbacks, including 7 of his 13 interceptions. Some resulted from pressure, others from poor reads, others from ill-advised throws. Overall, he showed many positive traits. With more experience and better weapons, I would expect Tannehill to have a big year and move substantially up my big board.”

### CBS analyst Rich Gannon, a former NFL MVP, said with the talent around him, “now you will see who Tannehill is. Wallace will put the fear of God in safeties.”

Gannon believes Tannehill “can be a pretty solid player” because of his intelligence (“you don’t see him get surprised by a lot of blitzes”), arm and mobility.

But… “The completion percentage has to go up from 58.3 to 64 or 65,” Gannon said. Robert Griffin was 65.6, Russell Wilson 64.1.

And Gannon wants the Dolphins to have Tannehill throw more on the move and use bootlegs: “You want to see him move to his left, not just his right. The good ones can do it either way.”

### Others were more measured. “What I saw was intriguing,” CBS’ Phil Simms said. “He has a presence. But I’m not going to rank him in the top 20 quarterbacks. What can he do for people around him [to make them better]? I can’t say it’s not going to work or that you’ve got a big-time star, either.”

### Before leaving NFL Network for the Cleveland Browns, Mike Lombardi told us he was “somewhat encouraged” about Tannehill but not entirely convinced: “When he gets a better supporting cast, we can make a better determination.”

### And former Raiders/Packers/Falcons executive Ken Herock was skeptical, saying: “Tannehill should be one of those starters for five, six years that won’t really get you better than 9-7. I don’t think he will carry a team.

“I don’t see the consistency. I don’t see him in the same class as [Andrew] Luck, Griffin and Wilson. You say, ‘He’s just OK.’”


### As many of you know, Bryant McKinnie would be the Dolphins' left tackle if he had accepted an offer from Miami instead of a comparable one from Baltimore. So this development today was noteworthy: McKinnie, a former UM standout, is being held out of Ravens practice because the team says he is too heavy. "I'm not sure who's more disappointed --- Bryant or I," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

### The Heat is among teams that has shown some interest in free agent point guard Mo Williams. And Williams is said to have interest in Miami if he doesn’t get an offer higher than the minimum.

### Some Heat officials oppose offering Greg Oden anything more than the minimum because of his history of knee problems, though some teams could offer more. The question is whether Pat Riley can be persuaded by Oden’s camp, in the next several days, to dip into his $3.2 million mid-level exception.

### The Heat will get two early looks at arguably the most improved team in the Eastern Conference. The Nets announced Thursday that they will play two preseason games against the Heat: Oct. 17 in Brooklyn and Oct. 25 in Miami. The Heat has not announced the remainder of its preseason schedule, but it was previously disclosed that Miami will play Charlotte Oct. 11 in Kansas City.

### Whereas the Marlins’ Logan Morrison and Dolphins’ Richie Incognito serve up the most creative tweets among South Florida athletes, UM offensive coordinator James Coley has that distinction among local coaches.

Among those from Coley this summer: “It’s our U-niverse!!! Get U-se to it!!!!”

And “We are what you feared!!! Take cover from the STORM – you have been warned!!!”

He welcomed a new recruit this week with “#I Pledge Allegiance to the Swagg!”

Coley, by the way, likes to show his quarterbacks film of the Patriots offense, as his predecessor, Jedd Fisch did. “I have Tom Brady on all the time; guys think I have a man crush on the guy,” Coley told us.

“Everything from [calls at the line] to watching his technique when he throws the ball; he’s very sound with what he does. He does subtle things that affect defenses -- how early he puts his hand under the center, how he fake kicks in the shotgun to watch the safeties.”

Coley hopes studying Brady's nuances can help Stephen Morris and the other quarterbacks.

### Brooklyn four-star defensive tackle Cory Johnson picked Kentucky over Miami. But St. Thomas Aquinas' coach said Class of 2014 four-star defensive tackle Anthony Moten is considering UM after de-committing from Florida. 

### Not only is Giancarlo Stanton’s average (.240) third-worst among all National League starting right fielders, but his home runs per at-bat have dipped to one every 19.4, down from 14.2 entering this season. The Marlins initially thought he could get $8 million in arbitration this winter, but that seems a stretch now. The Marlins keep rejecting the Texas Rangers’ repeated inquiries about Stanton.

### Couple quick broadcast notes: WMEN-640 general manager Steve Lapa said he still hasn't decided whether to hire former WQAM host and ex-UM defensive lineman Dan Sileo full-time but will extend his on-air audition for a fourth week, from 10 a.m. to noon next Monday through Friday. That's a time period Sileo could fill full-time if he gets a permanent gig.... Fox, which is launching an all-sports cable channel Aug. 17, hired Gary Payton, Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick and former NFL lineman Ephraim Salaam to be nightly panelists on a highlights/roundtable discussion show that will air at 11 p.m., opposite SportsCenter on ESPN and Keith Olbermann's ESPN2 show, which debuts Aug. 26.

July 24, 2013

Heat learns opener and Christmas game; Pennington on Tannehill; Wallace role expands; Fins notes

### The TV networks and the Heat have been informed that Miami's opening night opponent will be the Chicago Bulls, on Oct. 29 at AmericanAirlines Arena, barring an unexpected change to the NBA's tentative schedule. That game will be on TNT.

Meanwhile, the tentative schedule has the Heat playing at the Lakers on Christmas on ABC, according to an industry official. Though the schedule can be changed before it is announced, league people don't expect it to be.

Heat-Lakers has produced ABC's two highest-rated Christmas games ever, and also has generated two of ABC's three highest regular-season NBA ratings ever for non-Christmas games.

### On a conference call with season ticket holders on Wednesday, former Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington predicted that Ryan Tannehill “is going to make considerable strides this year.”

“What he learned last year is there are more games lost than won. What he has to understand is he doesn’t have to look really pretty, but he has to be efficient and consistent,” said Pennington, who served as a guest coach for several days during training camp and hosted Tannehill for a day on his Kentucky farm.

Asked if he would be interested in the Dolphins’ quarterback job, he said “maybe down the road” but isn’t sure if he wants to coach in the NFL and called the Dolphins’ Zac Taylor “a great young quarterback coach.”

Pennington, who will coach middle school football in Kentucky this year, was joined on the call by O.J. McDuffie, Larry Little, James McKnight and Lousaka Polite.

Asked about the new logo, Little said “It’s growing on me. I’m not there yet. I’m a traditionalist. I love the old logo.”

### Receiver Mike Wallace said his Dolphins experience has been “exciting” so far partly because “every day, you don’t know what’s coming.”

Here’s one change that he knows is coming: The Dolphins plan to use him in more ways than the Pittsburgh Steelers did.

“I will be inside a little more,” he said Wednesday, adding that offensive coordinator Mike Sherman “wants to switch us around a lot more where people can’t key on you. I had primary things to do in Pittsburgh. Here I’m switching a little bit more and doing a little bit more of everything.”

He said in Pittsburgh, first under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and last season under Todd Haley, “I wasn’t in the slot as much.”

Through four days of camp, most of Wallace’s receptions have been on out patterns and slants. Wallace generally hasn’t been targeted on deep routes, though that assuredly will be a part of the Dolphins’ offense.

“I’m not worried about it,” Wallace said. “It will come in due time. We have days we do different things.”

He said his chemistry with Tannehill is getting “better every day. We have a lot of days before our first preseason game. As long as we’re good by game one [of the regular season], I think we’ll be fine. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

### Wallace and Brian Hartline have kidded, through the media, about racing each other.

Cracked Wallace: “Hartline doesn’t want that. Brian’s pretty fast. I’m not going to disrespect him. But I know he can’t beat me.”

Hartline didn’t dispute that. “Mike is smoking me” in a hypothetical race, Hartline said. “The dude is on a different level.”

### Former University of Miami and NFL star Warren Sapp was at Dolphins camp for NFL Network and said he loves Miami’s team, especially the defensive line, and expects the Dolphins to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East.

“They’ve got enough pieces,” he said. “You look at those big hogs inside, those tackles, and then you’ve got two speed ends. Jeff Ireland tells me [Olivier Vernon] is their starting right end right now. I say he’ll be your starting right end in Week 1. I like him. Then Brent Grimes and the boys on the back end, and [Dannell] Ellerbe in the middle.”

### Dan Carpenter is leading the kicking competition against Caleb Sturgis through four days. On Wednesday, Sturgis made a 40-yard field goal but missed from 49 and 50. That’s as many misses as Carpenter had in 14 attempts through the first three days of camp. Carpenter didn’t attempt a field goal Wednesday.

### One quick snippet from my Dolphins defense story that will appear elsewhere on the site later today: The Dolphins signed Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to replace Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with the belief their speed and athleticism would help generate more turnovers.

But this is notable: In 46 career games, Ellerbe has just one forced fumble and one interception. Wheeler has four forced fumbles and no interceptions in 77 games.

By comparison, Dansby has 15 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions in 136 games, and Burnett has seven and four in 120 games.

### The expected battle at right guard between John Jerry and Lance Louis hasn’t materialized because Louis is still recovering from a serious knee injury sustained last November when he played for the Chicago Bears.

Louis said Wednesday he hasn’t participated in any 11 on 11 team drills during the first four days of camp but expects to soon. “I feel pretty good,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m fully ready to go.”

Jerry has logged most of the snaps with the first team, but it was backup center Josh Samuda who got first-team work at right guard during the final 11-on-11 session of Wednesday’s practice.

Jerry is listed at 335 pounds – 10 pounds less than he weighed earlier this offseason – and said “I’m way ahead in conditioning. It’s like night and day.”

Coach Joe Philbin said Jerry is “performing well” but “really needs to get that consistency.” Philbin said Louis “is going to get a fair, honest evaluation when he’s physically capable.”


### Ryan Tannehill threw his first touchdown of training camp in 11-on-11 drills, connecting with Rishard Matthews during a red zone segment.

### There were two other touchdown passes during 11-on-11 work, also both inside the red zone: Matt Moore to Brian Hartline (beating Richard Marshall) and Pat Devlin to Michael Egnew, who also dropped a pass Wednesday…. Others with drops: Mike Wallace, Marvin McNutt, Mike Gillislee and Chad Bumphis.

### Receiver Armon Binns made two outstanding catches – one from Devlin, another on a beautiful pass from Tannehill. And there were two impressive one-handed receptions --- by Jorvorskie Lane and Marcus Thigpen.

### Jared Odrick had two sacks, Will Davis deflected his third pass in two days and Dimitri Patterson had several good plays in coverage.

### Defensive end Dion Jordan participated in special teams drills – which involved some light contact while blocking on returns – but did not play any snaps on defense during team drills. Jordan, who had shoulder surgery in February, hopes to begin doing those drills very soon.

“We thought he was moving around well yesterday,” Philbin said. “He’s picking things up relatively well.”

### Rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor was sidelined for the second day in a row because of lingering soreness from his sports hernia surgery in May.

### Undrafted rookie running back Cameron Marshall appeared to pull a hamstring during a kickoff drill and did not return.

### Randy Starks remained with the second team at defensive tackle… Jason Trusnik, Austin Spitler and Jonathan Freeny have been working as the second-team linebackers… Rookie Dallas Thomas, who had been working on the left side (at guard and tackle), received snaps at right tackle.

### Philbin said left tackle Jonathan Martin has good technique but “he needs to work on his punch a little bit better.”

### Quote of the day: “No question, in my mind, he can be an elite quarterback, one of the best in the NFL,” --- tight end Dustin Keller, on Ryan Tannehill.



     Thursday – Team is off.

     Friday – 8 a.m. at team facility in Davie.

     Saturday – 8 a.m. at team facility (open only to season-ticket holders).

     Sunday – 8 a.m. at team facility (open only to Fin Club members).

     Monday – 7 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

Please see the last post for more Dolphins, plus an amusing Urban Meyer story and Heat. 

July 23, 2013

Decision looms on defensive line and other Dolphins tidbits; Canes, Marlins, Heat


 Mostly Dolphins chatter three days into camp:

### Aside from kicker and possibly right guard, there’s only one starting job in much doubt, and it’s a fascinating one, because it involves the team’s highest-paid member and two of their most promising young players (Dion Jordan, Olivier Vernon).

No Dolphins player will earn more in base salary in 2013 than Randy Starks, but he opened practice on the second team, not with the starters, on two of the first three days of camp after missing most of the offseason program protesting being slapped with the $8.45 million franchise tag. Starks said Tuesday if he ends up playing off the bench behind Jared Odrick, with whom he’s rotating and competing, he won’t complain.

Weeks ago, the Dolphins told NFL people they preferred to enter this season like last season, with Odrick at defensive end in the base defense and at tackle on passing downs. But they recently had a change of heart on the first part of that equation after determining Odrick is probably better at tackle and after watching Olivier Vernon thrive with a larger role. Starks said it now “seems like” Odrick will be a tackle primarily.

So far in camp, Vernon has logged all the first team snaps at defensive end opposite Cameron Wake, with Odrick and Starks alternating in the base defense alongside Paul Soliai. Odrick and Starks would play together at tackle on obvious passing downs, with Soliai on the bench.

The Dolphins have by no means ruled out moving Odrick back to end in the base package to start the season if neither Vernon nor Jordan seizes the starting job.

Some internally believe Vernon might be better suited coming off the bench in his second season, but he has earned a chance to win the job, and coach Joe Philbin loves him. Vernon has had a very good first three days, including one play Tuesday where he annihilated Mike Gillislee in the backfield. And Vernon has given Jonathan Martin all he can handle during practice.

“He’s getting off the snap count very well,” Philbin said. “I’m really pleased with what he’s doing."

The Dolphins now see Odrick as a better long-term fit at tackle and likely will re-sign either Soliai or Starks next spring to play alongside him.

How would Starks react if he doesn't start?

“Whatever role they want me to play, I’ll accept,” he said. “I haven’t been here [most of the offseason]. Odrick has done a good job. I wasn’t starting my first year here and was still making plays. I’m not worried about it.”

Starks' body of work the past two years suggests he should start, but Odrick has been very good in camp so far, and he's also worthy of starting. As Wake said: "We're loaded on the d-line. Trying to find a role for everyone is a good problem to have."

Last season, Odrick played 951 snaps, Starks 826, Soliai 627 and Vernon 445.

### Ryan Tannehill says he can “now be the leader I want to be.” But is he comfortable yelling at teammates if needed, which Dan Marino did?

“For sure,” he said. “You have to be able to get on guys if the situation calls for it. That’s part of leadership." He admits it's "not really my style to be a yeller. I’ve definitely yelled at some guys in my career, gotten in some guys’ faces.” He said people can expect him to "a fiery leader" during key moments.

Brian Hartline joked: “He won’t bark at me. I’ll punch him.” But Hartline said: “Before, he might not have wanted to step on toes.” Now he’s willing to if needed.

Offensive linemen have good-naturedly asked Tannehill to buy them jet-skis, but he said he declined. Instead, he bought them iPads after last season.

### Encouraging to see the Dolphins get three interception Tuesday. Consider this: ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us that the Dolphins held onto only 28.6 percent of potential interceptions last season, well below the league average of 40. That includes any balls that players were “close enough” to reasonably expect to haul in. Brent Grimes should be better than Sean Smith in that regard.

### By the way, Joyner also shared with us that Hartline last season actually averaged more yards per attempt on throws of 20 yards or more (12.2 on 66 passes) than Mike Wallace (9.1 on 55 attempts). Remember, those averages include lots of incompletions, so that's also a reflection of quarterback play. Hartline’s numbers in that regard were also were better than Roddy White’s, AJ Green’s and Brandon Marshall’s.

“Simply put, Miami now has two wideouts that can stretch the field with great success,” Joyner said.

### The lofty talk by Dolphins players – Dannell Ellerbe and others have spoken glowingly about the talent – has some NFL people scoffing.

“They’ve got the best at every position – I keep hearing their players say that,” one executive with a 2012 playoff team said. “The safeties, linebackers, receivers think they’re the best. But they’re not better than New England, and I haven’t yet seen Tannehill do something that wows me.”

That executive also worries about Jonathan Martin and said “Lamar Miller has to prove he can be a tough and physical runner.”

Philbin isn’t a fan of the bold talk, so it’s not surprising players have pulled back on that in recent days. “I’m not going to shoot my mouth off because it doesn’t get you anywhere,” Odrick said. Ellerbe, by the way, said Tuesday the Dolphins have a faster team than his Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens of last season.

### Running back Marcus Thigpen has been getting significant second-team snaps since the offseason program and into training camp –- and some first team work when Miller rests –- and says the Dolphins want to expand his role offensively. “I can bring a boost of energy, make something happen every time I get the chance,” he said. But Daniel Thomas remains the favorite to be Miller’s backup.

### Michael Egnew continues to take a step back for every step forward. On Tuesday, De’Andre Presley stripped Egnew, and Jelani Jenkins recovered the fumble. Egnew tells us general manager Jeff Ireland “is always in the back of my head when I’m trying to make plays” because he wants to validate Ireland’s faith in him. “I always want to impress him. I look up to him.”

### Dimitri Patterson said he isn’t worried that Miami would save $4.5 million against the cap if he’s cut. He’s likely safe IF he remains one of Miami’s top three corners, which he has been through three days of camp. Patterson would be at serious risk if he is surpassed by Will Davis (very good Tuesday) or Jamar Taylor (sidelined Tuesday from soreness from May's sports hernia surgery).

### Our favorite recruiting story of the offseason: Elite Palm Beach Central offensive tackle K.C. McDermott, a UM oral commitment, told Bleacher Report that when he told Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that he wasn’t interested in coming there, Meyer “literally looked like a kid the first time you tell him, ‘No, you can’t do something.’ It looked like he was a baby about to cry. It was so funny. It’s got to be one of the top five reactions of someone ever. My coach was tearing up and had to go in his office and laugh.”

### Homestead's Ermon Lane, the No. 2 receiver in the country and the highest-rated non-committed player that is being pursued by UM, told 247sports.com that he will pick a school next month. Rivals.com has UF as the front-runner, but UM and Alabama remain in play and potentially others.

### Third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins’ first-round pick in last month's draft, is 4 for 15 (.267) with a homer and double in his first week at Single A Greensboro.... Outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, promoted by the Marlins this week, were rated 12th and 39th among all prospects by ESPN at the all-star break. Yelich had hits (three single) in his first three big league at-bats against Colorado Tuesday. According to Elias, Yelich is the first player with at least three hits and at least two RBI in his first major-league game since Toronto's J.P. Arencibia in 2010.

###  Please see the last post for an update on the Heat's pursuit of Greg Oden

Though Miami has its $3.2 million exception, Miami's strong preference is to offer him only the minimum. Whether Pat Riley is willing to exceed the minimum, or offer a multi-year contract, presents an interesting decision in the coming days, with Oden eager to make a decision next week.

Heat meets with Oden; Notes, quotes, musings from Tuesday's Dolphins practice

The Heat continued to explore signing Greg Oden on Tuesday, with coach Erik Spoelstra meeting with the free agent center in Indianapolis. Chet Kammerer, the Heat's vice president/player personnel, also attended the session, which included on-court work.

Oden will pick a team probably next week, agent Bill Duffy said.

Sacramento and New Orleans also attended Tuesday's workout. Atlanta will watch Oden work out Thursday, and officials from the Mavericks and Spurs have met with him previously.

"Every team [that has shown interest] remains under strong consideration," Duffy said.

Duffy said Oden did "a lot of on-court work" during Tuesday's session and "looked very good."

This was the second time the Heat has met with Oden. Oden traveled to Miami to visit with Heat president Riley earlier this year.

What the Heat, Pelicans and Kings observed Tuesday was Oden's normal workout routine, including shooting drills and off-court work that is part of his regular rehabilitation.

He did not do a traditional on-court workout against another player because he has not been cleared for contact and is not expected to be until August.

ESPN has listed the Heat and Spurs as co-favorites, but an NBA friend of Oden disputed that, saying other teams remain seriously in the mix.

Another one of Oden's agents, Mike Conley Sr., said last week that the Heat has as good a chance as any team but stopped short of calling Miami the front-runner.

The 7-foot Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, hasn't played since December 2009 because of knee problems. His agents have said he is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Riley said recently he believes Oden can help the Heat "if he's healthy. I mean, he had five major surgeries. But I think if he's healthy, he's still young [25].

"Sometimes, I've made this point before and you can go back to a half a dozen athletes that started their careers -- Kurt Thomas with the broken feet, [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas -- there have been a number of players that started their career missing two or three years with injuries and then all of a sudden they never had another problem again. He's young enough to maybe be able to get by this, and only time will tell. But if he's healthy, obviously I think he would be able to help teams, yes."

Oden has appeared in just 82 NBA games and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.

The Heat could offer Oden either a contract at the league minimum ($1 million, in his case) or its $3.2 million mid-level exception. Miami appears willing to offer the minimum if he's healthy, but it's highly questionable if it would offer exception money to a player who hasn't played in nearly four years.

Meanwhile, free agent center Marcus Camby has interest in the Heat, Bulls and Rockets. The Heat has inquired but is not believed to have made a formal offer as of Monday.


Defensive end Dion Jordan, the Dolphins’ first-round draft pick, returned from a two-day stint on the non-football injury list on Tuesday and said he expects to start participating in team drills in the next few days.

Returning from February shoulder surgery, Jordan was dressed in pads but participated only in individual drills. He indicated he expects to join team drills either Wednesday or Friday. (The team has Thursday off.)

“That’s the next step – starting to do more live drills,” he said. “I’m trying to put [the injury] behind me. I’m taking the right steps so I can be ready to go. I’m ready to go.”

Coach Joe Philbin said Jordan’s return “is going to be a gradual process. We’ll see how he responds, how he feels [Wednesday] and take it from there.

“We’re never going to rush a guy if we don’t feel he’s ready. We’ll take our time. All football players tell you they are great and ready to go.”

Philbin said Jordan isn’t falling behind because “we’re teaching him the system, getting him acclimated to the scheme, stance, fundamentals. He sat in the classroom, he’s watched all the practice film.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a point he needs to go out there and make a couple of mistakes and learn from them and move forward as a player.”

Philbin dismissed a question about whether Jordan should feel pressure to perform as the third overall pick. He is expected to compete with Olivier Vernon at defensive end.

“This program is not about one player, one position,” Philbin said. “You’re one of 90 guys competing for a job. You’ve got to earn your keep. Everybody is equal out there.”

For his part, Jordan said: “I put pressure on myself to perform. It’s not just because I’m in the NFL now or I was drafted high. It’s something I’ve always done.”

Jordan said he is “leaning a lot” from defensive end Cameron Wake and has studied film of him.

Teammates are eager to see Jordan on the field for the first time.

“I’m as curious as anybody else,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “I know we’re going to get a lot out of him.”

Said defensive lineman Jared Odrick: “He looks good in pads. He passes the eye test. He’s a grounded kid.”

Jordan was subjected to rookie hazing this week. Paul Soliai used a chemical provided by his wife on the heads of Jordan and fellow rookie linemen Emeka Onyenekwu and Tristan Okpalaugo on Monday night, leaving Jordan with an orange strip on his head.

Rookie defensive linemen Chris Burnette and A.J. Francis escaped Soliai’s prank because they are bald.

“I went first so I could get it out of the way,” Jordan said. “I’m paying my dues. I’m just doing what I’m told. I don’t know how my mother feels [about it].”

Soliai said Jordan must keep his hair that way for two weeks. “They took it as men,” Soliai said.


The defense was clearly ahead of the offense Tuesday in the first practice in pads. Ryan Tannehill threw interceptions to Chris Clemons and Ellerbe, and Jimmy Wilson picked off a Matt Moore pass.

Tannehill had a pass knocked down by Ellerbe, and his accuracy ranged from very good at times to very shaky at others.

The defense flummoxed the offense with various blitzes, resulting in sacks by Philip Wheeler and Reshad Jones, among others, and also forced Tannehill to throw sooner than he would like at times.

On the first play of 11-on-11 drills outside the practice bubble, Tannehill fell to the ground after tripping over one of his lineman’s feet.

Many of Tannehill’s completions early in camp have been on dump offs or relatively short patterns. He has established good chemistry with Dustin Keller, in particular.

His best throws Tuesday were a 30-yarder to Mike Wallace against busted coverage (Brent Grimes was closest to it) and a beautiful throw to Clay that was lofted perfectly over a defender.

But after the completion to Clay, Clemons jumped a route, picked off Tannehill and returned it for a touchdown.

Tannehill did not throw a touchdown. Moore didn’t throw one either on Tuesday but has been sharper than Tannehill the first three days of camp.

### Cornerback Jamar Taylor did not participate in practice because of lingering soreness from sports hernia surgery in May. He is not expected to be out for an extended period.

### Kicker Dan Carpenter got all four field goal attempts during Tuesday’s practice and made three of them. He kicked a 52-yarder but came up well short on one from 54 yards. Carpenter is now 12 for 14 in training camp during practice sessions that have been open to the public and media.

His competition, Caleb Sturgis, has made two of three, all coming on Monday.



### Safety Chris Clemons jumped in front of Dustin Keller to pick off a Ryan Tannehill pass and returned it for a touchdown.

### Linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe were extremely active. Ellerbe had an interception against Tannehill, broke up a pass to Daniel Thomas and knocked down a Tannehill pass.

Wheeler had a would-be sack on a blitz and was decent in pass coverage. Linebackers Koa Misi and Josh Kaddu also had some good moments.

### Rookie cornerback Will Davis made two impressive pass deflections, both against receiver Armon Binns.

### Safety Jimmy Wilson cut in front of Binns and picked off a Matt Moore pass, setting up a long return.

### Mike Wallace, Binns and Brian Tyms dropped passes, and Brian Hartline dropped a punt.



### Vaughn Martin, who has working at defensive end but also can play tackle, continues to look good early in camp. He had a would-be sack against Moore and also tipped a pass by Moore.

### Lance Louis, still working his way back from last November’s knee injury, hasn’t taken any first team snaps. John Jerry remains the starter at right guard and Texas A&M rookie Brian Thomas has been getting a lot of work on the second team.

### Wilson and Kelcie McCray have been working as the second-team safeties, behind Reshad Jones and  Clemons, who were both very good Tuesday.

### Besides Martin, Derrick Shelby has been the other second-team defensive end, behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon.

### Brent Grimes defended himself after a picture surfaced on the Internet that featured a sexual act being depicted on the front of a cake that Grimes received for his 30th birthday this past weekend.

“The people that are offended about a cake that was brought to a party by a friend as a joke need to chill,” Grimes said on Twitter. “I guess we were supposed to tell our friend to, ‘take your cake and get the hell out of our house.’ LOL. My bad.”



“Paul loves painting the side of peoples’ heads. Good to see the dread on peoples’ faces.”---

Jared Odrick, on Paul Soliai bleaching the heads of Dion Jordan and two other rookies.



Wednesday – 8 a.m.

Thursday – Off

Friday – 8 a.m.

Saturday – 8 a.m. (Season Ticket holders only)

Sunday – 8 a.m. (Fin Club members only)

Note: All the practices the rest of the week will be held at the team’s facility in Davie. Monday’s 7 p.m. practice will be at Sun Life Stadium. All are free.