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29 posts from September 2013

September 30, 2013

Chatter from Heat media day: Oden, Beasley, LeBron, Wade and more

Tidbits from Heat media day:

### The joy, the sense of hope, radiated from Greg Oden’s face as he walked around the AmericanAirlines Arena floor on Monday, doing interview after interview.

After battling depression and enduring multiple knee surgeries that sidelined him for 3 ½ years, Oden on Monday pronounced his knees healthy --- “the best it’s felt in three years” - and said he could play short minutes in a game today if needed.

But the Heat will be extremely cautious with Oden, who hasn’t played in a game since December 2009. And Oden is comfortable with that.

“There is no timetable,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked when he might play in a game. “If it happens two months from now, if it happens in three months, who knows? We’re going in with an open mind. No expectations.”   

Oden has been doing some on-court work, mostly stationary shooting. “I’ve been shooting a lot,” he said. “I’ve been out there twice running up and down with the guys, and the timing wasn’t there yet. Three years away, I’ve to get that back and get back to being comfortable on the court.”

Oden said he realistically could play in the preseason and in the Heat’s regular-season opener Oct. 29 against Chicago. But that seems ambitious, based on Spoelstra’s comments.

“I would like to play as soon as possible, but that’s up to the trainers,” he said. “I hope it’s sometime soon. I can’t predict what they’re going to say. They know what’s best. I’m anxious. I know I can’t overdo it. I want to make sure I can play and finish the year. I just know I feel good. I would love to play first game, a couple preseason minutes. I understand I won’t be playing 20 minutes a game.”

Though Oden is at the arena five hours a day, the Heat is being cautious with his workload.

“When I go up and down, it’s only a couple minutes,” he said. “When I work out, it’s only 30 minutes. They don’t want to overdo it to the point where my knee blows up. They want to keep it where my knee feels good when I stop working out.”

Oden has dropped 40 pounds since last summer, to 278, and said his goal is to get to 265-270.

“With all the running and knee problems, lighter is better,” he said. “Last time I was less than 270, I was running up and down the court like a deer. I look like a professional athlete now.”

Oden said he sometimes watches tape of his 21-game stretch in Portland late in 2009 --- when he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 23.9 minutes --- “to see what I was doing, to see if I can get myself back to that. It will be a work in progress.”

Oden said he bonded with Spoelstra when they spent time together in Indianapolis in August, and Oden was impressed that Spoelstra knew more about his rehabilitation than most.

“They’re a good team. It’s a winning atmosphere. Who wouldn’t be a part of that?” he said. “Every morning you see the sun. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

He cracked that it’s difficult to go under the radar “when I’m the biggest guy on the team and look like LeBron.”

Still only 25, Oden said, “I have a lot to prove to myself. It’s been a long road for me. I’ve been re-habbing for three years. When I am able to go in that first game, even if I just play five minutes, just to be able to end the game and be healthy, that’s going to be a big step for me. Success to me is walking on the court and walking off healthy.”

### LeBron James said he would not address next summer’s free agency at all this season. “I owe it to my organization not to get involved in it.”

### Dwyane Wade said something encouraging: “You have concern when you feel people want to go elsewhere. I don’t think nobody is looking to go elsewhere.”

### Spoelstra said of next summer’s free agency – when the Big Three call all opt out of their contracts: “We’ll address that, but we don’t need to belabor it. Our guys aren’t naïve to the business. We respect players’ opportunity to be free when they earn that opportunity. We’ve been conditioned for this type of moment more than any other team. We have to let go of what we did last year and not become obsessed with the future, because it’s unknown.”

### LeBron -- during his news conference -- was funny, relaxed and very comfortable in his skin. He joked he hadn’t accomplished his goals yet, cracking, “not until [we win] 11, 12, 13, 14.” (Of course, that was a self-deprecating crack about his much-discussed comment from the Heat’s 2010 signing party in which he cracked he wanted to win "not four, not five...") James added: “Just messing around.”

### Other highlights from LeBron: “I know you guys are tired of hearing me say this, but I got better. I’m a better play than last year in every aspect.”… He said the Eastern Conference is clearly better; even beyond the Bulls, Pacers, Knicks and Brooklyn, he also cited Washington and Detroit. “It will be tougher. If we’re not healthy, it’s going to be tough.” But “if we stay as close to 100 percent as possible, we’re going to be fine.”… He said of Oden and Michael Beasley: “Both players are unbelievably talented. I’m excited to have them here.”…

He has worked on his free throw shooting and said his goal is shoot 80 percent. He was 77.7 percent last season…..

LeBron reiterated “I want to be the greatest of all time. That’s my motivation. I’m far away from it. I see the light.”… He said Wade is “hungry to show why he’s one of the best two guards to play this game.”

### Beasley said he’s “older, wiser, not as carefree. I’ve learned to be a better person.” He said “talent wise, I’m where I need to be,” but needs to work on “the extra plays, the hustle plays.” He said: “I come here knowing this team doesn’t need me.”

### Udonis Haslem said he is going to closely watch Beasley. He said Frank Martin, his former coach at Miami High and Beasley’s former coach at Kansas State, told Haslem to take care of Beasley when Miami drafted him.

“I didn’t do the job I hoped to the first time,” Haslem said. “I want to get it right this time…. I’ve always felt a special place for Beas. He has never been a bad locker room guy or a bad teammate or a problem around the team. I am fully confident he will get it right this time.”

### Wade cracked he wants a healthy season and remainder of his career "and let you guys decide how long it takes to get to the Hall of Fame."

### Wade said: "I'm the second option. Let's point blank say it. I'm a pretty good second option for this team." He added: "I have to be way more efficient than I've ever been." 

### Spoelstra, on his contract extension: “I feel fortunate and grateful. You want to work with people you trust, people that have your back, not just after you win but also after times like 9-8 a couple years ago.”

### Spoelstra said he’s “excited” about Juwan Howard joining the team as an assistant coach. “Juwan could probably still play a year or two or three.”        

September 29, 2013

How Mike Miller was scammed by a con man who duped three Heat players; Spoelstra gets extension; Fins, UM, Marlins


While the Heat was steamrolling through the early rounds of the playoffs several months ago, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and James Jones were learning something highly unsettling: They had been defrauded by a con artist who presented himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family.

Miller ended up losing $1.7 million; Lewis and Jones sustained undisclosed losses.

So how could this happen to three Heat players?  

The story began in January, when a business associate whom Miller trusted introduced him to Haider Zafar, a South Beach bling king who had courtside seats at Heat games but was indicted months later on 135 counts of fraud and money-laundering in a case unrelated to the Heat players. (Miller does not believe the business associate knew anything about Zafar's illegal conduct.) 

Zafar, 35, identified himself to Miller and others as Haider Hashwani, and Miller accepted his proposal to purchase part of three of Miller’s businesses: his energy drink corporation, a clothing business and a mining company for approximately $30 million.

Zafar told Miller that his payment “was stuck overseas due to bank regulations and U.S./Pakistani politics,” Miller’s attorney, Andrew Fine, said. “Because of the alleged trouble getting the money into the U.S., Zafar said he would deposit the money in a Swiss account. But he never deposited a cent.”

Miller did not know that, however, because Zafar was convincing and “showed Mike fraudulent paper and electronic records showing the deposit had been made,” Fine said.

Meanwhile, Zafar told Miller that his family had ownership in a Pakistani company, Hashoo Group, and “because Mike was such a good guy, they would let him put his money into their private investment fund. He claimed it was a high-interest yield,” Fine said.

In reality, Zafar was not involved in Hashoo Group, which is a large conglomerate in Pakistan.

And here was the catch: Zafar told Miller in February that he must deposit a minimum of $2 million to participate in the investment fund and do it within a few days. Miller agreed.

“Mike had to collect it from different places,” Fine said. “People might ask, ‘Why was Mike putting money into this guy when money isn’t coming in?’ Mike was looking at bank statements that looked real. Zafar was good at forging bank statements.

“Mike thought the money Zafar had promised to invest was sitting in an account in Europe and earning money. That’s why he invested with Zafar.”

In April, Miller hired Fine, a Raleigh-N.C., based attorney, to explore how Zafar could transfer the money he claimed he invested in Miller’s businesses into a U.S. bank account.

On the morning the Heat closed out Milwaukee in its first-round series (a game that Miller started with Dwyane Wade injured), Fine texted Miller with distressing news: He had determined Zafar was a fraud, had not invested any money in Miller’s businesses and that his family did not have a private investment firm that would offer a big return on Miller’s $2 million.

By then, Zafar already had sent Miller back about $300,000 of Miller’s $2 million, but portrayed it as a return on his investment.

In Miller’s mind, final proof of Zafar’s scheme came two days later. Zafar told Miller that his family wanted to develop real estate, and because Zafar said his money was tied up overseas, Miller agreed to put up a $250,000 deposit for land in a residential area on Hillsboro Beach in Broward, overlooking the Atlantic. Zafar spoke of building condominiums there.

When Zafar couldn’t close on the deal by that April 30 deadline, Miller knew Zafar was a scam artist.

“Mike was pretty calm about it,” Fine said. “He was more concerned with what the Heat had to do in the playoffs than his own personal issues. Within three or four days, Zafar realized everyone was on to him and texted players, maintaining he was going to make good on all the money he owed. He never did.”

Miller, who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, saw Zafar a couple of times after that but did not confront him because he figured he could deal with it after the playoffs, Fine said.

Fine had no comment on Jones, whom he also represents, or Lewis. Jones and Lewis struck their own deals with Zafar, who made himself visible around the team and on South Beach, according to a source.  

The feds are investigating the case involving the Heat players, but charges have not been filed. Fine said in an effort to recoup more money for Miller, he is searching for Zafar’s assets: “I believe he has either hidden the assets or spent all the money.”

Zafar's attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Zafar was arrested in May in Ohio when police found him with an expired Pakistani passport, a handgun, 40 bullets and a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with more than $10,000. Jailed without bond, he now awaits trial on the fraud charges in an unrelated case.

Fine said it was understandable Miller was duped because “the guy was showing up in different high end luxury cars every day. He’s got a bodyguard following him in an SUV with fake watches. The persona he presented to Mike seemed convincing.”


### The Heat has given a multiyear extension to Erik Spoelstra, whose contract was set to expire after this coming season.

### If last Sunday is any indication of the Dolphins’ run defense without Paul Soliai, they will need to boost what was portrayed as a take-it-or-it-leave offer last month. The Dolphins proposal, through 2016, included $6 million in guaranteed money and was quickly rejected. Talks figure to resume eventually, with Soliai a few months from free agency.

### Dolphins players adore rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, not only for how good he has been, but how humble he is. Several teammates have approached him simply to commend him for his poise. After a field goal in Cleveland, Brown cornerback Joe Haden told him: “Keep doing that and you’ll be here a long time.”

### Among the many frustrations with owner Jeffrey Loria inside the Marlins, as expressed by one Marlins baseball official: “You’re making all the moves, so why don’t you just come out and say you’re the general manager, like [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones does?”

The belief internally is that Loria wants credit for the moves that work but wants to distance himself from the ones he suggests that don’t work (such as signing Heath Bell).

### One player said Loria this season visited the clubhouse a lot less than past years and stopped giving speeches. Wise move, considering his past speeches were criticized, and his popularity inside the clubhouse has diminished after last winter's payroll slashing.

### UM has decided to cut ties with linebacker Devante Bond, whom it once thought would be a key piece of this year’s defense. Bond had 24 sacks at a Northern California junior college the past two seasons but failed to qualify academically and enrolled at a prep school. UM is no longer pursuing him; Nebraska and California are among his suitors. Meanwhile, UM has no idea if elite receiver/basketball player Derrick Griffin will ever play here. Griffin is at a prep school after failing to qualify academically and has said he hopes to enroll at Miami in December.

### Next Saturday's UM home game against Georgia Tech was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., with ESPNU televising. ABC/ESPN deemed the UM game less attractive than the 3:30 p.m. Clemson-Syracuse game, which will air on ABC in part of the country and ESPN2 in the rest.

Please see the last post for UM-USF notes and postscripts.

### UM hoops reportedly received its second oral commitment from a power rotation player in two days: junior college center Ivan Uceda, who reportedly chose UM over Arizona State and FAU. He averaged 16 points and 10.7 rebounds last season.

### The Heat --- which hired Juwan Howard as an assistant coach on Saturday --- has 19 players under contract for camp (one below the maximum allowed), and former University of South Dakota combo guard Charlie Westbrook tweeted that the Heat has invited him to training camp, which would make him the 20th. He played in Italy last season.

### Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said new owner Vinnie Viola will allow a higher payroll (the team is $9.3 million below the salary cap ceiling), and Tallon expects to be more of a player in free agency next summer. Viola has such high regard for team president Michael Yormark that Yormark, who was promoted to CEO, has been allowed to become a minority owner in the team.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

September 28, 2013

Postscripts from UM's win against USF; Stephen Morris angry

Postscripts, notes and quotes from UM’s 49-21 thumping of USF Saturday in Tampa, which left UM at 4-0 for the first time since 2004:

### Al Golden said he isn’t concerned about Stephen Morris’ ankle injury, but Morris – who left the game, limping, in the second quarter - was fuming afterward about what he called “dirty” play by USF.

“South Florida’s a dirty team,” he said after the game to reporters in Tampa.

“When you’re tackled and everyone’s on top, they’re going to try to go for your ankles. We were up three, four touchdowns. Ain’t no point for me to mess with these guys who are going to play dirty. I wanted to score 70 points on them. They disrespected us so I had no respect for them. At that point, I felt like we should just keep pushing it. They obviously saw the injury report.”

Golden said with Morris: “The best way to explain it is he didn’t go backwards. It’s not like he re-injured anything. He wasn’t in a boot. He’s running around still. He should be a lot better by the time we get going” Monday.

### Golden, who said all week that he expected Morris to play today, said he went to bed last night thinking Ryan Williams would start. But Golden said he changed his mind after watching Morris warm up before the game.

### Others also left with injuries, including Eduardo Clements (hamstring), Philip Dorsett (shoulder) and Jermaine Grace (ribs). But Golden said: “I think we’re healthy.”

### It could have been a lot more lopsided, but Golden told WQAM: “We were laying off. From the first touchdown of the third quarter, we called off the dogs. If we didn’t call it off, we could have easily got a lot more points in the second half. It got a little sloppy in the second half. We played a lot of guys. That was about as efficient as we’ve been in the passing game for a half.”

“I told you it was going to be tough. Doesn’t mean it had to be close…. First third of the season – 4-0 – right where we want to be. Our guys are playing hard, playing really well.”

But Golden said Duke Johnson’s two fumbles near the goal line “were really disappointing.”

### Though safety Deon Bush had a sack and forced fumble (that Luther Robinson recovered), Golden said his “conditioning is not where it needs to be. He needs to recognize that.”

### Huge game for the UM receivers. Stacy Coley caught four passes for 96 yards, including a 34-yard TD pass from Morris and 11-yard TD from Ryan Williams. Dorsett caught three for 75, including a picturesque 55-yarder from Stephen Morris on Miami’s second drive. Allen Hurns had 5 for 81 and Herb Waters caught a 19-yd TD pass from Morris.

A 64-yard punt return by Dorsett was wiped out by a penalty.

### Good to see Coley regain his confidence after the two drops in the opener against FAU. Coley said he played only about eight offensive snaps against the Gators, but the staff is determined to get him a lot of work because he’s too talented to keep off the field. Offensive coordinator James Coley told WQAM: "Some players move the sticks. Stacy Coley changes the scoreboard.”

### Morris, before departing, completed 11 of 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams closed 8 for 14 for 153 yards, with a touchdown and a pick, and threw a beautiful 55-yard pass to Waters. Williams said last week that his arm strength has improved significantly, and that appears to be the case.

Gray Crow had one of his passes intercepted and returned for a touchdown and threw an incompletion on his other pass attempt. He was lifted after a short stint, with Williams sent back in the game.

### UM allowed 75 yards on USF’s first drive and 96 on its last but just 117 in between. Among the highlights: Shayon Green’s first career sack (in the end zone), which forced a fumble that Jimmy Gaines pounced on for a touchdown.

Despite Green’s limitations as a pass rusher, UM coaches consider him one of the physically strongest players on defense – a player who is very difficult for offensive linemen to dislodge. Green continues to earn playing time on first and second downs, ahead of impressive freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad and former Big 10 honorable mention David Gilbert, the Wisconsin transfer.

### Duke Johnson closed with 14 carries for 84 yards – including a four-yard touchdown run -- but his game was marred by the two goal-line fumbles. Dallas Crawford, still the No. 2 back in the eyes of the coaching staff, had pedestrian numbers (13 for 34) but has five touchdowns in the past two games, including two today.

Gus Edwards didn’t enter until six minutes remained in the third quarter and rumbled for 39 yards on his first carry. But he had only 14 yards on his nine other carries and couldn’t get it in the end zone in three opportunities near the goal line.

Crawford then re-entered on fourth down and lunged for a score.

As much as UM would love for Edwards to develop into their short yardage back, he still runs too upright at times.

### UM said it set a school record for first half yards (411). Miami closed with 540 yards, well behind the school record of 689, set in 1998 vs. UCLA.

“We knew what they were going to do,” center Jared Wheeler said of USF’s defense. “They ran a safety blitz early and never ran it again.”

### Linebacker Alex Figueroa started in place of Thurston Armbrister, but Armbrister had a sack. UM already has surpassed its sack total of last season, when the Canes produced only 13. Besides the sacks by Green and Bush and Armbrister, Raphel Kirby also had a sack, and Miami's fifth sack was registered as a "team" sack, credited to nobody in particular. Kirby, by the way, had 2.5 tackles for losses.

### Tyriq McCord had UM's one interception.... Clive Walford caught one pass for 18 yards, meaning 18 of his past 19 receptions have gone for first downs or touchdowns. Beau Sandland caught 2 for 7.          

Saturday morning quick hits: Dolphins, Hurricanes, Panthers, Heat signing

Some quick notes:

### No matter how you slice the statistics, Ryan Tannehill's numbers are impressive. Here's one nugget that Pro Football Focus came up with: If you remove drops, spikes, throw aways and batted balls,  Tannehill has completed an impressive 78.2 percent of his passes this season. That’s fourth-best in the league behind only Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler.

Here’s what Saints coach Sean Payton said he noticed about Tannehill watching film: “He’s certainly confident - you can just see that. Just the last game in the two minute drill, he understands his progressions, his fundamentals. His accuracy has been outstanding. Most importantly, that position, the key is to lead their team to wins and give them a chance. And you can see him do that.”

### Payton is concerned with Miami’s offense because “you’ve got a lot of different targets that make it challenging to defend…. Charles Clay is someone that’s sudden and has a great understanding of the passing game.  I think also when you put the receivers that they have outside that position it becomes hard to say, ‘We’re going to double this guy or help this guy’ and often times those interior players such as a Charles Clay or the running backs become very good targets, and very dependable targets.”

### Through four games, Jake Long has allowed two sacks and 14 quarterback hurries for St. Louis. In three games, Jonathan Martin -– who replaced Long at left tackle for the Dolphins -- has allowed two sacks and eight hurries. But Long has been the far better run blocker. Pro Football Focus rates Martin 67 of 71 tackles in run-blocking. Among those who are worse: Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo and Baltimore’s Bryant McKinnie, whom Miami tried to sign.

### Because Corn Elder has done such a good job at cornerback for UM in practice, he won’t redshirt and the UM basketball team won’t get him until possibly January. But Jim Larranaga said he still hopes that Elder can help UM at point guard this season.

“I’m very pleased that Al Golden and the football program allow Corn to even consider basketball after the football season is over,” Larranaga said Friday. “Corn joined us for a few workouts this summer. He got hurt after the third one, so he didn’t get to do much more than that. But Coach Golden and I have spoken about him and Al has said that he’s a great kid, great athlete, and great energy, really demonstrates a lot of qualities that will be successful in football. They definitely correlate to the basketball court.”

### Though UM lost six of its top seven players from last season’s team, forward Erik Swoope said Friday: “Our athleticism is, if you ask me, 10 times what it was last year. I know we’re not as big, but I’ve seen in practice the new guys, the program that we’ve instilled last year, the guys’ athleticism, their speed, and their quickness is outstanding. To be honest, there’s going to be some fun games to watch.”

### NBA commissioner David Stern introduced the Panthers’ new owner, Vinnie Viola, to commissioner Gary Bettman, and the two had lunch a few weeks ago –- setting in motion steps that led to Viola purchasing the Panthers.

“If you want to come into the league, it helps to have lunch with me,” Bettman cracked at the Panthers press conference Friday.

Viola said he will be “very involved” but “I don’t see myself suggesting draft picks or trades.”

## Though the odds are against guard Roger Mason Jr. making the Heat, don’t completely discount his chances. He’s a career 38.4 shooter from three-point range, and 41.5 last season (66 for 159 on threes for New Orleans). Mason, 33, averaged 5.3 points in 69 games last season. Mason's signing gives the Heat 19 players. Teams can invite as many as 20 to camp.

### Gatorade will not renew the expiring contract of Kevin Durant, which is notable only because some speculated that his testy exchange with Dwyane Wade on Twitter this week was done to benefit Gatorade. (Durant and Wade taped a Gatorade commercial several months ago.) Wade insisted their exchange was not a joke, but he had nothing to do with Gatorade dropping Durant.

September 26, 2013

New UM commit; Wade, Harden react more on Durant; Huizenga exits; Dolphins, Marlins

Friday morning update: UM basketball received a commitment late last night from Dallas 6-8 power forward Omar Sherman, who is ranked No. 93 by scout.com in the 2014 recruiting class. Sherman, a physical player with a decent jump shot, also considered Wichita State. He's the second top 100 player in this class, joining guard JaQuan Newton.



No, Dwyane Wade assured, his testy Twitter exchange with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant was not a joke, not a publicity ploy for Gatorade (for whom they previously filmed a commercial) or any other product.

But Wade is ready to defuse the situation.

Asked Thursday night if Durant’s comment that James Harden should replace Wade on Sports Illustrated’s list of the Top 10 players was uncalled for, Wade said: “Everyone has an opinion. We’re in an age now where everyone uses their opinion. That was it. He had an opinion. I had a response.”

Asked if their exchange was a joke, he smiled and said, “No.”

To refresh for those who might have missed it: Wade responded to Durant’s comment on Tuesday night by tweeting: “Note to self – make him respect your place in history… again… Don’t believe me. Just watch.” To which Durant responded: “Show me. Don’t tweet me.”

Harden told Comcast SportsNet in Houston today that he believes the Wade/Durant exchange was genuine. Asked if he's a top 10 player, Harden said: "For sure. Last year, I got a chance to prove it... I've kind of always been looked over."

Rockets center Dwight Howard said: "I told James [to] just stay away from [getting involved in the Wade/Durant back and forth]. We do our talking on the floor."

### Wade, speaking at his charity Fashion Show, said: “Our team did a good job of listening to me this summer and leaving me alone and letting me take a vacation. Now I’m back to work.”

Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers showed up later at the event, and Beasley told AP of returning to Miami: "It hasn't set in yet."

### The Heat wanted to bring in point guard Roddy Beaubois, who averaged 7.1 points for Dallas the past four seasons, for an audition, but a wrist injury prevented it.


### Paul Soliai’s absence last week is among reasons the Dolphins are allowing 4.7 yards per rush, sixth-worst in the league. But how have the offseason linebacker changes factored in?

Consider: Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Kevin Burnett second and Karlos Dansby 15th against the run in their linebacker categories. As for their Dolphins replacements... This year, Dannell Ellerbe is 44th of 48 inside linebackers against the run (though he’s second in the league in tackles), and Philip Wheeler 25th of 34 in his outside linebacker category – with Dansby (Arizona) and Burnett (Oakland) still ranking ahead of both.

What’s more, Dansby and Burnett combined for 20 missed tackles in 2012. Ellerbe and Wheeler already have 11 in three games. And Koa Misi’s PFF ranking against the run has dropped from ninth in 2012 to 21st in 2013.

So Miami's issues against the run extend well beyond Soliai's absence and the play of the defensive line.

### You know what surprises receiver Mike Wallace about Ryan Tannehill? “He’s a lot more composed than I thought he would be… Every single day he makes us more and more comfortable with his growth.”

And tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill is “a totally different person” this year in how he “takes control of the huddle. He’s always positive, and that gives the rest of the team confidence.”

Tannehill has risen to ninth in quarterback rating at 94.3 (well ahead of Joe Flacco and Tom Brady) after finishing 27th last year. And he has gone from last in league in third down rating (65.3) to 11th (90.7).

### Not only did Dion Jordan grade out highest of any Dolphins defender in Pro Football Focus’ Week 3 ratings, but only one other NFL player with fewer than 100 snaps (Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward) has more quarterback pressures. (Jordan has played only 57 defensive snaps.)

ESPN’s Jon Gruden, who calls Monday’s Dolphins game, criticized the Jordan pick in April, because he said Jordan never played 60 or so snaps in a game.

“I have a lot of respect for Gruden, but Dion is in tremendous shape and can run for days, and I don’t see any reason he can’t play 55 or 65 plays a game,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. (He played 31 against Atlanta.) “We played our team a lot like a hockey team because our guys would rotate.”

### Former Dolphins/Marlins/Panthers owner H. Wayne Huizenga officially left the sports ownership business this week, for the first time in more than 20 years. He sold his tiny share of the Panthers to Vincent Viola after selling his five percent Dolphins ownership to Stephen Ross earlier this year.

“I’m happy being a fan, and I have a suite at all three [Dolphins, Panthers, Marlins] venues,” Huizenga said Thursday.

### Giancarlo Stanton, whose recent power surge has given him 24 homers (along with a .249 average and 58 RBI in 113 games), said “nothing will make me OK with this season. I haven’t played the way I wanted all year. Anything baseball related bothered me.”

Asked if he would consider a long-term contract from the Marlins, he was non-committal. He can be a free agent after 2016.

### Desperately in need of offense, the Marlins say they will consider doing something unlike them: Trading quality pitching for offense.

“Pitching is our strength throughout the system, and we have the depth to lure someone possibly,” Marlins vice president of player development Marty Scott said. “We have stockpiled pitching prospects to get a bat,  depending on who’s out there.

“We have holes to fill position wise at the major league level, and I don’t think we have [minor leaguers] for those positions right now.” (He made a possible exception for second baseman Derek Dietrich, who finished the year in the minors.)

### With practice opening Friday, a quick primer on how UM’s new-look basketball team – which lost six key players - ended up:

Point guard: Potentially shared among Garrius Adams (also will play small forward), Belgian freshman Manu LeComte (“the contacts we have overseas told us this kid is going to be a very good player,” coach Jim Larranaga said) and freshman Corn Elder once football season ends (“he knows how to run a team,” Larranaga said)…. Shooting guard: Rion Brown (will get a lot of shots), with freshmen DeAndre Burnett and Davon Reed behind him….

Small forward: Adams (“Durand Scott was ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Shane Larkin was on the All-Defensive team and they couldn’t stop him in practice… awesome in practice,” Larranaga said), plus Erik Swoope, Reed and well-regarded junior college transfer James Kelly (18.3 points, 10.1 rebounds last season)…. Power forward: Former DePaul player Donnavan Kirk, in his second tour with UM, with Kelly and Swoope… Centers: Tonye Jekiri (has worked on offensive game) and Raphael Akpejiori.  

September 25, 2013

Panthers owner set; Special matchup for Mike Wallace; Analyst musings on Fins; UM, Heat; Marlins sign player

 Some quick notes:

### The Panthers will introduce New York businessman Vinnie Viola as their new owner at a 10 a.m. Friday news conference. Viola is purchasing the team from Cliff Viner. Michael Yormark will stay on as team president.

###  One of the interesting matchups in Monday’s Dolphins-Saints game will be Mike Wallace against New Orleans cornerback Keenan Lewis, his friend since childhood --- both grew up in the New Orleans area -- and a former teammate both in high school and with the Pittsburgh Steelers until both left as free agents this past spring.

Wallace was asked -- no joke -- 15 questions about Lewis in a conference call with New Orleans media today.

He said he and Lewis speak “at least five times a week. I talked to him yesterday. I’m pretty sure I’m going to talk to him again tonight.

“We are going to continue to talk every day. Every single day, almost, we talk to each other. We’ve been talking about this day since the day we signed, since March 12. I told him to get ready and he told me the same thing, so we’re excited about it. It’s all love. Like I keep telling y’all, that’s my brother. I wish the best for him, just not on Monday night.

“He’s my best friend. Just having him with me all the time, we are going through the same things. Our families are real close. We are going to joke all day long (and) clown. I need to get me somebody like that around here, because I don’t have it right now. That’s my brother, so it’s going to take a while to get on the level with another guy like that. Even in college I had a guy who we played in high school with who I went to college with. This is my first time being on a team by myself.”

Wallace said he expects to be matched against Lewis a lot on Monday night.

### ESPN’s Trent Dilfer, studying the Dolphins’ film, unleashed a series of tweets tonight. Among them: “I am concerned with how they handle inside blitzes & add on rushers in pass game, especially on action passes….

"O-Line isn't super talented, but is works together well. Their movements are in sync & ball is out quick in pass game….

"If Charles Clay #42 is listed as a FB, pencil him in for the Pro Bowl. Dude is as versatile as any player in NFL.

"Scheme helps get WR's open quickly. Run game is simple, but backs run hard.

"First thing that jumped out was diverse play calling. Multiple formations, personnel groupings.”

### Ryan Tannehill, who knows he needs to cut down on fumbles, says he was more likely to tuck the ball and run last year than this season.

“I think last year I was quick to escape. (I was) not hanging in there quite as long, not trusting the protection, trusting your eyes and escaping the pocket, moving out to my right most of the time, and then you cut the field in half. So then you really limit yourself that way. Something I worked on this offseason is really hanging in there and keeping my eyes downfield.”

### Interesting that NBA commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver, who will succeed David Stern next spring, told The Wall Street Journal today that it was the Heat -– not the NBA –- that came up with the idea to put nicknames on the back of player jerseys for two Heat-Brooklyn games this season.

### Most improved UM players on defense? Anthony Chickillo said Tracy Howard and Thurston Armbrister.

### Though Stephen Morris' ankle isn't 100 percent, Al Golden said today that Morris was only 75 percent because of an ankle injury on the day of last year's FSU game and still played. Golden said he expects him to play.

### St. Thomas Aquinas defensive tackle Anthony Moten, one of UM's top remaining targets, has set up a visit to Michigan State in a couple of weeks, according to the Detroit Free Press. Some consider Miami a favorite for Moten -- who decommitted from Florida --- but FSU and South Carolina remain very much in the mix, and Notre Dame can't be discounted. Moten, ranked the 163rd best player by rivals.com, plays a position of need for UM. 

### The Marlins have decided to bring back infielder/pinch hitter Greg Dobbs in 2014, according to a source. Dobbs confirmed it tonight, saying that his agent and Jeffrey Loria have struck a deal.

Dobbs, whose two-year, $3 million contract is expiring, is batting .229 this season but hit .275 and .285 in his previous two years with the Marlins.

Dobbs’ signing leaves Placido Polanco, pitcher Chad Qualls and outfielders Juan Pierre and Austin Kearns as the Marlins’ free agents. Kearns has missed most of the season because his parents have been ill. Dobbs, catcher Jeff Mathis (due $1.5 million in 2014) and pitcher Jacob Turner ($1 million team option) are now under contract for next season, and everyone else is under team control for 2014.

The arbitration eligible Marlins are outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who could see his salary jump from $537,000 to between $6 million and $8 million, first baseman Logan Morrison, infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan, outfielder Justin Ruggiano and pitchers Ryan Webb, Mike Dunn and Kevin Slowey.

### Jose Fernandez, who hasn’t pitched in two weeks because the Marlins imposed a pitch limit on him, admits he has been bored. Told Fernandez would be appearing for an inning on Fox Sports Florida’s broadcast Wednesday, Redmond said: “That’s great. It’ll give him something to do.”

Fernandez chatted with Redmond during Tuesday’s game, but Redmond told him: “Hey man, I’ve got to kind of pay attention in case something comes up.”          

September 24, 2013

Loria says he wants to add offense; Fins injury news; Wade & Durant exchange words; Heat, Canes


Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson said owner Jeffrey Loria told him recently that he plans to acquire hitters, and Dawson said there are three priorities: third base, first base and catcher. But budget constraints again could prove limiting.

Marlins people (not Dawson) suspect the payroll will fall in the range of this season’s, which was $36 million before the Ricky Nolasco trade in July, plus $12.5 million paid to players dealt to Toronto and Arizona. But Loria hasn’t informed the staff of the 2014 payroll number and he’s prone to changing his mind.

“You are in dire need of offense, and it’s going to cost money,” Dawson said. “You have to spend to win, and you might have to overpay.… Jeffrey said on the last homestead that we have to get hitters in here and he’s going to.”

The Marlins entered Tuesday last in baseball with 503 runs (the average for National League teams is 630); last in homers at 95 (140 is the NL average) and last in batting average at .232 (.252).

The Marlins could fill one or two of those priority areas through trades. There are three problems with luring high-quality free agents, even beyond how much Loria is willing to spend: The team is coming off a horrible season; Loria is viewed suspiciously by players after trading Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle a year after signing them; and the roomy ballpark dimensions –-- criticized by Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison –-- are a major turnoff to hitters.

“Any single person who has taken batting practice here,” Stanton reiterated this week, “is not talking about how beautiful the park is or what hitters they’re worried about. They’re talking about the graveyard it is out there.”

Stanton said he suspects Marlins management is aware of the “chatter about” the ballpark dimensions but said “it’s not my job” to implore Loria to move in the fences. Manager Mike Redmond said he would not get involved in the issue. The Marlins have hit just 36 homers at home, 59 on the road.

Among free agents at the three priority areas:

### Catcher: The Braves’ Brian McCann (.261, 20 homers, 57 RBI) is presumably out of Miami’s price range. Other notable free agents: Boston catcher and West Palm Beach native Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.266, 13, 59), Texas’ A.J. Pierzynski (.275, 17, 66), the Cubs’ Dioner Navarro (.303, 13, 34) and Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (.273, 5, 37).

### Third base: Weak group of free agents. The Marlins want someone who can be productive there for at least a year or two until Colin Moran is ready. The top free agents are all between 33 and 36: the Dodgers’ Juan Uribe (.273, 12, 48), the Dodgers’ Michael Young, who previously drew Marlins interest (.284, 8, 46) and Arizona’s Eric Chavez (.283, 9, 44).

### First base: A Marlins person said Loria expected more from Morrison (.246, 6, 36 in 81 games), even though Morrison was coming off knee surgery. “With all due respect to Logan, you want to address the need for better defense and more production offensively,” Dawson said.

Among free agents, the Brewers’ Corey Hart (.270, 30, 83) would be too expensive. Also set for free agency: Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu, who intrigues the Marlins; Boston’s Mike Napoli, who grew up in South Florida and can also play catcher (.257, 23, 90), Pittsburgh’s Justin Morneau (.258, 17, 76), Tampa’s James Loney (.296, 13, 71) and Seattle’s Kendrys Morales (.276, 22, 78).

Fort Lauderdale native Mike Morse, 31, has slumped badly for Seattle and Baltimore (.215, 13, 37) but had two exceptional years for Washington in 2011 and 2012 (combined 49 homers, .298 average), and Marlins like taking chances on players one season removed from good years because they tend to come cheaply.


### Dolphins defensive end Cam Wake, nursing a mild MCL sprain, did on-field work in a half-speed practice Tuesday and wants to play against New Orleans in passing situations, but the Dolphins haven’t decided whether to allow that. They will make a decision later in the week.

### Though defensive tackle Paul Soliai said there’s a 50-50 chance he will play Monday, it wouldn’t be surprising if he remains out. He told teammates that the original prognosis was four weeks for his MCL sprain, which would sideline him for the Saints and Ravens games before a bye week. And with the Dolphins playing a pass-heavy team Monday, Soliai wouldn't play as much as he would against a run-heavy team. He is still receiving treatment and hasn't been cleared to practice.

### Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson said he re-aggravated his groin injury last week and might miss a third consecutive game.

“Best thing is to rest,” he said. “You have to be careful how you nurse it. If you aggravate it, it will turn into a year old deal.”

### Though the Dolphins auditioned several veteran free agent corners on Monday (DeMarcus Van Dyke, Ryan Mouton, Terrence McGee, Jacob Lacey, Jalil Brown, Ron Bartell), Bartell’s agent said the Dolphins told Bartell none would be signed for now.

### Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi, who missed part of Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, participated in the light session Tuesday, and teammates expect he will be fine for Monday's game.

### Dwyane Wade and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant engaged in a testy exchange on social media late tonight.

It started when Durant told Cinesport that his former Thunder teammate, James Harden, should have been included in Sports Illustrated's list of the top 10 NBA players this season instead of Wade, who was ranked eighth.

Wade responded with this hand-written note on Instagram: "9/24/13: Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the Top 10. Note to self* Make him respect your place in history... again." Wade also typed the words: "Don't believe me. Just watch."

Durant's response? "Show me, Don't tweet me."   

### Heat players have shown no sign of complacency off two championships. Wade indicated he was working out until 1:30 a.m. Monday night, Norris Cole has been shooting jumpers late into the night and Chris Bosh has been working hard on his game in California. A bunch of others, including Michael Beasley, have been doing on-court work at AmericanAirlines Arena. And Greg Oden, continuing to progress from his history of knee programs, has been doing work both on court and in the weight room.

### Add veteran NBA swingman Roger Mason Jr. to the list of players auditioning for the Heat. Mason, who's workout out for Miami this week, averaged 5.3 points in 69 games for New Orleans last season and shot 41.5 percent on three-pointers. Swingman Von Wafer was invited back to Miami for a second week of workouts but has been unable because of an injury.

### UM safety Deon Bush, still trying to regain his speed after hernia surgery and abdomenal issues: “It’s obvious I’m a totally different player than last year. I was disappointed in the way I played [Saturday].” When does he expect to be back to himself? "I can't really tell how long it will be."

### UM chose to discontinue its five-game series with USF, meaning Saturday will be the last matchup. UM saw no upside in continuing the series. The Hurricanes still have one non-conference opening on next year's schedule, with Southern Mississippi a possibility. A road game at Nebraska's is UM's only particularly challenging non-conference game in 2014.

### For more UM, Dolphins and Marlins notes, please see the last post from earlier today. I'm on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


New Dolphin surprised by career turn; UM,Heat items; Shalala 'on line 2'; Beinfest reacts

Some quick Tuesday notes:

### Defensive tackle Marvin Austin begins his Dolphins employment today eager to jump start a three-year career filled with injuries and unfulfilled expectations.

A second-round pick out of North Carolina, Austin missed his rookie season (2011) with a torn pectoral muscle, then missed eight games of his second season with a back injury.

“For a month there, I couldn’t even lift weights” last season, he told the New York Daily News last month, soon before the Giants cut him. “I look like freaking Bambi out there.”

He had a grand total of eight tackles in eight games for the Giants last season. Then he needed knee surgery after the season.

He failed to make the Giants in training camp and was signed to provide depth because of injuries that have sidelined Paul Soliai and Cam Wake.

“I could never have seen this,” Austin told The Daily News last month about simply fighting to stay in the league. “I thought I’d be a starting D-tackle right now, possibly a Pro Bowler. Athletically, I’m one of the best D-tackles in the league.”

Giants defensive line coach Ronald Nunn said last month: “He can’t just disappear when the pads come on.”

### UM coach Al Golden said Stephen Morris (ankle) did not participate in all of practice today but threw 40 passes. He’s still on track to play Saturday against USF, barring a setback.

### Asked who has proved worthy of more playing time, Golden cited Beau Sandland, Stacy Coley,  Gus Edwards and Alex Gall. “Gus’ speed is deceptive, at 228. He runs in the 4.5 range. He looks like he’s plodding, but he’s not.”

### The NCAA announced today that it will gradually restore scholarships taken away from Penn State as part of punishment for the Jerry Sandusky tragedy.

Which prompted this excellent tweet from ESPN’s Jay Bilas a little while ago: “NCAA receptionist: Uh, Dr. Emmert, Donna Shalala on line 2. She’d like to know how you decided on Penn State twice before Miami once.”

### Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, awaiting word from owner Jeffrey Loria about whether he will keep his job, has understandably declined to discuss the issue with newspaper writers.

But on his team-mandated radio appearance this morning with Marc Hochman and Jonathan Zaslow on 790/104.3 The Ticket, Beinfest said he did not know if he would be retained.

“If I read the papers and l listen to everybody, it sounds I'm a goner,” he said, adding “I’ve done a good job.”

How has he dealt personally with speculation about his job?

“The tumultuous and unsettling part is reading about it everyday,” he said. “I’m a person… [with] a wife and kids. It can grate on you. Has it been fun for me? No…. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. Nobody wants to read about losing their livelihood.”

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported late last night that Loria plans on re-organizing his front office around assistant general manager Dan Jennings and Jennings already has been given permission to assemble a staff. The Marlins aren’t commenting on the report. But from all indications, Beinfest has not been told if he will be retained.

### The Heat will hold training camp in the Bahamas next week.


September 23, 2013

Monday afternoon UM and Dolphins quick hits; Heat signs point guard

Some quick Canes hits  (Please see below for 1:30 p.m. updates with Heat and Dolphins notes):

### UM said Stephen Morris threw during UM’s light practice today -- he wasn't a full participant in practiced -- and Al Golden indicated he expects him to play Saturday against USF.

“He looks good,” Golden said, noting this is not as serious as the ankle issue that forced him to miss the end of last year’s North Carolina game. (Morris was able to start the next week.)

### The perception of Ryan Williams around the program has improved. Golden noted that he has improved by changing his mechanics and using his feet more to escape pressure. “He doesn’t have an arm [as strong as] Stephen’s, but that doesn’t preclude him from being a very good quarterback,” Golden said.

### People who have watched UM’s closed practices during training camp have said they’re impressed with how freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen threw the ball. But in some pointed remarks, Golden made clear Monday he expects more. A lot more.

“He has to improve the mental aspects,” Golden said. “He hasn't owned the process. He can't waste this year. He's got to get better. When we're not throwing, he's got to be throwing anyway... [and] watch how Steve and Ryan conduct themselves....”

In other words, don’t get too comfortable, kid, and think you don't have to work harder at this. Golden sent the message he clearly expects more. (Susan Miller Degnan will have more of Golden's comments on Olsen and the quarterbacks in a story to be posted later.)

### Malcolm Lewis, who has essentially fallen to sixth on UM’s receiver depth chart before Rashawn Scott was injured late in the opener, is close to the player he was before his gruesome ankle injury against Georgia Tech last season, Golden said.

“Is he 100? No,” Golden said. “Will he be this year? I don’t know yet. He was playing faster.”

### Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio smiled when noting that freshman linebacker Jermaine Grace not only thanked him after Saturday’s blowout win for putting him in the game but also reminded him that he had six tackles.

### Artie Burns wasn’t able to seize a starting cornerback job (he was listed as a possible starter last week, but not on Sunday’s depth chart), and that’s not a surprise because he’s got quality older players ahead of him. But Burns remains firmly entrenched among UM's top four corners and coaches love the upside.

"He played over 30 plays and graded out pretty well," Golden said. "We have to get more production from him in pass breakups and tackles, things of that nature.”

### UM is pleased with tight end Beau Sandland’s emergence.

“He's gifted athletically, he has loose hips, soft hands,” Golden said. “The things we didn't know was how good he'd be with run after catch.”

### Game time for the Oct. 5 home game against Georgia Tech will be decided next Sunday.


The Heat, looking to fill out a training camp roster, signed undrafted 6-2 rookie point guard Larry Drew III, who averaged 7.5 points and 7.3 assists and shot 44.6 percent for UCLA last season and 43.3 percent on threes. The son of the Milwaukee Bucks and former Atlanta Hawks coach, Drew impressed the Heat during workouts earlier this month.

Drew, who started his college career at North Carolina and then transferred, broke Pooh Richardson's UCLA single-season assists record last season and was named first-team All Pac-12.

The Heat has 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts and five to non-guaranteed deals (centers Jarvis Varnado and Justin Hamilton, forwards Michael Beasley and Eric Griffin, Drew). The Heat has told agents it might not keep the maximum 15 players, so it's highly questionable whether any of the fringe roster contenders will make it, Beasley notwithstanding.

The Heat can bring as many as 20 players to camp, with former FSU guard Von Wafer among those continuing to get a look during informal workouts with the Heat.


A few Dolphins notes from Monday:

### Joe Philbin said he's "delighted" by Ryan Tannehill's progress. "It's great to see, no question about it." But he said Tannehill "has to do a better job with the football."

### What especially irked Philbin about Sunday's win was "too many missed tackles."

### The Dolphins have committed only two penalties in the past two games (both yesterday). Conversely, the Jets committed 20 penalties in their win against Buffalo on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said Philbin deserves credit for the Dolphins' lack of penalties because he emphasizes that.

### What pleased Philbin with the running game is "we're not having as many negative yardage plays" as the opener against Cleveland.

### He blamed a scheme error and a running back (clearly Daniel Thomas) for two of the five sacks allowed. "We're averaging almost five sacks a game," Philbin said. "That's not acceptable."

Meanwhile, Sherman blamed himself for two of the five sacks.

### Sherman said Tannehill's game-winning TD pass to Dion Sims was a play they ran at Texas A&M when Sherman was the coach and Tannehill was the quarterback.

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Dion Jordan played well in his 30 defensive snaps, including a key run stop (with Reshad Jones) near the goal-line.

### Coyle said he's eager to see what rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and WIll Davis can do and believes they are close to contributing.

### Philbin said the fact that 75 percent of 3-0 teams have made the playoffs since 1990 is "meaningless." 

### NFL Network's Deion Sanders threw water on the Dolphins' start, noting their defensive rankings don't impress him. OK then.


September 21, 2013

Questions linger on Dion Jordan's role, position; Fins, UM, Loria, Heat, Panthers chatter


A Fins six-pack:

### It’s notable that Dion Jordan, the third overall pick and first defensive player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, has played the fewest defensive snaps of any of the 17 first-round draft picks that play defense and have not missed a game due to injury (just 26 -- one more than Cleveland's Barkevious Mingo, who missed the opener because of injury).

What's more, Jordan has played fewer offensive or defensive snaps than any healthy first-round rookie except Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, selected 29th.

What’s more, aside from Seattle (which had no first-rounder) and Cleveland (which had only five picks), Miami’s rookie draft picks have played fewer offensive or defensive snaps (78) than any other team so far.

Cause for concern? Absolutely not. Dolphins players love Jordan’s skill set and work ethic and expect he will be very good. Cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis have been injured. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has been terrific. Players love the potential of Davis and tight end Dion Sims and like Taylor’s quickness, though everyone needs to see more from him. (There’s far less optimism about guard/tackle Dallas Thomas, who hasn't impressed in practice, according to a player.)

With Miami’s depth in the front seven, the biggest question is how to get Jordan on the field more and where he best fits long-term.

The Dolphins are determined to make it work with Jordan primarily as a 4-3 defensive end. But the coach who knows him best believes that’s not his best spot.

“To me, he’s best as an outside linebacker,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said, “because when he sets the edge with that leverage, and the way he can run, he will keep everything inside. He can be an outstanding rusher off the edge. I’m not saying he can’t play end. [But] he’s best” at linebacker.

Some evaluators agree with Aliotti. Jordan played mostly as a standup outside linebacker in Oregon’s hybrid 3-4 scheme -– a position Jason Taylor thrived at late in his Dolphins career -– but also some end.

“Jordan’s not a 4-3 end,” said former Packers, Raiders and Falcons executive Ken Herock, who worked with Jordan before the draft. “His best spot is linebacker and he’ll be a great linebacker. He has all the ingredients -– smooth, fluid, athletic, smart, long arms, can take on tight ends. He’s a better athlete than Jason Taylor. Taylor could never play in space like this guy.”

Unless the Dolphins move back to a 3-4 –- which seems unlikely under coordinator Kevin Coyle – they want Jordan primarily at end, considering they have committed long-term financially to Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler as their linebackers.

But if Olivier Vernon proves to be a very good starting end –- and if he outplays Misi, which he hasn’t so far -– then where to play Jordan would be worth re-considering.

For now, the challenge is creating playing time for Jordan behind Vernon, or at times, with Vernon and Cameron Wake in a selectively-used speed package. Derrick Shelby (two sacks and two forced fumbles in two games) also has earned snaps.

Asked if he expects to play more Sunday, Jordan –- who missed much of preseason with a shoulder injury - said: “That’s the plan. I got a lot of work in practice this week.”

Though Pro Football Focus ranks Vernon as the league’s worst 4-3 end, Vernon said Dolphins coaches graded him “in the 80s, which is good” for the two games.

Jordan, who said he feels stronger after bulking up to 260 pounds, said one of his adjustments has been that “guys are much bigger here.” And that’s more of an issue at end. But he said he’s fine playing either end or linebacker.

“I played with my hand in the dirt all throughout high school, and I’m playing it now,” he said. “I feel like it actually helps me because I’m going forward instead of having to worry about dropping backward into sets. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve just got to make plays no matter where they put me.”

### Aside from Jordan and Sims (49), Jelani Jenkins (three) is the other rookie to play an offensive or defensive snap so far. (Caleb Sturgis' field goals are listed as special teams snaps.) Running back Mike Gillislee, inactive both games, said: “The NFL is 10 times as fast as the SEC. It’s something I have to adjust to."

### This epitomizes this franchise’s problems the past decade: From 1970 to 2003, the Dolphins had the NFL’s best record in September home games (42-5). Since 2004, they have the second-worst at 4-11, better than only Cleveland’s 4-12.

And Miami’s overall home record the past 10 seasons (36-44) is better than only Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland.

“It hasn’t been very noisy at Sun Life in a while,” Brian Hartline said.

Is there even much of a home-field advantage here? “I wouldn’t say an overwhelming presence,” he said.

### A year ago, Michael Egnew’s blocking was so poor that one defensive player insisted coaches subconsciously would not give as much credit to defensive plays made with Egnew blocking. Now, Egnew has improved to the point where he said offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has commended him for blocks, in front of teammates, during film session. “I’m 100 percent better,” Egnew said.

Matt Moore said Egnew “is much more physical and has better awareness.” Tight ends Egnew and Dion Sims haven’t been thrown a pass yet and hope that changes Sunday.

### Ellerbe, comparing the Dolphins to his Super Bowl-winning Ravens of 2012: “We’re in the same ballpark talent-wise. And this defense is faster than Baltimore’s last year.”

### Mellow Joe Philbin displays such little emotion that Wake said “it surprises you” when he showed joyful excitement after the Colts win. “Now he’s starting to let his personality out -– it takes some getting used to,” Wake said, unable to remember Philbin being more excited than he was last Sunday.


Coaches that win consecutive championships receive lucrative offers for speeches, book deals and more. But we hear the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra is turning down everything. As a friend said, at this point in his life, he wants to focus on winning championships.

Spoelstra again has used a bit of his time this summer to study coaches and their techniques, including friend Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and Pete Carroll in Seattle. (He also spoke to Seahawks and University of Tennessee players, and Russell Wilson raved about his speech to the Seahawks.)

### An example of the peculiar way Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is doing business: When Larry Beinfest, the president of baseball operations, suggested last month that the Marlins promote second baseman Derek Dietrich in September, Loria said no. Loria is annoyed that Dietrich accused former first base coach Tino Martinez - Loria’s hand-picked choice -- of abusive behavior.

But when assistant GM Dan Jennings then recommended to Loria that Dietrich be promoted, Loria changed his mind and gave the OK -– a point that became moot when Dietrich suffered an oblique injury before his promotion.

Among those who have Loria’s ear: Jennings, vice president/player development Marty Scott and agent Scott Boras (primarily concerning how to handle star client Jose Fernandez).

Why is Loria no longer listening to Beinfest nearly as much? Because when Beinfest doesn’t like Loria’s personnel ideas, Beinfest tells him. And an associate said Loria doesn’t like his ideas being rejected and will do what he wants anyway.

### Few, if any, grand conclusions can be made from UM's 77-7 thumping of Savannah State on Saturday night, considering how dreadful the competition is. A few postgame items: The coaches decided at halftime that the fourth quarter would be cut to 12 minutes. That, combined with UM making no particular effort to score in the fourth quarter, left the Canes short of the school record for yardage (689 against UCLA in 1998.) UM finished with 637 yards of offense, to Savannah State's 183. "Al Golden is a heck of a guy," Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson said.. UM topped its school record for points by two but fell five short of Clemson's ACC record for points in a game (82)....

Of all the freshmen, Gus Edwards (12 for 113 on the ground and three touchdowns), Stacy Coley (88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 25-yard TD reception) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (two sacks) had the best nights, but several freshmen who hadn't played much got a lot of work, including linebacker Jermaine Grace, whom Golden challenged afterward to "study the game more, prepare more" and become more of a factor on special teams....

The supremely confident Muhammad said college football "is not what I expected.... It's fast. A lot of signals... I was upset about not getting any sacks yet" before Saturday.... Though Duke Johnson seemed in discomfort when he left late in the first quarter, Golden said both he and Stephen Morris (who had an ankle sprain) are fine. But Morris' situation warrants monitoring; Golden said Morris will stay off his feet for 48 hours.... Third-string quarterback Gray Crow, on his 6 for 6 passing night (55 yards): "Someone said when opportunity knocks, it knocks very quietly."... UM said it used 81 - 81! - players in the game.

### A source assures that Vincent Viola, the Panthers’ prospective new owner, has deep pockets, with a net worth north of $1 billion. Majority owner Cliff Viner decided not to keep a small piece, and all of the minority owners are selling to Viola. 

The Panthers are about $12 million below the $64 million salary cap ceiling, according to capgeek.com, and the hope around the club is the payroll eventually will increase. But we'll wait to hear from Viola on that before we get our hopes up, especially because the team has been losing $20 million a year.