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Dolphins continue to need to address positions that should have been solved; Heat, Canes hoops

So the Denver Broncos today fire a coach who went 46-18 in four seasons. The Jets fire a coach who guided them to two AFC Championship game appearances.

The Dolphins? No, we’re good. Nothing to see here.

No need for staff changes, at least not now, not after another failed season makes it 23-25 in Joe Philbin’s three years and leaves Miami stuck on one winning season in the past nine.

There’s an undercurrent of irritation for Dolphins fans watching the Colts not only because Jeff Ireland deemed Michael Egnew the better choice in 2012 over the guy playing under his nose at FIU, T.Y. Hilton, (selected 14 spots later) but also because Joe Philbin couldn’t handle a gifted young player (Vontae Davis) who was immature but neither a thug nor a distraction.

His only crime? He behaved like a kid sometimes, needed bathroom breaks at practice.

And so we saw Davis do yesterday what no Dolphins defensive back could do in a similar situation Nov. 23 in Denver, when the Dolphins --- like the Colts on Sunday --- entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead. The Dolphins squandered that cushion; the Colts, conversely, didn't give the Broncos an inch. 

Not coincidentally, we saw Davis make exceptional plays on the ball Sunday. We saw him play the type of game the Dolphins haven’t gotten from a cornerback playing opposite Brent Grimes all year.

To understand the extent of what the Dolphins foolishly gave up in trading Davis for a second-round pick (that turned into Jamar Taylor), consider: Quarterbacks had a league-low 38.8 rating in Davis’ coverage area this season. He had four picks and didn’t allow a touchdown.

The cornerbacks who played alongside or opposite Grimes for Miami?  

Cortland Finnegan had a 102.1 quarterback passer rating in his coverage area. Jimmy Wilson, who played mostly in the slot, had a 129.1 rating against, excluding his snaps at safety.  

Taylor was 93.6. Will Davis had the best of the group (73.9) before his knee injury. Grimes, who had another good season, was at 84.8.

But the bigger issue is this: With a handful of positions, the Dolphins remain the hamster on the wheel, cyling through player after player but never fixing problems for very long, either because they procure a player who isn’t a longterm solution or add good players who have issues the Dolphins find problematic (attitude, injury, excessive bathroom breaks, too vocal, a bad habit of bullying teammates).

Three positions where that wheel-on-the-hamster remains an issue:

### Cornerback: The Grimes signing was among the best Ireland ever made. No issue there.

But in the past six years, the Dolphins have used a first-rounder (Vontae Davis), two second-rounder (Sean Smith and Taylor), a third-rounder (Will Davis) and several lower-round picks on corners, including fourth-rounder Walt Aikens, who has earned little to no trust from the coaching staff because of on-field missteps and off-field maturity issues.

They’ve churned through a bunch of free agents (Richard Marshall, Dimitri Patterson, Cortland Finnegan).

And so they’re again left needing serious help at a position that frankly should have been solved when Davis and Smith were drafted in the first two rounds in 2009. They foolishly didn't try to re-sign Smith, who has been solid for Kansas City.

### Guard: Since 2008, they’ve invested a fourth-rounder (Shawn Murphy), three third-rounders (John Jerry, Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner), gave millions to Joe Berger and Richie Incognito, Lance Louis, Shelley Smith and others.

And though Turner has the physical attributes to perhaps develop into a starter --- and it’s too soon to give up on Thomas --- the Dolphins enter the offseason without a single above-average NFL guard on their roster, presuming Mike Pouncey returns to center, which is his strong preference.

### Receiver: The issue here is not talent. As Armando Salguero cogently detailed on his blog, the conundrum concerns money (Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson) and attitude (Mike Wallace and Rishard Matthews) --- issues that put every member of this group at risk except Jarvis Landry.

And so after making Wallace the highest-paid free agent in 2013 with a $61 million deal, and awarding contracts worth $35 million to Hartline and $10 million to Gibson and deeming Brandon Marshall too much of a distraction for Philbin and a young quarterback, and whiffing on fourth-rounder Clyde Gates and third-rounder Patrick Turner, and churning through journeymen Anthony Armstrong, Legedu Naanee, Davone Bess, Marlon Moore, Greg Camarillo and a partridge and a pear tree, the Dolphins need to again spend another spring worrying about a position that should have been solved.

Unlike guard and cornerback, there's enough talent already at the position. But it's the other stuff that will assuredly result in turnover at receiver.

A friend said Matthews, who has been fined numerous times for being overweight and tardy over the past three seasons, asked for a trade in late August, but Dennis Hickey said no.

Hickey appears to value Matthews more than Philbin does. But Matthews is still cheap ($673,000 cap hit) and he outplays his contract.

You could probably add linebacker to this list, too. But at least the Dolphins solved offensive tackle and have found a young quarterback who's ascending, at the very least.

Couple other quick items:

### Despite Hassan Whiteside's good work Sunday against the Clippers (23 points, 16 rebounds), Erik Spoelstra said he will stick with Chris Andersen as the starter Tuesday against the Lakers.... Whiteside became the first Heat player other than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to produce at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in the same game since the Big Three came together, according to Elias.

### UM has a big opportunity Tuesday for a huge resume-building win at Duke (9 p.m., ESPN2). Duke is sixth in RPI, Miami 76th.

Duke is coming off a road loss at NC State and "I'm sure they'll be fired up to be back at home and we're looking forward to the game," Jim Larranaga said.

Of having to face a Duke team coming off a loss, Larranaga said, "As far as coming off a loss --- I can't remember the last time they lost two conference games back to back. I'm sure it's been a while. They're such a well balanced team. They have the premier low post player in the country (Jahlil Okafor); he is surrounded by outstanding perimeter shooters that really can stretch you defense. They put tremendous pressure on the ball defensively, making it very hard to run any kind of offense." 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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