WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Ex-UM coach Howard Schnellenberger, a fan of Al Golden, said in January that Golden simply had to make some changes after a 6-7 season. And quietly, Golden has made several, including incorporating some of what the Dallas Cowboys do offensively.
Meanwhile, UM’s defense, which patterns itself after the Seattle Seahawks’ defense in some ways, is making some strategic adjustments involving defensive linemen, defensive end Ufomba Kamalu said.
Offensively, “we are trying to model our game after the Cowboys,” tight end Standish Dobard said. “We watch a lot of their tape.”
As quarterback Brad Kaaya said, “a lot of the Cowboys’ passing concepts, we’re incorporating.” UM particularly likes what Dallas does with its third down and tight end packages.
Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley wanted to add to the offense “to become more multiple in what we do,” Coley said. “It will help with the predictability also. If you can really attack teams from a lot of different sets, it helps.”
Golden and Coley visited the Cowboys in January – both are friends with Dallas coach Jason Garrett – and Golden said more visits are planned. He mentioned Seattle as a possibility.
“From an offensive standpoint, we’re structured a lot like Dallas,” Golden said. “More globally, we are going to take a couple more visits in terms of a franchise or organization culturally. We’ve implemented some of those things. Our other coaches are going to visit other people. Even if we bring back one or two things that make us better, it’s worth it.”
Defensively, the changes have been more subtle. Kamalu said Mark D’Onofrio has made some tweaks to create “more of an aggressive defense” and that the defensive ends are being “asked to get in the backfield sooner” and “just have to worry about your gap now” instead of the two-gap approach that UM has played a lot in the past. The two-gap requires defensive linemen to line up head up against an offensive lineman and assume responsibility for the gaps on either side.
UM also wants to disguise its passer-rushers in new ways.
“[Seattle coach] Pete Carroll came here a year ago and we incorporated a lot of his stuff on our defense and we had a lot of success using the things we learned from him,” Golden said. “That was awesome. We watch a lot of that stuff on tape now with our guys.”
Because Golden believes strongly in his philosophy and is loyal to his assistants (he never has fired a single assistant at UM), is it difficult to decide exactly what to change in the wake of 6-7?
“If we feel we can improve it, it’s not about ego, it’s not about being stubborn. It’s about getting it right,” Golden said. “We’ve looked at every facet of our organization and things we need to do better. We’re starting to instill that. Kevin Beard, Randy Melvin are new members of the staff -- those guys have ideas, too. If the [ideas] make us better, we’ll go with it.”
Will fans see changes next year? “We’ve changed so much year to year, every year in terms of who we are and how we operate,” Golden said. “Every year it’s been different.”
Among Golden’s other changes: Like the Dolphins did last season, UM is having more than two dozen players wear GPS devices to determine their heart rates, how much they’re running in practice and other factoids that can help with injury prevention and in other ways.
There were three coaching changes: Melvin and Beard replaced NFL-bound assistants Jethro Franklin and Brennan Carroll, and graduate assistant Kareem Brown is coaching outside linebackers. Players love Brown and Stacy Coley raved about what receivers have learned from Beard.
Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Golden challenges his staff to come up with new ideas.
“He does studies on how to do things better,” Coley said. “Al is a very smart guy and always has a plan of which route he wants to take for the season. He’ll put a bunch of us on projects. He does it every year since I’ve been here.”
So make no mistake: Golden is making changes. The great unknown is whether they will make a difference in the won-loss record next season.
### The Dolphins are bringing in cornerback Brice McCain for a visit and envision him competing with Jamar Taylor and perhaps another player or two for a role as a second or third corner.
He has eight picks and has started 19 games in six NFL seasons --- five seasons with Houston and last year with Pittsburgh, where he started nine games.
Quarterbacks had just a 72.5 rating in his coverage area last season, ranking 12th best of 108 corners.
The Dolphins want him and have talked numbers but have competition from two other teams --- Pittsburgh and Minnesota. But McCain gave his first visit to the Dolphins, who have a chance to close the deal.
The Dolphins also will bring in tight end Jordan Cameron on Wednesday, as Armando Salguero notes. (Check out his blog for details.) That would suggest they are prepared for the possibility of moving on without Charles Clay, who expects a big offer from Buffalo.
### The Dolphins presume signing Ndamokung Suh will give them an upper-echelon run defense; Detroit was sixth and first against the run the past two seasons. So how often does that translate to winning?
Consider: Of the 12 teams in the top six against the run over the past two seasons, nine won at least 10 games that season. (Of those, only Denver had an elite quarterback.) The other three: The Jets twice and the 7-9 Lions of 2013.
### Reaction around the league on the Suh signing: NFL Net’s Brian Billick: “Does this make Miami better? Yes. Does it make them championship caliber? I question that.”… ESPN analyst and former Jet Damien Woody: “As big a signing as Suh is for the Dolphins, it still comes down to [Ryan] Tannehill. I don’t remember the Lions winning a playoff game even with Suh.”…
NFL Net's Willie McGinest: "He's going to get double-teamed. You have those monsters with [Cam] Wake and [Olivier] Vernon. If you are the Bills, who are you going to double team? You can use his athleticism, do a lot of different things. Picture him and Wake on the same side. He earned his contract for what he does. He does not miss games unless he gets suspended....NFL Net’s Heath Evans: “Suh robbed the bank, and Joe Philbin is going to get framed for this bank robbery. The trickle down effect of this will be devastating to this franchise, mark my words."
### Tough business: Shelley Smith's release caught him by surprise, because it came weeks after Dennis Hickey conveyed to his representation that the Dolphins really like him and envisioned him competing for a starting job.
But the Dolphins felt they needed the cap space, and this move saves $2.5 million. And they conveyed to Smith that they would have interest in bringing him back at a lower number. He will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.
Mike Tannenbaum said last week that the Dolphins feel good at guard with Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner primarily. But another veteran is needed now to replace Smith and Daryn Colledge.
### Though the Dolphins have left the door open to move Dion Jordan to linebacker, the team said on the record on Tuesday that he is still a defensive end.
### Joe Philbin's influence on personnel has certainly has been minimized since Tannenbaum's addition. He had no real role in the Stephen Ross-driven decision to sign Suh, and had serious concerns about keeping Mike Wallace, a move the front office supports.
### Wallace, asked by ESPN's Josina Anderson about taking a pay cut: "I am willing to help out the team, but at the same time I’m not about to do nothing crazy either. I’ll definitely help the team out, but it has to be reasonable—what I feel is reasonable.”
What does he feel is reasonable? "I don’t know. I have to see what exactly what my agent and the team is talking about and whatever I feel is reasonable. It’s not set like this is what it is. If we come to an agreement, I’m with it. Like I said, I’m not about to do something too crazy. I still have a family that comes first."
### Both the Dolphins and Wallace have moved past the incident in the final game of the season, when he complained about not getting the ball and was benched.
"Honestly I feel like we are really past that point," Wallace told Anderson. "It’s not even really about that anymore. I think we are pretty much past that. Obviously, that can come into some decisions I guess, but for the most part I feel like we are pretty much past that."
### The Patriots signed former Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson to a one-year deal worth $825,000.
### Clemson defensive end/outside linebacker Vic Beasley, projected for Miami's first-round draft range (14) or higher, reportedly will visit Dolphins headquarters on Monday.
(Wednesday 9 a.m. update: The Dolphins have told Randy Starks that he has been released.)
### Interesting that Udonis Haslem said Tuesday that teammates bear some responsibility in Hassan Whiteside’s behavior.
"It’s not just on Hassan. It’s on all of us," Haslem said. "We’ve got to collectively support him. As a team, if I’m on the floor, I’m not going to let a guy just intentionally foul him and do certain things to him to get up under his skin. He has to do a better job of making better decisions and guys on the floor have to try to protect him if they get an opportunity to step in between and de-escalate the situation."
### Whiteside's body language (which can suggest he’s pouting at times) bothers some NBA people, but Haslem said that is not an issue with teammates because “it’s not coming from a selfish or malicious place. He’s not a selfish guy. He gets down on himself at times.”
### Erik Spoelstra said aside from the ejections and losing-his-cool (a big issue), Whiteside has done everything Spoelstra has asked, including always being punctual and a hard worker in practice.
### Please see the last post for a lot more on Whiteside and his one-game suspension.
### ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Miami likely needs two ACC Tournament wins to make the NCAA Tournament.
UM’s RPI is still not great (63); Jim Larranaga said teams below 60 have no chance.
Since 1991, only 13 teams earned at-large bids with an RPI of 60 or worse.
UM “could make it with one, but then need help elsewhere,” Lunardi texted.
UM plays Virginia Tech in its ACC Tourney opener at 9 p.m. Wednesday, four days after the Canes dismantled the Hokies. If Miami wins, UM would play Notre Dame at 9 p.m. Thursday.