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Cameron, Stills and Gase hope to reverse a disturbing Dolphins trend; Marlins, UM, Panthers

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

The list of exasperating trends about the Dolphins in recent years is a long one, and here’s one of many that must change: Talented veteran offensive players coming here and producing less, often much less, than they did elsewhere.

Brandon Marshall went from 10 TD catches in his final year in Denver to three in his first with Miami (2010), with all his stats dropping across-the-board. Mike Wallace went from averaging 17.2 yards per catch in his Pittsburgh career to 12.8 in two underwhelming years here. Brandon Gibson, in two years combined with the Dolphins, didn’t match the yards or touchdowns he achieved in his final year in St. Louis.

Knowshon Moreno went from a 10-TD, 1038-yard season in Denver to blowing out his knee at the start of his Dolphins career. (He has said he would like to return to Miami, but the Dolphins aren’t interested.)

Kenny Stills went from 80 catches and 917 yards in his final year in New Orleans to 27 and 440 in his first season here (2015). “Disappointed with the way things went,” Stills said this week.

Then there’s the curious case of tight end Jordan Cameron. For a poor Browns team, Cameron caught 80 passes for 917 yards in 2013, then averaged 17.7 yards on 24 catches in 10 games in 2014. He was billed as a dynamic offensive weapon when the Dolphins signed 14 months ago, one who would easily replace Buffalo-bound Charles Clay.

Instead, Cameron was asked to block more than ever before and his stats were underwhelming last season (35 catches, 386 yards, 11.0 yards per catch, three touchdowns). His receiving yards ranked just 29th among tight ends. Clay, meanwhile, caught 51 passes for 528 yards for Buffalo.

Backup Dion Sims said today that Adam Gase plans to involve tight ends in the passing game more than the past regime did.

“I am hoping that would be the case,” Cameron said Thursday. “If you look at his offenses in the past, they've used a tight end. He does a good job of putting them in spots to succeed.  He does a good job of putting guys in position to win and finding the mismatches.”

Consider: Last season, Dolphins tight ends (Cameron, Dion Sims and Jake Stoneburner) combined for 58 receptions for 560 yards and six touchdowns. With Gase running the Bears’ offense, Chicago’s tight ends (Martellus Bennett; Zach Miller and Rob Housler) combined for 90 catches for 905 yards and eight touchdowns.

Cameron said one reason he accepted a pay cut from $7.5 million to $6 million this season, instead of balking and asking for his release, is because Gase came highly recommended by friends.  

“For me, having a year with Adam Gase and knowing what he's done with tight ends, I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “I got a lot phone calls regarding coach Gase and his ability to maximize guys and their potential and get everything out of them. One of my good friends, [Jaguars and former Broncos tight end] Julius Thomas, who played for him, he called me immediately and said, ‘You've got to play for this guy.’ It was kind of like a no-brainer... I think I made the right decision.

“[Gase] is young and very vibrant. He has so much confidence in his ability to call plays. That’s kind of contagious and guys feed off that. He’s definitely a player’s coach. He gets it. He knows how to communicate with us. It’s awesome so far.”

Of the pay cut, Cameron said: “It doesn't feel good, but I didn't do much to deserve a raise; I will tell you that much.”

Gase said he wants to maximize Cameron’s skills: “I’m excited to see where we can go with him. The tight end position of this offense has been one of the strengths as far as matchup issues with safeties and linebackers.”

There are a lot of reasons for why nearly all the Dolphins’ veteran offensive additions this decade (excluding Reggie Bush) haven’t performed as well here: a poor offensive line, shaky quarterback play, questionable coaching (often lacking creativity) and in some cases not enough opportunity.

In the case of offensive linemen Tyson Clabo, Marc Colombo, Bryant McKinnie and Darren Colledge, all were well past their prime when they arrived.

Regardless, this trend must change. Extracting more from Stills and Cameron would be a start. And Gase’s track record raises optimism.

• For a look at all of the Dolphins' key special team battles, please click here for our post from earlier today.

CHATTER

Marlins closer AJ Ramos, 17 for 17 on saves, said he has tried not to get into jams partly because he doesn’t want to keep stressing out his parents. “My dad said he needs a new recliner; he’s on the edge of his seat watching [me] and it’s worn out,” Ramos said.

Ramos, who has escaped a few messes of his own making, is holding opponents to a .169 batting average and entered Thursday having converted 26 save chances in a row, dating to last season, which is the third-longest ongoing streak in baseball behind Brad Ziegler (37) and Jeurys Familia (33).

• UM baseball coach Jim Morris, whose team opens NCAA Tournament play Friday, says he has never given a full scholarship to a single player at Miami and that he’s losing a bunch of quality players every year because UM’s tuition/room/board is so high ($64,000 a year). The result has been a 2016 team with five to eight high-end players but very little depth.

“That’s always going to be a challenge at Miami because you’re not going to have 35 guys on a team,” Morris said. “The fact is, the scholarship situation is tough. A lot of our guys… played just about every inning of every game. I’m concerned about them getting tired. We try to practice less, take care of them, do all the things we can to keep them fresh.”

• Good crowd tonight for the Panthers uniform unveiling and I will have some notes from that in the coming days. (George Richards will have a story on the home page about the new uniforms, which received mixed reaction from those in attendance.)

One other Panthers topic we want to address: The Panthers insist Dale Tallon’s power has not diminished amid the front-office shuffling over the past month. But Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko confirmed the organization quietly implemented a decision-making-by-committee approach this past season, which Tallon was OK with, enough so that he accepted a three-year contract extension.

Beginning this past season, seven people were consulted on all personnel moves: Tallon, owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, Luukko, Tom Rowe (now the GM) and Eric Joyce and Steve Werier (now assistant GMs). That remains the case with Rowe now GM.

So why have so many voices making a decision on a single trade? Luukko said the Panthers want diverse opinions so “that everybody has a voice” and because there are financial ramifications with every move.

For example, “we could be talking about a player that Eric has seen play 20 times,” Luukko said. “Steve can analyze it from a financial standpoint. Dale took the lead on all the deals [before the trade deadline]. We all had input.”

Luukko said if Tallon and Rowe disagree on a personnel move, Tallon has final say. And if the owners disagree with Tallon?

Then the owners would have final say in that case, but Luukko said “it wouldn’t get that far” and that the Panthers owners have never nixed a move that Tallon pushed for.

Why not have a single person (such as Tallon) have final say on all moves without going around the room? “I’ve never heard in hockey where someone walks in a room and said, ‘I just made a trade,’” said Luukko, a former long-time president of the Philadelphia Flyers.

There’s a perception Viola has pushed for more use of analytics. True? “Yes, but it’s the whole organization,” Luukko said, adding analytics “give totally invaluable information to reinforce a decision or see where it fits financially.”

• At a stadium tour today, the Dolphins reiterated they fully expect the stadium to be ready well before UM’s Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M, but we hear Orlando has emerged as the front-runner to host that game if it’s not. Marlins Park also has been receiving consideration from UM, but Orlando’s facility could accommodate a lot more fans. UM needs to be able to seat at least 40,000.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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