1 p.m. Friday: 10 notes from UM football practice:
1) Asked who's furthest ahead among the three new receivers (Dayall Harris, Ahmmon Richards and Sam Bruce), Mark Richt said it's Harris, with Richards second.
2) Richt said freshmen tight ends Michael Irvin and Jovani Haskins "have a way to go. They're struggling a little mentally."
3) Richt says "there won't be one featured back. I feel very comfortable with more than just one or two tailbacks."
4) Richt said Ryan Mayes has had "good breaks on the ball. Overall, he's having a very good camp."
5) Richt, on Stacy Coley: "I see a guy who's focused, who wants to be great. He has done all the things we've asked to do." Richt said Coley has had "soft tissue issues" and hamstring problems in the past but isn't during this camp and credits that partly to the work he did all summer.
6) I asked Anthony Moten if Craig Kuligowski is showing the d-line tapes of the four first-rounders that he churned out at Missouri. He is. They've watched tape of Shane Ray and Sheldon Richardson.
7) QB coach Jon Richt says there is no "clear No. 2 or No. 3" behind Brad Kaaya.
8) Jon Richt says Malik Rosier "has got to be more consistent. Some is getting used to the system."
9) Jon Richt said Evan Schirreffs is like "steady Eddy. We know what we'll get out of Evan." Richt said Schirreffs, when they met, looked like "a big old goofy dude. You say he won't move on the pocket." But Richt said that perception didn't prove to be true. "Actually, he's out best athlete," Richt said.
10) On freshman Jack Allison, Jon Richt said he was "in over his head" in the spring but "now you can tell he's competing" because he did a lot of work in the summer. "Great arm, great release."
9 a.m. Friday update: We discussed Chris Culliver below. Got my hands on his contract today. As it turns out, only $300,000 of his one-year deal is fully guaranteed: $225,000 from base salary and another $75,000 OATSB, which is akin to a signing bonus.
If he makes the team, he gets the remaining $775,000 of that $1 million base salary and also gets a $2.5 million roster bonus.
He gets $156,250 for each game he's on the 53-man roster. The Dolphins' inclination, at this point, is for him to start the season on PUP and miss six games, barring a change of heart.
The Dolphins would owe him about $1 million if he is injured while rehabbing and gets cut.
FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Dolphins chatter on the eve of the preseason opener:
• The Dolphins’ signing of cornerback Chris Culliver fit neatly into the theme of the team’s offseason: a veteran who’s coming off a bad or disappointing season (sometimes because of injury) but was very good in the previous season he played.
Of Miami’s 10 most prominent veteran pickups, seven fit that description, another reason why it’s difficult to predict much of anything about this team.
With Culliver, the contrast was stark: In 14 starts for the 49ers in 2014, he ranked among Pro Football Focus’ top 15 cornerbacks, allowing just 37 receptions on 73 targets (50.7%), and holding passers to a 66.5 QB rating – far better than any Dolphins cornerback in 2015.
He parlayed that into a four-year, $32 million contract with the Redskins, but played only six games in 2015 (largely because of hamstring injuries and a torn ACL and MCL in November) and graded negatively in each of the six, allowing 375 yards, four touchdowns and an obscene passer rating of 134.8.
Per PFF, Culliver’s 32.3 coverage grade was worse than all NFL corners except the penalty-plagued Brandon Browner.
“Very up and down,” ESPN analyst and former Browns scout Matt Williamson texted. “Has ability. Been awhile since he contributed. Major off the field concerns.”
As is the case with Culliver, the Dolphins are hoping to get the 2014 version of Mario Williams (14.5 sacks) instead of the 2015 one (just 19 total tackles). They’re hoping to get the 2014 Arian Foster (4.8 yards per carry, 1246 yards) instead of the 2015 version (2.6, four games).
They’re hoping to get the 2014 Byron Maxwell (78.5 passer rating against for Seattle) instead of the 2015 incarnation (100.3 for Philadelphia). They’re hoping not to get the mediocre 2015 Kiko Alonso (knee issues, 11 games, one start for Philadelphia) but instead the player who was the Pro Football Writers' Defensive Rookie of the Year in his only previous season before that (2013).
They’re hoping to get the 14-game-Bears starter Jermon Bushrod of 2014, not the injury-plagued one of last season. They’re hoping to get the Chris Jones who started 12 games at defensive tackle and played effectively for the Patriots in 2014, not the one injured all last season.
With some of these players, the Dolphins are assuming scheme will return them to past form. With others, they’re banking on better health. With Culliver, it’s more desperation than anything.
• We’ll see a lot of Tony Lippett on Friday night, and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has been imploring Lippett to “use my size [6-3] and stay patient,” Lippett said.
Lippett has made several good plays on the ball. But he allows too much cushion to receivers at times.
• The Dolphins also want to get a sense if Bobby McCain or Michael Thomas is better equipped to be their top nickel back. McCain said they have split reps evenly.
With sixth-rounder Jordan Lucas looking more likely for the practice squad, the Dolphins’ eighth defensive back slot – with Culliver potentially starting the year on PUP - could go to Chimdi Chekwa or Brandon Harris or someone who’s with another team now.
“Harris is a veteran guy that knows how to play,” defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said. “There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s a great kid, hard worker and he knows how to play with leverage.” But he has no interceptions in a four-year career and comes off a torn ACL.
• One encouraging sign is how Isa Abdul-Quddus has settled in with the starters at safety.
Anarumo likes Abdul-Quddus’ “physicalness. That jumped off the tape when we watched Detroit stuff. And he’s a very good tackler.”
• The Dolphins will demand much more from their tight ends than they’ve gotten after two largely uninspiring weeks of camp and an uninspiring 2015.
Beyond wanting a lot more from Jordan Cameron, Adam Gase is pushing for Dion Sims, as tight ends coach Shane Day said, “to use more of his size and his length to his advantage, integrate more of that into his game.”
And Friday marks the first time that seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte, a skilled pass-catcher, will ever do in-line blocking in a game.
“Thomas, we’re kind of starting from ground zero because at UCLA he really wasn’t asked to play in-line tight end,” Day said. “He was more of a slot receiver and he played on the outside, and it was good for them. We’re going to ask him obviously to do a lot more in-line tight end blocking, so we’re kind of starting from scratch.
“But I’ve been real happy with his progress. He’s working really hard. He definitely is willing. He’s definitely aggressive. And his size, we’re just going to keep working on it. He’s got to utilize his strengths, which is his quickness and his speed to get on guys quickly and use his hands. But he’s doing a good job. For where he is, I’m really happy.”
• The Dolphins feel very good about their starting linebackers. Linebackers coach Matt Burke calls Koa Misi “a manchild, a big 6-3, 255 pound linebacker that can run” and says Kiko Alonso is “a guy you can keep on the field all three days. He’s a modern day mike. Not a two-down thumper and you’re worried about his matchups in space. We feel just as good about him playing on third and 10 as we do on first and 10.”
But there’s reason for concern because Alonso and Misi have had durability issues and there’s no clear-cut fourth linebacker who's starter-quality on the roster, with Zach Vigil (back) still sidelined.
• Gase is especially eager to see rookie seventh-rounder Brandon Doughty.
“As far as his accuracy, it’s great,” quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree said.
But they want him to go through his progressions properly and get the ball out faster. If he’s exceptional the next four weeks, he has a shot to make the 53.
• In their first 30 years, the Dolphins had only two head coaches (Don Shula, George Wilson) and one flagship radio station (WIOD).
In the 20 years since, they’ve had eight coaches and changed flagship stations five times, moving from WIOD to WQAM for seven years, then to 790 The Ticket for two, back to WQAM for three, to WINZ for six and now back to WQAM-560.
WQAM on Friday begins its third stint as the team's rights-holder announcers and the game broadcasts won't sound appreciably different. Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Bob Griese have been retained, though Jason Taylor will be in the radio booth for preseason, with Griese working the TV package with Dick Stockton and Nat Moore.
Here’s WQAM studio lineup: Pre-game: Curtis Stevenson and Channing Crowder… Halftime: Kevin Rogers… Postgame: Orlando Alzugaray and Troy Stradford.
• Despite winning considerable more, Marlins attendance has risen by less than 200 people per game(to 21,801) from a year ago, still last in the National League.
• Heat owner Micky Arison posted a letter tonight on the team's web site, his first public comments referencing Dwyane Wade's departure.
In the course of the letter, Arison indicated that Wade's jersey number will eventually be retired by the team (no surprise there).
Here's the letter, as posted on the Heat's web site.
"Obviously this is a challenging summer, one with significant change," Arison writes. "For the first time in a long time, Dwyane Wade will not be part of our team..."
Arison speaks of the need "to understand and embrace change."
He also said he's "excited about this team."
Arison includes Chris Bosh among the players who will be on this year's team, though the Heat has declined to say if he will be cleared medically. Bosh has told people he wants to play.
• Please click here for the Heat's full schedule released today.
• With Russell Westbrook signing a multiyear deal with OKC – and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Chris Paul Heat longshots next summer – Heat president Pat Riley’s chances of luring a "whale" next summer are diminishing.
His top free-agent options next summer: Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward.
Other notable 2017 unrestricted free agents include Derrick Rose, Paul Millsap, Segre Ibaka, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Greg Monroe. Riley will explore trade options, too.
• We had a ton of UM personnel news, plus an update on Al Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace, here earlier today. Please click here for that.