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7 posts from September 2016

September 06, 2016

Buzz is moving: A note to readers


Like many news sites, The Miami Herald is transitioning its blogs from a system called Typepad to something newer and snazzier and more likely to be recognized by search engines.

As a result, my buzz blog is moving to a new location, available only on Miamiherald.com. There are three ways to find my work going forward:

• Follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz). I tweet out links to all of my stories.

• Bookmark me  http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/

• Beginning soon, my blog will appear in the upper right corner of The Herald's sports home page.


I've already posted five links today that can all be found on my new page --- http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/:

• News regarding the Dolphins' return jobs, the No. 3 receiver situation and other nuggets from the Dolphins' offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator.

• News on why the Dolphins are removing Cam Wake from the starting lineup and other personnel nuggets from the Dolphins' defensive coordinator today.

• News on Justise Winslow and some of the Heat's other young players, plus a Chris Bosh update.

• News on something we found that should make you less quick to judge Ryan Tannehill.

• Chatter notes from today's buzz column, including lots of UM nuggets and some mixed news on a Marlins trade. In that post, you'll find UM personnel notes, another change players like from the Al Golden/Mark D'Onofrio administration and why Club LIV is helping Mark Richt.

We thank you for making this by far The Herald's most-read blog among Dade, Broward and Palm Beach readers and appreciate you joining me at my new Miamiherald.com location and following me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz). Happy football season to all!


September 05, 2016

Monday night Bosh update; Winslow making strides working with shooting specialist; Heat nuggets 3 weeks from start of camp

A few Heat items, with players convening at AmericanAirlines Arena three weeks today to begin their first season without Dwyane Wade:

• The Heat is very encouraged by the progress Justise Winslow has made while working with a shooting specialist this summer. One Heat staffer said his stroke, release and rhythm are looking a lot better.

“You will see a major difference; he can be a special player,” that person said.

Winslow declined to identify the shooting coach but said he is “pretty pleased” with the results and that he’s working on his jumper during the early mornings and late at night.

The coach has made mechanical changes to his stroke, Winslow said: “Just smoothing things out. I am pretty confident. I like the way it’s going.”

Offensive growth is essential for Winslow to thrive as a starting small forward. Last season, he shot 27.6 percent on threes (32 for 116), 34.4 percent from 3 to 10 feet, 28.6 percent from 10 to 16 feet and 37.2 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line.

Winslow said it was “great to hear” Pat Riley say he’s ready to start at small forward: “Even before he said that, I kind of had that in my mind…. I’m expecting a huge leap in my performance.” 

In a recent podcast, Winslow told fellow former Duke player Jon Scheyer: “Unfortunately for me, [Dwyane] Wade was a guy I Iooked up to. He's gone. Joe [Johnson] is gone. Lu [Deng] is gone. It's my turn. Embrace the opportunity. Try to make this a year to make the front office feel confident in building around me for the future. I'm looking forward to the green light. My role is going to be so much bigger. I have to learn how to step up vocally.”

Winslow said “it's pretty clear the mindset the Heat is going with, trying to build the young nucleus we have and trying to bring in some good complementary players. Hopefully, [Chris Bosh] can come back. Our goal [is] try to make the game as ugly as possible, play good defense and go from there. We've got a lot of players. If we can put it all together, we should be able to make the playoffs.”

Winslow told both me and Scheyer that he learned a lot from Gregg Popovich while training with the U.S. Olympic team this summer.

“You see him on TV and you are kind of intimidated and don't know what to expect,” Winslow said. “To see how normal he is, how approachable he is, just being able to pick his brain about things, I've learned a lot in a short period of time. He loves the way I can process new things on the go.”

His full-time coach, Erik Spoelstra, offered this recent testimonial in a Heat video: “He's going to find a way to make an impact on the game. And he's going to do it in winning fashion. It might be defensively; it might be offensively. It might be leadership. All of that is far ahead of his age. He brings that intangible quality that's very unique for any player in this league, much less somebody who's 20 years old, with only one-year experience."

On some of the Heat’s other developing wing players:

• With Josh Richardson, Heat staffers have spent a lot of time with him this summer on making plays for others and refining his dribble moves and finishes. Like Winslow, he’s a willing pupil.

“He would be a top 20 pick [instead of 40th] if they redrafted,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “He’s actually versatile enough to play 1, 2 and 3. His driving game could be pretty good.” 

• With Tyler Johnson, the playmaking must improve; his 1.7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio last season was below average.

“All the drills that we're doing this year kind of skewed toward being a point guard," Johnson said. “It’s the same goal that [Erik Spoelstra] had from last year, is to get a lot of reps at the point guard,… controlling the game, where if we have a couple of bad sets in a row, being able to calm the team down, get guys in their spots and then knowing when to push the tempo, knowing when we need to just go to draw up a play. I think the game awareness is probably the biggest thing that I need to develop as time goes on."

• The internal feedback on point guard Briante Weber, who now faces an uphill climb to make the roster after Beno Udrih’s signing: He’s an elite on-the-ball defender (he averaged an absurd 3.9 steals in Summer League). He has quick hands and a unique ability to anticipate.

The release point on his shot isn’t high, and there must be improvement there (he shot 39 percent in Summer League, 3 for 19 on threes), but the Heat doesn’t believe his shot is broken. The Heat also wants him to develop his skills on pick and rolls and making teammates better.

The Heat would need to trade or cut a veteran due guaranteed money in order to keep Weber.

• Difficult to see Rodney McGruder, Stefan Jankovich or Okaro White making the roster barring trades of veterans. The Heat hopes to stash all three in D-League. Miami loves Jankovic’s soft touch and range but he needs to gain at least 10 pounds.

• As for Chris Bosh, the team hasn't had any additional comment since Micky Arison's see you in training camp tweet last Wednesday. Discussions remain focused on the Heat's comfort level with Bosh taking new thinners that would be out of his system within eight hours or so, and ways for him to play while taking those type of thinners, according to an NBA-employed source.

The Heat is working on potential solutions and has said it would like to try to get him back on the court. Bosh very much wants to play and intends to (according to his wife). He still needs to be cleared by the Heat, and there will be some level of uncertainty until that happens. But the Heat is working on a solution, which has led to some optimism.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


September 04, 2016

New Dolphin comes with unmet expectations; Fifteen notable NFL cuts this weekend among familiar names to South Floridians

A couple notes on new Dolphins receiver Justin Hunter, claimed off waivers from Tennessee: Miami cut Griff Whalen to make roomroom as we first reported, per sources:

• Hunter had just 22 catches for 264 yards last season, as his playing time diminished.

• The former second-round pick has just 68 catches for 1116 yards and eight touchdowns in his three-year career, which includes 13 starts.

• Hunter has the same receivers coach he had last year with Tennessee (Shawn Jefferson). And here's what Jefferson said about him in June 2015: "A lot of times, new receivers come into the league with the physical tools, but the mentality hasn’t caught up,” Jefferson told The Tennessean.

“We’re seeing his mental catch up to his physical skills now. He’s making some plays. It’s like now he expects to make them, when before he was unsure. He goes to the line now like, ‘Give me this rock.’ And that’s what you want to see. There comes a time we’ve got to s--- or get off the pot, and this is his moment."

But Hunter played just 376 snaps in 2015.

• Hunter has consistently failed to meet expectations.

In June, coach Mike Mularkey said:  "I’m asking him to step up and be more aggressive about it – to look at the guy across from him and tell him, ‘You can’t cover me.’ He just needs more confidence in his body language and everything about him, he’s got such talent. I think he’s got to believe he’s got the talent."

“I want him to be successful. I’m on his side. What’s it going take to get you to play at the level we want you to play at?"

In 2015, then-coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Hunter:  "At some point, you either get it or you won't be in this league anymore. That's the natural order of the NFL."

• Among the criticisms of the 6-4 Hunter: passive play at times, questionable body language and durability issues.
He missed seven games last season, four in 2014, and two in 2013. Hunter suffered a torn ACL in college, a lacerated spleen in 2014 and a fractured ankle last season.
The fractured right ankle, sustained against the Panthers on November 15, required season-ending surgery. Hunter’s 2014 season ended after he suffered a lacerated spleen against the Texans in late November.

• During his three-year career at the University of Tennessee, Hunter appeared in 28 games with 106 receptions for 1,812 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Hunter’s eight 100-yard career receiving performances are tied with Tim McGee and Peerless Price for third all-time by a Volunteers player. His 18 career touchdown catches are tied for fifth.


Beyond the Dolphins' cuts (which included former UM receiver Rashawn Scott, who is expected to be re-signed to Miami's practice squad), here are 15 other players released this weekend who have South Florida ties:

• Defensive end Chris McCain. Cut by New Orleans, meaning the Dolphins won't get the conditional seventh-rounder they acquired for him last Monday.

• Safety Chris Clemons. The former Dolphins starter was cut by Arizona.

• Safety Jordan Kovacs. The former Dolphin special teams contributor was cut by Los Angeles.

• Receiver Marlon Moore. The ex-Dolphin was dumped by Cleveland.

• Guard Jacques McClendon. The ex-Dolphins guard/center was dropped by Jacksonville.

• Quarterback Logan Thomas. Cut by the Giants after ending last season on Miami's 53-man roster.

• Safety Jimmy Wilson. Miami's former nickel back was dropped by Cincinnati.

• Linebacker Thurston Armbrister. The Jaguars released the former UM linebacker, who became a very good player at Miami despite being very lightly recruited.

• Receiver Herb Waters. The undrafted rookie from UM made it to the final round of cuts before the Packers released him.

• Defensive tackle Ufomba Kamala. The undrafted rookie from UM made it to the final round of cuts before Houston released him. 

• Quarterback Jake Heaps. Seattle cut the player who was expected to be a starter after transferring to UM in 2014 before then-freshman Brad Kaaya beat him out in August.

• Tight end Beau Sandland. The former UM tight end, who spent his last season at Montana State, was cut by the Carolina Panthers, who drafted him in the seventh round this year. Alabama and ex-UM assistant Mario Cristobal had predicted Sandland would become another Jeremy Shockey.

• Linebacker Arthur Brown. Baltimore cut the player who did nothing in two seasons in Miami, then become a star at Kansas State. (Jacksonville claimed him off waivers on Sunday).

• Quarterback Jake Rudock. The Iowa and former St. Thomas Aquinas star was cut by the Detroit Lions, who drafted him in the sixth round.

• Linebacker Corey Lemonier. The 49ers cut the former Hialeah High star, even though he was a third-round pick just three years ago. 

For tons of UM nuggets from Saturday's opener, and more Dolphins news, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

September 03, 2016

22 nuggets from UM's 70-3 win against Florida A&M; Two UM suspensions and an arrest; Thoughts on Dolphins' roster moves today

Postscripts, notes from UM's 70-3 season-opening win against Florida A&M in the start of the Mark Richt era:

• UM's 42 points in the third quarter were the most the Hurricanes have ever scored in any quarter, ever. This also marks the first time that a Mark-Richt coached team has scored 70 points.

But UM failed to equal or surpass its school record for points (77 against Savannah State). UM's point total was the fourth-highest in school history.

UM seemingly was going in for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but Travis Homer fumbled into the end zone, creating a touchback for A&M.

• Some postgame reaction: Braxton Berrios said players gave Richt a game ball. "I really, really like it here," Richt said... Richt said Brad Kaaya "managed the game well. I thought he did a nice job."... Richt said he didn't "watch [the defense] a whole bunch" tonight because "I am focusing so much on offense." He has total trust in Manny Diaz... Richt said an incomplete deep ball to Stacy Coley was "pass interference but I'm not allowed to say."

Diaz praised his defense and said "the way we played the run was a testament" to the three natural freshmen starting linebackers. Shaq Quarterman said he and Zach McCloud and Mike Pinckney "have tremendous chemistry together."...

But of his entire group, Diaz said "when we watch the tape, players will be horrified about things we have to fix."... Gus Edwards said his conditioning is a lot better, which helped on his 74-yard run... Stacy Coley, speaking publicly for the first time in a long time, said he "wasn't too concerned" about being suspended for the luxury rental car scandal and said that he knows exactly what he did....

UM players thought the renovated stadium, plus the big crowd, delivered more of a homefield advantage than in the past. "It makes a difference in college football; it gives you energy," Kaaya said..... Kaaya said "we have a lot bigger fish to fry" than this game. "We have to win the big games."

• Brad Kaaya threw four touchdown passes: to Marquez Williams, Chris Herndon, Ahmmon Richards and Stacy Coley. Kaaya departed late in the third quarter and closed 12 for 18 for 135 yards and four touchdowns.

• Malik Rosier, on his first drive, had a 19-yard touchdown run. Through the air, Rosier finished for 1 for 3 for 15 yards. Evan Schirreffs played the last series.

• Mark Walton ran 15 times for 116 yards, Joe Yearby 7 for 105 and Gus Edwards 7 for 106. 

It's the first time UM had three 100-yard rushers in the same game since against Cincinnati in 1987 -- Leonard Conley, Warren Williams and Melvin Bratton.

• Walton's 37 yard touchdown run and Yearby's 64 yard touchdown run and Edwards's 74-yard TD were the longest of their careers.

• UM’s offensive starters: Quarterback Brad Kaaya, running back Mark Walton, receivers Ahmmon Richards and Stacy Coley, tight ends David Njoku and Christopher Herndon and offensive linemen Trevor Darling, Kc McDermott, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora and Sunny Odogwu.

• UM’s defensive starters: defensive ends Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson, defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh; linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud; cornerbacks Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert; and safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter.

• That means UM started four incoming freshmen: Richards, Quarterman, McCloud and Pinckney.

Several other freshmen received considerable playing time, including defensive linemen Pat Bethel and Joe Jackson. Bethel blocked a punt in the first half that was recovered by Ryan Mayes.

• Braxton Berrios worked as UM’s punt returner and scored on a 41-yard return to make the score 56-3 in the third quarter.

• Richard McIntosh led UM with eight tackles.

• Richards’ 48-yard reception, on a bomb from Kaaya, was overturned on replay. But Richards caught his first touchdown, a 15-yard reception from Kaaya to push UM's lead to 42-3.

• Some firsts from the Mark Richt era: First interception by Corn Elder… First play from scrimmage (a 25-yard Mark Walton run)… First touchdown: Kaaya to fullback Marquez Williams for a four-year touchdown… First sack: Demetrius Jackson (who had two).

• With this nine first-half completions, Kaaya passed Bernie Kosar for sixth all-time on the career completions list. 

• UM says defensive lineman Tyreic Martin did not dress. He has been dealing with a knee injury. The press box announcer incorrectly said he made several tackles in the game, but UM says he actually didn't suit up.

• Michael Badgley, who was 25 for 30 on field goals last season missed a 33-yard field goal.

• Adrian Colbert had a terrific interception on a deep ball in the third quarter.

• UM began the season with just over 40,000 season tickets sold, compared with 29,000 last season.

Attendance for the opener was 60,703 -- short of a sellout.

• Receiver Sam Bruce, one of the University of Miami’s most ballyhooed recruits, will miss a quarter of his first regular season as Hurricane.

UM suspended him for three games and though a reason wasn’t given, a source said it was the result of a photo that featured Bruce holding a gun, the Miami Herald first reported back in February.

The three-game suspension was one more than we originally expected when we reported this back in July.

According to a source familiar with the situation in February, Bruce used the photo of himself with a weapon as part of an ongoing dispute with an older, former St. Thomas Aquinas male student over Bruce’s ex-girlfriend. The source said the photo ended up in the hands of the former student, who then called police and Aquinas.

Even though Bruce was not enrolled at UM at the time of the incident, UM suspended him because it wanted to make clear that such behavior would not be tolerated by players who were intending to attend UM.

• As expected, defensive tackle Gerald Willis, was suspended for one game and did not play Saturday. Willis transferred from Florida and sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.

Willis’ suspension, combined with Anthony Moten’s shoulder injury, left UM with only three experienced defensive tackles Saturday: Richard McIntosh Jr. (who moved over from defensive end during the offseason), Kendrick Norton and Courtel Jenkins. And Jenkins limped off in the fourth quarter, needing assistance.

Meanwhile, the suspension of the four-star Bruce left UM with only seven healthy scholarship receivers: Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios, Ahmmon Richards, Dayall Harris, Dionte Mullins, Malcolm Lewis and Darrell Langham.

• Trent Harris played with a heavy wrap on his fractured left hand.

• UM walk-on quarterback Tucker Beirne, 19, was arrested in Tavernier early Saturday morning and charged with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence and a felony count of cocaine possession. He had a blood alcohol level of .08 or more.

The redshirt freshman is a recent graduate of Christopher Columbus High School and played one year at Aspen High in Colorado. According to the UM media guide, he set a school record at Columbus with 7,957 career passing yards

He was not set to play on Saturday against Florida A&M. UM declined to comment.


A few thoughts on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster (for the moment):

• Biggest surprise was Miami keeping five running backs. But Isaiah Pead showed enough for the Dolphins to be patient with his hamstring injury, and Adam Gase has consistently praised Damien Williams.

• With DeVante Parker nursing a hamstring injury, no surprise Miami kept six receiver. They likely would have anyway, because Griff Whalen is better equipped for the No. 4 job than Leonte Carroo or Jakeem Grant at the moment.

• Jordan Lucas won the fifth cornerback job (for now) because of good upside and quality special teams work.

• Nice job by Mike Hull leading the team in tackles and winning a backup linebacker job (at least for now), beating out James Michael Johnson.

• Terrence Fede said he has the least serious MCL sprain, and that – combined with his ability to play both end and tackle -- allowed him to beat out Chris Jones for a backup job. Julius Warmsley earned the other open job, giving Miami nine defensive linemen.

• MarQuies Gray won the No. 3 tight end job, for the moment, but probably shouldn’t get too comfortable, with better options on waivers.

• Brandon Doughty did enough last week, including the Tennessee game, to convince the Dolphins to not risk putting him on waivers and transferring him to the practice squad, at least for now. So he's on the 53. The Dolphins love his ability to find open receivers, even if he doesn’t always go through progressions exactly how they want.

• Kraig Urbik survived as the ninth lineman because of his ability to capably play multiple positions.

By the way, please follow us on Twitter. We broke 11 of the 22 cuts today on @flasportsbuzz

September 02, 2016

Media column: Lots of college football TV changes; media notes and familiar names in new places; UM revolving analyst door continues



Rounding up what’s new and different about college football on TV this season:

• Changes with ESPN game announcers. Two of the network’s four most recognizable college football play-by-play voices have moved on, with Brad Nessler taking a job at CBS (after his ESPN contract wasn’t renewed for financial reasons) and Sean McDonough promoted to Monday Night Football to replace Mike Tirico, who left for NBC.

That leaves Chris Fowler and Brent Musburger (who was demoted to SEC Network two years ago) as ESPN’s most familiar college play-by-play men. Fowler, competent on play-by-play but better in the studio, returns on the lead team with Kirk Herbstreit

The turnover created a ripple effect of changes. Deep-piped Joe Tessitore replaces Nessler on ESPN’s Saturday night games, alongside Todd Blackledge. Nessler’s very good, but Tessitore warranted the promotion.

ESPN anchor Steve Levy essentially replaced McDonough, paired with Brian Griese. ESPN also promoted former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy to a prominent game analyst role, alongside Dave Pasch. And the capable Bob Wischusen/Brock Huard team will get a lot of attractive games.   

Also new: Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who once spent a month with the Dolphins and won ABC’s The Bachelorette this summer, will do studio work for SEC Network. Among off-limit topics: Why he and brother Aaron Rodgers don’t have a relationship.

• Nessler moves to CBS. It’s unusual to have designated successor named a year in advance in the TV business, but CBS already has announced that Nessler will succeed Verne Lundquist as its voice of Southeastern Conference football in 2017. Lundquist, 74, was ready to reduce his workload.

Nessler was the obvious choice; in a year, he will be reunited with former ESPN partner Gary Danielson. In the meantime, Nessler this fall will four CBS college games on days the network has double-headers, the Sun Bowl and a few NFL games.

• Tragedy resulting in change in ABC’s studio. John Saunders’ shocking recent death, at 61, was a huge personal loss; Saunders was universally liked and respected. Professionally, it also sent ABC scrambling to fill the college host job that Saunders held since 1992.

ESPN anchor Stan Verrett was chosen as Saunders’ successor, and Verrett – very good at narrating highlights – was the smart choice to pair alongside Mack Brown and Mark May in ABC’s studio.

 “John Saunders was a mentor and friend who helped me navigate my career at ESPN and was always ready with a kind word and timely advice,” Verrett said. “…There’s a tremendous legacy there.”

• More ESPN studio changes. Jonathan Vilma’s hiring gives ESPN2 a pair of studio analysts with UM ties (Vilma and Butch Davis), though Vilma says they can’t make this into a "UM love-fest." … In ESPN’s studio, Adnan Virk returns with Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway, who replaced Lou Holtz and May a year ago.

• Fox lands two smart ESPN analysts: Robert Smith and Chris Spielman. Smith, one of the most erudite analysts on television, joins Rob Stone, Dave Wannstedt and Matt Leinart in Fox’s studio, while Spielman will primarily work NFL games with Dick Stockton.

• Finally, a decent game on the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend! ABC filled that void, one of the few on the college schedule, with Notre Dame-Texas Sunday night.

• A few other things: UM’s first two games (Florida A&M on Saturday and FAU on Sept. 10) will be carried only on broadband (ESPN3). These are the types of games that would be aired by the ACC Network when its launches in 2019….

The FSU football season will be chronicled in a Showtime series, with 30-minute episodes every Tuesday at 10 p.m…. Fox gets one of the best early-season matchups (Ohio State-Oklahoma) in prime time on Sept. 17; it’s their first meeting since 1983… LSU-Texas A&M will be the Thanksgiving night game, opposite Steelers-Colts on NBC.

• For a look at this season's college football TV schedule, please click here.



• WQAM hired former UM players KC Jones and Colin McCarthy as analysts on its pre-game and postgames shows, respectively. The postgame analyst job has been a revolving door in recent years, with Dan Sileo, Duane Starks and Bennie Blades preceding McCarthy.

• More personnel notes: Former Miami Herald Dolphins writer Jeff Darlington left NFL Network for a reporter job at ESPN… Former local personality Jorge Sedano, who co-hosts an evening ESPN Radio show with Israel Gutierrez, will now do a radio show (with Keyshawn Johnson) for ESPN Los Angeles and a weekly ESPN2 TV show at 5 p.m. Mondays.

• Tirico this week declined to discuss how he felt when he learned that he would not be calling Thursday night NFL games because the NFL insisted that NBC use the same team on Sunday night and Thursday nights (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth).

But besides hosting on-site in NBC's NFL studio on Sunday, Tirico will call three Notre Dame games and two late season NFL games (all with Doug Flutie).

• Skip Bayless’ new Fox Sports 1 show will air at 10 a.m. opposite his old ESPN program, beginning Tuesday. So viewers will have a choice of Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on Fox Sports 1 (with former 790 The Ticket personality Joy Taylor hosting) or Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN2. Or viewers can avoid all the screaming altogether and use the time to clean their linen closet.

Fox, by the way, is promoting Bayless’ show on three billboards within five miles of ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. studios, as The Wall Street Journal noted.


• TNT has authorized a series titled "The Race Card" that will follow Charles Barkley as he explores and tries to explain why our country is divided. It’s expect to debut early next year.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

September 01, 2016

Thoughts, notes after Dolphins' preseason finale and musings from Steve Ross and Adam Gase

Notes and thoughts from the Dolphins' 21-10 loss to Tennessee in the preseason finale for both teams:

• This team's lack of quality depth was exposed again tonight, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Dolphins claim a handful of players off waivers Sunday.

They could use one or two more linebackers; a legitimate No. 3 tight end; a No. 5 cornerback and perhaps a fourth running back if they find someone better than Damien Williams or healthier than Isaiah Pead.

• Linebacker Mike Hull has had some moments this preseason, and a couple of nice stops tonight, but he was victimized horribly on Tennessee's second scoring drive, missing tackles on Derrick Henry's 28- and 23-yard runs, then beaten in coverage for a first down.

Neville Hewitt, who hasn't been as consistent as coaches want, also missed a tackle on that series, was beaten in coverage and was called for a horse-collar tackle. And all of that happened to Hull and Hewitt on one series.

The Dolphins like No. 4 linebacker Spencer Paysinger, but expect them to scan the waiver wire to see if there's anybody better as a fifth or sixth or even a seventh linebacker (if they keep seven initially, with Jelani Jenkins recovering from knee surgery).

• Xavien Howard was OK in his preseason debut and appears on track to start Sept. 11 in Seattle.

"I know Seattle is going to [challenge] me; I'm expecting that," Howard told WFOR's Kim Bokamper after the game. "I'm ready to be in that starting lineup."

The good news, on the cornerback front, was a terrific interception by Tony Lippett (who had his best game of preseason) and another by Bobby McCain. But with Chimdi Chekwa missing all four preseason games, the Dolphins might need to look elsewhere for a fifth corner, should they keep five.

Jordan Lucas --- beaten on a 25-yard reception tonight --- appears better suited to the practice squad, and Rashaan Melvin in a journeyman.

Tennessee (mostly Alex Tanney) completed all 15 of its first half passes, but two were caught by Dolphins (Lippett and McCain).

• Vance Joseph has suggested Miami will keep nine defensive linemen, and it would be ideal to keep five ends and four tackles.

But here's the problem: The two players who seem most deserving of the 8th and 9th jobs are both tackles -- Julius Warmsley and Chris Jones. That would give Miami nine tackles. Warmley used to be an end but said he has played only tackle for Miami.

Terrence Fede, nursing an sprained MCL, would be an option as a fifth defensive end should the Dolphins go in that direction. Fede also can play tackle but it's unclear when he will be healthy. 

• Offensively, Zac Dysert flunked his test (50.3 first half passer rating). Brandon Doughty was better than Dysert (8-12-98 yards, 91.7 passer rating), but the Dolphins should be able to sneak him over to the practice squad if they wish. We'll see if Adam Gase (who controls the 53-man roster) puts Doughty on the 53.

• Jay Ajayi had three carries for 13 yards but fumbled on Miami's first play from scrimmage and dropped an easy pass. Not a good night, or a good preseason.

The Dolphins averaged only 2.0 yards per carry on nine first half runs, and closed with 53 yards rushing on 2.4 per carry.

Damien Williams didn't have a great night (four carries, three yards).

• Even though Miami played only four receivers, Jakeem Grant didn't have a pass thrown to him until late in the game (it wasn't completed). 

Griff Whalen caught five for 48 (with a drop), Rashawn Scott 4 for 37 and Leonte Carroo 2 for 17. And that was it for wide receivers' receiving stats.

• Billy Turner did everything except serve drinks inside Club LIV. He opened at left guard, then played right guard, then played some right tackle. Turner and Dallas Thomas and center Anthony Steen (who didn't play) should stick as the 6th through 8th offensive linemen.

Will be (very, very mildly) interesting to see whether Kraig Urbik, Sam Young or Ulrick John sticks as the 9th. Jamil Douglas played some center in the second half and it's difficult to see him sticking.

• Owner Stephen Ross, appearing in the third quarter on CBS-4's telecast, said Adam Gase really believes in Ryan Tannehill.

"I don't think that's what he had in the past," Ross said in a reference to Joe Philbin.

Ross also said some "people thought" Gase might "have been brash" or "too young" to be a head coach, but Ross had a conviction about him and said he was his top choice before he interviewed him. Ross praised his intelligence and passion to win.

"Our future is in really good hands," Ross said of Gase. "I think we have good talent here. There's a lot of reason for optimism. I like the course we're on. He's really put together a great staff."

Ross said the Dolphins are expecting "big things" from Kenyan Drake: "His speed is fantastic. We've just got to keep him healthy."

(In his preseason debut, Drake had four carries for six yards but also caught a pass from Doughty for 33 yards).

Ross also said coaches were "really thrilled" with Xavien Howard before his injury.

• Marquise Gray had two catches for 30 yards, and Thomas Duarte 2 for 11, but I'm not sure there's a No. 3 tight end on the roster. 

• A few things from Gase: On Drake: "I was hoping to get him some more carries."... He said there's a chance "we will play two or three guys in game" at right guard against Seattle... On why Laremy Tunsil didn't play: "He missed a day of practice. We were being smart. He was lobbying. We decided it probably wasn't the best thing for him to play."... On running back: "The only disappointing thing is we're never healthy at the same time."...

On Jay Ajayi: "I was a little disappointed he put the ball on the ground. What he has shown me in the spring and in training camp is a guy that was reliable in the passing game. [On the fumble] I expect better from him; I have higher standards from him.".. On Brandon Doughty: "He did a good job. Went in there with confidence. The thing about him that's really impressive is stands there, is not afraid to get hit and deliver the ball. His toughness is very impressive."... On the last six weeks of practice: "I don't remember a day where I walked off the field thinking that was terrible on both sides of the ball."

Please click here for our investigation into the South Beach luxury rental car owner who was partly responsible for getting UM's top two defensive players thrown off the team. Amazingly, the owner said "for me as a company, this was probably good."... Please follow me on Twitter for breaking news (@flasportsbuzz)

Jakeem Grant, Leonte Carroo try to make their case tonight as Dolphins seek clarity at receiver

When Jakeem Grant scooted around Giants defensive backs for 68 yards on four receptions in the preseason opener, it was easy to get excited.

When Mel Kiper started comparing Leonte Carroo to Charles Barkley – a physical player who could box out defenders – and others likened him to longtime NFL standout receiver Anquan Boldin, it was easy to get excited.

Both had impressive numbers as receivers in college: Grant caught 90 passes for 1268 yards and 10 touchdowns in Texas Tech’s pass-happy offense last season. Carroo had 29 touchdown receptions in 30 games at Rutgers, with a 19.5 average.

But we haven’t seen much of anything from the Dolphins’ rookie receivers in the passing game the past two weeks, largely because of lack of opportunity.

Grant has played six snaps of offense the past two weeks combined. Carroo played eight against Atlanta, fewer than AJ Cruz, who was cut two days later.

And both are antsy for a chance to log lots of offensive snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against Tennesssee.

“Definitely,” Grant said.

Coach Adam Gase made clear this week that while he likes both players, both must eliminate the type of mistakes that rookies sometimes make.

"I think for me it's to the execution point of knowing what to do (and) being in the right spot,” Gase said. “Both of those guys have had those moments of having those mistakes where the quarterback thinks they're doing one thing and they do something different. We're making strides in that area. You just want it to happen as fast as possible.

“I think this game - with the game plan where it is and who knows what the weather is going to be like so I'm not sure how many times we'll actually get to throw it - we'd like to see them be as sound as possible as far as what they're supposed to do. And then you try to develop the techniques and the little details of the routes."

For weeks, Gase has been saying that Grant can’t go at the exact same speed when running all his routes. That’s still an issue, apparently.

“I still need to slow down,” Grant said this week. “I’ve been told go fast my whole life.”

And as far as the two rookies making adjustments to eliminate the type of mistakes that Gase referenced, Grant said: “We’re starting to get it really good. Transferring over to the field is going to be a hard thing because we’re rookies. We’re still kind of hesitant. We have to make sure we all move as one chain. All it takes is communication.”

As for Carroo, he said being the No. 4 receiver is important to him.

“I know I can make a lot of plays,” he said. “I want to show coaches what I can do in a full game.”

Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has been pushing Carroo very hard. In fact, Grant said Jefferson was critical of Carroo even after he made a great catch in practice.

“I didn’t line up correctly at the start of the play,” Carroo said. “If you do one thing wrong, he will correct it. He doesn’t care about a great play. He wants a perfect play.”

Veteran Griff Whalen lined up as the No. 4 receiver in four-receiver sets in the Atlanta game last week and has filled that role a lot in practice, though Carroo said he got more first-team work this week, especially after DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills left practice with injuries that aren’t serious. (Parker has a hamstring issue again and won’t play Thursday; Stills’ back locked up Monday but he’s fine.)

The impression given is that the Dolphins feel more comfortable with the savvy Whalen as their fourth receiver, at least for now, than either of the two rookies.

Perhaps that changes tonight or over the next week or two. If it does not, then Whalen stands to make the team and Carroo could be inactive early in the season on game days, because Grant will be active as the team’s primary returner.

That’s why it’s important for Carroo, in particular, to show tonight that he’s ready to contribute.

One thing is clear: With only seven receivers on the 85-man roster, most or all of the receiver snaps tonight will go to Carroo, Grant, Whalen and undrafted former UM receiver Rashawn Scott.

FYI: Whereas special teams coach Darren Rizzi informed Andrew Franks that he will be the kicker, Grant said Rizzi hasn’t told him that he has won the return jobs.

“Him not telling me is fine with me,” Grant said. “It keeps me competing. I’m still gaining trust.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz