September 13, 2014

Daniel Thomas signs; 5 p.m. Moreno update; Heat players planning changes; Dolphins chatter; Stanton's future; UM postscripts

10:45 a.m. update: Facing the loss of Knowshon Moreno for an extended period, the Dolphins today re-signed running back Daniel Thomas, according to his agent, Tony Fleming.

Thomas, a second-round pick in 2011, averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards in his three seasons with the Dolphins but lost his job in preseason to Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa.

Thomas missed Miami's first three preseason games because of injury.

The Dolphins saved $815,565 against the cap by releasing Thomas in the last round of cuts. He signed for the remainder of the season, but veterans who sign after the first week of the season do not need to have their contracts guaranteed.

Thomas worked out for the Patriots last week.

Moreno is expected to miss four to eight weeks with a dislocated elbow. Lamar Miller sustained an ankle injury during the game but could have returned if the Dolphins had chosen to put him back in the game, according to a team official. But the Dolphins will monitor his situation closely.

If Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones are reinstated this week after the finalizing of a new drug policy (the NFL's web site says they definitely will be reinstated), the Dolphins will need to remove three players from the 53-man roster to make room for Thomas, Jordan and Jones.

####################################################################################

5 p.m. update on the injury to Dolphins running Knowshon Moreno: The diagnosis was a dislocated elbow and he is expected to miss at least four weeks, according to Pro Football Talk. (PFT added the words "at least" after its initial report.) Fox reports "the hope" is that he will miss no more than a month.

If he misses four weeks, he could miss only three games because the Dolphins have a bye after playing Oakland Sept. 28.

Running back LaMichael James, cut recently by San Francisco, missed a month with that injury during preseason. Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered that injury last week and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He cannot return until Week 10.

Houston Texans defensive star J.J. Watt missed about a month with a dislocated elbow during preseason in 2012, then played in all 16 games and had 20.5 sacks that season.

Damien Williams likely will become Lamar Miller's primary backup during Moreno's absence.

Miller ran for 46 yards on 11 carries today, with a 4.2 average, but dropped an easy catch on a third-down throw in the second half. Williams ran for 19 yards on five carries (3.8 per carry).

Moreno had one carry for four yards today before the injury. He led all NFL running backs with 134 yards rushing in Week 1.

Orleans Darkwa, the team's No. 4 running back, had three catches for 31 yards on Miami's final drive today.

Among unemployed running backs available: Daniel Thomas, cut by the Dolphins at the end of preseason. Thomas --- who averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry in his three seasons here --- worked out for the Patriots last week.

############################################################################### 

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Heat, Dolphins and Giancarlo Stanton chatter:

### Life After LeBron, the on-court version, officially begins in two weeks --- Heat training camp opens on Sept. 27 --- and expect to see some of the same names but with somewhat different games.

For Dwyane Wade, there will be a slimmer star, one entrusted with more ball-handling responsibilities and a greater offensive load.

For Chris Bosh, there will be more offensive assertiveness after spending weeks in the shadows of the Pacific Ocean polishing the low-post skills he displayed in Toronto but weren’t consistently needed here.

For Mario Chalmers, there will be a renewed offensive bent.

And for Udonis Haslem, there will be less need to pass up the open mid-range shot.

“Hopefully,” Haslem said, “I can be a little bit more of who I was in the past instead of just trying to stay out of the way all the time.”

Naturally, all would have preferred LeBron James stay.

But what awaits without him “got me excited for the next chapter, to rise up to the challenge,” Bosh told 790/104.3 The Ticket this summer. “It gives us an opportunity to play with a chip on our shoulder. It’s revitalized my attitude toward basketball. We have a very good team.”

So what will we see more of from Bosh?

“C.B. is going to get back down in the post” some, Haslem said.

In workouts at UCLA this summer with respected trainer Ed Downs and former Arizona and ex-NBA guard Miles Simon, Bosh has been working on operating with the ball in his hands more often and also polishing post moves that were often sacrificed to accommodate the Heat’s system.

“On the offensive end, he’s planning on more touches and being more of a focal point of the offense,” Simon said by phone. “The feeling I get from him is he can go back to his days as a Toronto Raptor putting up 20 and 10. He’s looking forward to meeting that challenge.

“He seems very focused. He has really expanded his game with the threes [the past two years] and he will be around the basket more this season. This summer, he has worked a lot on back-to-the-basket moves and a lot on footwork. You will see his game evolve. You will see him command double teams. He will come to camp in really good shape.”

Bosh said: “It’s cool to be in that situation again” of assuming a bigger role offensively. “I’m a much better player than I was the last time in that position.”

Wade, 32, said he will not get a complete feel for his new role until training camp and cautions: “I can’t go back five years.”

But Haslem said: “We’re going to need more from him not just offensively, but defensively as well, getting back to being that first-, second-team All Defensive player he was, leading our defense.

“He’s definitely going to have to be more aggressive. In the fourth quarter, there are going to be times for him to take over the game like he did in the past. Last four years, it was a little bit of everybody, but the offense was dictated going through LeBron. We’re going to have to go through Dwyane down the stretch now. He’s going to be the playmaker and decision maker on who takes the shots.”

Meanwhile, Chalmers will “go back to his natural position as a point guard and facilitate the team,” his father, Ronnie Chalmers, said.

“As sad we all are to see LeBron go, Mario’s excited to go back to his natural position. He loves being a playmaker. And there will be more opportunities to score.”

A Heat official said even beyond Erik Spoelstra’s staff changes, “you will see some tweaks in how we play.” The team’s gambling defense, which left open too many three-point shooters, needs addressing.

“We can’t just show up and expect to win it in the fourth quarter any more,” the Heat official said.

Haslem said he, Chalmers, Wade, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts had a productive recent bonding session, over several days, in Bloomington, Ind., doing on-court work with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, Wade's friend and former coach at Marquette.

 “I’m sure there are a lot of people counting us out, a lot of people not expecting much from us,” Haslem said. “We still think we can be highly competitive. We still think we have a chance to compete for the Eastern Conference title.

“I’ve spoken to D-Wade and CB. We’re excited about the challenge. We are highly motivated. But we are motivated in a good way. It’s not being bitter. It’s about ‘LeBron’s gone’ and we’ve got to pick up the slack.”

CHATTER

### Even after a 33-point eruption against New England, it was telling that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor began Monday’s film session by detailing a bunch of things the Dolphins did wrong. And that is exactly what this franchise needs, Mike Wallace said.

“He kind of tricked us,” Wallace said light-heartedly. “He buttered us up in the meetings [this summer], then we get on the field, he’s like a whole different person. He’s a madman. ‘You need to be here, you need to be there, you need to do this!’

“It’s great for our team. We need that. We don’t need anybody out there patting you on the back, trying to make you feel better. We need to get better. Coach [Mike] Sherman was demanding, but coach Lazor is a little bit more critical about every single little detail.

“If you take it in a negative way, you’ve got a soft skin. We can’t have that. This drives us. If it makes you down, you don’t need to be here; you’re not the guy for our team.”

### Meanwhile, Dolphins defensive linemen love how Kevin Coyle has added a package with five of them playing together, with two linebackers.

“It caught New England off guard,” Olivier Vernon said. “We added it this year, and it’s like the old school Bears defense.” Both Vernon and Cam Wake stand up in that 5-2 defense, with Randy Starks, Earl Mitchell and Jared Odrick playing with their hand in the ground. That lineup, when used, should be good against the run and effective rushing the quarterback.

### Ex-Hurricane Jonathan Vilma, 32, would have loved a call from the Dolphins amid their linebacker injuries last week, but Miami wasn’t interested.

But the Dolphins have four Hurricanes under contract (tied with UF for the most on the team), including practice squad receiver Tommy Streeter.

“I’m in a position I always hoped I would be, being on the Dolphins; I wore a Dolphins shirt on draft day [in 2012],” said Streeter, the former Miami Northwestern star, who averaged an impressive 18.5 yards per reception at UM.

“Every wide receiver coach I’ve had said I can play in this league. I’m a deep ball guy and still need to work on that. Vincent Jackson is the one guy who has the same stature as me [6-5] and he took me under his wing in Tampa last year.”

### It was notable that Knowshon Moreno did his most damage last Sunday (nine carries, 6.3 per attempt) when he ran behind left guard Daryn Colledge and center Samson Satele, who graded out second highest as a run-blocker of any NFL center last week, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Dolphins are paying Satele $46,875 for every game he’s active, and he hopes he’s retained after Mike Pouncey returns. Satele could also play guard but hasn’t done so since May practices before his rookie season for the Dolphins (2007).

### Moreno, who led the league in rushing through Week 1, is only 23rd in average salary among running backs at $3 million.

“That doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m glad the Dolphins were interested because that’s the one I wanted.” At least one other team showed interest, but Miami's offer was clearly the best.

### The Marlins’ current mindset is to offer a deal longer than four years to Giancarlo Stanton, but plans are still being formulated.

ESPN analyst and former Nationals GM Jim Bowden told me Miami should offer an eight-year, $240 million contract with a no-trade clause.

“That starts the ball rolling,” Bowden said. “It’s pretty hard as a human being, with two years left [before free agency], to turn down $240 million to $300 million.”

Bowden said Thursday’s facial injuries should be “a reminder to Stanton [of] the importance of security and the risks of waiting until free agency” after 2016. Stanton wants assurances from Jeffrey Loria that the team is committed to winning before even considering an offer.

### Please see the last post for UM-Arkansas State notes, postscripts and thoughts.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz