• I have serious concerns about this team’s ability to run the ball, not only because this offensive line appears more adept at passing blocking than run blocking, but also consider this:
Of the 91 NFL players who had at least 40 carries last season, Arian Foster (2.6 per carry average in four games and 63 carries before his Achilles’ injury) was 90th, ahead of only quarterback Andy Dalton in per carry average, then mustered just five yards on seven carries in preseason.
Jay Ajayi was 71st of 91 (at 3.8), then averaged only 2.7 in preseason. Coach Adam Gase left Ajayi back in Miami and he is not expected to play Sunday at Seattle. That would mean carries for Damien Williams and perhaps Kenyan Drake and Isaiah Pead.
And now Miami faces a Seattle team that was No. 1 in run defense (3.6 per carry, 81.5 yards per game). Good luck with that.
• In some ways, Foster is in the same boat as Mario Williams – an accomplished, distinguished veteran trying to rebound from a forgettable year.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is encouraged: “I’ve seen Mario from Day 1 being fully engaged in what we’re doing. Sometimes players just need a new change; they need a change of environment. I think it’s been good for Mario to be here. I was with Mario in Houston so I know the person. He wants to rush the passer, like most defensive ends want to. He’s rushing the passer here so, so far, so good.”
• Haven’t heard a single negative word about this Dolphins coaching staff, which is unusual, and linebacker Spencer Paysinger – poised to start at weakside linebacker if Jelani Jenkins’ recovery from knee surgery stretches into next weekend – said “the biggest change is how we’re taught.”
The former staff would not explain why it did things the way it did, and plenty of players (not Paysinger) complained to associates about their decisions. And now?
“Coaches pull us aside and say we’re doing this because of this,” Paysinger said. “That allows us to understand, so we can anticipate things. It comes down from Adam Gase and Vance Joseph. So players are smarter going into this year.”
• Dolphins coaches are convinced Xavien Howard can be a high-end starting cornerback, but one worry is penalties – he had 14 pass interferences, five holding calls the past two years at Baylor and “some were BS calls,” Howard said last week. “I had five PIs on [ex-West Virginia and now Bears receiver] Kevin White and didn’t touch him.”
Howard said Joseph and Lou Anarumo smartly reviewed all his interference calls with him and have repeatedly lectured him on hand placement.
• Though he hasn’t been used as a returner at all in preseason, Jarvis Landry said he expects to handle some returns this season.
• Special teams played a role in several roster decisions. For example, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said this week that “there was a stretch of games – maybe six or seven – where Damien Williams was playing as well as anybody on special teams in our division” last season.
And Rizzi lobbied for linebacker Mike Hull to make the team because “he played as well as anybody on special teams, on this team, in the four preseason games. Not only special teams, but defensively as well. That’s just not my opinion. The numbers kind of say that as well.”
• Chris McCain, traded by the Dolphins to the Saints in late August and then released by New Orleans six days later, signed with Dallas’ practice squad.
COUPLE UM, HEAT NOTES
• As of Thursday, all Heat players have been working out at AmericanAirlines Arena except two: Goran Dragic (who has been training in Slovenia) and Chris Bosh.
According to a league-employed source, Bosh has not been cleared medically by the team (though Bosh is convinced he can play) and Bosh is awaiting word on his status.
Though the Heat has been exploring potential ways for Bosh to play while taking blood thinners, the Heat hasn’t been ready to say anything definitive to Bosh, or reporters, leaving a level of uncertainty with his situation.
Bosh has been working out in Los Angeles and plans to play this season, his wife said publicly.
• Sam Bruce’s broken leg, which is expected to sideline him for most or all of the season, is particularly regrettable because one UM person insisted football players aren’t supposed to be playing basketball during the season. (As our Peter Ariz noted, Bruce suffered an ugly injury in a pickup basketball game Thursday night.)
It wasn’t likely that Bruce would have a significant role on offense immediately upon his return from his three-game suspension, according to someone with direct knowledge.
And UM should be OK as long as Stacy Coley or Braxton Berrios isn’t injured.
The injury leaves UM with seven healthy scholarship receivers: Coley, Berrios, Ahmmon Richards, Malcolm Lewis, Dayall Harris, Dionte Mullins and Darrell Langham. Richards was furthest along among the freshmen, but Mullins has come along during practice in the past couple weeks.