Barry Jackson

Jakeem Grant, Hassan Whiteside and Marlins and media tidbits

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) has averaged 9 yards per punt return and 25.5 yards per kickoff return in his rookie season.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) has averaged 9 yards per punt return and 25.5 yards per kickoff return in his rookie season. AP

A Friday six-pack of Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and media notes:

• Though Jakeem Grant had two fumbles last Sunday (including one that the Chargers recovered inside the Dolphins’ 10-yard line), the Dolphins justifiably are standing by him and giving him encouragement, not admonishment.

Grant, the electrifying rookie, ranks fourth in the league in kickoff return average at 25.5. Among players who have returned at least 10 punts, Grant ranks seventh with a 9.0 average.

“I think the first thing you do is you have to make sure he knows that we have confidence in him,” Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Thursday. “His teammates have confidence in him. I think sometimes a mistake by a young player can snowball at any position, not just as a returner. One of the things I said to him – once I knew he was getting kind of hard on himself – was, ‘Listen, we all believe in you. You’ve already made plays. You’ve already shown what you can do. We have to correct, improve, move on.’

“That’s really the biggest thing. One of the things I always said to people is, ‘Some of the best returners in this league of all-time have put the ball on the ground before.’ Really, it’s learning from the moment, learning from the situation. Just keep reassuring him that, and that’s really all you can do. As I told him, there’s no one that has worked harder at that craft – that skillset – than him since he has been here. It’s going to keep paying off for him.”

• Rizzi was asked why Jarvis Landry wasn’t back for that fourth-quarter punt that the Chargers recovered.

“I know a lot of people have said to me, ‘You always use Jarvis on that going-in punts.’ It’s actually not true,” Rizzi said. “We actually used Jarvis a few times as a changeup. There’s no doubt we’ve used him in those going-in situations, but we have had Jakeem back there a few times. We tried to use it a little bit of a changeup. Listen, there’s no mistaking what Jarvis has done when he has been back there throughout his three years. He has been very productive and productive this year. He was productive his first two years.

“We feel like any team that has multiple returners, (you) want to try to use both guys. It definitely helped the learning process for Jakeem. I think Jarvis has been a great, not only sounding board, but a great example for Jakeem as a returner, because he did it as a rookie. Here’s another guy that hadn’t done it in college, and they had very similar backgrounds. Listen, if you remember back, Jarvis wasn’t perfect either. He lost a couple fumbles early in his career.”

• Not only is the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside the only player in the NBA with double figures in rebounds in every game this season, but get this: When Whiteside blocked five shots in the fourth quarter of the Heat's 96-73 win over Milwaukee on Thursday, it was the third time since the start of last season that Whiteside had five blocks in a quarter; he also did so against Minnesota last November and at Denver in January.

According to Elias, all other NBA players have combined for just two five-block periods since 2015-16. Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner each blocked five shots in a quarter in February.

So Whiteside has three of the NBA’s five five-block quarters in the past 13 months.

What’s more, Whiteside has at least one block in 40 games in a row; Alonzo Mourning owns the Heat franchise record with 60.

• The NFL wouldn’t allow NBC to use Mike Tirico on its new Thursday package this season because when it put the package up for bid, it made clear that the winning network must use its lead announcing team on the nine November/December games --- five of which would air on NBC and NFL Net, and the other four only on NFL Net.

For NBC, that meant using Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on those games.

But NBC, with the NFL’s approval, has found a way to somewhat circumvent that rule. NBC announced this week that it is giving Michaels a “bye week” because he has worked such a busy schedule. That’s great news for Michaels, who would have been perfectly content if Tirico worked the entire Thursday package.

Tirico will fill in for Michaels, alongside Collinsworth, on NBC’s next three telecasts – Redskins-Packers on Sunday, Pittsburgh-Indianapolis Thanksgiving night, and Kansas City-Denver on Sunday night, Nov. 27. In addition, Tirico and Collinsworth will call the N.Y. Giants-Philadelphia NBC Thursday Night game on Dec. 22.

Also, Tirico joins Doug Flutie in the booth for the Saturday night, Dec. 17 Dolphins-N.Y. Jets game and the Christmas Baltimore-Pittsburgh game, both of which will be televised on NFL Network. So Tirico will end up calling eight NFL games this season, including two preseason games.

• Right-hander Andrew Cashner, who was awful for the Marlins after his July trade, is reportedly signing a one-year, $10 million deal with Texas. Cashner had said he wanted to sign with a team that allowed facial hair; the Marlins do not… The Marlins have been linked to Royals free-agent right hander Edinson Volquez but hadn’t made an offer as of mid-week.

• Fox is televising Dolphins-Rams in 19 percent of the country, but only a limited part of Florida. For a full NFL map and the entire college football TV schedule this weekend, check out 506sports.com

Click here for my other Friday post with a lot more Dolphins nuggets, including the Dolphins making an admission on DeVante Parker that we all suspected. And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportbuzz) for news and instant links to posts.

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