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  Position Analysis: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

Click Here To Contact Chris

 

On a periodic basis between now and the 2006 NFL Draft, I will take an in-depth look at the Dolphins. This week: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

 

Wide Receiver

 

Current State: 2005 was an epiphany for Chris Chambers with 82 receptions for 1118 yards, 11 TDs, a Pro Bowl berth, and the team MVP award. Good thing because, in 2004, Chambers signed a much publicized five year contract worth a reported $30 million, including a $12 million signing bonus. Through all of 2004 and the first half of 2005, it seemed as though the Dolphins had overpaid as Chambers struggled to prove his status as a #1 WR. Now, with Chambers finally asserting himself among the best in the league, the Dolphins can feel a lot better about their investment. With the physical size and speed to regularly dominate defenders, and with new Dolphin QB Daunte Culpepper on board, Chambers seems poised to take his game to yet another level in 2006. If that happens, expect to see positive results flow to his teammates as opposing defenses divert even more attention to #84.

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Miami’s other starter, Marty Booker, turned in another solid effort with 39 catches for 686 yards and 3 touchdowns. His gaudy 17.6 yard average was 5th best in NFL (2nd in the AFC) among WRs playing in 75% or more of the games and with at least 10 receptions. While Booker’s production is well off his 2002 Pro Bowl season numbers (97 catches for 1,189 yards and 6 touchdowns), it is important to keep in mind that Booker’s role with the Dolphins is as a complimentary threat rather than as the #1 receiver (Bears).

 

Wes Welker continued his cult status with inspired play that regularly surpassed his physical stature. As a third receiver, Welker (29 receptions, 434 yards) was solid as teams sometimes underestimated his skills. On special teams, Welker finished the season ranked 5th in the AFC and 11th in the NFL in punt returns (9.1 yard average) and was 13th in the AFC in kickoff returns (22.6 yard average). He is, without a doubt, one of the best competitors (and fan favorites) on the team.

 

Chris Davis, Jason Willis, Kelly Campbell, Fred Gibson, and Cliff Russell round out the roster. David Boston, placed on Injured Reserve last November with ongoing and persistent knee problems, may have played his last game as a Dolphin. It is questionable as to whether the Dolphins will opt to re-sign him.

 

Strengths: Solid and complimentary talents in Chambers and Booker. Both are legitimate threats that defenses are forced to respect. Welker’s versatility is a big plus.

 

Weaknesses: Lack of quality depth. Inability to field dangerous multiple WR sets.

 

Offseason Priority: High. The Dolphins really need to add some young, healthy, quality bench strength to the roster at this vital position. This has been a need for sometime. An upgrade over Welker in three WR formations would be a solid move. As things stand today, an injury to Chambers would cripple the team’s ability to execute their wide open offensive philosophy. This is an unacceptable risk that Nick Saban must mitigate.

 

 

Tight End

 

Current State: Randy McMichael is the only proven tight end the Dolphins currently have on the roster. Last season he collected in 60 receptions for 582 yards, which ranked him 10th in NFL amongst TEs.

 

However, Randy Mac’s reception numbers do not tell the whole story of his season. Fact is, the best part of his work last season was his blocking, which was noticeably improved over prior seasons. Credit for this goes, of course, to McMichael but also deservedly goes to offensive line coach Hudson Houck who worked with McMichael to improve his technique in engaging and sustaining blocks. Whether in the run game or in pass pro, McMichael was a more dominant presence while managing to cut down on mental mistakes which, in the past, sometimes resulted in stupid penalties.

 

It will be interesting to see if Culpepper’s presence will help to improve McMichael’s reception numbers and thus put him in better position to garner Pro Bowl recognition.

 

Alex Holmes, Jason Rader, Teyo Johnson, and the newly acquired Justin Peelle (free agent from San Diego) are the other TEs currently on the roster.

 

Strengths: McMichael’s skills as a receiver and blocker make him one of the best all-around and complete tight ends in the NFL. He should be even better in 2006.

 

Weaknesses: Lack of pass-catching depth, though Peelle could have upside in this regard.

 

Offseason Priority: Medium. The somewhat surprising early release of Lorenzo Diamond leaves the Dolphins a little thin at TE. Peelle was used extensively by the Chargers as a blocker, which helps when the Dolphins deploy two TE formations. This year’s talent pool is a deep one for tight ends, which should give the Dolphins some decent choices with a mid-to-late round pick.

 


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