the job that head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan face
in the aftermath of the wreckage of the 2004 Dolphin season.
must be one sweet contract Linehan signed. How else to entice a guy to trade in
the keys of a Lamborghini for those of a broken down Edsel?
Dolphins ranked 29th in Total Offense, and were 27th in
Scoring, 30th in Total Yards per Play, 28th in Total
First Downs per Game, 24th in Third Down Conversion Percentage, 28th
in Average Time of Possession, and last in Turnovers Allowed (42, tied for the
second-worst mark in team history).
were second to last in Total Rushing and in Average Yards per Game, 29th
in Total Rushing attempts, last in Average Rushing Yards per Attempt, last in
First Downs gained via the Run, tied for 19th in Total Rushing
Touchdowns, and 29th in Total Rushes of 20 Yards or Greater.
the passing game, they were 21st in Total Passing and 20th
in Total TD passes but were dead last in Pass Completion Percentage,
Interceptions Thrown, and Sacks Allowed.
is what Dave Wannstedt called it.
can’t print what his sharpest critics have called it.
were times during the season where this unit was flat out unwatchable, even
laughable, unable to break a huddle or snap the football without some sort of
made the days of Dan Marino and the Marks Brothers seem so far away.
how does Saban fix this mess?
with Linehan, an excellent teacher and strategist. His work in Minnesota was well
regarded across the league.
will leave the task of re-tooling the offense mostly to Linehan, opting to
offer ideas and suggestions for improvement. Yes, there will be some mandates
that Saban will hand down but he understands that Linehan is the expert he
needs to get the job done.
decision to adapt the existing playbook to his offensive philosophy was a wise
move as it is easier for him to learn the current Dolphin terminology versus
making major changes that could be confusing to the players.
Linehan to keep using the plays that fit his talent, discard what does not, and
add in missing pieces that he feels strongly about.
will open up the offense, just as he did in Minnesota. This was
obvious during the various Offseason Training Activity (OTA) sessions.
Dolfans yearning for exciting football, this is good news.
it is players that win games, not playbooks, and the Dolphins have some glaring
weaknesses to shore up.
with the offensive line, a rather worthless unit last year.
is where new line boss Hudson Houck helps.
the best in the business, Houck’s recent work with the 2004 San Diego Chargers
has been widely praised. Drew Brees’s emergence as a Pro Bowl quarterback is
attributable, in part, to the dramatically improved play of their line.
the offensive line is the single most important thing the Dolphins need to do
in order to develop an effective offense, even more important than the
proceedings at quarterback (more on that later).
accomplish this daunting task, Houck needs to find five solid starters who can
work well as a cohesive unit.
surprisingly, Houck has wasted little time in acting.
assessing his group’s strengths and weaknesses, he moved players into positions
where they stood the best chance of success.
biggest changes have been at Tackle where Houck quickly agreed with Saban’s
early assessment of the position as being a major concern.
example, the move of Wade Smith to Center all but confirms the conclusion that
many had come to long ago: Smith can’t play Left Tackle in the NFL.
move of right tackle Vernon Carey to the left side is a bold move. Clearly,
Houck believes that Carey could be much more than anyone envisioned.
is a very talented player, versatile enough to work at both Guard and Tackle in
college. Houck believes he has the physical frame (6-5, 335), functional
strength, and adequate nimbleness to get the job done.
trick here will be for Carey to learn the techniques needed to neutralize the
game’s best defensive ends. Early returns from the various OTAs have been
encouraging, with Carey reportedly holding his own against Jason Taylor.
put, it would be a tremendous boost if Carey works out at Left Tackle. We’ll
know more once the pads come on and the drills shift into full speed.
the opposite side, Stockar McDougle is an important upgrade. His acquisition
all but confirms that John St. Clair wasn’t the answer that the previous regime
touted him to be.
will make McDougle even better, perhaps good enough to warrant Pro Bowl
consideration. For those who appreciate good line play, it will be fun to watch
James, the team’s best run blocker, is a safe bet to continue at Left Guard
with Seth McKinney and Rex Hadnot having the inside track at keeping their
respective jobs at Center and Right Guard, respectively.
to quarterback, where questions are flying around incumbent A.J. Feeley and
newcomer Gus Frerotte.
some feel as though Frerotte will eventually win the starting job, neither man
has looked particularly impressive. Political correctness aside, this has to be
troubling to Saban and Linehan.
it is still early in the game, the Dolphins must settle the quarterback
competition as early as possible to avoid a repeat of last year’s debacle.
claims that neither man has an edge thus far, noting “it’s the one who executes
and manages the game the best who is going to play”.
words but hardly reassuring to a team that needs certainty at this most
men offer something of value. Feeley possesses what Linehan has called
“exceptional talents as far as throwing the ball”, while conceding that his
“familiarity” with Frerotte gives him comfort in knowing he has someone who can
execute the system.
is an area where Saban and Linehan must act decisively, for the good of the
team. They must understand that dragging things out through the preseason, as
Wannstedt did, would be a mistake.
says here that the Dolphins MUST determine, once and for all, whether or not
Feeley can play. They cannot do that if he is sitting on the bench.
also must know that they are not likely to be going to the Super Bowl in 2005
and that Frerotte, 33, won’t be the guy who eventually takes them there.
why waste time playing Frerotte?
Houck and Linehan can create a quality learning and playing situation, one that
gives Feeley a fair chance to develop, Feeley ought to get the nod.
issue with Feeley has never been lack of physical skills. It has been a lack of
experience...and a solid ground game to back him up.
enters Ronnie Brown and, maybe, Ricky Williams. They could very well be the
most important players on offense.
abound regarding Ricky’s return while Brown must prove his worth as a high
first round pick. If both men are right, they will create major match-up
problems for defenses, especially in the fourth quarter.
Dolphins should be OK at receiver and tight end, though it will be interesting
to see if Chris Chambers can finally earn a season’s worth of production to
match his oft-hyped skills.
things considered, getting the right people in place and getting them to dance
in tune with the music will be a monumental task. Perhaps this is why Saban is
setting the bar low in 2005, suggesting that the goal should be an
perhaps he is setting low expectations in order to create greater upside.
the intent, it figures to be a long way to the promised land for this bunch.