easy to be impressed with the progress the Miami Dolphins have made this past
month, freshly underscored by their 24-0 thumping of the putrid Kansas City
first preseason shutout in almost 30 years.
also easy to remember the old refrain, “the preseason means nothing”.
don’t tell that to the Dolphins. When it comes to player development,
especially for young and new faces on a rebuilding team, they know this
preseason means everything.
also know that the faster the development comes, the sooner the winning will
follow. This is the key to success for the 2008 Miami Dolphins.
course, it’s easier said than done with a team that’s made extensive changes,
with more surely to come.
that the Dolphins could have as many as 19 new positional starters from last
year’s season opener, and that the final roster will have at least 24 new faces
on it. That’s almost 50% roster turnover for those of you doing the math. Add
to this a new coaching staff and new accompanying offensive and defensive
systems. Taken at once, it’s a load for any organization to manage well.
new regime certainly deserves credit for stepping up to the challenge; the
evidence thus far suggests that this should be an improved team. Yet one
wonders just how quickly improvement can realistically be made, or even
expected, in just one season. Will it be enough to make the Dolphins a winner in
answer to this question will fall mostly on the younger players. With as few as
three positional starters returning, an unavoidable and heavy dependency is
upon them to step up and deliver right away.
a lot to ask. Almost half of the current roster has three years or less of experience
and not all of them have been full time contributors. To be clear, this isn’t
just a depth issue; on offense, more than half of the projected starters fall
into this category. Both kickers do, too, as does a projected defensive starter
(DE Kendall Langford).
also the challenge of assimilating a number of new positional starters, even
among the veterans. This problem is most evident on defense, with the switch to
a 3-4 base alignment.
are some of the things that keep head coach Tony Sparano and his staff up at
example, Sparano, a former offensive line coach, knows well that the faster
rookie starters Jake Long and Donald Thomas “get it”, the sooner the winning
will come. But Sparano also knows that there will be growing pains, a very normal
thing when three of his five line starters have a combined 16 games of NFL
one would expect Sparano to be pleased with the enormous progress his players
have made this past month. Yet he well understands that the live exercise
hasn’t yet started, that more difficult situations are yet to be faced by his
young charges, and that they’ll be tested beyond what they’ve experienced thus
veterans who are new to the team or new to a position will be the first to
admit that much more work is needed if this team is to win at least as much as
new starting QB Chad Pennington. He’ll be a Dolphin all of one month when the season kicks off. Two weeks ago, he was calling plays and literally
guessing as to what routes all of his receivers were running. He’s farther
along now, but still in need of work to get synched up with his new targets,
especially #1 WR Ted Ginn, Jr.
have a lot of work to do, we really do”, said Pennington. “I'm happy that we've
been able to connect in the two games that we've played together. I think he's
got a lot of talent. But at the same time, we've got a long way to go to make
sure we can play with consistency. Three quarters of football is not enough to
say we've got it down yet. We have to make sure we continue to work out here at
practice and continue to talk to each other and always discuss things so we can
really get on the same page."
defense, you’ll get a similar story from LB Channing Crowder, of whom more will
be expected now that Zach Thomas is in Dallas.
He isn’t naïve as to the state of things, and won’t allow a defensive shutout
against a bad team to cloud his objectivity.
really not together yet right now”, said Crowder after the win over the Chiefs.
“We made nine penalties, (forced) some
turnovers, so we’re not there yet. But you can tell we’re progressing each week
and that’s what the preseason is all about. Just keep working. Like I said,
there are a lot of good things and there are a lot of bad things as well. If we
can get as close to perfection as we can, we can be a good team.”
good team would suit Dolfans just fine. Just hope the learning doesn’t take too