From the day that
Nick Saban quit in disgrace, embarrassing owner Wayne Huizenga and team
management, the Miami Dolphins have been anxiously looking forward to Kickoff
Time heals and so
For the Dolphins, the
return to respectability begins with Malcom “Cam”
Cameron, the seventh head coach in team history. It is his hand that will be most
evident when the Miami Dolphins take the field on Sunday against the Washington
Redskins (1pm ET, CBS).
From the moment
Cameron walked through the door, the organization started heading in a
different direction. They’ve had to, because they’re not close to winning a championship
today, and haven’t been since Super Bowl XIX went down in Stanford Stadium over
20 years ago.
(A good percentage of
the current fan base wasn’t even born
when that game was played, let alone remembers it!)
Ultimately you need
good players to win, and Cameron wisely started with player personnel. GM Randy
Mueller makes the final call, but it is Cameron who is responsible for pulling
this team together and winning games. He needs winning players to make it
happen, guys with solid character, guys who fit his team philosophy. This is
where Cameron and Mueller have worked closest.
On Sunday you will
see 22 new Dolphins at FedEx Field, a turnover rate of 41% from the 2006 final
roster. Mueller normally expects to turn a roster over about 30% year-over-year,
so he obviously wasn’t kidding when he said that the Dolphins couldn’t “stand
pat” with what they had.
Don’t be too surprised;
remember that this club is 19-29 (.396) over the past three seasons. That’s just
about rock bottom by any measure, certainly unfamiliar territory for one of the
great franchises in NFL history. People expect better from the Miami Dolphins,
and I believe Cameron understands this.
Here’s an important
point about the turnaround thus far…the roster change isn’t just about new
faces; it’s about the future. A third
of the roster is made up of players with one season or less of NFL experience.
The idea is to fix
the car while it is moving.
Of course it goes
beyond new players. Just as important are the coaches the team retained,
reassigned, and acquired in the offseason.
At the top of the
list was the retention of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, vital in a division
with the likes of Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Laveranues Coles.
Cameron wisely set
aside his ego and deferred to Capers. The benefit is a defense that will build
on last year’s #4 overall ranking with more looks and even better players. They
should prove to be one of the best defensive units in team history, and a
miserable pain the neck to the opposition.
evident, however, will be an offensive scheme vastly different from anything
we’ve seen since Dan Marino first pulled on a #13 jersey in the old concrete
block locker room at Biscayne
Forget the Statue of
Liberty play you saw in the silly season. That’s just a shadow of the real
Quite frankly, this
is where the true rebuilding of the Miami Dolphins has taken place. Consider
that every single position, with the exception of RB, will have a new starter.
Even Chris Chambers and Marty Booker have switched sides!
Again, real change
that will hopefully translate into wins.
Of course, how the
Dolphins will choose to attack the Redskin defense is anybody’s guess. Even looking
at last year’s San Diego Chargers, from whence Cameron came, is problematic.
For one thing, Cameron
doesn’t have the horses he had in San
Diego. For another, the defensive personnel and
coaching in the AFC East is, overall, a lot tougher than what he faced in the
Perhaps this is why
Cameron showed almost nothing of interest offensively during the preseason. I
mean, watching his charges slog it out against the Saints was like watching molasses
drip from a can.
The real worry is in
knowing just how much (or how little) the players truly understand his system.
Keeping things bland early on builds confidence, but I seriously doubt that
Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be as understanding in his
scheming once the live firing begins.
For all his failings
as Buffalo’s ex-head
coach, Williams remains one of the best defensive strategists in football. Not
really knowing what the Dolphins are planning will hamper him somewhat, but the
Dolphins will still have to block his front seven if they expect to win. With
the Dolphin o-line in its current state of transition, that’s no sure thing.
It’s up to Cameron
and line boss Hudson Houck to figure it out, along with the rest of it.
Overall, we’ve seen
enough to believe that the 2007 Dolphins have a reasonable shot at the
playoffs. But questions remain, the biggest of which is whether or not the
Dolphins hired the right man to deliver them from the unfamiliar depths of the
The proof is always
in the winning and, for the Cam Cameron era, it starts this weekend in Washington.