in the history of the Miami Dolphins has there been an 0-8 start. Not even in
the inaugural 1966 campaign, immortalized by the season-opening kickoff return
for a touchdown by RB Joe Auer.
no Dolphin team has ever endured an 0-11 losing streak. The last time the
Dolphins won a game? That would be December 10, 2006, at home against the
Patriots with a 21-0 goose egg.
it possible that this team could go a year without winning a game?
it possible that this team could actually go 0-16?
it says here that they’ll pick at least one opponent off between now and the
merciful end to this most wretched of all Dolphin seasons.
might even happen at the next game, a home contest against the mediocre Buffalo
the Dolphins are wrapping up their own internal study as to how and why this
season has gone so badly awry. While it is always good to self-reflect, it is
altogether odd that the very same people who led the franchise into this mess
could be the ones who are doing the analysis.
anyone? Yes there will be, if an outside consultant or two (maybe Ron Wolf or
Don Shula) are the ones with the critical eye.
midseason I do my best to look at the team with a critical eye. And so, here
are my midterm grades for the 2007 Miami Dolphins.
pleasant surprise of the season is the improved play of the offensive line.
It’s not Pro Bowl-caliber play, mind you, but it is winning-caliber football. They
were helping Ronnie Brown on his way to a breakout Pro Bowl season before he
was lost for the duration. And though they’re yielding an average of two sacks
per game, a lot of the blame is due to poor play by QBs Trent Green and Cleo
Lemon. Vernon Carey is playing a very credible left tackle, suggesting that the
team may have solved their need at the cornerstone position. Rookie center Samson
Satele, who predictably got off to a shaky start, is asserting himself more as
his confidence builds. Right guard Rex Hadnot looks to be a natural at the
position; he and right tackle L.J. Shelton are working well together and
enjoying good success each and every week. Left guard Chris Liwienski is
holding his own, though I expect that the Dolphins will look for an upgrade at
Fullbacks = A
Brown was on pace to gain 1,600+ yards this season, and to lead the NFL in
all-purpose yards, before tearing the ACL in his knee in the Patriots game.
What’s really sad is that it happened as he was trying to make a tackle after another
bad Cleo Lemon interception. But Brown figures to come back strong next season
as he is young, a hard worker, and has an excellent attitude. His back-up,
Jesse Chatman, runs hard and will do his best to fill in for Brown. Chatman is
a maximum effort guy, which helps him to overcome his shortcomings in talent.
Special teamer Patrick Cobbs will be Chatman’s primary back-up for the
duration. Rookie Lorenzo Booker continues to wait his turn, though Cam Cameron
doesn’t seem at all concerned that Booker has not been able to get on the field
yet. Rookie FB Reagan Mauia, a 6th round pick, has a been a physical
blocker, though we have yet to see Cameron employ him in the passing offense
the way he did with Lorenzo Neal in San Diego.
Chambers was traded away (Chargers) for a second round pick, a good move by GM
Randy Mueller as the underachieving Chambers just never lived up to the big
play promise and contract that dogged him. Marty Booker leads the wide
receivers on the team in receptions (26) and yards (305). Second year man Derek
Hagan (3rd round pick) and rookie Ted Ginn (1st round pick) are the
future starters; they’ll have a chance over the remainder of the season to justify
the faith, and large investment, the Dolphins have in them. Ginn is leading the
team in yards per catch (20.1) and caught his first TD last week on a crisp
skinny post. Hagan needs to clean up his act in terms of untimely penalties
that kill big plays.
Tight Ends = C
Martin has done little to quell the doubters in his ability to be a big game
tight end (15 catches, 111 yards, 2 TDs). Quite frankly, back-up Justin Peelle
has been more impressive as a blocker and receiver (17 receptions, 149 yards, 2
TDs) and hasn’t made the boneheaded mistakes that Randy McMichael was infamous
disappointment continues at the most important of positions. Cameron says he looks
to see if his QBs have the “it” that all the good ones have. Well, Trent Green
(5TDs, 7 INTs, 72.1 rating, out for the season with another concussion) has proven
that he has lost “it”. And back-up Cleo Lemon (3TDs, 4INTs, 70.0 rating, 9
sacks) doesn’t seem to have “it”. Clearly, it is now time for Cameron to find
out if prized rookie John Beck is the future of the franchise. Beck’s work in
the preseason was most promising. The Dolphins need to find out if the guy can
play before they are faced with offseason personnel decisions, including the
a mess. It is shocking and sad to see the dramatic decline of what was once the
team’s strong point just a year ago. Injuries (Vonnie Holliday), lack of
quality depth, a questionable change in scheme by defensive coordinator Dom
Capers, underperforming players (Matt Roth), age (Keith Traylor), and veterans
trying to do too much (Jason Taylor) are all to blame for the problems. Through
8 games the defense is giving up 160.5 yards per game on the ground (31st
in the NFL), with only 10 sacks (27th in the NFL). And to think this
used to be the tip of the spear of the #4 overall defense just one year ago.
What a disaster.
Linebackers = C
speaking, the linebacking corps is having a bad year. If not for the gutsy play
of the great Zach Thomas, once again on pace for a 100+ tackle season despite
missing two games (concussion, whiplash), this group would have earned an “F”. OLB
Channing Crowder, who has fewer tackles than safety Cameron Worrell, is
constantly and inexplicably out of position and being manhandled against the
run. His opposite number, Joey Porter, has done little to justify the monster
contract the Dolphins gave him. Back-ups Derrick Pope, Edmond Miles, and Donnie
Spragan have all seen time on defense due to injuries to starters. The futility
against run and the lack of sacks is equally shared by this bunch.
Backs = F
ending injuries to starting safeties Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill have been
devastating. But the poor performance by the corners has been equally as
damaging, especially on third downs where the Dolphins are ranked dead last
with a 50% failure rate. Worrell, pressed into service as a major contributor at
safety, simply cannot play and should be used exclusively on special teams. Expect
the newly signed Lance Schulters to take over for Worrell by the next game.
Jason Allen, the 2006 first rounder, now has his chance to avoid the “bust” tag
many have already given him. His first outing at safety against the Giants was
decent, suggesting he may be a better game player than a practice player. Only
time will tell. Travares Tillman has been injured and rookie Courtney Bryan has
seen snaps mostly out of desperation. At CB, Will Allen hasn’t played anywhere
near to his abilities, but neither has Travis Daniels; both are having a
surprisingly bad year. Michael Lehan has been inconsistent, though he is not
blessed with an abundance of talent to begin with. Andre Goodman, who cannot be
100% healthy, must play perfect technique to be effective. Only the Saints have
fewer interceptions than the Dolphins do (4). Given the emphasis the Dolphins
placed in the preseason on generating turnovers, the performance here is
Specialists = B
punter Brandon Fields has improved his consistency since the start of the
season, but has a disappointing 43.7 yard average given the strength of his
leg. Donnie Jones, last year’s punter now with the Rams, leads the league with
a gaudy 50.3 yard average and has a monstrous 80 yarder to his credit. In
almost every way, Jones has proven himself superior to Fields. Perhaps Fields
will improve, but the early returns suggest that Mueller blundered in letting
Jones get away for just a 7th round pick. On the other hand, the trade
of kicker Olindo Mare to the Saints and the signing of Jay Feely was a very smart
move. Feely has missed only one kick thus far (13 of 14), while Mare has missed
4 of 8. On kickoffs, Mare has only two more touchbacks (7) than does Feely (5).
Long snapper John Denney continues to be very solid in his delivery of the ball
and in his blocking.
Coaching = D
Cameron has had a nightmare of a start as an NFL head coach. He was counting on
a solid defense and a reasonably productive offense to challenge for a playoff
berth. Now he is reduced to trying to win a single game. His decision to forego
a tying field goal attempt at Houston
continues to loom as his worst game management decision thus far, but there
have been many other head-scratchers along the way. Still, the offense is
improved and scoring more than 20 points per game, which is significantly
better than last year’s 16.2 average and more than good enough to have this
team playing .500 ball if not for the collapse of the defense. Cameron will get
a pass this season, but the hot seat awaits if he cannot win games. The best
way for him to do that is to start playing John Beck on offense, and to become
more involved with the defensive game planning. Dom Capers probably won’t appreciate
being supervised as closely, but he has done nothing this year to suggest that
Cameron should do otherwise. Quite frankly, we’ve seen too much of Capers’
brilliance over the years to know that this has simply been a sub-par coaching
effort on his part. He must do better if he wants to justify the extravagant
contact the Dolphins gave him this offseason. Special teams coach Keith
Armstrong has taken a lot of heat from the fans for the poor coverage teams,
but it says here that Mueller is the one who should get the blame for failing
to hire decent cover guys. Armstrong knows how to coach, but not even Don Shula
can make chicken soup from chicken feathers.