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  Mid-Season Report Card
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

 

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

Click Here To Contact Chris

 

With slightly more than half of the season thankfully behind us, here are my mid-season grades for the 2005 Miami Dolphins.

 

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Offensive Line = B

 

Without a doubt, this unit has been the pleasant surprise of this football team. Last season, the quality of play was absolutely pathetic. This year, they have improved each and every week and are now a pretty good run blocking unit. The pass blocking has also been greatly improved. Two reasons for this: hard work and the coaching of legendary line boss Hudson Houck. If you want a sign that the Dolphins are headed in the right direction, look no further than this bunch. Remember, an effective offensive line is the most important piece of a championship team.

 

Halfbacks and Fullbacks = A-

 

Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are the best players on offense, with Brown proving why he was worth the second overall pick and Williams flashing his all-Pro form again. It is disappointing that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is underutilizing these two special players. Travis Minor and Sammy Morris have shined on special teams. No comment on fullback play as Darian Barnes recently joined the team in replacement of the released Heath Evans.

 

Wide Receivers = C

 

Chris Chambers has been a royal disappointment this season, failing to take advantage of the opportunities and faith that Linehan has extended to him. He simply doesn’t play to his talent and truly deserves his “decent” tag. He certainly doesn’t deserve the rich contract that the Dolphins gave him last year. Marty Booker is not the player he was in Chicago, once again reminding us that former GM Rick Spielman was snookered in the trade of Adewale Ogunleye to the Bears. When one considers Booker’s low level of play and that Lamar Gordon is now in Philly, the sobering truth of the Ogunleye deal is that the Dolphins gave him away for free. David Boston, the team’s #3 WR, is back on Injured Reserve, his career all but finished. Bryan Gilmore plies his trade well on coverage teams. The grade for this group would be a “D” if not for Gilmore and the terrific play of Wes Welker, both on special teams and as a slot receiver.

 

Tight Ends = C

 

It is a mystery as to why Randy McMichael deserved his new $18 million contract, quite possibly the worst decision Nick Saban has made as Head Dolphin. McMichael seems to disappear at times in games and has a bad habit of canceling out the good plays he makes with equally bad ones. Lorenzo Diamond, full of promise in the preseason, has gone invisible. While the blocking has been solid, the Dolphins are getting very little from this group of players with regards to production in the passing game.

 

Quarterbacks = C

 

Gus Frerotte isn’t Dan Marino and he isn’t supposed to be. His job is to keep the Dolphins from playing themselves out of games and give the team a chance to win in the fourth quarter. With few exceptions, he has served this purpose well. While I’m sure Linehan believes otherwise, Gus won’t win games with his arm though he will keep the Dolphins from committing the fatal mistakes that his predecessors (A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler) regularly did. Hopefully the Cleveland game taught Dolfans once and for all that Sage Rosenfels isn’t starting material…which is why he will continue to sit on the bench. Cleo Lemon, acquired in exchange for another failed Spielman player (Feeley), is a relative unknown though Houck speaks highly of him (which is high praise indeed). More than anything, this team needs to find the quarterback of the future. Fortunately, new GM Randy Mueller has a very good eye for QB talent; he just needs some time.

 

Defensive Line = B-

 

A dominant inside force, Keith Traylor has come up big (literally and figuratively) at Tackle and is my pick thus far as the team’s MVP. Vonnie Holliday has played reasonably well as has Kevin Carter and Jeff Zgonina. And, of course, there’s the warrior and future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor who just flat loves to compete. Rookie Matt Roth works hard but has largely been invisible as has David Bowens. Manuel Wright and Kevin Vickerson will be interesting players to watch in training camp next season.

 

Linebackers = B

 

The ultimate competitor, Zach Thomas continues to tackle and tackle and tackle. The Dolphins would be perennial Super Bowl champs if every player approached the game the way Zach does. Junior Seau, crippled with injury for most of this season, may be in his last NFL campaign. Donnie Spragan has been steady at OLB while rookie Channing Crowder is showing signs that he will eventually evolve into a terrific defender; his upside is considerable.

 

Defensive Backs = D

 

The trade of Patrick Surtain and the unfortunate injury to Will Poole took a team strength and made it a weakness that opponents have exploited almost at will. Safeties Travares Tillman and Tebucky Jones, two high profile free agent signees, have largely been disappointments; Jones is on IR. Lance Schulters, however, has proven to be a good pick-up; his game-saving interception against Carolina is the highlight play of the first half of the season. Sam Madison continues to give his usual level of solid production, though his interception drought continues. Rookie Travis Daniels will get better as he gains experience. Reggie Howard’s uneven play likely gets him cut at season’s end.

 

Specialists = B

 

Donnie Jones leads the NFL in net punting average, though he needs to work on improving his consistency with ball striking. Olindo Mare is 14 of 17 on FG tries and is #3 in the league in average kickoff distance. He kicked a game-winning FG versus Carolina. 

 

Coaching = C

 

This grade is against on-field performance, which is really only part of the story as most of the ongoing work to get this team turned around happens behind the scenes. Saban has taken firm hold of this team and really does have the entire organization moving in the right direction, cleaning up the big mess that Dave Wannstedt and Spielman made. Right now, getting the team to play with confidence is as big a challenge as finding better players. The defensive staff deserves a lot of credit for teaching and implementing a new system that is still a work in progress. Offensively, Linehan has done a poor job with the talent he has to work with in that he has failed to effectively utilize and emphasize Williams and Brown in his gameplanning and playcalling. Given the salary that the Dolphins are paying him, and his reputation as an offensive strategist, he and his staff should be doing much better work. Houck is the exception as he has worked wonders with a beleaguered unit; he is the star of the coaching staff.

 

 


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