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A Look at the Dolphin's Roster-Offense
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but the biggest problem with the Miami Dolphins is a serious lack of talent across the board. Unfortunately, Dave Wannstedt apparently can't see this truth for some reason, and I think Miami will continue to be an also-ran as a result.
Here's a breakdown of every position on the Dolphins offense, and my thoughts on the talent-level of the players. I'll look at the defense later in the week. I'm almost sorry I did this, because it paints a grim picture of a team I foolishly thought was pretty darn good before the season.
Miami's QB position rivals that of the Cincinnati Bengals. That's not a good thing. I've written more than enough about Jay Fiedler, so I won't dwell on him. Let it suffice to say that he will NEVER be a championship-caliber QB, and he's simply not good enough to take a team to the Big Show. A QB's job is to put points on the board; too often Jay Fiedler has been unable to do that. There are very few (actually, "few" is too strong) teams in the NFL that would consider Jay an upgrade to their current situation.
What about Ray Lucas? Who knows? The Dolphins never let him throw the ball, despite his frequent third down appearances and despite his success (well, Jed Weaver dropped a sure TD on one play) the two times they actually let him throw.
And forget Cade McNown. The Dolphins thought so highly of him that they didn't even teach him their offense, instead relegating him solely to scout team duty.
Conclusion: The Dolphins have marginal talent - at best - at the QB position.
Lamar Smith has run his course in Miami. His season was summed up on one play in the Raven's debacle. On third and one, Lamar failed to gain the first down - despite the huge hole Deon Dyer opened for him. Smith cannot hit the hole with authority, and he can't break tackles. And despite his "great" 2000 season, he has not come close to averaging 4 yards per carry over the course of a season - which is the generally the yardstick that RBs are judged by.
James Johnson is not worth discussing - the Dolphins clearly have a low opinion of him based on the fact that they never used him, and there isn't any chance he'll be back next season.
Travis Minor is a nice change of pace and third down back with good vision and excellent speed. He's also a great receiver out of the backfield. Travis is one of the only offensive players on this team with big-play ability. Unfortunately, I don't see any way Travis can ever be the power back the Dolphins desire - he's just too small. Make no mistake, though - Travis should play a big role in the Dolphins' offense.
Rob Konrad is a talented fullback with excellent receiving skills. Unfortunately, the Dolphins, for some reason, refuse to utilize him properly. He's wasting away on the Dolphins' roster, and unless our next offensive coordinator decides to use him, I see no reason why he should remain on this team.
Deon Dyer is a very solid player who one day will be considered the NFL's best blocking back.
Conclusion: No starting-caliber RB currently on the roster. Two excellent FBs, one of which is grossly underutilized.
This offseason, I thought the Dolphins had finally put together a great receiving corps that would stretch defenses and put points on the board. Boy, was I wrong.
Chris Chambers, of course, had a stellar rookie season, and he will one day be among the league's best receivers. Chris is the only Dolphins' receiver with true star potential, and he only needs a QB that can consistently get him the ball to tap that potential. It's scary how good this kid can be. It's also scary how bad our receiving corps became once he went down with the ankle injury.
James McKnight was heralded as the Dolphins' new deep threat when he was signed as a free agent. And looking at his career average of over 18 yards per reception, I thought we had a big-time player in our midst. What we ended up with, though, was a big-time bust. McKnight averaged little more than 12 yards a catch in '01. Even worse, James reverted to his early-career habit of dropping and fumbling passes. I've never seen a receiver fumble as much as McKnight did this year. James certainly has talent, but he makes far too many errors to be considered a reliable receiver.
Oronde Gadsden started out the season on fire, catching everything thrown his way and making numerous big plays. As the season wore on, though, Oronde became less of a factor. Injuries caught up with him, and he began dropping passes and disappearing from the offense. I love Oronde, but let's face it - he shouldn't be our top receiver every year. And his future is always in doubt with the arthritic toes that have plagued him the past few years.
Dedric Ward was tough to judge, considering he missed quite a few games with foot injuries. But for the most part, I liked what I saw out of Dedric. He became a clutch third down receiver as the season wore on, and he showed McDuffie-like ability to find the open seams in the passing game. I would have liked to have seen the Dolphins utilize his speed more.
Jeff Ogden is a nice role player, but he offers little in the grand scheme of things.
Conclusion: There is some talent at the WR position - particularly with Chambers - but not enough to scare anyone. Another big-play receiver is a must.
Hunter Goodwin is one of the NFL's best blocking TE's, and as such is a very important part of the Dolphins' offense. Though far from graceful, Hunter seems to catch the ball when it's thrown to him - which, for some reason, doesn't happen very often.
I'm a big Jed Weaver fan, despite the few bone-headed fumbles he coughed up this year. I think he could really be a factor in the passing game if used properly, which of course (noticing a trend?) he hasn't been. Jed has reliable hands and he's got good open-field speed. He's an adequate blocker as well.
Conclusion: I think the Dolphins are OK at TE, although it's hard to get an accurate read when the position is virtually ignored in the passing game. An upgrade would be great, but is not necessary.
This position is an absolute mess. The best player on the line, Mark Dixon, had his worst season as a pro and ended the season on IR with an injury that may end his career. Dixon's replacement at LG, Heath Irwin, is the worst offensive lineman I've ever had the displeasure of watching. How he made it this far, I'll never know.
The LT position is a nightmare. Brent Smith was supposed to start, but he couldn't make it past the first practice. I don't think too highly of him, anyway. Smith's replacement, Marcus Spriggs, joined him on IR soon after the season began. Like Smith, Spriggs is average at best. Spriggs' replacement, Spencer Folau, isn't even average; in fact, he ranks right up (down?) there with Irwin as the worst lineman ever. And to add another head-scratcher to the list, veteran Harry Swayne - he of the (seemingly) thousand Super Bowl appearances - sat on the bench all year. Is it possible that he couldn't beat out the woefully inept Folau? If so, why was he even on the team?
Not to sound redundant, but in yet another questionable move, the Dolphins signed former Bear Todd Perry to start at RG. Why was it questionable? Perry had NEVER - not even on the playground - played on the right side of the line his ENTIRE life. Yet the Dolphins signed him to a big contract to play a position he never played before. It's no surprise that Perry was a bust.
C Tim Ruddy and RT Todd Wade get a pass from me for their below-average seasons. Both players played hurt the majority of the season. As long as they're healthy, they should return to form in '02.
Conclusion: OL is an absolute joke for the Dolphins. They fielded by far the worst unit in the NFL in '01. Give credit to OL coach Tony Wise for somehow getting this group to play good in even a couple of games (Colts Monday nighter, Bills final game). That in itself is miraculous. Full-scale changes need to be made here - including a new left side and a new RG, as well as quality depth. Irwin, Folau, Spriggs, Smith and Perry all deserve to be gone.
That does it for the offense. Next time, I'll look at the defense, which is in better shape - though not by as much as you'd expect, in my estimation.