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And It Isn't Even December Yet
Updated 11-14-02
Usually, Miami doesn't start their annual slide to mediocrity until late November or early December. But I guess the Dolphins decided to get a jump start on things early this year. Miami, who was once 5-1 and seeming in control of the AFC East, have now lost 3 straight, and could be in for a battle just to make the playoffs.

Anytime that a team has great expectations, (like Miami does) and begins to slip some, you have to expect a certain amount of finger pointing. In the eyes of the fans and media, someone must be held responsible for this debacle. In this case, I think we all can see where the problem lies.

Yes, the Dolphins have a problem. Actually, I believe that they have two problems, one compounding the other. The first problem, is the Dolphin's offensive line.

Through six games, the Dolphin's OL played rather well. Ricky Williams was averaging 4.58 yards per carry, and Jay Fiedler was sacked only 6 times. But over the last 3 games, Ricky has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry, and Ray Lucas has been sacked 9 times.

The play of all five starters has been less than stellar lately. I can't tell if Tim Ruddy is playing football or roller derby. Ditto Todd Perry. Todd Wade, with the exception of last week's game against New York, is called for a stupid, drive killing penalty every week. Marcus Spriggs, who filled in for an injured Mark Dixon, couldn't block a man in a bathroom stall. And even Jamie Nails, who started the season on fire, has cooled somewhat. Mark Dixon, who is Miami's best offensive lineman, is as brittle as dried pasta. It wouldn't matter if it was Ricky Williams or Walter Payton out there. Our OL is not making the holes for Ricky to run through, and they aren't giving Ray Lucas the time he needs to complete a pass. (Albeit to the other team.)

Now to be fair, teams have begun stacking 8 men at the line of scrimmage, effectively taking away Miami's biggest offensive weapon. But that is due mainly to Miami's other problem, ie poor quarterback play.

I don't think I need to delve into the specifics of Ray Lucas. Everyone, including Ray Charles, can see just how poorly Ray Lucas has played. He shows no semblance of the QB he was with the Jets in 1999. He makes poor decisions, cannot read defenses, and looks off his receivers continually. And because he is not a adequate passer, teams feel comfortable leaving Miami receivers in man to man coverage, stacking 8 men in the box to stop the run. And so far, they have accomplished that successfully.

Some people lay the blame at the feet of the coaches. But the coaches can't control turnovers. They can't control stupid penalties. They can't control the piss-poor blocking.

Others lay the blame on our defense, saying that they need to step up their play while the offense struggles. (And to a point, I agree.) But our defense played well enough to win against the Jets and the Bills, and they didn't look that bad at Green Bay either. It would be nice if our defense made more big plays, but you cannot blame them for our slump. No, it is our offensive woes that is our problem. Through our first 6 games, we averaged almost 30 points a game. In our last three outings, 10 points.

So what are Miami's options? Not many at this point. As far as our offensive lines goes, I'd bench Todd Perry and give rookie Seth McKinney a shot. He couldn't be much worse, and the experience would help him in the future. I'd also utilize the two TE set much more. Miami has two solid TEs in McMichaels and Clark. Both are decent blockers and receivers. (Jed Weaver isn't bad either.)  I think that might help control some of the 8 man fronts we see, or at least it would put some extra blockers on the line. I would also utilize Deon Dyer more often, especially on short yardage situations. I know that Norv Turner prefers a receiver type back like Konrad, but Dyer is the better "run blocker".

As for the QB position, we really have no options. Behind Lucas are two QBs with ZERO NFL experience. So I don't see them replacing Lucas unless he is injured. I also don't see Troy Aikman as a viable option. He's been out of football for two years, (and you think Carter was rusty after only a few months?) and is a concussion away from being Rain Man.

At this point, I think our only hope is that we can get one, maybe two wins out of Lucas, and that when Fiedler returns, he isn't too rusty. He would like to be back by the Buffalo game. But more than likely, he won't return until the Bears game. Hopefully, we should beat the Vikings and the Bears. We might get a win over the Raiders at home. That leaves us with 8 wins. If we can win against Baltimore, and then against the Chargers, at the Bills, or at New England, we are looking at 10 wins. With all the upsets in the AFC, that may be enough to get into the playoffs. Otherwise, our season will be over. And then the finger pointing will really begin.

--James Lancaster