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ESPN dolphin's write up


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By Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com



Coming off a 9-7 mark in coach Nick Saban's debut season, which included a six-game winning streak to end the year, the Dolphins seem poised for double-digit victories in '06. Certainly this is a better outfit than last year's team, if for no other reason than the acquisition of quarterback Daunte Culpepper, a playmaker who can make things happen with his arms or legs. With Culpepper on board, and a deep corps of receivers, the Dolphins shouldn't be as offensively lopsided, a good thing given that the line remains in flux and there is little depth after starting tailback Ronnie Brown.


Last season marked the first time since 1997 that the Miami defense statistically ranked outside of the top 10. The unit has a lot of tread rubbed off the tires, particularly a front four that averages over 30 years old, but should rebound from its No. 18 ranking of a year ago. The defense looked very quick in preseason, the secondary is better, and weakside linebacker Channing Crowder is an emerging star.


It hasn't taken Saban very long at all to return the Dolphins to contender status. Overtaking the Patriots in the AFC East, which New England has won four of the past five seasons, won't be an easy task. But the presence of Culpepper, whose return from knee surgery is nothing shy of remarkable, makes it possible.



By Ken Moll, Scouts Inc.



The Dolphins have had a very sold offseason. If new starting QB Daunte Culpepper is healthy, he can take them a long way. New backup Joey Harrington appears to be responding to the Dolphins' offense much better than Detroit's scheme. DT Dan Wilkinson adds nice depth to an already-solid position.


Chris Chambers and Marty Booker are solid, but the Dolphins' receiving corps lacks depth. Other concerns are the kicking game and secondary. Will they miss Sam Madison? They tightened things up in their last preseason game against the Panthers, but I still have concerns about this secondary.


Prediction: First in AFC East.



By KC Joyner, ESPN.com


If anything is going to stop the Dolphins from being a viable dark horse candidate in the AFC East, it is their secondary. Will Allen was mediocre at best against medium and deep passes last year, allowing over 10 yards per attempt at both of these depth levels.


Travis Daniels will start opposite Allen. Daniels performed well early last year when he was thrust into a starting role after Reggie Howard imploded. But the honeymoon didn't last long. Miami's opponents started to figure out how to attack and beat Daniels, who struggled as the year progressed.


These question marks are compounded by the lack of quality depth at corner and mediocre play at safety. Andre' Goodman allowed 8.7 yards per attempt with Detroit last year and Renaldo Hill also had very poor metrics playing the rover position in Oakland.


If the Dolphins don't see significant improvements in this group, there could be a lot of shootouts in Miami this year.




From ESPN The Magazine

The Big Number

139 There's no such thing as a safe lead against this offense. Even with Gus Frerotte at the helm last season, Miami scored 139 of its 318 points (43.7 percent) in the fourth quarter -- the highest percentage in the league.


Nick Saban is a defensive-minded coach, but nobody can accuse him of ignoring the other side of the ball. The trade for Daunte Culpepper (left) and the emergence of 2005 first-rounder Ronnie Brown help round out a unit that already boasts dynamic receiving weapons in downfield burner Chris Chambers and safety-eating Randy McMichael. If the line jells as it should (see below), Miami will ignite the scoreboard.


Dolphins fans had better get used to the terms "cushion" and "zone coverage." Free agent Will Allen improves the speed at CB, but his lack of aggressiveness makes him a target versus bigger receivers. Partner Travis Daniels is in over his head as a starter and will have to be protected vertically on most downs.


Miami's O-line allowed just 26 sacks last season, paving the way for Brown's 4.4 yards per carry. So why do so many folks hate on the front five? "Guess it's because we don't have any big-name guys," says RT Vernon Carey (left). The 6-foot-5, 337-pounder is taking the lead in growing the unit's profile -- by going smaller. He's shaved 11 pounds and 7 percent body fat since February thanks to a steady routine of spinning, hoops and dieting. Now he should be much more effective against the pass rush and on downfield blocks. "Vernon's had an outstanding camp," says Saban. With the addition of blue-chip free agent L.J. Shelton on the other side, Culpepper and his bionic knee should have plenty of time to dissect defenses. We can feel the love already.




Team Preview Centers


Key Stretch: Weeks 12-15

Nov. 23: at Detroit

Dec. 3: vs. Jacksonville

Dec. 10: vs. New England

Dec. 17: at Buffalo

Comings & Goings

Key Acquisitions:

CB Will Allen; RB Fred Beasley; QB Daunte Culpepper; OT Mike Pearson; OT L.J. Shelton.


Key Departures:

S Tebucky Jones; OT Stockar McDougle; CB Sam Madison; CB Reggie Howard.

Offensive Starters (as of 8/30)

RB Ronnie Brown

FB Fred Beasley

QB Daunte Culpepper

WR Marty Booker

RT Vernon Carey

RG Bennie Anderson

C Rex Hadnot

LG Jeno James

LT L.J. Shelton

TE Randy McMichael

WR Chris Chambers

Defensive Starters (as of 8/30)

LDE Kevin Carter

LDT Keith Traylor

RDT Vonnie Holliday

RDE Jason Taylor

WLB Channing Crowder

MLB Zach Thomas

SLB Donnie Spragan

LCB Travis Daniels

FS Jason Allen

SS Travares Tillman

RCB Will Allen


? Complete roster

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