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  10 Questions Going into Training Camp
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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The start of a new season is upon us. Always the wellspring of hope, itís the time when paper dreams become reality. Itís the anticipation of achieving great things.


And yet there is a lingering malaise, an absence of wide spread excitement, that greets the 2007 edition of the Miami Dolphins. Itís understandable; the sour taste from last seasonís disastrous 6-10 result, the bust that was Daunte Culpepper, the blatant lies and betrayal of one Nick Saban, the pass on Brady Quinn, the tortured acquisition of Trent Green, the continued disappointment in a stoned Ricky Williams, various player transgressions, a home game to be played in London, and an increase in ticket prices that have some Dolfans in a fairly disgusted state.


There is only one elixir that will wash away the bad feelings: winning.


The good news is that the 2007 Dolphins have what it takes to win more than they lose. And yes, they are talented enough to make a run at their first playoff berth in five years. But luck must also play a big part for the 2007 Dolphins to achieve success, given that Head Coach Cam Cameron and General Manager Randy Mueller are taking several risks which need to pay off in a handsome way.


And so, on the eve of the 2007 season, hereís my annual Top 10 list of things to look for. Not surprisingly, most of the questions fall on the offensive side of the ball.


1) How long will it take for the Dolphins to grasp Cameronís offense?

Cameronís playbook represents Miamiís fourth new system in four years. The good news is that this will be last one the offensive players will need to learn for the foreseeable future. Yet few things can be as disruptive to short term productivity as adapting to the ways of a new coach. The sooner the Dolphins can function instinctively well in Cameronís system, the higher their chances are of realizing a winning season and, possibly, a playoff berth.


2) Can Vernon Carey make the transition to Left Tackle?

This is the single biggest personnel question. Cameron and line boss Hudson Houck believe Carey can make the move from RT, where he is coming off his first good season, to LT. On paper and in drills, Carey has demonstrated the athletic ability and technique needed to play the position well. Translating that ability to the playing field is the key. The last time the Dolphins tried Carey at LT was when he was a rookie. The result was predictably poor. Now, as a fourth year veteran, Carey has matured and refined his game. If he makes a successful transition, the Dolphins will have solved a huge piece of the championship puzzle. If not, theyíll have a huge problem with no palatable alternative to turn to.


3) Can Trent Green stay healthy?

Green is a Dolphin for three important reasons. One, he is a veteran starter who knows Cameronís system and has been productive in it.Two, he can win games nowÖan important consideration with a veteran defense at the crest of their powers. Three, he is a bridge to the day when John Beck is ready to play. Of course, none of this will matter a lick if Green is physically unable to perform. Thatís the risk the Dolphins have accepted by going with a 37 year old QB with a prior concussion history, playing behind an offensive line with five new positional starters. If the Dolphins lose Green for more than a game or two, their season could get ugly very quickly.


4) Can Ronnie Brown follow L.T.ís act?

L.T. would LaDainian Tomlinson, the fine RB of the San Diego Chargers. As the Chargersí offensive coordinator, Cameron built his game plans around Tomlinson and his multi-dimensional skills. As the Dolphinsí de facto offensive coordinator, Cameron will ask the same things from Brown, his best offensive player. Brown has everything Cameron desires in a RB: size, speed, intelligence, maturity, good hands, and toughness. Aside from being a productive runner and receiver, he is also exceptional in pass protection. Cameronís system may prove to be an epiphany for Brown, who has yet to realize his full potential.


5) Is Samson Satele ready for prime time?

It is not too surprising to see Satele vying for a starting job on the offensive line. It is, however, surprising to see the Dolphins angling him for the starting Center position, rather than first trying him at Guard. Normally it is the Center who is responsible for reading defensive fronts and making line calls. Asking a rookie to take on this responsibility is a huge leap of faith. Perhaps the job of making the line calls will continue to fall on Rex Hadnot, now the teamís starting RG, until Satele is deemed ready. Nevertheless, having a solid Training Camp will be vitally important to Sateleís on-field success in 2007, perhaps more so than for any other rookie.


6) Who is TE David Martin?

Martin is mystery Dolphin #1. The feedback from his time in Green Bay is very much mixed. On one hand Martin could be the second coming of Antonio Gates, a guy who can run, jump, and catch like a WR while (with some help from Houck) becoming a force on the edge in the run game. On the other he could end up continuing his history of being injury prone, a player who will continue to fall short of realizing his full potential.


7) What about depth at Defensive End?

Jason Taylor, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and 3rd year veteran Matt Roth are the starters. Behind them is a collection of unproven and unknown talents. What is defensive guru Dom Capers planning when the Dolphins line up in a 3-4, and JT shifts out as an OLB? Will it be Vonnie Holliday at DE? What if the injury bug strikes? This is an unsettled situation at best. Mueller should be opportunistic if a solid veteran comes available at the right price.


8) Can Brandon Fields overcome his penchant for inconsistency?

Fields has the leg strength and accuracy to be a serious field position weapon. Consistency is his problem; one bad shank could flip field position and cost a win, especially in the parity-filled NFL. The Dolphins are working hard with Fields to smooth out his technique and make it repeatable, predictable, and dependable. Thereís a lot at stake here as a team with a dominant defense and a developing offense relies heavily on a good punter to create opportunities that can win games. Can Fields be that guy?


9) Will Lorenzo Booker be a better as a pro?

The Jetsí Leon Washington, Bookerís former teammate at Florida State, underachieved in college. So did Booker. Some believe that they were not properly utilized by former FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. This may be true, but the players themselves are also to blame. For Washington, his game has really blossomed as a pro; quite frankly, the Jets would not have made the playoffs without him. The Dolphins are hoping that Booker realizes the same success.


10) How close is Ted Ginn, Jr. to becoming a starting WR?

It is not a matter of ďifĒ as of ďwhenĒ. When a team is fortunate to have a player of Ginnís ability, it is in their best interest to have him on the field as much as possible. Before that can happen, Ginnís game needs to be further polished. There are conflicting reports as to how far along Ginn really is with his route running and technique versus the press, though it is clear from the Dolphin OTAs that he is not as raw as some have reported. Unfortunately, his foot injury kept him from working on his game as much as he would have liked this offseason. Expect him to get plenty of work on offense during the preseason games.




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