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  Five Practice Games Too Much? Not for Dolphins...
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule |  


by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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We’re almost halfway through the preseason and the Dolphins are making the case for longer, rather than shorter, exhibition schedules.



Yes, there’s that much work needed before the opener.


Start at quarterback, where A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte continue to slog it out. Neither man has been more than mediocre at best, a less than exciting preview of what could be when games start counting.


Downright depressing with Dan Marino still so fresh in our minds.


Quite frankly, the best looking throwers thus far have been “the other guys”: Sage Rosenfels and Brock Berlin.


At 33, Frerotte is not the future in Miami; he is a stop gap solution at best. His level of play simply isn’t good enough right now to justify burning up a year with him at the helm.


With Feeley’s uneven performance thus far, perhaps it is time for Nick Saban to give Rosenfels and Berlin longer looks.


Berlin, in particular, intrigues. Could it be that he is ready to emerge from his college struggles and realize his potential as a pro?


Surely, his effectiveness in these past two games has been one of the pleasant surprises of the preseason.


As for Rosenfels, perpetually carrying the clipboard, he appears ready for more. His arm strength fits offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s system very well indeed.


Whatever happens, the eventual starter needs these next three games to get it together. The eventual winner will have some fine talent to throw to given what the receivers, particularly Chris Chambers, have show us thus far.


Then there’s the story at running back. While Ricky Williams shakes the cobwebs off his game, and his work against the Jaguars was most encouraging, it will mean nothing when the Dolphins kick it off against the Broncos. In fact, it will mean nothing until mid-October when Williams is permitted to return from his mandatory four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.


For now, it is fun to watch Ricky run. But reality hits in just four weeks and the Dolphins NEED Ronnie Brown in camp yesterday. They must get him ready to go and they’ll need every remaining practice and practice game to do it.


Honestly, the Dolphins just cannot get by with Lamar Gordon, Sammy Morris, or any other option as a starter through Game 4.


Gordon has just been horrible, a player who is making former General Manager Rick Spielman look like he was suckered yet again.


Meanwhile, line coach extraordinaire Hudson Houck continues to forge ahead with his collection of projects. Objectively, he is making progress…good progress.


Vernon Carey may be an NFL left tackle yet; he seems to have the physical tools to do the job and do it well. Rex Hadnot continues to impress and seems a sure bet to start at center or guard. Veterans Jeno James and Stockar McDougle look like they’ll be ready on opening day. As for the rest, it will be up to Houck to sort through the barrel to find five more players he can win with.


Defensively, heads are spinning as veteran and rookie alike try to absorb Saban’s system.


It would help things considerably if the Dolphins could get Larry Chester back. They’ll really need his help, especially in 3-4 sets where dominant nose tackle play is essential. With a healthy Chester working with Keith Traylor and Jeff Zgonina, the Dolphins figure to be strong up the middle.


Again, the sooner the Dolphins can get Chester into play, the better.


Ditto for Junior Seau. It’s looking more and more like the Dolphin defense cannot function at a high level without him. Yes, Channing Crowder has been promising but the Dolphins have looked, well, overwhelmed at times.


Is it too much thinking and too little reacting? Is it a talent issue?


Probably a little of both. In both cases, Junior can still bring it.


Remember, his experience in a 3-4 from his Charger days…especially those incredible days under the watchful eye of former Dolphin d-coordinator Bill Arnsparger…will prove very useful to the Dolphins when the real fur starts flying.


In the secondary, it’s no wonder that Saban spends his time tutoring the troops.


Other than Sam Madison, no one seems to have impressed enough to secure a spot. Safety is a mess, enough so that Saban continues to pull new guys in to address the problem.


One bright spot seems to be Yeremiah Bell. At this point, it would be somewhat surprising not to see him starting come opening day.


As for the cornerback spot opposite Madison, Travis Daniels appears to be inching closer and closer to securing the job. Any other option, save Will Poole pulling a Lazarus on us, seems destined for failure.


Remember, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. These Dolphins seem to be swimming in massive change, working feverishly to get themselves headed in the direction Saban has set for them.


They’ve made progress, no question. But they’ve still got a ways to go yet before they’ll be ready for the Broncos.


For that, three more practice games are all too welcomed.




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