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  Cameron Makes Changes, but Winning is What Counts
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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From the day that Nick Saban quit in disgrace, embarrassing owner Wayne Huizenga and team management, the Miami Dolphins have been anxiously looking forward to Kickoff 2007.


Time heals and so does winning.


For the Dolphins, the return to respectability begins with Malcom “Cam” Cameron, the seventh head coach in team history. It is his hand that will be most evident when the Miami Dolphins take the field on Sunday against the Washington Redskins (1pm ET, CBS).


From the moment Cameron walked through the door, the organization started heading in a different direction. They’ve had to, because they’re not close to winning a championship today, and haven’t been since Super Bowl XIX went down in Stanford Stadium over 20 years ago.


(A good percentage of the current fan base wasn’t even born when that game was played, let alone remembers it!)


Ultimately you need good players to win, and Cameron wisely started with player personnel. GM Randy Mueller makes the final call, but it is Cameron who is responsible for pulling this team together and winning games. He needs winning players to make it happen, guys with solid character, guys who fit his team philosophy. This is where Cameron and Mueller have worked closest.


On Sunday you will see 22 new Dolphins at FedEx Field, a turnover rate of 41% from the 2006 final roster. Mueller normally expects to turn a roster over about 30% year-over-year, so he obviously wasn’t kidding when he said that the Dolphins couldn’t “stand pat” with what they had.


Don’t be too surprised; remember that this club is 19-29 (.396) over the past three seasons. That’s just about rock bottom by any measure, certainly unfamiliar territory for one of the great franchises in NFL history. People expect better from the Miami Dolphins, and I believe Cameron understands this.


Here’s an important point about the turnaround thus far…the roster change isn’t just about new faces; it’s about the future. A third of the roster is made up of players with one season or less of NFL experience.


The idea is to fix the car while it is moving.


Of course it goes beyond new players. Just as important are the coaches the team retained, reassigned, and acquired in the offseason.


At the top of the list was the retention of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, vital in a division with the likes of Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Laveranues Coles.


Cameron wisely set aside his ego and deferred to Capers. The benefit is a defense that will build on last year’s #4 overall ranking with more looks and even better players. They should prove to be one of the best defensive units in team history, and a miserable pain the neck to the opposition.


Most dramatically evident, however, will be an offensive scheme vastly different from anything we’ve seen since Dan Marino first pulled on a #13 jersey in the old concrete block locker room at Biscayne College.


Forget the Statue of Liberty play you saw in the silly season. That’s just a shadow of the real shift.


Quite frankly, this is where the true rebuilding of the Miami Dolphins has taken place. Consider that every single position, with the exception of RB, will have a new starter. Even Chris Chambers and Marty Booker have switched sides!


Again, real change that will hopefully translate into wins.


Of course, how the Dolphins will choose to attack the Redskin defense is anybody’s guess. Even looking at last year’s San Diego Chargers, from whence Cameron came, is problematic.


For one thing, Cameron doesn’t have the horses he had in San Diego. For another, the defensive personnel and coaching in the AFC East is, overall, a lot tougher than what he faced in the AFC West.


Perhaps this is why Cameron showed almost nothing of interest offensively during the preseason. I mean, watching his charges slog it out against the Saints was like watching molasses drip from a can.


The real worry is in knowing just how much (or how little) the players truly understand his system. Keeping things bland early on builds confidence, but I seriously doubt that Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be as understanding in his scheming once the live firing begins.


For all his failings as Buffalo’s ex-head coach, Williams remains one of the best defensive strategists in football. Not really knowing what the Dolphins are planning will hamper him somewhat, but the Dolphins will still have to block his front seven if they expect to win. With the Dolphin o-line in its current state of transition, that’s no sure thing.


It’s up to Cameron and line boss Hudson Houck to figure it out, along with the rest of it.


Overall, we’ve seen enough to believe that the 2007 Dolphins have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. But questions remain, the biggest of which is whether or not the Dolphins hired the right man to deliver them from the unfamiliar depths of the NFL.


The proof is always in the winning and, for the Cam Cameron era, it starts this weekend in Washington.


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