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  Dolphins Now Paying for Saban's Mistakes
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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ďA New BeginningÖBelieve in NowĒ is the marketing slogan for the 2008 Miami Dolphins.


Yeah, I knowÖitís laughable. A 31-10 humiliation at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals puts the good guys at 0-2, 1 for their last 21, and leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that little has changed where it ultimately countsÖon the scoreboard.


It would be a foolís errand to argue the point, especially after the young Dolphins took a major step backwards last Sunday. They were dominated, torchedÖpick your negative verb. They all work. Yet it doesnít take a rocket scientist to understand why the Dolphins are having such an awful time of it.


Itís the talent, the continued lack thereof.


We know full well about the poor drafts under the Dave Wannstedt/Rick Spielman regime, about how all but two of the picks from those years (Yeremiah Bell, Vernon Carey) are no longer with the team. We know the heavy price thatís been paid for those failures: the downfall of what was once the winningest franchise since the AFL-NFL merger.


Still, what weíve seen thus far in 2008 goes beyond that. Given the time elapsed, we must now examine the legacy left by Nick Saban and Randy Mueller which, combined over the past three seasons (2005-2007), also didnít yield the positive change that was expected.


In 2005, Saban drafted RB Ronnie Brown with the second overall pick. History has proven that he was probably the best choice in a generally weak first round. Some argument could be made for WR Braylon Edwards, though the presence of Chris Chambers and the overall state of the WR corps at that time lessened the need at that position.


Unfortunately, DE Matt Roth, drafted with the second round pick acquired from the Chiefs in the Pat Surtain deal, has been proven a bust. The team is now in salvage mode with his career, trying him out as an OLB. Quite frankly, on a more talented team, Roth would have been cut by now.


The only other player from that draft that is still on the team is LB Channing Crowder (third round). He is a steady performer, a starter, but isnít the equal of the man he replaced, Zach Thomas.


All together, thatís three players and one full time starter from a draft where the Dolphins were picking near the top of almost every round. Not good.


And 2006 was even worse.


The Dolphins drafted DB Jason Allen 16th overall. Saban, a supposed DB guru, passed on FSUís Antonio Cromartie and other solid talents. After holding out, Allen flip-flopped between safety and cornerback before settling in at safety. Sparano, Allenís third head coach, is also trying to figure him out.


Obviously, this is not the sort of problem you want to have with a third year player. Allen is currently running third string behind a guy with poor cover skills (Chris Crocker) and a guy coming off a major knee injury (Renaldo Hill). It isnít because Allen doesnít have excellent athletic ability; he may be the most gifted DB in that regard on the team. Rather, his poor practice habits continue to give coaches reluctance to trust him in games.


With no second round pick, lost to Minnesota in the failed Daunte Culpepper trade, players such as OT Marcus McNeill and DB/KR Devin Hester went elsewhere. Either would have helped the Dolphins out tremendously.


In the third round, Saban drafted WR Derek Hagan. Hagan had his best camp since turning pro three years ago, yet is still not listed as a starter. This may change before the end of the year.


The only other player from the 2006 draft that is still with the Dolphins is DL Rodrique Wright, currently running third string at DE behind rookie Kendall Langford.


In summary, thatís three players and no starters in total from 2006.


While it is entirely too early to pronounce judgment over the 2007 draft, the early returns are not encouraging.


First rounder Ted Ginn Jr., a WR/KR taken 9th overall, isnít playing full time right now and isnít returning kicks. Ginn, still officially listed as a starter, possesses world class speed but struggles in the route. After a healthy offseason of work with crack WR coach Karl Dorrell, we should be seeing more progress with his game. One wonders if Chad Penningtonís inability to throw deep third routes is hurting Ginnís near term productivity.


Second rounder John Beck is running third string at QB, after a challenging rookie season and a very bad preseason this year. While rookie Chad Henne has leapfrogged him on the depth chart, the competition is by no means over.


The other second rounder, center Samson Satele, was one of the best rookies in football last year. Acquired with the pick gained in the Wes Welker trade, his future looks promising. Together with Crowder, heís made the biggest impact among draftees taken in the past four years.


Paul Soliai, a fourth rounder, is currently running second string at NT, having enjoyed a fine training camp this year. Punter Brandon Fields is the only other draftee still on the roster. He may eventually turn out to be the best field position weapon the team has had since Reggie Roby, but isnít there yet. Donnie Jones, whom Mueller let get away in free agency, is one of the best punters in the NFL.


Two 2007 draftees no longer with the Dolphins, RB Lorenzo Booker and FB Reagan Mauia, were decent players but didnít fit the current regimeís philosophy. Booker was traded to Philadelphia for a fourth rounder, and Mauia was released (now with Cincinnati).


In total, the Dolphins have eleven players and two full time starters from those three seasons of drafts. More full-time starters may be gained in time, but this has yet to be proven.


Now add back in the futility of the Wannstedt years, and the lack of productivity from free agents, and youíll quickly understand why Sparano doesnít sleep at nights. Would you if you were trying to make chicken soup out of chicken feathers?


Sparano knows it wonít always be like this and has said as much. Heís right, it wonít; we are likely to start seeing progress from the young Dolphins before this season ends.


Meanwhile, itís terribly difficult to believe in ďA New BeginningĒ when the losses have the same sick feeling as they did last year, one of futility and frustration, wondering when the Dolphins will get that first win.



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