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  Mid-Season Report Card - Offense
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Mid-Season Report Card – Offense

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

With slightly more than half of the season in the wastebasket, here are my mid-season grades for the Dolphin offense. Grades are assigned for active players as of Week 9 and selected players on injured reserve.

Defensive grades will be published next week.

Offensive Line

Damion McIntosh – McIntosh started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Once deemed healthy enough to play (which is a lot different than saying he is 100% healthy), he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup at left tackle. He is clearly working through some physical issues as well as overcoming lost work during the preseason. We will see if interim coach Jim Bates’s confidence in McIntosh is warranted. GRADE: C

Jeno James – James was brought in via free agency, touted as a major upgrade at left guard over the released Jamie Nails. There’s no question that James is an upgrade over the 2003 version of Nails, but perhaps not the healthy 2002 version. James’s strength is his run blocking; he is the Dolphins’ best player in this regard. At times, James has struggled with pass protection though the problems may be assignment related versus an obvious physical deficiency. GRADE: B-

Seth McKinney – McKinney replaced long time fixture Tim Ruddy at center. Physically, there was no question that McKinney was ready to play. The big concern was the mental aspect of the position: recognizing defensive stunts and blitzes and calling the correct blocking schemes in response. In this regard, McKinney has been uneven. This was something that he struggled with last season and still appears to be somewhat of an opportunity for him. GRADE: C-

Taylor Whitley – A 2003 draft pick, Whitley won the starting job at right guard in the wake of Todd Perry’s release. Perhaps no one on the offensive line has struggled more than Whitley. It has been suggested that some of his problems are tied to late or incorrect line calls by McKinney. However, his physical shortcomings right now seem to outweigh all other considerations as he has been regularly manhandled throughout. Whitley is getting perilously close to being tagged a bust. GRADE: F

John St. Clair – St. Clair has been touted by line boss Tony Wise as the pleasant surprise of the offseason. Indeed, it was surprising that St. Clair was named the starting right tackle over highly regarded first round (and fourth round) pick Vernon Carey. Give St. Clair credit, he saw an opportunity and seized it. However, it is now abundantly clear that the Dolphins downgraded themselves at the position as St. Clair is not the talent that the departed Todd Wade was. GRADE: C

Vernon Carey – Carey has acquitted himself fairly well in the limited duty he has seen this season and will remain at right tackle. Given the team’s current position, it is strange that the Dolphins are not moving Carey into the starting lineup on a permanent basis. While it is clearly incorrect to call Carey a “bust”, his situation does call into question Spielman’s draft day decision-making. GRADE: C

Rex Hadnot – Hadnot has not seen much action thus far though that is about to change as Bates will start Hadnot this Sunday against the Seahawks. The coaches see a lot of potential in Hadnot, who had a solid camp and reportedly continues to improve. GRADE: Incomplete

Wade Smith – As the lone returning offensive line starter from 2003, perhaps no other player was looked upon as someone who needed to “step up” in 2004 as was Smith. He worked hard during the offseason to add strength and it seemed as though he was poised to take the next step. Unfortunately, Smith didn’t improve at all. In fact, he may have regressed. After only a few games, his unsteady play finally forced the coaches to lift him in favor of McIntosh. While this is only Smith’s second season, he is another young player who is dangerously close to being tagged a bust. GRADE: F

Greg Jerman – Jerman has been viewed strictly as a back up as he lacks the first team talent needed to compete in the NFL. Jerman’s tenure with the team is a testimonial to the poor results Spielman has had with upgrading the talent along the line. Still, a guy can only work on the things he can control and, to that end, Jerman has taken care of his business each and every year so that he makes the final 53 man roster. Jerman’s strength is in the run game. Until he can master the intricacies of pass protection techniques, he will remain a reserve player. GRADE: C-

Overall Grade for Offensive Line: D+

Halfbacks and Fullbacks

Travis Minor – Minor’s high ankle sprain, suffered during the preseason, was much more severe than the team let on. It wasn’t until Week 9 that we were able to see glimpses of the talent that is badly needed to help overcome the loss of Ricky Williams. Perhaps no other player has been missed more than Minor. GRADE: Incomplete

Sammy Morris – Perhaps the biggest “can do” guy on the Dolphins roster is Morris. Originally signed as a special teams ace, Morris was quickly thrust into a major offensive role when Williams quit the team. A real gamer, he has fought through the season with a number of physical ailments that would sideline a lesser man. He has been a solid addition to the team, both on offense and special teams. GRADE: B

Leonard Henry – Henry started off the season in shaky fashion with nagging injuries that kept him from competing for a starting job. Still, coaches felt that Henry was a known commodity and decided to retain him. Henry has seen limited action and was decent at times. Henry’s highlight was a 53-yard run against the Jets on October 3rd (one of two games that he started). Henry needs to focus more on executing plays as designed versus freelancing if he wants to be more of a full time contributor. GRADE: C

Lamar Gordon – Acquired from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for a third round pick, Gordon was viewed by Spielman as the every down back who would power the run-oriented offense. He quickly earned the respect of the team by jumping into the starting lineup, even though he was not prepared to do so. Gordon lasted the better part of three games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. Because the line play was so poor during Gordon’s limited tour of duty, and given the fact that he is a power runner, it is difficult to fairly assess his work. One key stat to keep in mind was that his yards per carry average was 1.8, far and away the worst of the “starting caliber” halfbacks on the team. GRADE: Incomplete

Rob Konrad – Along with Minor, Konrad’s early absence from the starting line up is a big reason for the team’s struggles. Konrad missed much work due to a staph infection and the subsequent treatment of that infection, the severity of which was not made public by the team. If utilized properly, Konrad would be a good weapon. The current offensive scheme has only teased us with the possibilities but hasn’t really given Konrad the opportunities to shine. A respected blocker, Konrad continues to toil to help get the running game going. His limited offensive touches have been productive, suggesting (once again) that the Dolphins would be well-served to get him the ball more often. GRADE: B

Jamar Martin – Strictly a reserve fullback, Martin has no carries or receptions. His reputation in the league is as a lead blocker. Thus far, Martin’s role on the team has been on special teams. GRADE: C

Brock Forsey – the Dolphins signed the ex-Bear after the season began when depth at halfback started becoming a real concern. He saw limited action against the Patriots and Bills but did little to distinguish himself. Forsey runs hard but hasn’t shown that he can be a threat catching the ball. He has the ability to help out on special teams. GRADE: C

Overall Grade for Halfbacks and Fullbacks: C

Wide Receivers

Chris Chambers – Chambers has had a frustrating year, suffering from the unsettled situation at quarterback and across the offensive line as well as ineffective game planning. No player on offense has more game-breaking ability than does Chambers. We’ve seen bits and pieces of his potential (vs. Rams) and inexplicable ineffectiveness (vs. Steelers). Consistency remains the key for Chambers. His 2004 numbers are decent (35 rec, 440 yards, 3 TDs) but below expectations. It says here that we will never see Chambers’ full potential under current circumstances. GRADE: B-

Marty Booker – Booker didn’t come to Miami of his own free will. His surprise trade to the Dolphins (along with a 3rd round pick) in exchange for Adewale Ogunleye was meant to shore up the receiver corps after the devastating loss of David Boston. Booker is a former Pro Bowler, a guy with terrific football instincts and route running skills. It is impressive that he has been able to contribute almost 400 yards of offense given that he joined the team just as the season began. While Booker is not a first round talent, as Spielman boasted, he considerably upgrades the Dolphin WR corps. GRADE: B

Derrius Thompson – Thompson wants to prove to detractors that he was worth a contract extension after his disappointing 2003 season. Through 9 games he has 9 receptions. Enough said. GRADE: D

Bryan Gilmore – a free agent acquisition from the Arizona Cardinals, Gilmore is a speed guy that WR coach Jerry Sullivan felt would fit in with the team. Gilmore actually started his first game as Dolphin against the Jets and came up with a surprising 57 yards on 3 catches, including a 37 yard dash. His opportunities since then have been almost non-existent. GRADE: C

Wes Welker – Welker has become something of a cult figure after his sensational display of football skills against Patriots where he kicked a field goal and an extra point, returned kicks, and ran down field on kick coverage. He joined the team just before Week 2 and has proven to be a terrific addition. Currently, the sure-handed Welker is 15th in the NFL in punt returns with a 7.7 yard average. GRADE: B+

Overall Grade for Wide Receivers: C+

Tight Ends

Randy McMichael – McMichael set aside the pain of a turbulent offseason to deliver one of the best performances from a Dolphin tight end in team history. Through 9 games, McMichael is 5th in NFL amongst TEs in receptions and yards with a real chance at a 1,000 yard season. His blocking is clearly improved over last year though the team would like to see fewer mental mistakes from a player of his caliber. Right now, he is the team’s best offensive player. GRADE: A-

Donald Lee – Lee is an enigma. On one hand, Lee is a player with solid blocking and receiving skills, a true offensive weapon. On the other hand, Lee is a player with a penchant for penalties, turnovers, and mental errors. At one point, Dave Wannstedt sat Lee down to make a point with him that he was hurting the team. Bottom line here is that Lee must clean up his game if he’s to be trusted as a regular contributor on offense. GRADE: C-

Ed Perry – Perry might just be the most underappreciated player the Dolphins have. If you do not think that the job of Long Snapper is all that important, just recall the team’s troubles in this area last season. I personally believe that this problem cost the team a 2003 playoff berth. Perry looks to be back to his old reliable self and is having a solid year. While he would like to contribute more on offense, the team simply won’t risk injury to this key player. GRADE: A

Overall Grade for Tight Ends: B


Jay Fiedler – Say what you will about Fiedler but don’t ever question the guy’s professionalism, toughness, character, or love for the game. He may not be most talented player you’ll ever see but he works hard and has a fine mind. Unfortunately for Fiedler, he wasn’t blessed with the skills this team needs to win a championship. His consistent inconsistency makes him an average player that is incapable of creating any fear whatsoever in hearts of the opposition. His numbers this season are very Fiedlerish: 100 of 189 for 1185 yards with 7 TDs and 8 INTs. His completion percentage is in its third year of decline (52.9%) from the 2002 zenith of 61.3%. However, Fiedler continues to be one of the best running QBs in the NFL; his yards per carry average this season (4.9) is tied with his career best in 2000, his first year in Miami, and is good for 3rd best in the NFL among QBs with 5 or more starts (only Michael Vick and Steve McNair are better). While his passing stats are not very good, his overall play behind one of the three worst lines in the league earns him extra credit. GRADE: C+

A.J. Feeley – The time for Feeley to take the reigns of this football team is now. His overall production thus far is really not as important as his journey along the learning curve. Remember, this is a guy who had just 13 career starts since high school before the Dolphins acquired him for a 2nd round draft pick. Simply put, he needs to play. We have seen glimmers of hope from Feeley, as well as raw mistakes that tell us it will take time for him to mature. If Feeley is to be the man, the Dolphins must find out now so as to properly set their priorities heading into the 2005 NFL Draft, perhaps the most important personnel acquisition event in team history. Bottom line here is that Feeley has much convincing to do if he is to make his case for the job. As with Fiedler, Feeley gets extra credit for having to perform in a non-quality environment. GRADE: C

Sage Rosenfels – Sage looks terrific carrying that clipboard. Too bad the Dolphins have decided that Rosenfels won’t get an opportunity to strut his stuff for them in a game that means anything. Expect Rosenfels to depart this offseason for a chance to play elsewhere. GRADE: Incomplete

Overall Grade for Quarterbacks: C

Next week: defensive grades.


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