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  Unlikely Candidates Trying to Help Dolphins Avoid Infamy
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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With each passing loss, the question moves from the back of the mind to the forefront of conversation.


Will the Miami Dolphins go 0-16?


It’s become a real concern now, with the Dolphins now two thirds of the way towards the dark mark.


Each and every week, this team manages to find a new way to lose. Untimely penalties, mental errors, dropped passes, poor conditioning, turnovers, poor decisions, poor effort, bad coaching, and just plain bad luck…you name it, we’ve seen it.


But the fact remains that this team has enough talent to be better than 0-10. Some evidence to consider:


  • Half of the losses have been by three points.
  • The offensive line has been among the most dominant in the league, tied for 3rd in the NFL in yards per carry (4.6) and in the upper half of teams in regards to sacks yielded (17, though this number should be lower if not for some poor decisions by Mssrs. Trent Green and Cleo Lemon).
  • Ronnie Brown was on his way to All-Pro honors prior to his season ending knee injury, but Jesse Chatman has turned in an outstanding effort in Brown’s absence, with one Ricky Williams standing in the on-deck circle.
  • Kicker Jay Feely is in the Top 10 in the NFL in field goal accuracy.
  • Ted Ginn Jr. is 4th in the NFL in punt return average (minimum 15 returns) and is tied for 5th in the NFL in yards per catch (minimum 10 receptions).


So, can the Dolphins do anything to avoid a date with infamy? Can they actually win a game or two?


The answer is yes. But making a win a reality is about more than catching a bad team on an off day. They’re going to have to earn it.


Granted, these talent-starved Dolphins don’t have much to work with, though there is enough in their immediate control to get the job done. But time is short, and the historical fate of this team will come down to players who didn’t figure to matter much this past August.


Start with rookie QB John Beck. His continued improvement is perhaps the single biggest determining factor in getting a win over the next six weeks. He turned in a decent effort last week in his first NFL start, against an Eagles defense that coordinator Jim Johnson tricked up to the max. The idea was to fool Beck into making grievous mistakes.


Much to Beck’s credit, he didn’t give in. Rather, he stayed aggressive. True, he didn’t throw any TD passes, but that wasn’t entirely his fault.


Wouldn’t it have been interesting if TE Aaron Halterman had caught that pass from Beck in the end zone on 2nd and goal when the Dolphins were trailing 7-17?


Were you surprised he didn’t, the way this miserable season has gone?


Beck will continue to get better. Unfortunately, with only six games remaining, time is not on his side.


Things would be easier for Beck if he was surrounded by seasoned teammates, as You Know Who was when he made his debut in 1983. To that end, the return of Ricky will help restock a depleted offense. The question is, “how much”?


I know…it is so very tempting to get ahead of one’s self where Ricky is concerned. Incredibly, it only took one practice for the declaration to go out that Ricky was practically ready to run roughshod over the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Learn the playbook? No problem, says Cameron and Ricky’s teammates. Get into football shape? “Looks ready to me”, said Andre Goodman.


All of this is reassuring to some degree. But the true test of “readiness” will come Monday night against the Steelers. For now, yours truly would consider it a big plus of he could just help out some on offense and special teams. Anything above that is gravy.


But I am also not naïve enough to think that it won’t take much for the weary Cam Cameron to fall in love with Williams, much the same way that his predecessors did.


Funny how life works, huh?


Take the secondary, for example. For two months they couldn’t cover two guys off the street. But after the humiliating lack of effort against the Patriots, they’ve buckled down. This must (must!) continue for this team to have any chance of getting a win.


The proverbial microcosm of the macrocosm has been no other than safety Jason Allen.


Go figure! Much maligned for the better part of two seasons, Allen was tossed into the deep end of the pool by Cameron and told to sink or swim. The dreaded “bust” tag hung in the balance.


Let’s give credit to Allen for stepping up. While he still has a lot of room for improvement, Allen is validating his pedigree as a first round draft pick (2006).


He is proving especially tough against the run, filling the void left by the injured Yeremiah Bell. In pass coverage, Allen has held up much better than expected (no, feared). Last week, he even collected in his first two interceptions of 2007.


Some guys are lousy practice players but are good gamers. Looks more and more like Jason Allen is one of those guys.


He’s also one of several unlikely candidates in a desperate fight to escape an infamous 0-16 ending for the Dolphins. Who’d have guessed it?


Then again, who’d have guessed that the Dolphins would be 0-10.

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