One minute, the Dolphins are a sure contender.
The next minute, they're sprawling towards the cellar of the AFC and can't get out. Two losses can be attributed to that, one being the crazy
off-season story of RB Ricky Williams. Though he is only 27-years-old, and has already established himself as one of the premier running backs in the
league, Williams decided to retire, citing he "wanted to travel around the world."
Weeks later, it was reported Williams wanted to come back, but the Dolphins won't be accepting him anytime soon, after he ditched them before training
camp, and not to mention the multiple drug tests he failed. The Dolphins will also be without big-name-signing WR David Boston, who is out for the
year with an injured tendon in his left knee. Still, the Dolphins are trying. To replace Boston, the Dolphins collected WR Marty Booker from the Bears
via trade, as he will line up alongside another solid receiver in Chris Chambers. They also sport a very good defense, allowing only 16.3 PPG last
year (2nd in the AFC), but with no running game, nor a good starting QB, Miami has just too much to overcome.
DE Jason Taylor, CB Sam Madison, CB Patrick Surtain, MLB Zach Thomas, WR Chris Chambers.
WR David Boston (trade - San Diego), WR Marty Booker (trade - Chicago), QB A.J. Feeley (trade - Philadelphia), CB Reggie
Howard (FA - Carolina), OT Damion McIntosh (FA - San Diego), OT John St. Clair (FA - St. Louis), OG Jeno James (FA - Carolina), S Antuan Edwards (FA -
RB Ricky Williams (retired), WR David Boston (knee surgery, lost for season), DE Adewale Ogunleye (trade - Chicago), S
Brock Marion (FA - Detroit).
Jay Fiedler's (2138 passing yards, 11 TD, 13
INT) reign as the starting quarterback in Miami could be over after four seasons, following the Dolphins' acquisition of former Eagles backup A.J.
Feeley (1011 passing yards, 6 TD, 5 INT in Philadelphia) in the offseason. Feeley has far less experience than Fiedler, but looked good in leading
Philadelphia to a 4-1 record in his starts last year. Sage Rosenfels threw a touchdown pass in mop-up time against Tennessee last season, and
represents an above-average No. 3 signal-caller. The loss of Williams was a tremendous blow to this football team. He was never a clubhouse leader,
but he was the workhorse on offense, and without him, players are going to be forced into unfamiliar roles. Unless the Dolphins make a move before the
season begins, it appears Travis Minor will take over starting duties. Minor is elusive and has the speed to get to the outside, but he lacks the size
to pound the ball up the middle, the way the Dolphins used Williams, and is a better fit as a third-down back. Sammy Morris has the size and has
looked somewhat impressive in training camp, but he lacks the explosiveness to get to the next level and appears to be more effective when used in
spot duty. He is probably better suited for the backup role. No. 3 back Leonard Henry could see more time in short-yardage and goal-line situations in
Miami had hoped the addition of Boston would
draw some double teams away from Chris Chambers, but now it appears Chambers will continue to be the focus of opposing secondaries this season. He has
good speed and athleticism to go along with a great pair of hands, but he doesn't go across the middle as well as Boston and he has had some problems
staying healthy. Derrius Thompson, who was disappointing last year, will move back into a starting role where he managed just 26 receptions. To
further complicate things, Kendall Newson, who appeared to have the inside track to fill the slot, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the
Dolphins first preseason game. And all that is remaining behind him on the bench is Terrence Wilkins, who didn't play in 2003, to go along with the
inexperienced Sam Simmons and J.R. Tolver, which is why the Dolphins recently signed veteran Antonio Freeman. The 32-year-old receiver will likely
bring some relief to this ravaged corps, but he is far beyond his prime and has posted just 60 receptions over the past two years. Randy McMichael is
scheduled to start again at tight end this season, and he has great receiving skills, but off-field issues could cause him to miss some playing time.
Donald Lee, who is a decent blocker with the potential to be a quality receiver, is penciled in at No. 2.
The situation appears bleak in Miami. Even before Williams bolted and Boston got hurt, Wannstedt had serious questions to answer at quarterback and on
the line of an offense that was 24th in the NFL a season ago. Without Williams and Boston, that rank could slip even lower. A defense that carried the
club to 10 wins last season simply can't be counted on to do the same, especially when the offense's troubles will be keeping it on the field a lot.
If Miami finishes .500 or better, Wannstedt will have worked a miracle, and he should be able to keep his job another year.
[Edited on 13/9/04 by TRD]