SI.com 2003 NFL Preview



 
   Miami
DOLPHINS  
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Dave Wannstedt
71-73 overall, 2-3 postseason
TEAM LEADERS
  Passing Jay Fiedler
179-292, 2,024 yards, 14 TDs, 9 INTs
  Rushing Ricky Williams
383 carries, 1,853 yards, 16 TDs
  Receiving Chris Chambers
52 catches, 734 yards, 3 TDs
  Kicking Olindo Mare
24-31 FGs, 42-43 PATs, 114 points
Schedule | Roster | Statistics | Stadium
By Jacob Luft, SI.com

The Dolphins are the NFL's version of Groundhog Day. Every year is the same. They start out hot, roll up a 6-2 or 7-1 record at midseason, then go into the tank in the second half. Usually the hot start is enough to back into a playoff spot, setting the stage for a humiliating defeat in the first or second round.

Last season, they finally fell short by blowing an 11-point lead in the final minutes at New England in Week 17. That collapse broke Miami's string of five consecutive playoff berths, prompting many observers to wonder how a team with seven Pro Bowlers can fail to advance to postseason play. Well, if they go 2-6 on the road and consistently quit at the first sign of adversity, that will happen.

At the very least, this season promises to bring a sense of closure to the vicious cycle the Dolphins have been putting their fans through for the better part of a decade. Owner Wayne Huizenga has put head coach Dave Wannstedt on notice. He won't tolerate another late-season failure.

That sets the stage for one of two scenarios to play out: 1) Miami breaks through with a deep playoff push, perhaps even a Super Bowl trip for the first time since 1984; or 2) they fail to have an impact season and Wannstedt gets thrown out on his keyster, ending the eight-year hegemony that has controlled the team since Jimmy Johnson took over in 1996.

>> Impact Signing
LB Junior Seau -- He may not be the same superstar that anchored the Chargers all those years, but at least he has been on enough winning teams that it might rub off on his overhyped teammates.

>> Impact Loss
If there was ever a case of addition by subtraction, it has to be the Dolphins getting rid of backup QB Ray Lucas. He single-handedly lost games to the Jets, Bills (twice) and Packers. On defense, the loss of lineman David (not Tim) Bowens to a torn ACL in the offseason is a big blow.

>> Fantasy Stud
RB Ricky Williams -- It took him three years to finally live up to the lofty expectations, and he emerged as one of fantasy football's top players. He led the NFL with 1,853 yards rushing, which included 10 100-yard games, and scored 16 TDs matching his total from his first three years in the league. Williams is the backbone of the offense, and there's no reason he won't match those huge numbers again. Not only is he a first-round pick, he is among a handful that could be considered the top overall fantasy pick.

>> Fantasy Dud
QB Jay Fiedler -- He did have one 300-yard game last season (although it came in a four-INT effort against the Chiefs) and a three-TD performance (against the lowly Lions in Week 1), but otherwise he was very ordinary. That would explain the signing of Brian Griese in the offseason. While Fiedler appears to enter camp as the starter, the talented but erratic Griese could take that job sooner rather than later.

>> Fantasy Sleeper
WR Derrius Thompson -- Surprisingly, he was Washington's second-leading receiver, and there's no reason he couldn't put up similar numbers (53 catches, 773 yards, 4 TDs) even in Miami's run-based offense. The Dolphins' passing offense is in flux, and a lot of it will depend on Chris Chambers, who struggled early before finishing with a flurry.

>> Dolphins will make the playoffs because...
There is enough talent on the roster to overcome the incompetence of the head coach. If this team starts out 0-4 and it gets Wannstedt fired, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. They would have enough time to get back into the playoff race under a better coach (read: anybody).

>> Dolphins will miss the playoffs because...
Jay Fiedler continues his turnover-prone ways, the defense again buckles under the late-season pressure, and they can't find a second WR option to complement Chris Chambers.

Miami Dolphins
Signed  From  Lost  To 
T Mark Dixon  Re-signed  WR Dedric Ward  Patriots 
FB Rob Konrad  Re-signed  LB Twan Russell  Falcons 
S Trent Gamble  Re-signed  G Jim Bundren  Released 
P Mark Royals  Re-signed  G James Wagstaff  Released 
DE David Bowens  Re-signed  WR Joey Getherall  Released 
WR Derrius Thompson  Redskins  CB Ray Green  Giants 
CB Terrell Buckley  Patriots  WR Albert Johnson  Released 
TE Marco Battaglia  Steelers  TE Desmond Clark  Bears 
DT Jeff Zgonina  Rams  S Shawn Wooden  Released 
RB Charlie Rogers  Bills  TE Jed Weaver  49ers 
LB Junior Seau  Trade w/ S.D.  T David Sherrod  Released 
S Sammy Knight  Saints  DE Jermaine Haley  Redskins 
WR Chris Jackson  --  QB Ray Lucas  Released 
QB Brian Griese  Broncos  T Brent Smith  Jets 
S Arturo Freeman  Re-signed  LB Derrick Rodgers  Trade w/ N.O. 
WR Oronde Gadsden  Re-signed  T Marcus Spriggs  Packers 
Unrestricted  Restricted 
CB Paul Miranda  CB Ray Green 
WR Cris Carter   
LB Scott Galyon   

2003 Draft Picks
Rd.  Pick  Player  Pos.  School 
17 (49)  Eddie Moore  OLB  Tennessee 
14 (78)  Wade Smith  OG  Memphis 
23 (87)  Taylor Whitley  OG  Texas A&M 
21 (156)  Donald Lee  TE  Mississippi St. 
34 (169)  J.R. Tolver  WR  San Diego St. 
8 (181)  Corey Jenkins  South Carolina 
36 (209)  Tim Provost  OT  San Jose St. 
40 (213)  Yeremiah Bell  E. Kentucky 
34 (248)  Davern Williams  DT  Troy St. 
 

 


 
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