The Dolphins need to address the future of this position. Dan Marino is still the man, but he isn't getting any younger and retirement can't be more than three seasons away. Damon Huard is the teams backup at the moment, but he hasn't seen much time outside the NFL Europe. People close to the organization feel this is the off-season that Jimmy Johnson will address the issue.
Rookie John Avery has been a bust and the organization is livid with his poor work ethic. Karim Abdul-Jabbar has been productive at times, but he is not the bruising runner that Jimmy Johnson is looking for. Bernie Parmalee also saw some significant time towards the end of the season, but most of it was in passing situations. At FB, the team decided to sign Tyrone Wheatley. Wheatley is not a natural FB, but Jimmy Johnson likes his tough running style and he should see a significant amount of carries in '99.
Miami's wide-outs were probably the most underrated group in the NFL. O.J. McDuffie had another quality season and the respect he demands opens things up for the rest of the receivers in the passing game. Oronde Gadsden, a former Arena Football Leaguer, finished second on the team to McDuffie for most TD catches (seven). At 6-2, 218 pounds, Gadsden showed he could be effective after the catch. His 14.9-yard average led all Dolphins receivers who finished with more than three catches. Lamar Thomas even came on towards the end of the season, proving that he was a deep threat. The real disappointment for this unit was once again Yatil Green. For the second year in a row, he missed the entire season with a knee injury. Miami signed Willie Green, an UFA from the Broncos, but his role will likely be limited to the No. 3 spot.
Troy Drayton has an all-world body and is one of the best blocking tight ends in football, but he has seen a limited role in the passing game. Ed Perry has been playing ahead of Drayton on passing situations. Johnson has done a good job of rotating the two and disguising the play calls by using each of them as decoys at times.
The Dolphins have made it clear that Richmond Webb will return by naming him as its franchise player. They have also gone and traded for LOG Kevin Gogan to upgrade the interior line. At the other guard position, Kevin Donnelley is a nice fit. Although the running game didn't reflect it most of the time, Donnalley's presence improved the offensive line significantly. Brent Smith started a couple of games late in the season and gave the Dolphins some much needed power and size to help Webb in cutting off backside pursuit. Center Tim Ruddy is somewhat undersized but is very competitive and battles all the time. He will pick up stunts and takes good angles on blocks.
When healthy, this is one of the league's quickest and most tantalizing front fours. This was one of the deepest units all season until DE Jason Taylor and DT Tim Bowens bowed out with injuries. Taylor is a young speed rusher that causes the most trouble for opposing offensive lines. With Trace Armstrong and Kenny Mixon also rotating in at the DE position, the Dolphins should once again have a strong pursuit off the edges. The team addressed its depth problem by signing Rich Owens in free agency. In the middle, DT's Tim Bowens and Daryl Gardener ate everything up. Both players can stack and shed at the point of attack and fight every down to clog the middle. Barron Tanner assumed the starting role when Bowens was out, but he just didn't have the same presence.
In Miami's 4-3 defensive scheme, the starters are all but set in stone. Derrick Rodgers, Zach Thomas and Robert Jones are all Jimmy Johnson-type players that understand their roles and play with reckless abandon. Thomas and Jones were both re-signed for big money this season and the Dolphins are hoping their production won't fall off. Anthony Harris, Dwight Hollier and Larry Izzo are good effort players but could be upgraded.
Terrell Buckley and Sam Madison are two of the league's big play corners. Granted, they do get beat at times, but the mentality here is to give something up to get a lot, combining for 16 INT's on the season. Brock Marion handled the FS duties and did a fine job of help in run support throughout the season. Shawn Wooden was scheduled to start at the SS position, but missed nearly the entire season due to injury. Wooden will be back in '99 and should fight to get his position back from Calvin Jackson.
Olindo Mare missed only three FG attempts under 50 yards all season -- 12 for 13 from 20-29, a perfect 5 for 5 from 30-39 and 5 for 7 from 40-49. Johnson protected him until Mare was able to build up his confidence. Punter Klaus Wilmsmeyer signed with Carolina as an unrestricted free agent. Wilmsmeyer fell out of favor with special teams coach Mike Westhoff with his inconsistency in 1998.