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5 MIAMI Dolphins
Paul Zimmerman
August 28, 2000
In Year One of the post-Marino era, the passing game is as much of a question mark as the defense is a strong suit
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August 28, 2000

5 Miami Dolphins

In Year One of the post-Marino era, the passing game is as much of a question mark as the defense is a strong suit

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PROJECTED LINEUP
WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Dave Wannstedt
First season with Dolphins (40-56 in NFL)

Offensive Backs

QB

Damon Huard

100*

216 att.

125 comp.

57.9%

1,288 yds.

8TDs

4 int.

79.8 rtg.

RB

J.J. Johnson#

97*

164 att.

558 yds.

3.4 avg.

15 rec.

100 yds.

6.7 avg.

4 TDs

RB

Lamar Smith

159*

60 att.

205 yds.

3.4 avg.

20 rec.

151 yds.

7.6 avg.

1 TD

FB

Rob Konrad

165*

9 att.

16 yds.

1.8 avg.

34 rec.

251 yds.

7.4 avg.

1 TD

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR

Tony Martin

88*

67 rec.

1,037 yds.

5 TDs

WR

O.J. McDuffie

163*

43 rec.

516 yds.

2 TDs

WR

Oronde Gadsden

128*

48 rec.

803 yds.

6 TDs

TE

Hunter Goodwin

301*

8 rec.

55 yds.

0 TDs

K

Olindo Mare

124*

27/27 XPs

39/46 FGs

144 pts.

PR

Ben Kelly (R)#

343*

28 ret.

5.9 avg.

0 TDs

KR

Ben Kelly (R)#

343*

19 ret.

28.8 avg.

2 TDs

LT

Richmond Webb

6'6"

315 lbs.

15 games

14 starts

LG

Mark Dixon

6'4"

300 lbs.

13 games

13 starts

C

Tim Ruddy

6'3"

305 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RG

Kevin Donnalley

6'5"

310 lbs.

16 games

9 starts

RT

Todd Wade (R)#

6'8"

319 lbs.

11 games

11 starts

Defense

LE

Kenny Mixon

10 tackles

0 sacks

LT

Tim Bowens

34 tackles

1� sacks

RT

Daryl Gardener

51 tackles

5 sacks

RE

Jason Taylor

45 tackles

2� sacks

OLB

Robert Jones

83 tackles

0 sacks

MLE

Zach Thomas

132 tackles

1 int.

OLB

Derrick Rodgers

38 tackles

1 int.

CB

Patrick Surtain

44 tackles

2 int.

SS

Brian Walker#

14 tackles

1 int.

FS

Brock Marion

86 tackles

2 int.

CB

Sam Madison

45 tackles

7 int.

P

Matt Turk#

62 punts

41.4 avg.

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

Interesting fact about the AFC East: All five head coaches have defensive backgrounds. Three of the teams, New England, Buffalo and Miami, have more talent on defense than on offense. Nowhere is this more evident than in Miami, where Dave Wannstedt inherits an outfit that could stop people last season but had trouble finding the end zone. The Dolphins will again be hard-pressed to put points on the board.

They used to be a glamour team. Now they're run-of-the-mill, struggling to find a young quarterback to replace Dan Marino, struggling to find the kind of identity that number 13 gave them in his glory years.

"What's different?" says 12th-year defensive end Trace Armstrong. "We were always a three-Monday-night-games-per-season team. Now we're down to one."

Damon Huard will get the first shot at directing the offense. He was the front-runner for the job even before free-agent pickup Jay Fiedler underwent arthroscopic hip surgery earlier this month. The good news is that Huard was 4-1 as a starter subbing for the injured Marino in '99. The bad news is that he was sacked 28 times. Marino would go for the kill. Huard was safety first, taking a sack rather than gambling—and possibly facing Jimmy Johnson's wrath on the sideline.

"I guess you could say I was cautious last year," Huard says, "knowing we had a good defense. Hopefully, I'll take more chances this season. We have wide receivers who can get deep, and our new offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, will let us take shots downfield."

Hiring Gailey to run the offense was an obvious attempt to put life into an attack that scored fewer points in each of Johnson's last two years than it had in any of the previous nine. That performance was due in large part to a passing game that finished tied for 13th in the league in 1999, the club's lowest ranking in 16 years.

In his four seasons Johnson tried, and failed, to get a running game going, and no doubt Wannstedt will devote some energy to succeeding where Johnson could not. But Gailey's M.O. emphasizes the pass. It was under his tutelage that the Steelers' Kordell Stewart had his most successful season, in 1997, and it was Gailey's departure that has been cited as the primary reason for Stewart's crash.

Gailey, who was fired by Dallas after two seasons as coach—during which the Cowboys' offense ranked eighth and 16th in the league—likes to spread the field. He popularized the five-receiver set in Pittsburgh, and to accommodate him and Huard the Dolphins have amassed an imposing set of wideouts, each of whom has started at least 13 games. Holdover Tony Martin is the long-ball threat. Oronde Gadsden is the 215-pound muscle receiver. Free-agent signees Bert Emanuel and Leslie Shepherd were once vital parts of the pass offenses in Atlanta and Washington, respectively.

But the key to it all is O.J. McDuffie, the guy Marino looked to during the last few years when he needed a first down. McDuffie is hurt, and that brings up a nasty chapter in the Johnson era. Last Nov. 21 the wideout suffered what was originally diagnosed as a sprained left big toe. He could hardly run, but he played in four of the last eight games, including two playoff appearances.

"After the season I saw a specialist in North Carolina, and he diagnosed it as a torn tendon and muscle in the toe," McDuffie said earlier this month. "I had it operated on to reattach the tendon. I was at a point where I had trouble walking, but they'd shoot it up for the games and I'd play. Now? Well, the place where they did the repair feels O.K., but the rest of the toe is pretty bad. I'm just hoping it's not a career-ending thing.

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