SI Vault
AFC East
Paul Zimmerman
September 03, 1979
Don Shula doesn't like to admit it—in fact, he'll get very upset if you mention it to him—but he's got a nagging problem. Why do his MIAMI Dolphins play so poorly on the road against the other good clubs? The Dolphins have won only two of their last 13 road games against teams that finished with winning records. Youth? Inexperience? Not really. Lack of mental toughness? Not likely on a Shula-coached team. What, then?
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September 03, 1979

Afc East

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Baltimore won both of the games which Jones completed at quarterback last year, but were 3-11 in the ones he missed with a bad shoulder. The Colts have traded for Greg Landry, just in case, but they won't mind if he earns his dough on the bench. Jones' throwing and Joe Washington's running should be some two-man show. Remember the game Little Joe, then a newcomer to Baltimore, had against New England on Monday night TV last September? He scored two touchdowns on a kickoff return and a pass and threw for another TD. The media made a to-do about Washington after that performance, but Coach Ted Marchibroda wasn't so sure. "He doesn't know the Colts' system yet," Marchibroda said.

"If Washington doesn't know the Colts' system," one reporter wrote, "then maybe they ought to learn his."

Wide receivers Glenn Doughty and Roger Carr certainly are well aware of the Baltimore system, having caught 284 passes between them since 1974. They'll be joined on a regular basis by last year's first-round draft choice, 6'7" Tight End Reese McCall, who has shaken off his nagging leg injuries of '78.

The running game has been upgraded, too, by the rebirth of Don Hardeman and by the presence of flashy newcomer Ben Garry. The offensive line lost Right Tackle George Kunz to retirement, but the former regular left tackle, David Taylor, out last year with a broken ankle, now works on the right side.

In its good years (1974-77), the Sack Pack—Fred Cook, Joe Ehrmann, Mike Barnes and John Dutton—put so much heat on opposing quarterbacks that the Colts could hide a subpar secondary, but last year injuries ripped the Pack apart and exposed the defensive backfield's weaknesses to the tune of 29 TD passes allowed. Dutton, coming off two so-so seasons, missed all of training camp; he and his agent are testing pro football's reserve system.

Opponents' ballcarriers overran the Colt defense last year. Middle Linebacker Ed Simonini tried to throw his 210 pounds into the breach, but, clearly, something more formidable was called for. So 6'3", 235-pound Barry Krauss of Alabama became Baltimore's No. 1 pick, and so far he has proved to be formidable indeed.

For eight years the NEW YORK Jets have turned out All-Pro quarterbacks—for other teams. Jet fans have been treated to the sight of opposing passers standing flat-footed in the pocket as they directed traffic downfield, scanned the stands and checked the scoreboard before they finally let fly. Young New York cornerbacks became mental cases; safety-men became gaunt and glassy-eyed playing all those seasons behind the rushless rush.

But those grim days may be over, because two young college boys reported to camp with instructions to leave no quarterback standing. Marty Lyons, the Jets' No. 1 pick, became the instant starter at right end. This opening was created when last year's 3-4 defense was junked in favor of a 4-3, with Joe Klecko, the outside man who had been burning himself out against cut blocks and double-teams, breathing a sigh of relief and moving to the inside.

But the player who might wind up with the most sacks is 6'5", 253-pound Left End Mark Gastineau, the second-round choice and designated third-down pass rusher. The coaches were banging their watches against their heads and checking the mechanisms when Gastineau ran a 4.58 for the 40, but he said no sweat—he does it all the time. In fact, he claims his 6'1", 260-pound father, who's 44 years old, can run a 4.9. With a pass rush at last, with a quick pair of outside linebackers in Greg Buttle and Bob Martin and with No. 3 pick Donald Dykes ready to step in at cornerback, the Jets think they'll do just fine against the pass.

Now if Coach Walt Michaels can find his type of middle linebacker—big, mean, moves his lips and mumbles when he reads—his defense will be set. Aha, a sleeper. The Jets' seventh selection, Stan Blinka, 6'2", 230. Could be.

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