At least the off-season trade that brought wideout David Boston from the Chargers gave Miami fans something to get excited about heading into camp. Boston was seen as a second downfield threat to complement Chris Chambers, but he was lost for the season on Aug. 6 when he injured the patellar tendon in his left knee. Derrius Thompson, who was an erratic possession receiver last year, was penciled in to replace Boston, but on Aug. 21 Miami sent holdout defensive end Adelwale Ogunleye, the AFC sack leader last season, to the Bears for wideout Marty Booker, a Pro Bowl receiver in 2002. (The Dolphins wanted running back Anthony Thomas included in the deal, but Chicago threw in a 2005 third-round draft choice instead.)
"So what do you do? Do you give up on the season or put all this behind you and move on?" says the eternally optimistic Wannstedt. "We've still got a fine defense, and we're going to try not to put it in bad spots."
"Look at it this way," says middle linebacker Zach Thomas, the team's defensive leader. "What if Ricky hadn't quit? What if he'd gotten hurt the first day and been lost for the season? There wouldn't be all this moaning and groaning. We'd just have said, 'O.K., let's move on.' It seems that every year we're picked to win the division, then something bad happens. Well, this is a new experience. We're picked to do absolutely nothing, and I think this is going to get us mad. It's going to be a motivator."
In his office at the Dolphins' complex Spielman and pro personnel director George Paton were watching tape of a practice from early in camp. On one play cornerback Will Poole, a rookie fourth-round draft choice out of Southern Cal, crowded the 230pound Boston on a dig pattern, then reached in and knocked down the pass. "Been making plays like that since camp opened," Spielman said. "The kid's really going to be something."
Two plays later cornerback Reggie Howard, who started for Carolina in the Super Bowl last February and was just coming into his own when he landed in Miami as a free agent, matched Chambers stride for stride on a deep route and knocked the ball away. "Add these two guys to Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison," Paton said, "and I defy you to name a team with four better corners."
"There are young guys all over the lineup who excite us," Spielman said. Maybe they can light a fire--or at least provide a spark. --P.Z.
> SETH McKINNEY started two games at center for the injured Tim Ruddy last year, and now he has the job full time. He's an aggressive blocker and will make the calls for a line that has four new starters. "In a sense I'm new," says McKinney, whose brother Steve starts at center for the Texans, "but this is my third year in the system, so I think I know what I'm doing."
ENEMY LINES An opposing scout's view