Dolphins, Redskins Aim to Better Offense
By Steven Wine
Aug 20, 2004
RB Travis Minor
If Antonio Freeman appears unsure of his assignments Saturday against Washington, it will be because he is.
"It's like a baby," Miami's newest wide receiver said. "You start crawling, then you walk, then you run."
And sometimes you fall on your face, which has happened a lot to the Miami and Washington offenses so far this summer.
The regular season remains three weeks away, but both teams are eager to see more punch, polish and points from their offense.
"Right now, obviously, we are making mistakes and we have some concerns," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.
Ditto the Dolphins, despite winning their exhibition opener last week against Jacksonville. Miami signed Freeman on Monday in their latest attempt to spark an attack reeling from a wave of injuries at receiver and the retirement last month of running back Ricky Williams.
Some saw the acquisition of the 32-year-old Freeman as evidence that the Dolphins are desperate. His best season was in 1998, and he caught just 14 passes last year for Green Bay.
Freeman's Dolphins debut will be limited to about half a dozen plays.
"Hopefully I can just add a little spice," he said.
For both teams, the game means another round of quarterback competition. Incumbent Patrick Ramsey has yet to direct a scoring drive for the Redskins (1-1), while newcomer Mark Brunell came off the bench to lead Washington to 10 points in an overtime loss against Carolina a week ago.
"It's evident that I am pressing too much," Ramsey said. "I need to run the offense rather than try to make things happen, and just let it come to me."
Ramsey and Brunell each threw an interception against Carolina, and Tim Hasselbeck threw two.
"There are lots of positives," Brunell said. "But the film doesn't lie. There are negatives out there, too. Obviously there are things we can learn from."
The starting quarterbacks Saturday will be Brunell and A.J. Feeley, who is challenging four-year starter Jay Fiedler for the job in Miami. Feeley acknowledged that the Dolphins are still struggling to mesh.
"We've had some big setbacks with personnel," he said.
Those setbacks - particularly the loss of Williams and receiver David Boston to a season-ending knee injury - have left the Dolphins with a young, unproven offense. None of Saturday's starters is older than 27.
So it's no surprise that against Jacksonville, the Dolphins failed to score a touchdown until the final 3 1/2 minutes. Travis Minor and Sammy Morris, trying to fill the void left by Williams' departure, combined for 12 yards rushing in 11 carries.
Practice two days later looked even worse. There were at least six dropped passes and one fumbled snap, along with frequent confusion at the line about the call.
Coach Dave Wannstedt's reaction reflected the lack of cohesion.
"It's not frustrating," he said. "But it is."
Wannstedt and his staff made four changes in the offensive line this week and simplified the game plan for the Redskins. Because the injuries at receiver have made it more difficult to grade Fiedler and Feeley, the selection of a starting quarterback may be delayed until the week the season opens.
The Dolphins say they have time to fix any problems. But do they have the talent?
"It's very, very early," Minor said. "We had some obstacles to overcome early, and we're still trying to find our identity. Camp is the time to go out and work on the things we want to do well. Hopefully when everything counts, we'll be ready."
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