Dolphins Roundup 8/13/04
By The Source
Aug 13, 2004
-The Dolphins will have a home exhibition game telecast live for the first time in 17 years, but the team's offense doesn't appear ready for prime time entering Saturday night's contest against Jacksonville.
The recent losses of tailback Ricky Williams (retirement) and wide receiver David Boston (knee), along with nagging injuries suffered by other receivers, have slowed the progress of a unit already considered suspect. But with four exhibition games before the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against Tennessee, coordinator Chris Foerster believes there is sufficient time for the offense to gel.
Asked his expectations against Jacksonville, Foerster said, "We're still in an evaluation process. While you want the offense to do good, you're looking more at parts right now than at the whole. You're seeing different guys in different positions and trying to evaluate them.
"Unfortunately, sometimes that comes at the expense of what the whole [offense] is trying to get done. But I think what we're really emphasizing is how we do things like our execution and things along those lines."
Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, who is battling A.J. Feeley for a starting spot, will likely play the entire first half with the first-team offense. Feeley would then receive the same amount of playing time with the starters Aug. 21 in a home exhibition game against Washington.
"It's tough to rotate guys every series or two," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's not fair to try and do that, particularly at the quarterback position."
Fiedler said he could "probably better answer" whether the offense is behind schedule after facing the Jaguars. But Feeley already has an opinion about where the unit needs improvement.
"You can say everything," said Feeley, who did praise how the running game was developing. "But obviously, I think we need to clear up some protection issues and get the guys who are going to be playing [in] there so we can work the timing with the wide receivers. I think we'll be all right."
Four receivers -- starters Chris Chambers and Derrius Thompson and backups Terrence Wilkins and Ronald Bellamy -- have missed practice time in training camp because of sore hamstrings, and Kendall Newson suffered a lower left leg injury during the Thursday afternoon practice. Chambers, Thompson, Wilkins and Newson may all be held out of the Jaguars game for precautionary reasons.
Such injuries are detrimental to the development of the offense and especially to Feeley, who is trying to build an on-field rapport with new teammates as well as master a different system after spending his first three NFL seasons with Philadelphia.
"As a quarterback, you have to make adjustments based on the personnel out there," Feeley said. "If there's another guy out there not known for his speed, more than likely you're not going to throw one out there and have him run for it. You've got to know his limitations and kind of work from there."
Foerster, who will be calling his first game as an NFL coordinator, is still trying to find a receiver who can help fill the void created by Boston's absence. Expected to play a major role in the team's short passing game and provide a deep threat because of his speed, Boston suffered a season-ending knee injury last Friday during a joint practice with the Houston Texans.
"Obviously, we had him involved in the offense doing what he did," Foerster said. "All this means now is that we have to look at the next player who steps up and say, `What is it that he brings to the table that is different than what David does?'
"Maybe he brings less or maybe more. Whatever it is, it's probably different than David."
Wannstedt said the first-team offense would receive more playing time than normal during the exhibition season, which is understandable considering the uncertainty surrounding the unit.
"I don't think we're ever satisfied with where we're at, but we're making steps," Feeley said. "Every offense has a long way to go. I think you can say the same thing for us."
-David Boston may not be finished for the season, after all.
The Miami Dolphins' star receiver has told family members he intends to play for this season despite sustaining a torn patella tendon last Friday.
"He has no intentions of being out for the season," said Boston's brother, Byron Boston Jr. "He has set a date in his mind where he thinks he'll be prepared to go."
Boston, who had surgery Monday, has been through this type of injury before. In 2002, he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee after getting hit by the facemask of a San Francisco defender and had surgery on Nov. 20. He missed the final eight games of the season, but was able to work out in February for San Diego, the team he signed a seven-year, $47.4 million free-agent contract with.
Nearly a year later, Miami acquired Boston in a trade with the Chargers for a conditional sixth-round pick with the idea he would bolster their passing attack lining up opposite Chris Chambers. Boston seemed to be adjusting to the Dolphins offense well and even dominated a morning practice against the Houston Texans last Friday.
That afternoon, while running a deep route, Boston's left knee buckled. An MRI exam revealed the tear and later that night coach Dave Wannstedt issued a press release saying Boston would have season-ending surgery.
"He heals fast and he rehabs fast. Plus, this is an injury he's familiar with, so he knows how to rehab it," said David's father, Byron Boston. "He has five weeks before the first game, so he'll have a pretty good idea about how things are going before they kick off the first week."
If things go well, Byron Jr. said his brother's targeted return date would be mid-November, somewhere around Week 10 when the Dolphins are in their bye week. That would be roughly three months after the surgery.
Should that be the case, it's conceivable Miami would have Boston back for the final seven games of the season.
"His words were, 'It will be money time. It will be time to make that run for the playoffs, the second half of the season,' " Bryon Jr. said. "He's just really striving to get back at that point."
Following Boston's injury, it was reported he had been cleared to practice in the afternoon by team doctors despite having tendinitis in his left knee. Boston's father said his son "basically made the decision to go ahead and give it a shot," and a statement released by the player's agent, Mitch Frankel, absolved the team of any blame.
Byron Boston reported his son was in good spirits and upbeat about working his way back to the team. The key, the elder Boston said, will be for David to make sure the tendon is properly healed before he begins any type of rehabilitation work.
For an offense that was already dealing with the loss of former Pro Bowl running back Ricky Williams to retirement, getting a player like Boston back in the middle of the season could be a big boost, depending on how effective he is.
"Just based on the previous surgery, when he makes up his mind, he'll do it," Byron Jr. said. "He likes to prove people wrong."
-Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said the potential for rain during Saturday night's home exhibition game against Jacksonville could affect his approach when it comes to offensive strategy and whether to dress players with minor injuries.
Free-agent acquisition Reggie Howard and rookie Will Poole are the anticipated starters at cornerback. Sam Simmons and J.R. Tolver could start at receiver.
"We'd like to go out and get some looks at these backs and receivers," Wannstedt said after Thursday afternoon's practice. "We'd obviously like to give Jay [Fiedler] an opportunity to throw the ball around a little bit. We'll just have to wait and see."
Wannstedt also said the Dolphins "will definitely have some bodies added" at wide receiver by early next week because of injuries at the position. Chris Chambers, Derrius Thompson and Terrence Wilkins all missed Thursday's practices with hamstring injuries, while Kendall Newson hurt his lower left leg in the afternoon session and didn't return. The Dolphins also haven't signed a roster replacement for David Boston, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Friday.
Because of the lack of depth at receiver, Wannstedt canceled a morning one-on-one drill with the defensive backs and changed a play-action passing drill to one focused solely on the running game.
"We're trying to rest the guys we have [healthy] the best we can," Wannstedt said. "But at the same time, we're trying to work our quarterbacks. It's a tough deal."
Wannstedt said he hopes to give tailbacks Travis Minor and Sammy Morris about a "half-dozen" carries apiece against Jacksonville. Wannstedt declined to reveal other details on how he planned to divvy playing time, but did allow that the first-team defense was likely to only appear for one quarter.
Derrick Pope showed he was different than other rookies during one of his first position meetings with the Dolphins.
"They send the rookies to pull down the projection screen," said Pope, referring to when Dolphins linebackers watch videotape with assistant coach Bob Sanders. "It took some of the veterans like Zach [Thomas] about four or five times to get it down. I was one of the ones to get it down the first time, so I'm the guy who pulls down the projection screen."
Pope also has proven a quick study on the field, emerging as the Dolphins' second-string middle linebacker.
"His knowledge of the defense is getting better and better," Sanders said. "It's just a matter of seeing certain things [on offense] and how he responds. But up to this point, he's done everything you could ask him to do."
Pope has benefited from Thomas both directly and indirectly this preseason. Not only has Thomas offered advice, Pope has also received additional playing time in practice with the five-time Pro Bowl selection sidelined by offseason knee surgery.
"He's taught me how to read the linemen, keep my base low and run my angles," said Pope, a 2004 seventh-round draft choice from Alabama. "One of the main things in the NFL for a linebacker is taking the right angles."
Pope is likely to play predominantly on special teams this season, but Thomas believes he is headed toward a more prominent role.
"He's got great instincts, good speed and he hits people," Thomas said. "I think he has a good chance to help us now, and he's an outstanding linebacker for the future."
-No playing time
Sammy Knight is a seven-year NFL veteran, but the Dolphins' strong safety admits he has a lot to learn about Madden NFL 2005.
The self-proclaimed king of football videogames, Knight has already sampled the new Madden, which was officially released Thursday on PlayStation2 and XBox.
"The graphics are pretty sweet and you can do a lot more with the defense," Knight said. "You can't cheat as much as you'd want to. They took away a lot of the glitches in the game. It's early. We'll find the glitches in the [new] game."
Knight has played against teammates Pope, Sam Madison, Antuan Edwards and Wade Smith during training camp. Knight admits he doesn't have much time now to master the latest version of the most popular football video game title in history.
"Madden season is in the offseason," Knight said. "I don't really play too much now. Right now it's football season."
-After 11 days of practice and hitting his own teammates, Dolphins rookie linebacker Tony Bua is ready for the preaseason games to get underway so he can hit somebody other than the guy standing in the locker next to him.
"I'm more anxious and ready to go and play against somebody else," Bua said. "The guys got a little taste of it in Houston, and most of us got around ten plays. It will definitely be fun to get in there in the first game and to see where you are."
The Dolphins practiced in shorts and helmets Thursday afternoon for approximately two hours. The practice was closed to the public as the Dolphins facility continued preparations for possible inclement weather generated from Hurricane Charley.
The Dolphins currently have 90 players on the roster.
The Dolphins practiced in shorts and shoulder pads Thursday morning for approximately two hours.
The winning raffle number from the morning session for an Olindo Mare autographed football is 8166953.
Head Coach Dave Wannstedt (on preparations for the Jaguars) - “Hopefully we will play better than we practiced today. That was not nearly good enough. It was the first day that we actually looked at an opponent and tried to go out there and simulate some of their plays on cards. The first day is usually not as sharp as you want it to be. I’m hoping tomorrow, with the weather situation, that we will be able to get some walk-throughs and meetings in tomorrow if the weather permits.
Head Coach Dave Wannstedt (on what units and who will play on Saturday) - “Our first offense will play more this game in this preseason than they have in years past. I would expect our first defense to play around a quarter. That’s what they’ve generally done in the past. Jay (Fiedler) will start the game Saturday with this group and A.J. (Feeley) will start the game next week. I hope to get A.J. in the game some this week and play Sage (Rosenfels) too. We will see what the weather conditions are and see where we are at. As far as who else is going to play, we are still evaluating lots of that. We have to see who’s healthy and a lot of guys will likely be a game time decision.”
Head Coach Dave Wannstedt (on the weather being a factor in the game Saturday) - “We would definitely not risk a few guys if the weather is bad. I think the biggest thing that would change if the weather is bad is what we would do on offense. We’d like to go out here and get some looks at these backs and receivers. We’d also obviously like to give Jay (Fielder) an opportunity to throw the ball around a little bit. That would be the biggest adjustment that would be made. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
(LB Tony Bua on whether it’s tough to focus in front of all the fans) - "No, not really. All that is great and everything, but if you’re not focused and if you’re not ready to play, that might be the last time you get to walk through the tunnel. You just have to be focused and concentrate on what you have to do, and not worry about anything else."
(LB Eddie Moore on Saturday night being different for him) - "It's going to be a lot different for me. I’ll hopefully be in the starting group if Zach (Thomas) doesn’t play, which will be an opportunity for me to showcase my stuff. I'm looking forward to have the opportunity that I have, to go out there, play, and have fun, which is my main goal."
(LB Eddie Moore on how he’s doing right now and what people are saying about him) - "I don't even focus on that, I just try to maintain what I have to get done to keep my techniques working and keep what I have going, going, and try to do what the coaches ask me to do. I don't try to focus on the high expectations, or anything like that."
TRAINING FACILITY DIRECTIONS
From the north, take I-95 South, while Dol-Fans coming from the south, should take I-95 North. Exit I-95 at I-595 West. Take I-595 West to the University Drive exit. Proceed off exit and turn left onto University Drive (going south) Go past four traffic lights, crossing S.W. 30th Street, and make a u-turn at the first crossover. Take the first right and follow spectator parking signs to the free public garage. If the garage is full, follow directions from Nova Public Safety.
REMAINING 2004 CAMP DOLPHINS SCHEDULE
Mon., Aug. 16
4:15 – 6:00 p.m.
Tues., Aug. 17
9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 18
4:15 – 6:00 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 19
9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
4:15 – 6:00 p.m.
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