Dolphins Roundup 8/23/04
By The Source
Aug 23, 2004

Compiled throughout the day from a variety sources

- Numerical evidence would suggest that the Dolphins' offense in Saturday night's 17-0 loss to the Washington Redskins was inept.

Coach Dave Wannstedt would surely prefer to regard the offensive total of 98 yards as inconclusive.

Unlike fans who began to file out of Pro Player Stadium long before the second exhibition game had mercifully come to an end, Wannstedt would have loved to have seen more.

With the offense on the field for less than 19 minutes, Wannstedt apparently needed more time to evaluate the passing and running games that had so utterly underproduced.

``We didn't get enough plays. What did we have, 47 plays in the whole game?'' Wannstedt said Sunday, no closer to choosing a quarterback between A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler, who combined to complete 10 of the 26 passes for 73 yards.

``We weren't able to slow them down enough on defense, No.1. No.2, we only had one first down and that was on the first drive. We still have evaluation to do.''

The running game, which gained 25 yards on 17 carries, didn't show any promise of being able to fill the void left by tailback Ricky Williams' retirement. Wannstedt was frustrated at the limited number of rushing opportunities, particularly for undrafted free agent Fred Russell, whose 49-yard kick return in the third quarter was one of the few bright moments.

"He didn't get many opportunities. The plan was to try to give him a bunch of carries in the second half. We just weren't out there enough on offense,'' said Wannstedt, who stated that Russell's production on special teams could help him win the third running back spot.

The lack of production by starter Travis Minor, who gained 15 yards on 8 carries, didn't sway Wannstedt from his intention to emphasize the running game.

"We're going to stay after a running game. We are committed to it," Wannstedt said. "You know you've got to be balanced in this league. You can't win if you don't run the football. We're committed. We're going to stay with it and keep working at it."

Wannstedt said the lack of rushing yardage was ``a combination of everybody.'' After viewing game tapes, he said running backs missed some cuts, but the linemen also missed blocks.

"We may move some guys around again,'' said Wannstedt, who praised the play of Taylor Whitley at right guard.

Wannstedt expressed satisfaction with Feeley and Fiedler, who were under constant pressure against the Redskins, despite their lack of production.

``Both guys missed a couple throws I thought they should have made. But they made good decisions. There was never an instance when they went back and took a sack because they were holding the ball or they were indecisive of where to go with the ball. That's as big a part of the evaluation thing as anything,'' said Wannstedt, who did not name a starter for Saturday's game at Tampa Bay.

Although the quarterbacks are expecting a new target in Marty Booker, traded to the Dolphins in exchange for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye Saturday night, Wannstedt refused comment.

He said he'd wait "until the league approves the trade and until Marty comes in and goes through the physical and all that stuff.

"We hope that gets taken care of [today], and I'll be more than happy to talk to you about anything relating to that."

Wannstedt said he was impressed by the play of safety Antuan Edwards, who started over Arturo Freeman and was credited with eight tackles.

``It was good to see Antuan get in there and make plays, and he did," Wannstedt said.

"He's very instinctive. Probably the good part of them running the ball so much is that we got a good chance to find out a little about the guy's toughness and see if he'd come up and hit somebody. He had eight tackles and demonstrated that he can get play physical.''

He didn't disclose if Edwards would start the next game.

Wannstedt said he couldn't resist thinking what could have been had the Dolphins' first and best drive of the night not been derailed by a fumble by wide receiver Chris Chambers.

"We were inside the 35-yard-line when Chris got hit and fumbled," he said. "We would have gotten points out of that drive. It might have been a touchdown. It would have been first down at the 35-yard line, going in on the opening drive of the game.

"If we go out and get points, whether it's a field goal or a touchdown, all of a sudden who knows how the momentum changes?''

- The first two preseason games have made clear to the Dolphins what most experts predicted when Ricky Williams retired: The team needs help at running back.

Travis Minor has had little opportunity to make plays and has gained a total of 15 yards on 13 carries. Those modest numbers are partially the fault of an offensive line whose next dominating block will be its first dominating block.

But the poor results also are partially Minor's fault, and that's why the team wants to upgrade the position.

''I think Travis would be the first one to tell you that he knows that he can play better,'' coach Dave Wannstedt said Sunday. ``It's different when you're the starter. Travis used to go in, and we would hand him the ball on a sweep or a draw as a change of pace. Now we're pounding that thing up in there with him, and it's a whole different situation.''

It has been a fruitless situation, which is precisely the reason Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman is now focused on acquiring a running back by the time the regular season begins Sept. 12.


The Dolphins are studying a list of players who will be available off waivers and via trade, with Cleveland's James Jackson leading a list of options that range from the possible to the improbable.

The team has studied running backs now playing for Denver, Cleveland, Minnesota, Oakland, and even Pittsburgh where Verron Haynes and Dante Brown are logjammed behind Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis.

Soon to be armed with a 2005 third-round draft pick from the Adewale Ogunleye trade, the Dolphins seem willing to use a future draft pick to improve a broken position.

Circumstances haven't been kind to the Dolphins, however, because teams such as Minnesota and Philadelphia, which had strong running back corps, have sustained significant hits that could have ripple effects on what players are available to Miami.

In Minnesota, reports that Onterrio Smith might face a four-game suspension this season have put on hold any chances the Vikings might trade a running back. In Philadelphia, a knee injury to running back Correll Buckhalter has made the Eagles not only unlikely to make any rushers available, but might put them in the market for a running back, according to a league source.

This while Miami's running game has been mired in disappointment throughout the preseason.

Wannstedt said Sunday not all the problems are entirely the offensive line's fault.

''After looking at the film, it was not just the line missing assignments,'' Wannstedt said. ``There were times when the back, whether it was Travis or Fred [Russell] or Renaldo [Works] just didn't make good cuts.''


And even as the team is searching around the NFL for running back help, there is a sense of building frustration that the help on the roster is not getting the greatest opportunity to help the cause.

Sammy Morris, who was moved from fullback to halfback at the start of training camp, missed Saturday's 17-0 loss to Washington because he is nursing a concussion. Leonard Henry, who won the third-string job last year after showing promise in the preseason, has not practiced once while nursing a quadriceps injury.

''It's a shame,'' Wannstedt said of Henry. ``Here's a perfect opportunity for a guy who has paid his dues, and we don't have him out there. It's unfortunate that Leonard has been hurt but he's still not 100 percent.''

- Despite the need for improved play, coach Dave Wannstedt seems close to stamping his current offensive line as his starting unit.

Left tackle Wade Smith, left guard Jeno James, center Seth McKinney, right guard Taylor Whitley and right tackle John St. Clair will start against Tampa Bay on Saturday and could be Miami's starting unit in the regular-season opener barring injuries.

- A.J. Feeley has complained about getting a good grip on the football because of the humidity in South Florida, Wannstedt said. The team doesn't plan to issue him gloves, the coach said.

- Wannstedt said Jay Fiedler would start against Tampa Bay on Saturday evening on a national radio show but changed that stance during his press conference Sunday. ''I said that?'' the coach asked before saying he hasn't yet made a final decision.

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