Dolphins '07 preview
By Jeff Darlington for Sporting News
July 14, 2007
Amid a chorus of boos, a fan in the crowd at the Dolphins' draft-day party had his thumb pointed down when coach Cam Cameron requested he turn it around. "We need that thumb to go this direction," said Cameron, indicating up.
Perhaps that's easier said than done. Before Cameron could even call a play, the new head coach already found himself facing the South Florida heat. The reaction to the team's decision not to draft quarterback Brady Quinn illustrates the fans' growing impatience with the franchise.
After five consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, Dolphins fans are craving results. And despite the unfavorable reaction to Cameron's first major decision, he might be the person to provide those results.
Cameron's role is simply stated but hardly easy: If he complements one of the league's most ferocious defenses with an offense that puts some points on the board, those thumbs will be pointing toward the sky.
Offense: There is a reason Cameron didn't hire an offensive coordinator when he assembled his staff. Quite frankly, he didn't find anyone who could call plays better than he could. Cameron knows he was hired by the Dolphins because of his success as the Chargers' offensive coordinator, and he will employ an attack that is both risky and calculated. His system relies on deep passes as much as pounding runs.
Defense: Coordinator Dom Capers returns after constructing one of the league's best defenses last year. The Dolphins have the versatility to throw 4-3 and 3-4 looks at opponents, and with the addition of outside linebacker Joey Porter, they likely will use the 3-4 more often. Regardless of the scheme, Capers loves to blitz and will send players from any angle. There's no reason to think this group won't continue to dominate – even if it is one of the league's oldest and has questions in the secondary.
QB Trent Green: With Cameron's hand-picked quarterback finally on board, the Dolphins will move forward. While Green's experience in Cameron's system will help his quick adjustment into the current offense (the pair shared a short stint in Washington together), there still are some concerns about Green's chances at success. First, when Green plays his first game in a Dolphins uniform, he'll be 37. Also, he sustained a serious concussion in last season's first game that caused him to miss the following eight games. Still, Green says his body feels great and that he has more left in the tank than the league's other 37-year-old quarterback, Brett Favre. Reason being, Favre has played 241 games – more than double Green's 112 NFL games. So if indeed Green's arrival will signal solid play at quarterback until the team can properly groom rookie John Beck, Cameron hopes his offense can start to produce enough points to help with an already solid defense.
RB Ronnie Brown: The team probably will be more flexible with its use of Brown. It will mix in runs to the edges with up-the-middle carries to keep defenses on their toes. Brown's size (6-foot, 233 pounds) is an asset, but he must keep his weight down to maintain his speed. The addition of fullback Cory Schlesinger, an ace blocker, could help Brown excel. Cameron hopes Brown and Schlesinger can work together like the pair he coached in San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal.
LT Vernon Carey: Within the first few days of the free-agent signing period, Cameron had almost completely dismantled the line, which created voids at both guard spots and raised plenty of questions at left tackle. It will be crucial for the line to improve in pass protection, which makes Carey's transition from right tackle to left tackle a top story line. Carey is the team's best lineman, but the move comes with risk because Carey finally was beginning to reach his potential at right tackle and could lose confidence if he doesn't adjust well.
DE/OLB Jason Taylor: Even though opponents will try to focus on Taylor, the presence of outside linebacker Joey Porter will help free Taylor to continue his dominance. Don't be surprised if Taylor wins his second consecutive defensive player of the year award. Taylor is the key to the defense, and the Dolphins will continue to use him as a dangerous hybrid end/outside linebacker. His ability to anticipate the moves of both quarterbacks and running backs allows him to make smart decisions in pursuit.
VINNIE IYER'S TAKE
The defense remains strong, but the quarterback questions haven't disappeared just because they traded for a 37-year-old quarterback. This will be a difficult first year for Cameron.
At this point last year, the Dolphins were bubbling with optimism, but that giddy hope gave way to the same old frustrations as the team took a step back. Another year without a playoff appearance has led some to wonder when – if ever – things will turn around.
The good news? A team that has lacked explosiveness on offense has found an offensive coach to lead it. But it's going to take more than one year for the Dolphins to inch toward the success they have craved. Simply put, fans will believe it when they see it.
Jeff Darlington covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald and Sporting News.
Updated on Saturday, Jul 14, 2007 12:22 pm, EDT