Just one game into the season and it’s clear that the Miami Dolphins’ defense is going to have to be very good this season.
Very little went right for the Dolphins in their season-opening 17-7 loss to visiting Tennessee Saturday as they matched a franchise record with 14 penalties and had difficulty sustaining any offense.
Another quarterback controversy could be brewing in Miami after an ineffective Jay Fiedler was replaced by Feeley to start the second half. Fiedler threw two interceptions in the first half and led the Dolphins to just three first downs before he was sent to the bench.
“It wasn’t the score as much as the turnovers,” Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. “That’s the one thing we know we can’t do. I just felt at halftime we needed to do something offensively to give us a spark and to get into a little bit of rhythm. That was my reasoning for the change.”
Feeley threw for a touchdown but had an interception returned for a score that extended Tennessee’s lead to 14-0.
Feeley, who finished 21-for-31 for 168 yards, will make his first start since 2002, when he led Philadelphia to a 4-1 record after No. 1 quarterback Donovan McNabb and backup Koy Detmer were injured. This will be the sixth NFL start for Feeley, who made only eight starts at Oregon.
While Feeley will start Sunday, after that depends on his performance, meaning Fiedler could possibly return as the starter at some point.
“To give us the best chance to beat the Bengals and do what we need to do offensively, he’ll be ready to do that,” Wannstedt said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to win at any position, we’re going to do it.”
The Dolphins have a reputation as one of the NFL’s best early season teams with a 31-9 record in September since 1992, but a loss Sunday would make them 0-2 for the first time since 1988, their most recent losing season.
With their offense reeling following the stunning retirement of star running back Ricky Williams, the Dolphins also have injuries at that position. Travis Minor, expected to be the starter in place of Williams, and backup Sammy Morris missed the second half against Tennessee due to sprained ankles, and their availability against Cincinnati is uncertain.
Lamar Gordon, acquired in Sept. 8 in a trade with St. Louis, carried 12 times for 32 yards against the Titans and will start Sunday.
A matchup with the Bengals might be just what the Dolphins need. They have won the last nine meetings with their last loss in the series on Nov. 20, 1977.
While Miami has major concerns on offense, Cincinnati’s problems are on the opposite side of the ball.
It was a very discouraging start for the Bengals, who finished 28th overall on defense last season, allowing opponents 4.8 yards per carry.
“They presented things that they had presented last year, things we had spent time on, and we didn’t get into the game and react as well to them as we should have,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “So we have to fix it.”
Lewis believes the return of cornerback Deltha O’Neal and linebacker Brian Simmons will help the defense against Miami. O’Neal was out with a sprained ankle while Simmons was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 30.
“He (Simmons) would have been a big plus, with the youth we played at the linebacker spot,” Lewis said. “He would have been in the right spots.”
Overshadowed by his team’s poor defensive effort was a strong NFL debut by quarterback Carson Palmer, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. Palmer was 18-of-27 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.