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News » Miami Dolphins Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28

Miami Dolphins Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28

Miami Dolphins Strategy and Personnel 2008-08-28
The unsure nature of OLB Joey Porter's balky back and OLB Charlie Anderson's hamstring has forced coach Tony Sparano to try a host of converted defensive ends such as Matt Roth and rookie Phillip Merling to line up in the second line of Miami's 3-4 defense. Combine that with the dumping of longtime Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive stars Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and a first-year defensive coordinator in Paul Pasqualoni, and it may add up to a slow-gelling unit.

Offensively, the team's strength is expected to be the running game featuring a backfield tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. However, Brown is coming off a torn ACL and has had to deal with a sprained thumb so he has struggled in his limited preseason appearances. That said, Williams, now 31, is running like he's in the last year of his minimum-wage contract -- which he is -- and like he ran when he was the NFL rushing champion in 2002. Can the Dolphins trust Ricky again? They have no choice.

PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Davone Bess -- The undrafted college free agent out of Hawaii has grown on Sparano all summer with his innate ability to get open in the middle of the field and hold onto everything thrown his way. He also can return kicks. He's the ideal slot receiver, not seen in Miami since dealing Wes Welker to the Patriots last year.


Rd. 1/1, LT Jake Long, Michigan -- He has lived up to expectations both in run blocking and pass protection, and looks to be the cornerstone player they were looking for.

Rd. 2/32, DE Phillip Merling -- Huge tackle of Chiefs RB Larry Johnson on 4th-and-goal cemented his status as a regular in the d-line rotation. Also working out at OLB.

Rd. 2/57, QB Chad Henne -- Has impressed everyone with his quick grasp of the offense, poise in the pocket and rocket arm. Will back up starter/mentor Chad Pennington, but not for long.

Rd. 3/66, DE Kendall Langford -- Strong at point of attack and innate ability to collapse the pocket earned Hampton gem the opening day start on the left side.

Rd. 4/110, G Shawn Murphy -- Inexperience and questionable footwork renders him a two-year project if Miami keeps him around.

Rd. 6/176, RB Jalen Parmele -- Displayed burst and power in exhibition win over the Chiefs with an 80-yard jaunt and 2-yard TD run. Needs improvement in pass protection.

Rd. 6/195, G Donald Thomas -- Intelligence combined with 'heavy' body rocketed him over Murphy to starting spot.

Rd. 6/204, RB Lex Hilliard -- Needs more seasoning, perhaps a practice squad member.

Rd. 7/245, DE Lionel Dotson -- Probably won't survive the final cut.


QUARTERBACK: Starter - Chad Pennington. Backups -- Chad Henne, Josh McCown, John Beck.

The late-arriving Pennington was brought in not only to establish a winning culture with players who play smart football, but to mentor Henne, his eventual successor. McCown will most likely be the third quarterback in case the fragile Pennington goes down, while Beck will most likely be dealt for a second-day draft pick when the need arises for another team.

RUNNING BACK: Starter - Ricky Williams. Backups -- Ronnie Brown, Jalen Parmele, Patrick Cobbs.

Brown's slow recovery from a torn ACL last October and a sprained thumb has opened the door for Williams to be the workhorse and not the complementary piece as had been projected. By midseason, Brown and Williams should form one of the league's most prolific tandems. Parmele is the large back with power that Parcells loves and could be the man next year. Cobbs does everything well, particularly on special teams.

TIGHT ENDS/H-BACK: Starter - Anthony Fasano. Backups - David Martin, Sean Ryan.

Fasano came over with the regime that drafted him in Dallas and is expected to emerge as a dual pass threat and run-blocker now that he has escaped the shadow of Cowboys Pro Bowl TE Jason Witten. Martin is the most dangerous downfield receiver of the group and can double at H-back. Ryan, another Parcells draftee, probably beats out the more versatile Peelle because of his cheaper price tag and run-blocking prowess.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Ted Ginn Jr., Derek Hagan. Backups - Davone Bess, Ernest Wilford, Greg Camarillo, Anthony Armstrong.

Ginn has made monumental progress with his route running and receiving skills, especially once the extremely accurate Pennington arrived. Hagan has had the best summer of any receiver, but he has yet to be consistent in the fall and winter. Wilford, signed to bring his experience and wisdom to this kiddie corps unit, has been invisible. If not for his $6 million guaranteed cash, would've been cut by now. Bess, an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii, has been a gem from day one with his uncanny ability to get open in the slot and catch everything in sight. Camarillo is considered, "quarterback friendly," for his good hands. Special teams skills helped him stick. Armstrong has the deep-threat speed and knack to return kicks that could keep him off the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Jake Long, LG Justin Smiley, C Samson Satele, RG Donald Thomas, RT Vernon Carey. Backups - G/C/T Trey Darilek, T Ikechuku Ndukwe, T Daren Heerspink, G Shawn Murphy, G Pedro Sosa.

Long has lived up to expectations thus far in both run blocking and pass protection. He has blown a few assignments and had as many penalties as he did in his entire college career but he's destined for perennial trips to Hawaii. Smiley brings toughness while Carey seems far more comfy on the right side. Satele has the intelligence and strength to be a keeper. Thomas has been a, "Godsend," according to Bill Parcells and is considered a heavy load. Murphy and Sosa are projects with potential. Darilek brings versatility and can play every position on the line. More depth will be added via the waiver wire.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters - RE Vonnie Holliday, NT Jason Ferguson, LE Kendall Langford. Backups - RE/LB Phillip Merling, NT Paul Soliai, LE Rod Wright, Randy Starks.

Holliday is in the best shape of career and enjoying the freedom without Jason Taylor stealing his sacks. Ferguson is a younger, quicker version of Keith Traylor and has instantly upgraded the run defense. Third-round pick Langford breaks down the pocket like a seasoned veteran, and has outplayed the second-rounder Merling in every capacity. Merling is tough as nails and even swung on Jake Long in camp. Starks had a slow start but seems ready to contribute in the regular rotation. Wright makes plays whenever he's on the field, while Soliai finally got into better shape but isn't a lock to make the team.

LINEBACKER: Starters - OLB Joey Porter, ILB Akin Ayodele, ILB Channing Crowder, OLB Charlie Anderson. Backups - ILB Reggie Torbor, ILB Edmond Miles, OLB Matt Roth, OLB Rob Ninkovich.

Porter's balky back is a concern but if healthy, seems primed for a comeback year now that he's not playing with his hand in the dirt. Ayodele is a tackling machine and should free up Crowder to make game-turning plays like his mentor Zach Thomas used to make. Torbor brings that Super Bowl experience from the Giants and has been excellent in run support. Miles is a special teams ace who can play in the base. Roth has made a seamless transition from defensive end, and has the relentlessness that Parcells craves. Ninkovich provides solid depth.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Will Allen, RCB Andre' Goodman, SS Yeremiah Bell, FS Jason Allen. Backups - CB Michael Lehan, CB Joey Thomas, CB Will Billingsley, CB Nathan Jones, FS Chris Crocker, FS Renaldo Hill, S Courtney Bryan

Will Allen is coming off a Pro Bowl-like year and is the team's top cover corner who needs to hold onto interceptions. Goodman is over his two-year bout with shoulder problems and brings brains and toughness to the field. Lehan may take a month to round (ankle) into the form that elevated him to dependable starter last year. Thomas and Billingsley bring youth and speed to the unit. Jones is the first backup and nickel, and has a knowledge of this defense, having worked under secondary coach Todd Bowles in Dallas. Bell is a hard-hitting strong safety but needs to stay healthy after missing the final 15 games last year with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Allen went from potential bust to an emerging young talent last year. He can play corner and safety, and the team brought in veteran Chris Crocker to start at free safety if Allen is used elsewhere. Hill is returning from a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve last season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, KOR
Ted Ginn Jr., KR Davone Bess, KR Anthony Armstrong

Carpenter, the rookie out of Montana, outkicked veteran Jay Feely, who was coming off the franchise's most accurate season ever on field goals. However, the brass loves Carpenter's icy demeanor and cold-weather history, while not loving Feely's amicable relationship with the media and price tag. Fields is destined for Hawaii with his improved distance and coffin-corner skills. Ginn already broke one in preseason with a 59-yard punt-return touchdown and seems on the verge of a Devin Hester-like season. Bess or Armstrong could spell Ginn on kick returns.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 28, 2008

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Channing Crowder Name: Channing Crowder
Position: LB
Age: 24
Experience: 4 years
College: Florida
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