1:00 PM ET, September 11, 2005
Denver (10-6) at Miami (4-12), 1:00 pm EDT
MIAMI (Ticker) - After finally being lured to the NFL, Nick Saban has the task of rebuilding the Miami Dolphins.
Saban makes his debut Sunday when the Dolphins host the Denver Broncos in the season opener for both teams.
Last year, Saban refused coaching offers from the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, but accepted the NFL challenge when Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga came calling with a five-year, $22.5 million deal.
Saban comes to the Dolphins following a successful run at Michigan State and Louisiana State. At LSU, Saban compiled a 48-16 record, won a national championship two years ago, led the Tigers to five straight bowl appearances and produced 21 NFL draft picks.
Saban is not void of experience when it comes to the NFL since he was a former defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns from 1991-94.
In Miami, Saban does have plenty of work to do. The Dolphins' 4-12 record in 2004 was the franchise's worst since 1969 (3-10-1), and the 12 losses were the most in team history.
Saban's first major decision with the Dolphins was naming veteran Gus Frerotte as the starting quarterback over A.J. Feeley. Frerotte is familiar with the system of Saban's offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who came from Minnesota where Frerotte was a backup to Daunte Culpepper.
After announcing his stunning retirement on the eve of training camp last season, enigmatic running back Ricky Williams is back with the Dolphins. However, he will sit out the first four regular-season games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
With Williams sitting, first-round pick Ronnie Brown, the second overall pick in April's draft, will see the bulk of playing time.
Brown started six of 12 games last year when Auburn went unbeaten, rushing for 913 yards on 153 carries - an astounding 6.0-yard average - and catching 34 passes for 313 yards and a score. The Dolphins ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing last season.
Coming off their second straight playoff appearance, the Broncos again will be looking for a hot start under coach Mike Shanahan. Denver has gone an impressive 11-3 in September the last four seasons.
Led by quarterback Jake Plummer and emerging wide receiver Ashley Lelie, the Broncos ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense last season.
There is a major change in the Broncos' offense this season as Mike Anderson, who rushed for a career-high 1,487 yards in 2000, is back as the club's featured back.
Anderson rushed for 678 yards in 2001, then was moved to fullback. He missed all of last season with a groin injury.
Last season, the Broncos posted a 20-17 victory over the Dolphins as Jason Elam kicked a 50-yard field goal with 2:50 remaining.
Matchup to watch: Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers, who had 69 catches for 898 yards and seven touchdowns last season, against left cornerback Champ Bailey, who was slowed by a hamstring injury during training camp.
Series: The Dolphins lead, 9-3-1.
Next week: Denver hosts San Diego, September 18 Miami visits the New York Jets, September 18,
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The Nick Saban era begins in Miami with QB Gus Frerotte looking to establish himself as the starter and first-round pick RB Ronnie Brown trying to carry the load as an every-down back while Ricky Williams serves his four-game suspension. Both will have to hope the teams' offensive line is improved under the direction of new OL coach Hudson Houck.
For the Broncos, QB Jake Plummer enters his third year in head coach Mike Shanahan's system with questions about his decision-making ability still dogging him. As usual, Denver will lean on the running game to take some pressure off Plummer, but it's still unclear whether the Broncos will have one featured back or use both Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell to split carries.
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|Avg Points Allowed||34.0||10.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DEN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DEN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Miami leads 3-1|
|Dec 12, 2004||DEN 20, MIA 17|
|Oct 13, 2002||DEN 22, MIA 24|
|Dec 2, 2001||DEN 10, @MIA 21|