LAST SEASON: 11-5, lost to Ravens in wild-card game
PROJECTION: 1st in AFC East
DB: The Dolphins don't worry about getting beat deep, not with this defensive backfield. With corners Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain, Miami owns the air. Madison gets the pub and the invites to Pro Bowls (1999-2001), but Surtain gets more respect, and fewer looks, from opponents. The two key a unit that ranked No.1 in pass defense (176.8) in 2001. They're also the reason SS Brock Marion led the team in interceptions (5). No one -- we mean no one -- wants to throw against the Dolphins corners. The question mark is FS, where Arturo Freeman moves into Brian Walker's slot. Freeman has started only four games in two seasons.
ST: They downgraded at punter, letting Matt Turk go and signing Mark Royals. They downgraded at kick returner, deeming WR Chris Chambers too valuable and replacing him with backup RB Travis Minor. They cut returner Jeff Ogden in favor of unproven A.J. Johnson. If the 2 TDs they gave up on special teams in the preseason are any indication, all the Rickys in the world won't keep the sun from going down in Miami.
QB: For a guy from Dartmouth, Jay Fiedler doesn't always make the smartest decisions. He's thrown 33 INTs the past two seasons and likes to dive headfirst for first downs. So why keep him? He's 22–10 as a starter. With Norv Turner as his new O-coordinator, expect Fiedler to look a lot smarter this season.
This article appears in the September 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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