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The Life


August 29, 2002
Miami Dolphins
ESPN The Magazine

LAST SEASON: 11-5, lost to Ravens in wild-card game
PROJECTION: 1st in AFC East

Arturo Freeman
Miami is banking on Freeman to shore up the defense.
  • Ricky's arrival puts Miami back on top of the AFC. And an 115 record will get them at least a home game in the playoffs. That's how the Dolphins get to San Diego.

    STRONG SIDE

    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.

    WEAK SIDE

    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.

    AFC East
    1. Dolphins
    2. Jets
    3. Patriots
    4. Bills
    Scouting Report Index
    OTHER UNITS

    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 2210 as a starter. With Norv Turner as his new O-coordinator, expect Fiedler to look a lot smarter this season.

    RB: Miami is so excited about Ricky Williams, it got Dan Marino to help out in commercials promoting its new back. Like other Turner RBs -- Emmitt Smith (Dallas), Stephen Davis (Washington) and LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego) -- chalk up Ricky for at least 300 carries and 1,300 yards.

    WR: Chris Chambers led the league in yards per catch (18.4), not bad for a rookie. His running mate, Oronde Gadsden, has the best hands in football, which makes him the go-to guy along the sideline and in the end zone. Together, these are Miami's best wideouts since the Marks Brothers.

    OL: Miami's line will be well rested. LT Mark Dixon missed six games with a broken leg and LG Jamie Nails wasn't even on a roster in 2001. Heady C Tim Ruddy is a durable, high-energy player who rarely misses an assignment.

    DL: Say it with us: Adewale Ogunleye. While Jason Taylor is getting double-teamed, Ogunleye will lead the league in sacks the first month of the season. He beat out FA Rob Burnett and seven-year vet Jay Williams and, playing alongside 320-pound DT Tim Bowens, QBs will notice how good this guy is.

    LB: As long as run-stopper Bowens is healthy, Zach Thomas will be effective. He needs to be. Fellow LBs Derrick Rodgers and Morlon Greenwood are better at pass coverage than run support.

    This article appears in the September 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.



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