It's time for guest writer Travis Wingfield to check back in again with his weekly write-up. This week, he takes a look at why change will be a good thing for the Dolphins' offense:
Players trying to rejuvenate careers, youngsters poised for break out seasons, rookies trying to prove the critics wrong, and players trying to make a name for themselves; these are the ingredients of the Miami Dolphins offense in 2007. In this piece, we are going to explore the most intriguing story lines on the Miami offense by player. There is a 37 year old QB at the helm now trying to prove the Chiefs wrong and show the world his concussion won't end his career. Then you have a receiver who has all the tools to be an all world receiver but has yet to completely flourish for a 16 game schedule. The brightest spot looks to be a 3rd year running back that is slowly progressing and has been eased into a work horse role (also the focal point of the offense.) The Dolphins are the keepers of the most questioned pick in the first round of the NFL draft; the rook is a player that can't wait to get on the regular season field. Lastly, there is a unit in the offensive line and a player at tight end trying to prove they belong in this league. If I can say anything about the Dolphins offense, it's that it will be an exciting and electrifying unit.
Let's start with the position that has been the Achilles heel for the Dolphins the past 7 years, and that's the quarterback. Miami finally has a viable QB to distribute the football and eliminate mistakes with the football. Trent Green was an all pro quarterback just 2 seasons ago, but was shook up violently in the season opener in 2006 suffering a severe concussion. Despite the major blow to his head, Green was able to return to play for the Chiefs and led Kansas City to the playoffs. In that game Green struggled mightily, this essentially led to his departure from the city that loved him for so many years. From 2003 to 2005, only one passer threw for more than 4000 yards in each of those 3 seasons and that gunslinger was Trent Green. He also ranks 5th on the passing yards list dating back to 2001 and is only a couple hundred yards behind Brady and just 1300 yards behind Favre for 3rd; had Green not be hurt, he would've be 3rd on this list. Green makes quick decisions, gets rid of the ball fast, is extremely accurate and is a tremendous leader. But what's the best part of all this? After more than 2 months of stand still negotiations between the Dolphins and Chiefs, Trent Green is finally a Miami Dolphin.
Public enemy number one in South Florida is considered by many to be wide out Chris Chambers. After his finest year as a pro where he tallied 82 catches for 1118 yards, 11 touchdowns and his first pro-bowl selection, Chambers struggled in 2006. He never found a rhythm with any of the starting quarterbacks, and had a tough time getting balls thrown his direction in an accurate manner. Yes, Chambers dropped some passes, but changes to the offense look to revive his career. In 2005 under then offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Chambers was moved around all over in different formations and saw outstanding results. Last year, Chambers was limited to strictly to Y receiver, where he couldn't run his money routes down the field due to lack of pass protection. As the line improves, and Chambers slides into Z and Y positions, there's a good chance he will have a repeat performance of his 2005 pro bowl season. Chambers finally has what he wants, a quarterback who can consistently put the ball on his numbers.
Cam Cameron had a shiny little toy in San Diego named LaDainian Tomlinson. (Maybe you guys have herd of him?) Cam now has a similar weapon in Ronnie Brown. Now I'm not saying Brown is the talent that is LT, but he will be used in the same fashion that the league MVP was used in 2006. Ronnie's pass catching skills will be better utilized and there will be a stronger commitment to the run. Ronnie gets stronger as the game progresses and you can bet your bottom dollar that Cameron knows this. Everything this offense does will go through Ronnie Brown and he must be healthy. This is going to be a monster year for Brown; AFC East defenses need to look out.
In the 2006 NFL draft, there was a receiver named Derek Hagan that was rated very high prior to all the workouts. A string of poor showings at Senior Bowl week and the combine, Hagan saw his stock plummet. I felt from the second Miami drafted the 6'2 receiver from ASU that it was a steal. Hagan has been awesome at mini camps and looks poised and determined to take Marty Booker's starting job. It would be invaluable to have Hagan perform at a level that would be deserving of a starting job because, not only does it provide production, but it makes Booker expendable. If Hagan gets the opportunity, he could break onto the scene, but there's still a possibility that this car is kept in the garage for another year.
There was not a pick more criticized amongst NFL experts then the selection of Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn has a large plate to overcome and would love nothing more then to silence his doubters. He will provide a huge lift to the special teams and will affect the way opposing teams kick the ball to the Dolphins. With the stingy defense Miami represents, Ginn fits the mold perfectly in the battle for field position. While he's still not completely polished at receiver, Ginn provides some much needed speed to an offense that lacked lightning strike ability a year ago. Look for Ginn to be the #3 or 4 this year while continuing to progress through his career.
The other rookies should get quite a bit of playing time. Lorenzo Booker is also a lightning rod and will provide the spell for work horse Ronnie Brown. The idea is that Booker will make all Dolphins' fans forget about that guy that used to carry the ball in these parts. (Ricky Williams.) Samson Satele and Drew Mormino opened the recent minis as first team players at center and left guard. Mormino was yanked from the first unit but Satele continues to impress, he'll be the opening day starter. John Beck doesn't need to concern himself in 2007; he's not part of the plans. But in 2008, expect Beck to make a strong case for a starting job. He's shown a tremendous ability to adapt to a new offense; he loves the play book, and is making some nice throws. I think the Dolphins were spot on with this pick.
Last but not least is what I consider the catalyst of this team, the offensive line. Last year it was tough for those with weak stomachs to view this line in action. This year, the line has been fully readjusted. Not one player looks to play at the same spot as 2006 and there are 2 new starters. Vernon Carey makes the jump from right tackle to left tackle looking, to solidify a position that has been weak for years. LJ Shelton slides over to right tackle, looking to improve footwork, quickness and technique to handle the power rushers on the right side. Rex Hadnot is also sliding over to right guard where he is naturally suited. Samson Satele will be the starting center and the only thing I've heard about him have been positive. The only position that concerns me is left guard. Drew Mormino, Chris Lewinski, possibly Pete Kendall; whoever it will be it could be a question mark. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Kendall from the Jets and he would prove to be the staple that makes this line complete. All and all, this line should be improved from a year ago. This team needs solid play out of this unit to compete, and they just might get it.
There are your players to watch out for and how the offensive line looks to shake out. I know I may have a lot of optimism for seemingly every player on the Dolphins' offense, but this is because I firmly believe the unit will strongly improve. After all, it's hard to go backwards when you were ranked 29th out of 32 just a year ago. This unit will be better and all of these guys will have a part in the turn around.