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"dolphins Preview From Si"


We Are Still Going To The SB
May 24, 2002
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With Norv Turner and Ricky Williams on board, things are finally looking up on offense.
By Paul Zimmerman:

It was early 1991 and Jimmy Johnson, the third-year coach of the Cowboys, and his first lieutenant, Dave Wannstedt, were looking for an offensive coordinator to breathe life into an attack that had finished 28th in the league the previous season. "We talked to a few guys," recalls Wannstedt, now the coach in Miami. "Gary Stevens, Joe Pendry, a couple I didn't even know. Then I said, 'How about Norv Turner?' I'd coached with him at USC. When Jimmy and I were at the University of Miami in the 1980s, we visited the L.A. Rams' camp. Norv was the receivers coach there. We had a few drinks and talked football." Turner was hired in Dallas, and the rest is history. In his first season overseeing the offense, wideout Michael Irvin caught 93 passes (a club record at the time), Emmitt Smith won the first of his three straight NFL rushing titles, and Troy Aikman went to his first Pro Bowl after his passer rating spiked more than 20 points. In Turner's second and third seasons, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. Now Turner gets the call again. Wannstedt has brought him to Miami to turn its offense, which has played in the shadow of Dan Marino since the quarterback retired after the '99 season, into something that will have defenses on their heels. "You can't typecast Norv," Aikman says. "What he'll do in Miami will be different from what he did in Dallas or when he was in Washington. But his real strength is gearing his offense to his personnel, using those people in ways they're most comfortable -- and then creating mismatches." Some of the personnel was already in place when Turner arrived. The biggest addition is premier running back Ricky Williams, acquired in a trade from the Saints a month after Turner was hired. "I don't think I could have come to a better situation," Williams says. "Number 1, playing on grass is always nice. Number 2, I love playing in the heat. Number 3, Coach Turner isn't bashful about pounding away when the situation is right, and number 4, we have a great defense. I feel that the stage is set." Deep threat Chris Chambers, who burst onto the scene as a rookie last season, will be Jay Fiedler's go-to guy. Chambers averaged a league-best 18.4 yards a catch last year while learning the offense, and he should jump-start a deep passing game that hasn't scared anybody since the days of the Marks brothers, Clayton and Duper. "They've got me moving all over the field, trying to get me open," Chambers says, "kind of like the way the Rams do it with Marshall Faulk." In 1996 in Washington, Turner's system produced 1,014 yards for 35-year-old Henry Ellard and a league-leading 19.5 yards per catch. Last season Turner oversaw a Chargers offense that had three receivers who averaged at least 15.6 yards a reception. Twenty-one teams didn't have even one. For Miami, of course, the key is Fiedler, who's been a tough competitor since Marino retired but not exactly a precision passer. "We'll play to his strength," Turner says. "He'll break containment. He'll throw off bootlegs, off rollouts. When we have to, we'll use maximum protection with tight ends and a fullback. But the ball will be coming out quickly." "The beauty of Norv's system," Fiedler says, "is that he likes to go downfield, but you're not going to drop back and hold the ball forever. It's all on the break, it's all timing. For me, it's perfect. I just hope the receivers are on the same page." For the past few years Miami has been known for its defense, led by a fine pair of corners, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain, right end Jason Taylor and far-ranging middle linebacker Zach Thomas. The Dolphins have reached the postseason the past five years, but every time they've gotten there, things have broken down. "We've been a sound defense, but not something I'd call real dynamic," Thomas says. "With the offense we'll unleash now, we'll be able to be more aggressive, take more chances. We can blitz more, for instance. We might give up a big play now and then, but we'll make more of them, too. I promise you, we'll be exciting on both sides of the ball."

Williams will add pop to a ground game that ranked 23rd in the league last year. Bob Rosato Enemy Lines An opposing team's scout sizes up the Dolphins "There are things I like about this team and things I don't. Ricky Williams is a tremendous talent. He was a great pickup. I really like their wide receivers. Chris Chambers is ready for a bust-out year. Oronde Gadsden is a classic possession wideout. And believe it or not, I like Jay Fiedler . I never thought he'd have a chance, but he's a competitor. He finds ways to win games. Sometimes that's more important than being a pretty passer.... Where it breaks down is on the offensive line. I think it's the worst in the division. The left side? Who knows? Their center, Tim Ruddy , is an old warrior who's on the downside. Their right tackle, Todd Wade, has to have a real smart guy playing next to him, and I'm not sure about Todd Perry .... The defense has been keeping them up there for a while, and you won't find a better pair of corners than Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain , but they've got to fill two spots on the line, and you wonder about their pass rush.... Jason Taylor 's a stud. It's a mismatch when he's one-on-one against any tackle in the league, but T im Bowens has got to take on the role of inside pocket collapser and do it with consistency.... I respect Dave Wannstedt for getting rid of [defensive tackle] Daryl Gardener . It sent a message. The guy they picked up to replace him, Larry Chester , is a plugger, a block-eater, and you need someone like that to keep people off Zach Thomas . If Bowens really turns it on, things will work out." In the Year 2001 Record: 11-5 (second in AFC East) NFL rank (rush/pass/total) Offense: 23/19/21 Defense: 17/1/5 New Twist Mark Dixon , Miami's most consistent lineman the past four years, was moved from left guard to left tackle on Aug. 17, mainly because Jamie Nails has been performing so well. "The last time I played there was in Canada in 1997," says Dixon. "We threw 50 to 60 times a game. Even lab monkeys can figure out how to pass block in a system like that." Schedule Strength NFL Rank: T19 Opponents' 2001 winning percentage: .488 Games against playoff teams: 8
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