2007 season recap
Almost infamous: A 64-yard overtime touchdown from QB Cleo Lemon to WR Greg Camarillo against the Ravens in Week 15 (Video) was the only thing that kept the Dolphins from becoming the first winless team in the history of the NFL. Injuries to veterans Trent Green and Ronnie Brown completely derailed Miami's only season under head coach Cam Cameron.
Key camp questions:
Will the players buy into a new culture in Miami?
With the hiring of Bill Parcells as Executive Vice President of Football Operations in December, the Dolphins began the process of overhauling their organization from top to bottom. In addition to hiring head coach Tony Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland from the Cowboys, Parcells added over 40 new faces to the Dolphins' roster in an attempt to get younger in a hurry. The trade of 33-year old DE Jason Taylor to the Redskins just before the start of camp helped to accomplish that. Now that the Taylor situation has been resolved, Sparano can better focus on getting the newer, younger players to buy into his system. With that type of roster facelift, there will be ample opportunities for those less established players to make a name for themselves during camp.
Will the run defense improve?
Well, it can't get any worse than the 32nd-ranked unit it rolled out last season -- a far cry from the fourth-ranked defense the Dolphins boasted in 2006. Injuries to MLB Joey Porter, DT Vonnie Holliday, SS Yeremiah Bell and ILB Zach Thomas for much of the year allowed Miami's run defense to get shredded at a rate of 153.5 yards per game. If the Dolphins' run defense is going to improve, the team will have to do it without two Pro Bowlers in Taylor and Thomas, the latter having been released in February. The Dolphins are hoping linebackers Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor can provide solid production alongside Porter and Channing Crowder. DT Keith Traylor was released in favor of former Cowboys DT Jason Ferguson, allowing Holliday to potentially take Taylor's spot on the end.
Can the running backs give the quarterbacks a little R&R?
With the QB situation in flux, look for the Dolphins to lean heavily on the likes of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both backs are capable of putting up big numbers and will have plenty to prove in 2008. Brown was leading the league with 882 yards from scrimmage when he tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 7. He's indicated that his rehabilitation is going ahead of schedule and says he will be 100 percent once camp commences. Nevertheless, look for Miami to take it easy on Brown this summer, giving plenty of reps to Ricky Williams, who is said to be working as hard as ever to return to form.
Key position battle
Josh McCown vs. John Beck vs. Chad Henne: Sparano is in no rush to name a starter, and said it may not be until after the third preseason game that we have a definitive answer to this question. Beck started just four forgettable contests for the Dolphins last season, so he'll have to show a lot of progress to get the nod in Week 1. McCown's 1,151 yards, ten touchdowns and 11 interceptions in nine starts for the Raiders last season were right around his career averages, so Miami knows what it's getting in the seven-year veteran. The strong-armed Henne is the wild card, but Sparano will give him every opportunity to step in right away and compete.
OT Shawn Murphy: The Dolphins used six of their nine draft picks on linemen, and with all the attention going towards top overall pick Jake Long, it's easy to overlook the team trading up to select Murphy in the fourth round. The versatile offensive lineman out of Utah State will compete right away, most likely at one of the guard positions as Parcells looks to almost completely overhaul an offensive line that allowed a sack every 13.2 pass attempts in 2007.
Player on the spot
WR Ted Ginn: The ninth overall pick in 2007 started nine games for Miami last season in addition to pulling double duty on kickoffs and punt returns. Ginn's 34 receptions, 420 yards and two touchdowns were not that impressive, but it traditionally takes two to three years for rookie receivers to develop. The Dolphins may take away Ginn's return duties so the second-year wideout can focus solely on his responsibilities as a receiver.
RB Ricky Williams: Williams won't record the same numbers that made him a fantasy stud from 2002-2003, but he does have relevance once again. With Ronnie Brown coming off knee surgery, Williams should see increased carries. He'll be worth a late-round selection in drafts.